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Growing through personal change

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The only thing that we know is constant is change. But, as Nelson Mandela said, “You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself...” In this article I will share thoughts on personal change and next time I will talk about change in organisations.

The seven phases of change

I like to use a change map with seven phases to help people understand what change is all about. Plotting yourself on the change map will help to bring about insight and hope.

Phase 1: Pre-awareness

This is where you feel secure in your comfort zone and are motivated with hope for the future. Before the recession most people were in a comfort zone economically. Even though you never think that you have enough, you had a secure job and a home, bought groceries, paid your bills, ate out once in a while and lived comfortably. But there is an African proverb that says: Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.

Phase 2: Awareness

You feel the fire burning. You feel trapped and pressurised, yet it feels impossible to change. So you try to ignore the flames and see how long you can stick it out. Russian author Ivan Turgenev wrote:  “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is ready, we shall never begin.” So you hear the rumours of the recession and see it on your grocery bill. Your friend gets retrench and you feel sorry for her, but luckily you are still going strong.

Phase 3: The first crack

Then something happens and you can never return to the previous state. Humpty Dumpy fell of the wall and all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men … could not put Humpty Dumpty together again! Kahlil Gibran gives hope by saying: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Now you hear that you are getting retrenched as well, or you use your credit card and the transaction does not go through. You can no longer ignore it. You have to face it.

Phase 4: Breaking away

Whether you like it or not, things have changed and there is no going back. Resistance and denial are kicking in. You still don’t want to change, but have no choice. Anger, aggression and guilt come to visit you. You feel trapped in a corner, threatened by the new. You start to bargain with people or organisations, with yourself and even with a Higher Power: “If I do not get retrenched, I will do more charity work or do my work with more zest.” You wonder what you have done wrong to end up like this.

Phase 5: Wilderness

Then you strike rock bottom and end up confused and depressed in the wilderness, blaming yourself. It feels as if you were left out of the loop, nobody told you. In this pain of not having enough money to get through the month or not knowing where next month’s money will come from, you start doing introspection. Who am I really, what do I want from life? How would I like people to remember me?

Phase 6: The first light… (acceptance)

While dwelling in the wilderness, you start to understand that this is not going to change on its own or change without intervention from your side. You accept that you need to make it happen. You start turning to people you trust and have honest conversations, brainstorming options. Your relationships deepen. The creative juices start to flow and give birth to new ideas and options. You get new insights in the big picture, spiritual and on a personal level. You see life from a different angle and a ray of sunlight is coming through the cloudy skies. You experiment with new identities, new ways of doing, and you learn new skills. New energy starts coming through (with moments of despair in between). So you start talking to people (networking) that can help you get a job again. You sign up for a course to acquire new skills. You change the name of your business and find new ways to market your product. As a family you create creative and fun ways to cut costs. Nelson Mandela said: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Phase 7: New life

After all the trial and error, you find out what is working for you. The new you is getting new insights and grows on a personal level. Unfortunately, no one changes voluntarily. Looking back you even have moments of appreciation for the “wilderness” that helped you into this new life, knowing that this too will change again!

You start enjoying the new way of doing things. You understand life from different angles. You enjoy new challenges and growth. Thinking back, you count your blessings, pain and all!


If you find yourself struggling with a personal or organisational transition, you are welcome to contact Elsa Simpson for:
  • Personal change coaching: Individual coaching or counselling or a three-day workshop on personal change (letting go of the past; becoming more assertive; dealing with life-changing events)
  • Relational coaching: couple in relationship change (coping with lack of connectedness, additions, affairs and power struggles)

Elsa Simpson is an experienced facilitator, trainer, counsellor and coach. She conducts workshops and team-builds as well as individual processes for personal growth and development, within organisations as well as with private individuals. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 021 982 7038 or 083 782 1249, or visit www.clariact.com.


 

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