The 5 Stages of Dealing with Change

Change is inevitable. Even change, itself, is changing. We see that the rate and degree of change is increasing. Big change is happening more frequently and the size and scale of the change is greater. It can be a very scary proposition when you take this to it’s logical conclusion.

We have a paradoxical capability to both adapt to change and at the same time an inherent resistance to change. his is what allows us to function on a day to day basis. Our ability to adapt to change is why we are here as a species. Our resistance to change is what allows us to function on a day to day basis, if we only thought about the imminent change then we’d never do what we do because we’d only have to change it.

As I see it there are 5 stages to dealing with change.

1: Being a victim to change
2: Preparing for the unknown
3: Seeking out change
4: Embracing the benefits of change
5: Being the change

Most people find themselves in one of the fist two stages and in fact most people are huddled in the first stage. But to be fair, not matter how hard we try we all become victims to change at some point. Many people who are adaptable and seem to always land on their feet are often at the second stage. Fewer people are at the third stage where they actively seek change and many of these people do so recklessly. I will safely propose that the fewest number of people and organizations are truly in the fourth stage where they have embraced change and it’s benefits. This is not to say that many people do not benefit from change, in fact all people can benefit from change, even its victims.

The last stage has two flavors, those that are intentional agents of change and those that are hapless agents of change. Most people like engineers are the hapless kind. Hapless agents of change are those who do not embrace change but those who embrace the tools of change, namely technology, without understanding what they are dealing with. History is filled with hapless change agents.

I’m not going to go into each stage of change at the moment but I will tackle each in future posts. I will say that moving through each stage takes a willful and deliberate effort to change oneself and become increasingly aware of your world. Being self aware of yourself and your place in the world is an undervalued, powerful capability. It’s harder than you realize and the more self aware you are and the more self mastery you have the more you are able to drive change in the world. I think too many people focus on their outside environment and not enough time on their own self improvement.

About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • Micheal Foley

    I like to think that I’m in the third or fourth stage. I’m probably one of the reckless guys you mention in stage 3. I know I can specify the previous stages in my life. 

    I was in stage 1 when I began my career as a copy editor and page designer in the newspaper industry. 

    After I got tired of being a victim, I moved to learn new skills (graphic design, web design, HTML, etc.). I saw the writing on the wall and I knew newspaper layoffs would happen. I set myself up to land on my feet (Stage 2) and ended up in a PR job. 

    Once I had figured out how to defend myself from sudden change, I used my PR job as a springboard into change. I sought it out (Stage 3) often recklessly and with much curiosity. 

    I’m not certain whether I’ve made it to stage 4, but I like to think that I recognize the benefits of how society is changing. I truly embrace the transparency and empowerment that average citizens now wield and I see how valuable that will be once it is realized on a wider scale. 

    With more capital and more advanced education, I think I could make it to stage 5 someday. 

    Of course, I could be just one big change away from going back to stage 1. :-)

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  • tacanderson

    Foley, I can vouch for the fact that you posses the self awareness to be in the range of 3 or 4. Like you point out, the trick is in knowing that you’re never far from unintended victimization of change but you can be always be ready to react. 

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