Embracing change – part 1

Women to Work

Change can be tough, especially when it’s not change you’ve chosen. You might feel frightened, upset, under confident, angry even….feelings that can leave you overwhelmed and unable to move forward. Stuck in a state of inaction, when even doing the ‘day to day’ can feel too much never mind working on your plans and visions for your ideal future.

But what about change that you’ve planned? Change that’s been long-awaited or hoped for? Maybe you’re launching a new business, returning to work after having a baby or you’ve finally achieved the promotion you’ve been working towards. Surely then your feelings are all positive? Well yes, but also often no too!

And I speak from experience – I’ve recently moved house, my choice, my decision (with my husband I should just add!) and I felt excited, happy and full of positive anticipation! But I also experienced many negative feelings too, anger at the process, sadness saying goodbye to our old house, panic about whether we were making the right decision, disappointment and anxiety on move day when things didn’t go quite to plan and worry that my son would settle and be happy in his new surroundings.

We all know people who’ve coped with some dreadful stuff and seem to have done so with dignity and strength, we also know others who are floored when a seemingly tiny thing doesn’t go to plan in their day. We all react to change differently, we all display our emotions differently and we all cope in different ways.

Change is inevitable, in fact, “Nothing endures but change” according to Heraclitus, (540 BC – 480 BC) – yet we’re still not used to it!

So if we can’t stop the change happening, maybe we can make the change easier on ourselves? Deal with it better? Embrace it even?

Well first we can acknowledge what is happening to us and models can be really helpful here. American Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” 1969 introduced the Five Stages of Grief Model. Whilst this model was designed with grief in mind, it is often referred to and applied to all types of change. The five stages are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

We will move through different stages at different times and speeds and not always in the order listed. Perhaps this can help shed some light on where you are right now if you are experiencing change. Perhaps it will help you understand others and their responses to change too?

William Bridges, “Managing Transitions” 1991 put the focus on “transition”, not “change”:

Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it”

“Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change”

“Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly”

There are three stages of transition in this model:

Stage 1: Ending, Losing and Letting Go

When first presented with change feelings may include:resistance, discomfort, fear, denial, Anger, sadness, disorientation, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of loss.

Stage 2: The Neutral Zone

The bridge between the old and the new and feelings may include: confusion, uncertainty, impatience, resentment, low morale, anxiety, and skepticism.

But also: creativity, innovation, renewal and an opportunity to try new ways of thinking or working

Stage 3: The New Beginning

An acceptance and energy as we are embracing the change characterised by high energy, openness to learning, renewed commitment.

The key is to acknowledge that we all respond in our own way, in our own time and patience and understanding with both ourselves and others can go a long way to a smooth the journey.

Simply recognising where we are and the feelings we are experiencing can help immensely, just knowing we are reacting in a normal and expected way is, well certainly for me, hugely reassuring!

But how do we move through the stages quicker?

Join us in part 2 next week as we explore a few self-coaching tools to build your resilience and ability to handle change and transition.


Emma Shute & Jenny Pollock are the founders and coaches with Women to Work.

They support women who are dealing with change through their Work Life Discovery Workshops and One to One Coaching.