LD’s Perspective On… The Process of Change

Personal Growth & Development | 1 comment

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

~ John F. Kennedy

Change happens. We’ve all gone through the process of change but what really happens when we seek change — or even when it is imposed on us? What factors influence change and what does it feel and look like?

I recently recognized that whenever I get comfortable, I’m somehow ignited to make a change. That change might be big or small yet there is an inevitable process that takes place — both internally and externally. Change happens externally and transition happens internally – Ron Medved. We can’t see the emotional transition process as much as we can see the physical change (such as moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, changing jobs, starting or ending a habit, etc.). As humans, we are constantly making decisions — again, some big and some small. If we can learn to recognize that we are going through a process of change, we can name our feelings, accept them and then surround ourselves with the support we need to move through the change.

I was standing in a lecture room at the Sauder School of Business during a personal and professional development class when I had this idea that could visually and physically demonstrate the process of change. Here is a description of that idea that I’d like to share with you.

Start off by imagining 5 chairs placed in a room in a circle and then read on:

  • Chair #1: COMFORT ZONE. You’re sitting comfortably and the chair feels stable and supportive. You may even be sitting on your favourite cushion with your favourite blanket covering your lap and your favourite book nearby.
  • Chair #2: SNEAKY ZONE. This chair is a little wobbly as if one of the legs is too short or is starting to crack. There’s no cushion or blanket and you’re not sure that you should be sitting on this chair. You’re starting to entertain the idea of change but don’t want to get off the chair just yet. At this stage, you are questioning things and maybe critically judging yourself.
  • Chair #3: DISSONANCE ZONE. This chair is not a chair but an exercise ball that you’re standing on. Physically, your core is engaged and you may need help from others to help you to stand on the ball. This is the wobbliest chair of them and you know that you can’t stay on it without support. Even if you manage to physically get comfortable standing, your brain is totally confused, and chaotic thoughts ensue: should I stay or should I go (fight or flight)? Should I go back to the comfort of Chair #1 or embrace the fear of the unknown? Look inward and figure out what is pulling you — what does that look like? You will likely revert to the most dominant vision (new or old) which can cause tension. This tension is often confused with anxiety but it’s actually a healthy tension; a way of your mind indicating to you that there’s something new to explore. You can’t hold two beliefs at the same time without feeling tension (process of dissonance). It takes openness and risk to keep standing on that ball.
  • Chair #4: LEARNING ZONE. This chair is even more wobbly than the second one — it actually has a broken leg and the back is missing a piece but you can still sit on it without crashing to the floor. In this instance, you’ve made a decision to move forward with change but are still getting used to the unfamiliar. You’re trying to find new rhythms, making new friends and learning new systems. There’s a sense of unease coupled with hope and curiosity.
  • Chair #5: NEW NORMAL. You’re back in a place of comfort. Getting here took time, patience and repetition. But you did it. You’re comfortably sitting in this chair but it feels different (in a good way!). Maybe you have a new cushion and a new blanket. Or maybe you just moved the first chair to a different place in the room. Either way, you can settle in here now until the next change comes along.

“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

- Roy T. Bennett

Sometimes the process of change is sprung on us. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of contemplating all of the steps that happen in the process. Yet it happens and it’s so important to give space (and grace) to the external change to catch up with the internal transition by managing emotions. Especially focus on those emotions of letting go — letting go of loss, of grief and whatever else might be disrupting your circle of chairs.

“You can have comfort or you can have growth but you can’t have both.”

Are you experiencing change in your life? Can you identify the stage that you are at (which chair are you currently on)? Do you need to make a decision about work, relationships, career moves, hiring or firing someone? There’s no right or wrong way of going through change. Let your values guide you. Let your vision fuel your decision. Ask yourself — what am I moving towards?

If you need help, I am here. If you’re curious to learn more, if you want guidance, if you are stuck, if you want a sounding board or a trusted coach, I am here.

Through coaching conversations, self-assessments and other proven methods, I can help you move through change to embrace the power to be intentional with the direction you want to take. You’ll learn to tune inward and get comfortable being uncomfortable and find the right chair for you.

Laura Dowling

Professional Coach & Facilitator

My name is Laura, but everyone calls me “LD”.
LD Performance Consulting provides emerging and experienced leaders, individuals and teams with world-class, customized leadership development and facilitation services that build confidence, unlock talent and improve performance.