In September of 2017 I did a few episodes on the Cycle of Change. Given what we are going through currently I think this is a good time for a review.
I was first introduced to the concept of the cycle of change when I was getting certified as a coach through iPEC Coaching. They had a nice analogy of the cycle of change as a card game.
Change occurs in a cycle and we’re always in some part of the cycle of change in every area of our lives. Each part of your life is likely in different parts of the cycle.
Because we tend to interpret different stage of the change cycle as good or bad, we commonly have the experience of feeling like there are always some areas of our life in which we are winning and other areas that feel like we are struggling.
In this episode I’m going to give a brief overview of The Cycle of Change and discuss the overarching phase we are currently going through during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using the card game analogy for The Cycle of Change there are several phases.
Before you play a card game you have to decide what game you’re going to play. This usually happens as you’ve started to shuffle the cards so this phase is called The Shuffle Phase.
The game is chosen and cards are dealt. During The Deal Phase your mind is considering your resources, the other players, a strategy is chosen and you are formulating a plan.
Then you move into the phase called Play the Game. Obviously, this is the phase of movement and action.
Then the game comes to a close and you are now in The Toss in Phase. During this phase you are absorbing what just happened and either celebrating a victory or considering how you feel about defeat.
All things come to an end and typically people are rarely ready for the cycle to end because when you’re in the Playing the Game phase there’s a lot of energy and excitement. At the end, the Toss In, there is loss, grief, confusion or a lack of clarity for what’s next. Whether it is the end of a job role or a relationship, people in this part of the cycle are usually unhappy and cannot see how they will be able to go through it all again.
In this part of The Cycle of Change you will take little action on your own and resist change because of fear and uncertainty, and depending on how the last phase ended, there may be a lack of hope.
In this phase you may also feel victimized and like you don’t have control over your circumstances. You may find yourself being grumpier, ill at ease, and even experiencing pain more.
At the end of the Toss In, there can be an intense state of “hibernation” or “cocooning”. If you’ve read my book, Accomplished, you’ll be very familiar with. This state eventually passes, and if you let yourself just be during this phase you will naturally find yourself getting renewed and re-energized, ready for the next phase.
Does this all sound familiar to what we’ve been going through lately?
When our events were cancelled, when the schools and business establishments were closed, when the Stay at Home orders were issued, we all found ourselves unexpectedly in The Toss In phase. This is why so many of us have been experiencing feelings of grief. We are grieving a way of life that will either take a long time to get back to or may never be the same again.
Here is some guidance for you that may help to ease the discomfort of being in this phase.
Don’t try to rush through it, or numb the experience, because you feel uncomfortable. It is normal for this phase to feel uncomfortable and unnatural, especially if you are living in a culture that celebrates achievement, productivity, and getting things done.
It’s okay to give in to the need to withdraw for a while because the reflection and contemplation you will do while you are feeling low energy is critical to gaining clarity to go into the next phase.
I also want to underscore that numbing this experience by overindulging in sugar, alcohol, tobacco, Netflix, exercise, etc. will prevent you from doing the deep work that strengthens you and provides clarity for the next stage. I’m not judging having anything in small doses and moderation. It’s using these things to distract yourself from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that will cause suffering in the long run.
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in indecision because you just had no clue what you wanted or didn’t want, it was probably because you skipped past the Toss In phase and so never got the information you needed to do the next phase well.
In this stage of grieving you are doing an analysis of what went right and what went wrong while you were in the last Cycle of Change. You are considering your thoughts, feelings, actions and the results you got during that cycle.
Many of us have been looking at the lifestyle we were living in the last few years and questioning if that’s how we want to move forward.
All of this is important information that you need to synthesize, and then integrate, to strengthen you to move forward.
Do the work. And the work looks like being with yourself even if it feels yucky.
Fear, anxiety, doubt, loss and anger are all normal during this phase. Find people you trust implicitly and make it clear to them you don’t need them to fix you or make you feel better, you just need them to hear you and validate where you are.
Let them know you’ll tell them when you are ready to take some action but until then you need them to respect where you are in the process. It may help to explain to them that this is a grieving process.
What is going well? What can you count on? This will give you some foundation to stand on while other things feel like they are coming undone.
Give yourself some guilt-free space to just be for a while without the need to do, accomplish or achieve anything.
Remember, this too shall pass but don’t force it. Otherwise, you’ll just find your back here again without having made any progress.
If this was helpful to you, I’m going to ask a favor. Please share this episode with a friend or colleague whom you know could benefit from this information. It’s sharing resources that helps us all get through tough times.
I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!
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