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The 4 Stages of Change--What Stage are You In?

By Shelley Riutta, MSE, LPC
May 05, 2008

Discover where you are in your growth and change process.

We are always in an evolving cycle of change - letting go of the old and stepping into the new.   Sometimes we welcome this change with open arms, sometimes we resist with all of our might.  It can be helpful to know which stage you are in–so you can understand what is going on for you–and work with this process of change rather than against it.  Here are the four stages:


1.    Dissatisfaction or “feeling the gap”.  This is when there is a large gap between where you are and where you would like to be.  You might not be completely clear where you want to be. You may just have the clarity that what you are experiencing now is not working for you.  This is an uncomfortable place to be and oftentimes I have clients come to me and label this stage as “depression”.  Try to frame the dissatisfaction as information signaling you to grow rather than labeling it as a permanent position ex. “I will always feel this way–my life never goes that way I want it to.”  How you frame it can change your experience of it.  If you frame it as a signal for growth you will feel empowered—if you focus on it from a state of helplessness you will feel despair.

2.    Exploration - In this stage you feel the dissatisfaction, but you don’t quite know what would feel better to you.  Or you have a sense of what would feel better, but you don’t know how to get there.  This is the stage where you explore options and “try them on” to see how it would feel or you explore options of how to get where you want to go.  It is important to take your time in this phase to truly explore.  People oftentimes feel uncomfortable with the lack of certainty at this point and may try to bypass this by choosing an option to get out of this stage.  Reassure yourself that you will come to an option that feels right to you–just give it time. The other thing to watch in this stage is the opposite—exploring so much that you get confused and stuck in considering options.  Sometimes people fear making a change and hang out in the exploration stage as a safety zone to not take any risks.  Make sure you aren’t doing this either.

3.    Action/Visualization - In this stage you have clarity about where you want to go and you develop a plan to get there. Again, you may know where you want to go but are unclear of a plan to get there—and this is something that needs to be finalized in this stage.  You may have developed somewhat of a plan in the exploration stage–and in this stage you will clarify this plan and begin to implement. As you begin to move forward your wounded self may become afraid—it is important to stay tuned in and bring through the truth to this scared part of you.  Staying in faith rather than fear will help you to move forward more easily. In this stage it is important to get support for you to stay on track with the implementation of the plan to achieve your goal.  Without support, fears that surface may sidetrack you and stop you from moving forward.  You can share with a close friend or partner your plan and ask them to be an accountability buddy to you.  The other part of this stage is to spend time visualizing the positive outcome of your desired change.  See it working out in the easiest, magical and fun way.  This vision can help keep you focused when your desired change is in process and not quite complete.  The phrase “keep your eye on the prize” is fitting here.

4.    Stepping into the New - Moving into your change can be a gradual process or it could come more quickly–like meeting your Soulmate within weeks of this process–or your dream job lands in your lap overnight.  Either way there is an adjustment phase to the new change.  There can be feelings of loss from letting go of the old. Even though you were dissatisfied with the old situation, it represented the familiar to you.  With the new changes there may come feelings of having a new identity or parts of you being expressed that have never been expressed before.  Typically people feel more aliveness and vitality in this stage.  You can also feel a deep sense of satisfaction that you made a change that was in alignment with your Authentic Self—your true desires.  You will feel on the right path with your life- like you are back on track again.

Copyright 2008
Shelley Riutta MSE, LPC is a Holistic Psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Inner Bonding and Transformational individual counseling, presentations, groups and Workshops.  For more information and to get her free workbook “What Do You Really Want: Finding Purpose and Passion in Your Life” visit her web-site or call her at 920-265-2627


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