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The Emotional Cycle of Change

What Is The Emotional Cycle of Change?

The emotional cycle of change, as developed by Kelley and Conner in 1979, is a description of the most common experiences we go through emotionally when facing change.

It doesn’t always happen in the same order for all people in all situations but it is well documented and most people resonate with it.

Even if it doesn’t quite fit for you, there will still be elements of it that you experience and you can still benefit from understanding it better.

Some people don’t experience the emotions in the way they are described but that doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting you all the same

What Does The Emotional Cycle Of Change Look Like?

Here is a simple visualisation of the cycle and what to expect:

A Graphical representation of the emotional cycle of change.
The Emotional Cycle of Change represented in a graph

Uninformed Optimism

Before starting something new we often feel very optimistic. We are uninformed of exactly what is to come and we are excited about the changes and the benefits we expect.

“This is Exciting!”

Informed Pessimism

As we get started we then realise just how much we have to do or learn. We realise a lot of the things that we didn’t even know we didn’t know. We now feel informed and that we understand what is to come but we feel less positive about our ability to create or handle the changes.

“Why did I think this was a good idea?” “This is going to be really tough.”

The Pit of despair

The charming name given to the bottom of this curve. This is where people will often back off only to repeat the first part of this slope again. Pushing through this bit is often the hardest part but it is also key. What follows just gets easier when you get out of the pit.

One powerful key to making this part easier is to TALK about it. Realise that you have support around you and that you are not alone in experiencing this. Reminding yourself of this ‘cycle’ and remembering that this is where the magic really happens.

The difference here is often the ‘make or break’ in many situations. The difference? Simply whether you see it for what it is and push through… or not.

Hopeful Realism

You have got over the hardest parts. You now feel more hopeful (which in turn makes further progress easier) and you are better informed of what you need to do from here on. Everything gets easier from here.

Informed Optimism

You’ve made it! From here you feel optimistic about the future but this optimism is based on knowledge and experience.

Understanding the cycle above doesn’t necessarily change anything but for many it makes it easier to accept the different elements of the cycle. Acceptance is a key part in embracing change – you can read more about that in my blog about the different elements of change.

If you’d like further support in managing change and your emotional responses to it, please get in touch to find out how Duncan can help you.