5 key indicators of personal growth

Effective change management involves understanding the stages of change

By Delna Anand

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Published: Thu 11 Jul 2024, 5:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 11 Jul 2024, 5:32 PM

Change, an inherent and unavoidable part of life, is driven by psychological, social, and biological factors. Psychologically, our brains prefer stability, but the good news is that its wiring enables us to adapt to changing times. American psychologist Carol Dweck, who wrote a book called Mindset, sheds light on how everyone is capable of changing once they see challenges as opportunities.

Effective change management involves understanding the stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Each stage is crucial in order to successfully navigate transformation. Understanding and leveraging these stages can significantly enhance the success of one’s initiatives to change.


In neuro-linguistic terms, this is called the stage of ‘Unconscious Incompetence: I don’t know what I don’t know’. At this stage, you are not aware of what to truly expect. You may still be unaware of the need for change or be resistant due to fear or denial. Effective management at this stage involves raising awareness about the benefits of change and the risks of maintaining status quo. Strategies include education, communication, and researching facts or testimonials to highlight the necessity and potential positive outcomes of change.


During contemplation, individuals recognise the need for change, but are still tentative about taking action. They weigh the pros and cons, and consider the implications. Mentors or well-wishers play an important role at this stage by providing clear information, addressing concerns, and offering encouragement. Or the individual needs to work on clarifying his/her own doubts and creating a clear vision of the future so that they can move into the preparation stage.


In the preparation stage, you are ready to take action and start planning the change. You may seek information, develop strategies, and set goals. It is a good time to plan, set timelines, identify potential obstacles and their solutions, to ensure a smooth transition to the next stage.


The action stage is where change is actively implemented. This is where all the planning and having a positive mindset become important. In neuro-linguistic terms, this is the stage of ‘Conscious Competence: I now know, but have to keep the focus strong on what needs to be done’. Now, you’ve not only understood what needs to be done but also how much focus and concentration is required for the task. At this stage, there is still a rawness and a newness, the learning has not yet become second nature, but you’re getting a good grasp of the skill by making mistakes while practising. The key is to keep practising, over and over.


In the maintenance stage, the goal is to sustain the change and prevent relapse into old habits. This stage requires ongoing support and reinforcement. In the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Any sustained action repeated consistently becomes who you are.

Change is the law of life, it’s the way of the world and whether we understand it fully or not, we must change and adapt. With any new situation, there will be times when you wish to give up and go back to the familiar. Only you can decide what you value more -- inconvenience and heartbreak while adjusting to change or staying in your comfort zone. Growth notoriously happens out of the comfort zone. So decide wisely.

The next time you find yourself in a functional-freeze kind of situation due to fear of the unknown, think of this step by step process and take place one foot forward. You will get there sooner than you think.


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