The Change Curve

Change is the only constant in my life lately.

I begin each day with the shaky sense of unborn opportunity, like a swimmer who can’t open her eyes underwater and must feel about blindly for any body or anything that is approaching.  The objects the swimmer comes across are tangible and real, the blind approach is random, protective, preventative. In my life these days, the end result is authentic and firm, the process of getting there is invisible.

So to cope with an ever-moving reality, I do what every good English major does: I research.

I type “change” in the Google search box.  I read the definition of change (“to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone”–

I read the Stanford Encyclopedia description of it: “The most general conception of change is simply difference or non-identity in the features of things”.

I see, and I learn about climate change and read quotes on change (my favorite: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” –Barack Obama).

I consider all of this carefully.

Then I read about The Change Curve, a business model around since the 1960’s and it resonates with the process of change as I have come to know it lately.

I am hardly a social scientist.  I can barely read the newspaper, my brain is swimming most days. But, to generalize, The Change Curve quantifies 4 steps individuals must overcome to process change.

1) The first stage is Shock and Denial.  Confronted by the presence of change in our enviornment, we tell ourselves “This is not happening” and wonder why the process of adapting has to happen to us now.  We hide.  We keep ourselves from believing that our world is going to be disrupted.

2) As we face the reality that change is imminent, we become filled with Anger and/or Depression. We blame others (If he would have listened to me sooner!) and are mistrustful.  We blame ourselves. We replace anger with apathy; we become removed and isolated.  We can’t find the way out.

3) We start to embrace the change and we slowly begin to replace apathy with Exploration. We think about how we can adapt in our new enviornment, how we can persevere and grow.  We gain momentum. We breathe again.

4) Acceptance.

It is late afternoon, it is late summer and the air is cool, the lake water still warm from so many days of sun.  I have no children today and it is me, only me–the mix of old me and new.  My arms are not very strong (yet) and I get tired quickly; I am afraid suddenly of swimming alone. “How did I get so far out?” I ask myself, feeling panic set in to my lungs. “I can’t believe I did this.” I am disgusted with myself.  I bob and struggle to breathe while I consider the distance back.

It seems so far.

I put my head in the water and my eyes are closed.  I let my hands see for me.  I swim in what I think is a straight direction, move towards shore and come up for a quick glance of sand.  I get a little off course.  When I come up again, I hear children laughing and I know I am getting closer, that my feet can probably touch the sandy bottom. But rather than walk, I keep swimming and swimming and I keep my eyes closed until I can’t propel  any further.

Until, I collapse.

I sit with the little waves lapping at my legs and feel a rush of pride and disbelief.

But I am shaking. I wouldn’t want to do it again. I don’t know if I could do it again.

And yet.

I am amazed.  My eyes open wide and I look back at where I was.

And it makes me so grateful to be where I am.





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