Someone said that the only thing that we can be certain of in life, is change, and yet a lot of our health issues arise because we find it so difficult to embrace it. Whenever my daughter changed schools, from nursery, to primary, to high school, she kicked up dickens with tears and dramas. As she rose through the different grades, and the teachers changed, she’d have a hard time letting go. She hated us moving house (we did this a lot), and she liked her routine way of living and being entertained. She’d go for sleepovers with her childhood friends and we always ended up having to go and fetch her in the middle of the night because of bogus ‘tummy aches’. When we recently moved to this country, she went to pieces even though she couldn’t wait to get here. Though she’s experienced a lot of change in her life, she still gets into a huge fight with it, and this resistance makes her ill. She ends up with stiffness and pain in her body, and this continues until her mental flexibility returns.
As we all know, change is a normal aspect of everyday living, whether in our personal or working lives. Major changes in our personal lives include leaving home and getting married, having children, our ‘little’ ones moving from teenage years into adulthood, moving house, changing countries, and breakdowns in our relationships. Change is hard for us because we see unchartered territory as dangerous. In our current situation we feel safe because we know the rules and we know what is expected of us, but when it changes, our sense of safety derails us emotionally.
The creators of ‘The Change Cycle’ suggest that people react, respond and adjust to change in a sequence of six predictable stages. The Change Cycle model below identifies the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with each stage of change and they believe that there is no better map to assist you in navigating through the changes in your life. In order to better explain their model, I will give examples of the Change Cycle as it applied to my husband, Lance, and myself when we left England for Turkey in August 1985, and Lance took up his first job as an English Language teacher.
As you read through our experiences, consider your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards the major personal and professional changes that you are encountering now and plot where you are on The Change Cycle. Though we at first resist change, that resistance doesn’t affect the shifts in circumstances. All it serves to do is create stress in our lives. Knowing the predictable stages that we go through, helps us to work through the change more easily, and with less fear. It also helps us to be gentler on ourselves and on those around us showing visible discomfort with the change.
STAGE 1: LOSS (AUGUST 1985)
In Stage 1, you admit to yourself that regardless of whether or not you perceive the change to be good or ‘bad” there will be a sense of loss of what “was.”
Although I was looking forward to living in a new country, Lance and I were still leaving behind our family and friends. Our baby son, Zak, was only 3 months old so we were leaving behind a good family support structure too. And of course, we were moving away from British culture and traditions that we had both grown up with since being children ourselves.
STAGE 2: DOUBT (SEPTEMBER)
In this stage, you doubt the facts, doubt your doubts and struggle to find information about the change that you believe is valid. Resentment, skepticism and blame cloud your thinking.
The first month in Turkey was really hard: new culture, new language, new home, new job etc. Questions start to surface: ‘Is this really worth it?’, ‘Have we made the right decision to come here?’, ‘Why wasn’t an English teaching job available for Lance in England’? We did not make an effort to learn Turkish because that would have symbolized a commitment to staying. Even Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher’s educational policy of promoting teaching jobs in the sciences was blamed “for getting us into this situation in the first place!”
STAGE 3: DISCOMFORT (OCTOBER-NOVEMBER)
You will recognize Stage 3 by the discomfort it brings. The change and all it means has now become clear and starts to settle in. Frustration and lethargy rule until possibility takes over.
This was another tough couple of months for the Rooneys. The salary was half what Lance was told at the interview and the cost of living was double. Therefore, I had to get a teaching job just so that we could have one or two treats at the weekend and find a baby-sitter (being a new mommy, this was definitely not part of the plan!). Both baby Zak and I battled stomach aches from the unfamiliar circumstances. The weather had turned bitterly cold and the air pollution in Ankara was so bad from the coal used for heating that people were walking down the streets with face masks on!
DANGER ZONE (DECEMBER)
The Danger Zone represents the pivotal place where you make the choice either to move on to Stage 4 and discover the possibilities the change has presented, or to choose fear and return to Stage 1.
The change had been so difficult to adjust to that we decided to go back to England for the Christmas holiday. We were so desperate to get back ‘home’ that we even borrowed some money from one of my work colleagues to pay for the airfare! However, for the two weeks that we were there, we realized that no-one was really interested in some of our nice experiences in Turkey, we were not missed as much as we missed friends and family, and everyone was simply getting on with their own lives. It was a wake-up call. Maybe we should get on with living too!
STAGE 4: DISCOVERY (JANUARY-MARCH 1986)
Stage 4 represents the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Perspective, anticipation, and a willingness to make decisions give a new sense of control and hope. You are optimistic about a good outcome because you have choices.
To say that we were in a completely different frame of mind on our return flight to Ankara is a huge understatement. Lance and I had agreed that we would make a real effort to get the best out of the country. This meant making Turkish friends which was easy because we were both English teachers so met the locals on a daily basis in class and as colleagues, and because Turkish people are so hospitable themselves anyway. We also started going to Turkish language classes and planning our first short break in beautiful Antalya on the Mediterranean coast once the winter turned to spring.
STAGE 5: UNDERSTANDING (APRIL-JUNE)
In Stage 5, you understand the change and are more confident, think pragmatically, and your behavior is much more productive. Good thing.
After a wonderful break in Antalya where we stayed in the apartment of one of Lance’s students while she was in Ankara, we were much more positive about the future. We had also done well in our first six months teaching at our language schools. I, therefore, felt more confident in my new job and we were both starting to really embrace this new change.
STAGE 6: INTEGRATION (JULY)
By this time, you have regained your ability and willingness to be flexible. You have insight into the ramifications, consequences and rewards of the change — past, present, and future.
So, the first year of our contract came to an end and we returned to England for the summer vacation, but in a completely different frame of mind than at Christmas. We had made some good Turkish friends and could not wait to return in August to visit the resort of Fethiye on the Aegean coast. I also knew that new classes and groups of students awaited me upon my return and so I was committed to doing as good a job in my second year as I had in my first.
I hope this helps you understand your own feelings about the change you’re going through. It might be an idea to buy the poster and put it on your fridge. That way, you can counsel your own family during episodes of change.
For more info, click here: http://www.changecycle.com/index.htm