Throw That Change a Right Hook

Dealing with change positively and moving forward

Change is a permanent part of our lives. Most of us though tend to struggle when dealing with change. Isn’t that strange? The thing is that if we actually understand how the brain works, it’s simple and makes sense. It’s all connected with a survival strategy. Once you understand this mechanism, then you can steer your brain and your thoughts into using change as a positive external source of learning and inspiration.

We can either perceive change as

  • a threat or

  • a challenge

When we perceive a new situation as a threat then we’ll be activating our survival mode of fight or flight response; in other words, the reaction will be fear or anger. These emotions serve us little because rational thinking and collaboration are basically shut down. When the threat is too big, we cannot even think. This is what we call distress - a negative type of stress.

When we perceive a new situation as a challenge then our ability to analyse, collaborate and draw out the positives will certainly lead to a better outcome. There is still some degree of threat here, but it is manageable; and in fact, even desirable because it spurs us to deliver. This is what we call eustress - a positive type of stress.

You can probably relate to that situation when an upcoming deadline moves you into getting things done and puts you in that wonderful state of hyperfocus that some people call the zone; as opposed to the situation when you know you definitely won't be able to deliver and concentrating isn’t even possible.

One thing that has helped me manage change coming from outside, that is, a change imposed on me, is understanding the different stages of change and knowing what I need to do.

Stage 1: Status Quo


  • shock or denial

  • confusion and uncertainty

  • can feel like a physical blow

What to do:

  • communicate with people in your same situation

  • get information from reliable sources

  • understand the situation

  • avoid gossip and rumors

  • do a SWOT analysis

Stage 2: Disruption


  • anger, fear, emotional responses

  • focus on what is lost

What to do:

Stage 3: Exploration


  • acceptance

  • focus on what is new

  • learning about the new normal

What to do:

  • test and explore what the change means

  • learn new skills

  • be patient

  • emphasize the positive aspects

  • ask for help from friends or a mentor

Stage 4: Rebuilding


  • commitment

  • fully accept the new circumstances

  • ready to move forward

What to do:

  • embrace improvements

  • see the benefits

  • set goals and create an action plan

The key transition here is moving from the second stage also called the danger zone to the third stage that is the turning point. You have got to pay attention to avoid getting stuck in the second stage where you feel concern, anger, resentment or fear. You would be then avoiding everything related to the topic and that is basically escape coping. You want to be in control coping, that means that you are positive and proactive, you are becoming part of the change, not moving reluctantly with it.


Are you becoming part of the change?

In which stage of change are you right now?

What can you do to move to the next one?


Theories on organizational change and change management are attributed to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross from her work on personal transition in grief and bereavement.