How To Survive Your Own Change Initiatives

Have you ever had your life turned upside down by a radical change that you initiated?

It may have been a good change, or an unpleasant one which just had to be done. Either way, I’m willing to bet that somewhere in the middle, you almost lost it. Or you did lose it – and you barely managed to regain control. You had come too far to turn back, but you didn’t know how long you could keep going – or whether you even wanted to.

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I’ve been through many of these personally-initiated changes, such as starting a new business, leaving or starting a job, moving to another country (and coming “home”), and I’ve discovered a pattern that I’d like to share with you – a pattern that you may find helpful in your current or soon-to-be change initiative.

I call this pattern the “3 Cs of Change.” Keep reading to see which stage best describes where you’re at right now.

  1. Courage: Initiating a new change in your life or organization requires a special kind of courage. But this courage isn’t just about counting the cost in time, energy and money. It’s about counting the cost of chaos – the cost of finding yourself in the middle of your change initiative without the stability of the past or the fruit of the future – and still deciding to initiate the change.
  2. Chaos: This is the most critical time in your change initiative. You’ve taken that measured leap, and now you’re in midair. You had a vision for what your change would look like, but you haven’t yet seen the fruits of your labor. Everything feels overwhelming, and you’re frustrated with yourself, the process, and whoever else is involved. You’re determined not to go back to “before,” but you’re not sure if you have the desire or ability to keep moving toward your “after.”
  3. Commitment: Commitment is what separates those who turn back and those who forge ahead. Your initial courage was enough to get you started, but chaos has knocked the wind out of your sails. This is the moment of truth, the moment where you step back and take another look at your initial vision, and you remember why this change was so important to you. And with this renewed sense of why, you will rediscover your courage and commit yourself to finishing what you started – so that you can experience the benefits of the change you envisioned.

So the next time you’re engaged in (or contemplating) a major change initiative, or you know someone who is, consider these “3 Cs of Change.” And take heart – chaos is a just a way station between courage and commitment.

Which stage most resonates with you? Which brings out your greatest strengths, or your greatest fears? How will you use this pattern to inform your current or future change initiative?


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Photo by Danny Froese.

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