4 easy steps to change...
by Liezl Thom
The changing seasons are some of the best reminders that
nothing is permanent. Just take a look out of the
window… those green shoots that are appearing furtively
after their Winter rest, will be fully developed by the
end of the month. In six months’ time, they’ll start to
wither again… as the wheel of time rolls by steadily.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus hit the nail on the
head more than 2 500 years ago when he stated that “the
only constant thing is change”… or
something to that effect.
International best selling author and Life Coach, Martha
Beck (PhD), describes the change cycle as: a
square, divided into quarters.
The first block
represents the impetus for change… or as Beck calls it,
the “Death and Rebirth” square. This is where the change
is initiated. Whether it is a physical death of a loved
one, or an emotional death – like when you lose your job
– this first step of the change cycle can be extremely
It’s not to say that it has to be painful, though. The
change can be a wildly exciting event… like getting
married or being promoted. The point is, to a greater or
lesser degree, there is a sense of loss. Take the
example of a woman getting married. Yes, it can be a
tremendously exhilarating time in her life… but she has
to give up a few things to obtain that ring around the
finger… like her surname (although this is happening far
less nowadays than only a couple of years ago). She also
has to give up her status as single, available,
master-of-her-own-destiny girl and forge a new identity
as wife. The same goes for entering the physical and
emotional rollercoaster of motherhood, being promoted…
or any other significant milestone in life. Some part of
the self has to die for the new-and-improved version of
you to emerge.
The second square,
according to Beck’s analogy, is the “Dreaming and
Scheming” phase. This is what happens when you’ve
accepted the fact that your life is changing… and start
thinking what you would like out of the situation. Let’s
take the example of the woman (or man – hey, change
happens to all of us!) who gets retrenched. After the
initial shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger,
depression and acceptance (in other words, once the
entire cycle of grieving is completed), she starts to
daydream about what she wants out of life…
Maybe she dreams about being an artist… or going back to
university to study archaeology. The sky is the limit
here. In this phase, anything is possible…
It’s also in this second square that we start to make
plans how to attain those goals. It might not be a
complete, fool-proof plan, the details might still be a
little foggy… but the first outlines of what your future
life could/would/should look like is slowly starting to
emerge… a little bit like those buds and leaves in early
Spring. In fact, if “Death and Rebirth” is seen as
representing Winter, this square undoubtedly represents
An interesting trend amongst people in the “Dreaming and
Scheming” phase, is the physical changes that occur…
Like losing weight, changing your
redecorating your living room. (Actually, there are
thousands of manifestations of this physical change –
but seeing as we don’t have all day, I’ll leave you to
find a few examples of your own…)
We’ll return to this square a bit later…
The next step in the
change cycle is what Beck calls the “Hero’s Saga”. This
is where you actually have to do the work to realise
those plans you schemed up in the previous phase. Now, I
consider myself as quite well-read… but I’ve never come
across a hero who sets out to attain some glorious goal,
gets the job done (and gets the girl) and is back in
time for dinner and the seven o’clock news. Oh no! Its
not called a saga for nothing… there are obstacles to
overcome, monsters to defeat, calls of sirens to ignore…
basically, for the first three quarters of any story
worth reading (or repeating) it’s a case of one step
forward, two steps back.
But a hero is not a hero if he/she does not have more
than a bit of tenacity. (I’ll admit, a stroke of luck
also plays a part sometimes – but I believe we make our
own luck… and that’s a story for another day). The point
is, in this phase, we have to stop dreaming and actually
do something. If the plan does not work, we refine it.
This is where you knock on every door and work like a
slave to get to your goal.
Beck’s fourth and final square:
the “Promised Land”. This is when you get what you
wanted – like the Israelites who traversed the Middle
East for how long? Forty years if I’m not mistaken.
(Which again shows you how hard you sometimes have to
work in Square Three). Enjoy it – you’ve earned it!
But don’t get too comfortable… remember old Heraclitus?
The wheel of change can turn at any minute – and you can
be catapulted back into Square One before you have time
to savour the sweet rewards of your journey. If you’re
lucky, you might spend years in the Promised Land… but
be assured, whether its through boredom with all the
wealth you’ve amassed, or a personal tragedy, change
will happen again.
Before we return to the “Dreaming and Scheming” phase,
its worth noting that different aspects of your life can
be in different phases of the change cycle. You might
have an awesome run at work (Promised Land stuff)… while
your health or personal life might be in Square One… or
Two… or Three.
Remember I mentioned the physical changes frequently
noticed in people who are in Square Two? Another
interesting occurrence is how people who have a physical
make-over, (whether its by means of a competition, or
whether you’re visiting
Mr Rademan and he’s creating an entire new look for
you), get thrown head first into the change cycle. If
this is happening in your life – brace yourself, baby!
You’re in for one hell of an adventure!
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