In this post we discuss 7 stages of personal change as understood through NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). Personal change is an internal experience, and also an external one at the same time. It stems from a change in our mindset and thus branches out from there.
We are always moving toward some things, and away from other things. For lasting change to occur in our lives, we must pass through a series of tipping points in relevant succession.
Don’t get me wrong, personal change can happen very quickly. However, all of the most significant changes that we experience in life follow a particular sequence.
Towards Personal Change with NLP
We’re familiar with physical change over a lifetime. We all start out as infants and progress through childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle age, and old age. Although some people pass through these stages at different rates and different speeds, or die tragically young, the general sequence remains the same.
Like physical change, personal change happens though a series of stages. Change is always happening. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “The only constant in the universe is change.”
All levels and areas of our life are subject to change at any time and all the time. Psychological and emotional change works in conjunction with the physical, and vice-versa. They are interconnected and similar.
The Seven Stages of Personal Change
Stage 1: Developing Awareness
Everything, all change, all growth MUST begin with awareness. We can’t fix a problem we don’t recognize.
Often people become stuck in a rut, or stuck in a comfort zone. Usually there is a stressor of some kind that forces people to recognize that everything is not as they would wish. Motivation to change begins with a feeling that we aren’t fulfilling our full potential in (at least one area of) our life.
Typically, this awareness can be subtle at first. It may be a vague sense that you are not efficient in some area of your life, or it may be a sense of dissatisfaction with some area of your life. Before you can put your finger on the particular source of internal discomfort, you feel it on some level.
This type of feeling is a signal to change. These feelings initiate your personal recognition that something needs to be adjusted in either your mindset or in some practical area of your life.
Stage 2: Discovery
At this stage, your conscious mind has located the primary source of your discomfort, and is helping you become more aware of it.
A warning: you may experience some resistance at this stage. All change is threatening to your brain. Your ego will try to keep you safely inside your comfort zone – even if you hate it there!
The ego is masterful at denial. It pretends that your discomfort is resulting from a source that’s outside of you instead of inside you.
Beyond this stage, it’s crucial that we accept that the source of our uneasiness is within ourselves, and is therefore within our ability to control. The ability to adopt this new, responsible mindset is required before moving on to the next stage in this process of personal change.
Stage 3: Ownership
We must take sole responsibility for our discomfort or unease. This essential step brings us to the realization that we alone are in control of how it is that we choose to respond or react to the circumstances/situations that we find ourselves in.
In other words, we must fully acknowledge that the source of our problem is internal and not external. Our thought patterns, emotional inconsistencies, lifestyle habits, perception, limiting beliefs, or our faulty reasoning need to be amended.
In life, empowerment comes via taking responsibility. Assuming full ownership of any given situation opens the doorway towards a whole new level of maturity, empowerment and personal growth.
Stage 4: Exposure
Now, we expand our search to identify the habit or attitude that has stopped serving us. This can be challenging.
Firstly, logic is seldom useful in the emotional arena. Secondly, we assume that our beliefs are true. Then, because of our own cognitive bias, we look for ways to justify our beliefs, and prove they are true.
Directly confronting your beliefs will probably not work because your logical, conscious mind is just not as fast and powerful as your subconscious mind. Rather than a confrontation, it’s often easier to reflect upon our patterns of behaviour to identify how our irrational beliefs might be affecting our lives.
This boosts our awareness enough to see the limiting belief(s) under our behaviour. Once we recognize that we’ve been held back or limited by a particular idea, we will then have both logic and emotion supporting our desire for change.
Stage 5: Intention
Now you’re ready to move away from your previous stage and embrace the new. Stage 5 is the threshold of personal change.
You’ve identified an old belief ,or behaviour pattern, and you are now motivated to replace it with something more useful. It’s time to choose a direction.
When you reach this stage in the process of change, it’s relatively easy to identify what your desired state is. You know where you want to be.
The process of comparison that exposed your initial discomfort will now reveal your ideal future goal. This is the time to engage your mind to be more proactive, and to formulate your plan of action.
There’s a strategy for everything. Find one that will get you where you want to go.
Stage 6: Action
Real results come from consistent action. Taking action is the only way to achieve change.
If you do not take action, then your discomfort with the present reality will intensify because of your greater awareness of the issue. Not comfortable. At all.
Understand it will freak you right out! The greater the gap between where we are, and where we want to be, the scarier it will seem. This is perfectly normal.
In order to take action, we must release fear. Taking action demands that we let go of apathy, and risk giving a crap, risk failing and disappointing ourselves.
To release fear and apathy, we must embrace faith and uncertainty. Stepping out of our comfort zone is a risk we need to take if we really want personal change.
Stage 7: Integration
In the last stage of personal growth, change has happened. Your limiting beliefs and habits have been replaced with something more useful. Now, you have a new appreciation of what’s achievable for you.
Your initial mental awareness signaled that an adjustment needed to be made. Consequently, you’re in a new evolution in your journey of personal growth and development. Congratulations!
Personal Growth Becomes More Natural (with practice)
Some people embrace change. For these people, personal growth becomes a way of life. Resisting change is the easier course of action, in the short term. In the long term, the dissatisfaction of living below your potential will eat you alive. It will kill your sense of happiness and fulfilment.
The more you engage in the process of personal growth and change, and take control of it, the more natural it becomes. When you embrace change, you embrace life.