Updated: May 27, 2021
Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
Indeed, if you want something to improve in your life, then you need to do something different, to break your routine and bad habits, to bravely step out of your comfort zone, and initiate change.
In the mid-1970s, psychologists Don Kelley and Daryl Conner developed the Emotional Cycle of Change model, which describes the five stages that a person goes through when one is changing a habit or behavior.
This model has been widely adapted into the field of business and self-development. And I find great value in it because it helps normalize the range of emotions that occur when one is pursuing a goal.
The 5 Emotional Stages
Stage 1: Uninformed optimism
Excitement is what you feel during this stage. You’re excited about that business idea you just thought of. You’re excited to learn about stock trading. You’re excited to start the habit of reading and have actually bought several books.
You imagine the future with optimism — that successful business, all the money you’ll earn from stock trading, and all the great stories you’ll read.
Stage 2: Informed pessimism
As you start your journey, your optimism quickly fades. You start to doubt yourself and begin to second-guess your skills and abilities.
The business idea seems too complicated. The stock market is too confusing. You’re too busy at work and can’t find time to read.
The future looks daunting. It seems that you underestimated the costs of what you’re trying to do. And you start to ask yourself if it’s really worth the effort, or should you just abandon the plan.
Things become worse each day until you reach the dreaded Valley of Despair, where you could either quit or push through.
Stage 3: Hopeful realism
You assess your situation and become more familiar with the obstacles along your way. Despite the difficulties, you decide it’s worth pushing through.
You patiently developed and started following a business plan. You studied and practiced stock trading every day. You decided to watch less TV and spend less time on social media so you can read.
You still feel anxious and doubtful, but you’re willing to try and see what happens if you don’t quit. You’re aware that you could still fail in the end, and that’s okay.
You say, “It’s better to have tried and failed than to regret never trying.”
Stage 4: Informed optimism
Things start to look up at this stage. Your business has finally launched and initial sales are good. You begin to earn some money on stock trading. You’re about to finish reading your first book.
Thanks to your patience and persistence, the future you imagined is on the horizon. And you can feel that it’s only a matter of time before you succeed and achieve your goals.
But you must not become complacent. You need to continue working hard and keep going.
Stage 5: Success and fulfillment
The final stage of the emotional cycle. It is here when you realize the completion of your journey.
What was once just an idea is now a profitable business. Your stock trading income can now cover your monthly expenses. And reading has already become a big part of your life. In fact, you can finish a book in a week.
Indeed, all the effort was worth it. And what was once hard and uncomfortable to do are now routine.
The Valley of Despair
Truth be told, only a few can push through the lowest point of the emotional cycle.
The valley of despair is unforgiving and the temptation to quit is so strong because once you do, the discomfort quickly disappears and a huge sense of relief will wash over you as you go back to your comfort zone.
And honestly, there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you let the valley of despair defeat you.
Because life is all about trying again. Yes, you can always try again with another idea, another opportunity, another habit; and restart your journey with uninformed optimism.
However, the next time you’re in the valley, you’re no longer who you were before. You’re now wiser and you know yourself better.
And perhaps, when you find yourself again in the valley of despair, you’ll decide to push through this time and move forward with hope.
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