The 5 Emotional Stages of Goal Achievement and Success

Updated: May 30, 2023

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, break your routine and bad habits, bravely step out of your comfort zone, and initiate change.

The Emotional Cycle of Change

In the mid-1970s, psychologists Don Kelley and Daryl Conner developed the Emotional Cycle of Change model, which describes the five stages a person goes through when changing a habit or behavior.

This model has been widely adapted to 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. You seem to underestimate the costs of what you’re trying to do. And you start asking yourself if it’s worth the effort or if you should just abandon the plan.

Things worsen each day until you reach the dreaded Valley of Despair, where you can 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 return 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.

What to do next: Click here to start your financial journey with IMG Wealth Academy


  1. Does anyone else see the similarities with market cycles? For some, there is “the valley of despair.”
    For those who learn to rewire their brains, there will be “the valley opportunity.” I believe most readers of this blog will know all the great quotes about “buy when there is blood in the streets” orbe “greedy when other are fearful.” Excellent post that stirs up the electrical activity in my ageing brain cells.

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