If You Want to Go Up, Go Down First

Apr 14, 2020

During my corporate years, I have learned a very useful graph: the change curve. It describes the stages of transition in personal and organisational change, whether this change has been initiated by us or by others. It looks like a curve that first goes down then starts to slowly climb up again.

It goes down first because any disruption to the status quo will have an initial negative effect. No matter how prepared we are for it, how much we want the change to happen, performance will go down as we need to get used to the new.


If change is not welcomed, this phase will be filled with shock, denial, anger, and resentment. The good old days will be missed and confusion and chaos will reign. At the lowest dip of the curve, we come to a point where nothing seems to work any longer and nothing seems to help. When we reach this bottom, all we can do is to let go of the past.


As we do this, something starts to change: we start climbing. The new takes shape and becomes more and more solid. A new reality starts to form; we start experimenting, we feel curiosity. Eventually, we decide to embrace the new and enjoy the better version of reality that unfolds for us.


Going through change is not easy. Many organisational change projects fail because change is not managed sufficiently. And in our lives, we refuse to embrace the new because of the instinctive fear we have of this initial hard phase.


The key question the change curve asks us is: are you ready to do what it takes? Are you ready to pay the price? And payment in this case is upfront and comes with no money-back guarantee.


Change is tough. It’s one of the most stressful situations in our lives and to make it happen we need the commitment to go through with it. It also helps if we expect and prepare for what’s coming.


Know that it will be hard for a while as you start to change. Once you decide to go in a different direction, know that this decision will have its price that will need to be paid. Some people in your life might decide to make you change your mind, or they might desert you. Others might change with you. Your routine will not function any longer in a new situation. It will take time to adapt to a new scenario.


For instance, if you ever dreamt of working in a foreign country, the first weeks once your dream job takes you there will be a far cry from what you had expected. It will be difficult for a while as you settle in, learn how to function in a new society, adapt to a new language. There will be lonely moments to weather and day-to-day challenges you did not have to deal with at home.


Know that’s part of it. If you made that decision consciously and are convinced it’s a good decision for you, just remember that you are traveling on a change curve and you’re on the downhill portion. Expect to hit the bottom; a moment when you will question your own decision and have strong doubts that this was a good one. Wait for this to pass and let go of how you imagined things would be.


Simply let go and accept the new; let it become part of your life. Get used to it, make friends with it. Maintain a sense of curiosity. See where it takes you. Eventually, you will climb out of the change curve.


Every single model of it you find on Google will tell you so.


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