Whenever you want to achieve something new you have to go through change. Whether that's getting a better grade in a class, entering a new relationship, or starting a business change is required.
However, change is difficult. Many of us who undergo a transformational period end up stopping during our transformation. Now there are many reasons why we stop ourselves from going through change, but one of the most important reasons is because we don't understand the emotional cycle of change.
Coined in 1979 by psychologists Don Kelly and Darrell Connor, the emotional cycle of change outlines how your emotional response will alter as you go through a new experience. By understanding this emotional cycle of change, you will be able to anticipate your emotional journey as you embark on something new.
This is extremely important, espicially as an entrepreneur, as you will constantly be going through cycles of change as your business grows. Below, we will look at each stage through the eyes of an entrepreneur, and outline what happens in each phase of this cycle.
This is the most exciting stage of your emotional journey. When embarking on a new business, you imagine all the benefits and perceived outcomes that you could achieve. You have yet to face any setbacks or controversy and can only think of the best-case scenarios for your business.
The second stage is informed pessimism. As you start trying to grow your new business reality kicks in. Your once optimistic state of what your business could become, is overrun with negative thoughts about how difficult it is becoming to achieve your desired outcome. At this stage, most would-be entrepreneurs start to question if the effort is worth it.
Valley of Despair
The third stage is when you enter the valley of despair. This is where 99% of entrepreneurs give up. The pain of keeping your business alive, the expectations you have yet to hit, and the reality of it all start to settle in. At this point, you will question more and more why you are trying to go through with this change. You remember how much easier life was before this change was introduced.
This stage is very interesting because many entrepreneurs who quit here go back to Stage 1: uninformed optimism. You start to rationalize things in your head like, "I just picked the wrong industry but if I picked a different one I could get a different outcome." Or, "I just had the wrong co-founder, if I start a business by myself next time I will get a different result."
Most entrepreneurs find themselves getting stuck in a cycle between these three steps. They try something new, they realize it's harder than they thought it would be, and they rationalize how if they were doing something else they'd be more successful. This leads to many people never achieving their full potential because they give up right before things get better for them.
The fourth stage is informed optimism. You have gotten past the valley of despair and you see that the possibility of success is more likely than you thought. You're starting to see the fruits of your labor paying off and the hard work is leading to the result you were looking for.
Finally, you reach success and fulfillment. This is the final stage of the emotional cycle and at this point, your hard work has paid off and you are finally experiencing the end result you desired. The prior actions that you viewed as tedious and hard to manage have now become routine.