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Friday, January 28, 2022

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Change

Hello!  How is it already the end of January??  I don't know where the days have gone... well, except for the cold, windy days curled up in front of the fire.  Yep, it's easy to drown out life's chaos with a warm cup of cocoa and a good book!

As I was pushing myself out of the comfort-zone and getting back into real life, I came across this great explanation for the emotional roller-coaster of endings... and new beginnings.  It was exactly what I needed to hear... perhaps it will be the push you need as well.

I am not one to make New Year's Resolutions, but the principle applies.  For every good intention, there are a thousand distractions.  Truth?!

The principle I read about is called The Emotional Cycle of Change developed by Don Kelley and Daryl Conner in the mid-1970's.  It is particularly appropriate here as the New Year has begun and resolutions have been made!

There are 5 stages in this roller coaster. Bear with me... it all comes together with an inspiring bang!

First stage is Uninformed Optimism.  It's that New Year's Eve high.  We see all the benefits, but none of the cost.  Lose 50 pounds?  You bet!  Get up every morning at 5 to start with quiet time and devotions?  No problem!  Turn that spark of an idea into a 6-figure business?  Done!

Unfortunately all that Optimism dies a quick death as the second stage kicks in... Informed Pessimism.  Our positive emotions turn sour as the cost of the change becomes apparent.  Basically the reality of what we've taken on makes us question our sanity. Lol!  Are we nuts... lose 50 pounds?  Right!  Get up at 5 every morning?  Not gonna happen!  Start a 6-figure business?  Not possible!

This drives us to the lowest point in the roller coaster of emotional change... the Valley of Despair.  Well, Don Kelley and Daryl Conner don't call it that. They believe that the lowest point is actually Hopeful Realism.  Uh... Realistically?  It's the Valley of Despair... Truth!  This is the point where most people give up and all good resolutions go to die a quiet death. Yes, been there, I can testify!

The pain of change feels too hard, and the benefits too far away.  Lose  50 pounds?  I just gained 2!  Get up at 5am? The baby kept me up teething all night!  And start a business?  Who are we kidding??!!

The quickest way to end discomfort is to quit.  So, yes, I call this the Valley of Despair.  The Psalmist speaks of it in a familiar passage:

... and although our emotional roller coaster does not necessarily lead us into the shadow valley of a real, physical death, it occurs to me that there are many kinds of deaths...

the death of a dream, of hope, of love, of new beginnings... it is the death of what could have been.

And that will bring us right down into the Valley of Despair.  The Psalmist reminds us that we have nothing to fear in our valleys for He is here.  God walks with us through every valley and offers Hope and Comfort.

It is here in the valley that we find God's heart and it is here where hard choices are made.  God never forces our hand.  He offers...  Give up or Push through...

If we give up, we will spend a lifetime repeating steps 1-3.

If we push through, well, there's the first good news for today according to Don Kelley and Daryl Conner.  Pushing through will lead us straight into stage 4 on our way to Success!  This is called Informed Optimism.

The possibility of success becomes real.  And the benefits of our actions start to bear fruit.  It is perseverance in the midst of despair.  We finally see that the cost is more than worth it.  Down 15 lbs... I can do this!  Up early 5 days this week... Delighting in a 5am quiet time with my Savior!  Business plans coming together... Made my first sale!

These small steps toward change, multiplied many days over, lead us to the final rewarding stage in this roller coaster... Success and Fulfillment.  Yay!  The benefits outweigh the cost and the actions of our emotional changes have finally made all the hardship worthwhile.

Celebrating 50 pounds down!

Finding purpose and strength in my walk with Christ in those early morning quiet times!

Relishing the Success of a new business venture.  

It is at this stage in the process we realize that what was once difficult and hard and unattainable is now routine, fulfilling and so very achievable.

And here's the secret:

Everything worthwhile task that we undertake will bring with it the roller coaster of emotional change.  We will ALL experience doubt, frustrations and even failures on the road to success and fulfillment.

There is no way to skip the hard parts.  No bridge to miss the valley of despair.  It will happen to all of us if we are brave enough to risk change.  As long as we don't give up, those failures along the way do not mean we are weak or wrong... it means we are pushing through towards something new.  And we're getting closer to success with every step!

If you are a visual learner like I am, here's my very-basic-in a nutshell-hand-drawn version of the Emotional Cycles of Change:

When we find ourselves in the Valley of Despair, look up.  He is right there with us, offering Hope and Comfort when all around seems lost.

Persevering together in the midst of the hard, the dark and the impossible.

Be Brave. Be of good Courage. Be Faithful.  Reach back to help another.  Hold your lamp high to see the next step.  Trust wholly in the One who calls us come.

He will see us through...

In Grace, Always,

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