When I train people on how to use social media for their businesses, I am always surprised how excited they are with their newly acquired knowledge. They talk about how active they are going to be, how they need to get organised, how much fun … or how much work this is going to be, but they always leaved our sessions pumped up and full of energy. I like to check afterward what they did and are still planning to do on their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn pages, etc. To my great surprise, I’ve found that as a general rule, even the most excited person, the one full of promises, the one ready to rock the world, usually stops doing anything after the first 1 or 2 posts. To better understand this phenomenon, I recently turned to 12 Week Year. In this book, the authors talk about the 5 stages of the emotional cycle of change. Theses stages were originally defined by Don Kelley and Daryl Conner in the mid-1970s.

These stages are:

Stage 1: Uninformed optimism.
Stage 2: Informed pessimism.
Stage 3: Hopeful realism.
Stage 4: Informed optimism.
Stage 5: Completion.
Stage 1: Uninformed optimism: You just got a new idea, and you are excited by that idea. Your hopes are high.

Stage 2: Informed pessimism: It is time to start acting on your new idea, and you realise how much time/money/effort is required. You don’t feel so good about the change anymore. This is the step when a lot of people start checking out.

Stage 3: Hopeful realism: You are more familiar with the situation. You know now what it takes to complete your project. Change does not seem as painful anymore.

Stage 4: Informed optimism: You start to feel the benefits of change. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is looking pretty bright, to the point where you can now even help others who are at Stage 1.

Stage 5: Completion: It is done! You feel quite good and are ready to celebrate.

5-cycle-change

The solution offered in 12 Week Year is to establish a clear vision of what you want to achieve and refer back to it when you feel that you are in Stage 2. Now that I have discovered these stages, I plan to include them at the end of my training sessions. I think that understanding what is going on during their social media adoption journey will help my clients to cope with these issues. If one can identify which stage he or she is experiencing, one can better find the strength to push ahead and move through to the next stage. Stage 2 is obviously the risky one. After reading 12 Week Year, I now realize that if I start giving my clients extra support during Stage 2, it might be easier for them to achieve longer term results. An additional benefit is that they will not feel as bad when they see me at a networking event, not daring to talk to me, scared that I might ask them “So how are you doing with your social media?”.

Personally, the way I deal with change, and the challenges associated with it, is by visualizing these challenges as walls that I have to pull down one after another, until only a big pile of rubble is left, ready to be rebuilt into something even better. And you, how do you deal with change?