Manage the Y-Curve – Handling Change

  Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

 In any situation of change, it is often best to assume that there will be some form of resistance to the proposed change. The fact is that through the process of change resistance is natural.

You  must not feel guilty for feelings, thoughts or behaviors that seem to go against your stated outcome. If anything, you possibly welcome this as it is a clear indication that you are in the territory of real change and not dancing around the edge of transformation. This reaction that people experience when dealing with change can be mapped in the form of Y-Curve. You will go through several common stages as you move from old feelings, thoughts and behaviors and embrace a new way of being.

Letting Go

 The Y-Curve consists of two distinct stages (that may overlap). The first stage is the ‘letting go’ or disposal stage, as seen in the diagram below. This is where people learn they must modify how they currently think, feel or behave and will be expected to adopt a new set of patterns. The second stage is the ‘looking forward’ phase when people can start to discover the new ways expected from them.

The disposal stage of the Y-Curve suggests that as people must let go of the present, so the associated pain can cause a fall in personal performance. This might be seen in the way that someone who is trying to improve their time management skills may see a fall in performance as they struggle to cope with the structure of a new system, or the addict goes through withdrawal symptoms as they work through the day-by-day process of retreating from the drug.

Often external events or stressors such as the death of a significant other, personal injury, illness, or change of residence will trend to force a person out of secure patterns. While the loss of a loved one through death or divorce is unquestionably shattering, humans mourn other losses as well: the end of a secure relationship, loss of a homeland, loss of a job or even access to the local playing field to play soccer can be quite devastating for some people. Humans experience grief any time their role is seriously changed and can be seen to move down the slope, with a consequential fall in personal performance.

However, the trigger for the disposal stage might not be just a negative driver. It might be a positive one. I know of many people who have been habitual smokers who have managed to give up in the blink of an eye simply because a child came into their life. They decided that life with a child in the house meant that they had to create a new way of living and found that this was enough to trigger a disposal of the old ways, but found that actually it was positive-based one ( I want to be successful) that really helped me turn the corner.

A key part of the disposal phrase is often the need to let go. Part of this letting go might include an emotional release, a cognitive need to talk through things or even a behavioral response as people release pent-up anger or frustration. You may experience outbursts of anger as a natural part of the disposal process and possibly become selfish, childish and angry. You may well experience concern, denial, shock, worry and anger. This is the normal process and one that needs to be supported, surfaced and possibly talked about, not ignored.

Before people can adapt to and adopt new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving they must unlearn – to be able to let go of the emotional thoughts and behaviors that are of little further use. This is not the same as throwing away ideas. The brain doesn’t erase feeling or memories; it changes the connections, renewing some, letting others fade away, under a form of selection. When we remember, we recreate memories, based on those strengthened or weakened connections. To rebuild our cognitive maps and emotional memories, we must throw away the old pattern.

However simply letting go of things is not always as easy as it sounds. For example, the fact that knowledge is associated with power, prestige and political clout means that we are often loath to simply release it for others to use. In addition, unlearning is emotionally difficult because the old way of doing things has worked for a while and become embedded in our beliefs and behaviors. We must shift from the comfortable zone into the uncomfortable zone. This can be difficult because we often remain prisoners of our conceptual framework, where there is a general reluctance to leave the old way of thinking.

As a  coach I address several things in this stage by helping my  client to understand the following:

  • What else they are currently disposing or letting go of in their life.
  • What they have disposed of in the past
  • How successful they have been at disposal
  • Where they have been successful at disposal what has helped to ease the process
  • Where they were not successful, what made it difficult
  • Whether association with certain people or things helped with the disposal process
  • How much time is a factor – do they typically have a long disposal cycle or can they typically let go of things fast?

Once my client has been helped to understand how they typically dispose of redundant ways of feeling, thinking and behaving, then choices can be made their readiness to make the change. It might be that they are practiced and accomplished in the art of disposal and so have little to worry about. Alternately, it may be that they have regularly failed to make change because of difficulty they have in letting go. Or it may be that there are certain things or contexts where they can let go and other situations where it is more difficult.

One of the coaching trends is to  help the client to reflect on is their rate of dimensional disposal – to what extent they can let go of entrenched effective, cognitive and behavioral routines.

Looking Forward

 Once people have been able to let go and dispose of the old ways of thinking and feeling, they can start to journey to discover the new ways expected of them. The discovery phase is the point when people will look forward in anticipation of what is to come.

Discovery is the process by which we acquire new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. This might be through a range of processes, including reading, writing, and conference presentations, working alongside someone, daydreaming, or working in a management team. The one thing they all have in common is the acquisition of knowledge.

The most import point about the discovery phase is that people must decide to let go of the past and move forward. Critically, this is a choice that must be made by the individual and not imposed by an outside agent. Critically it is the fact that the decision must be owned and internalized. Without this the change, will be short-lived. For example, lots of people go on a training course – but few learn. So often they have been sent by the boss and did not make the personal choice to change. Without this conscious choice to change, little knowledge acquisition or change will occur.

If there is no forward thinking, than you go go back to your comfort zone and the change will not be lasting. As a coach I am here to encourage, and support your new habits that are supportive to the goals that you want to achieve.


  • December 1, 2016


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