personal change

Dealing with Personal Change

Sometimes we choose to make a change. Other times the change is made to us. Knowing how to respond to change and how to take control of the change is key to a positive outcome. This article looks at dealing with personal change using the Kubler-Ross change curve and making small 1% adjustments.

What is the Catalyst for Personal Change?

At times in our lives, we experience a catalyst for change. It is that time when you say, “enough is enough”?  On other occasions, the change happens to us.

‘The Change Curve’ by Elizabeth KUBLER ROSS (1969)[i] was initially created to explain how people deal with bereavement. It has since been used and can be applied to most circumstances of change.

kubler ross change curve

Whether the change is made by you, or to you, the important first step is to recognise your response, your reaction and your emotions. With the change curve, you need to identify where you are.

Think about the situation you are in, take a moment, look at the curve diagram and identify what your present state is. We don’t all move through the curve at the same pace or the same order and often people will ‘ping-pong’ back and forth as they try and work out new approaches. Once you have identified where you are, you can start to think about what you need to do to get to the ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Moving on’ stages until the new way is embedded and has become the norm.

Denial can play a big part in refusing to accept that there is a problem; fear of change or anger that the situation has become ‘this bad’ are often feelings and emotions that people need to work through. For some people, the feeling of ‘depression’ can often feel like they have ‘hit rock bottom’. Whilst this is negative, this is also often the driver of the change that is needed to motivate them to move forward.

Once you understand what needs to change and accept how you can start to implement changes, then you are already starting to move forward to where you want to be and achieve a positive outcome.

Small Steps

If you cannot control the situation, you can control how you respond to it. Change the way you think, change the conversation you are having with yourself, and other people, and change your behaviour.

Small steps and changes will take you to where you want to be or to create the person you want to become. Just one small step after another. Each small step will bring you closer to what you want to achieve.

Small change, different direction

It is important to identify the changes that you have made to your usual routine, habit or behaviour that have resulted in a different outcome. Ask yourself,

“what did I do differently this week that resulted in success”?

We are naturally creatures of habit.  We tend to repeat the same behaviour or activity and therefore receive the same outcomes. This is great if we are happy with the outcome and how things are going. But what if we aren’t? If you aren’t happy with the way things are going then ask yourself,

“what do I need to differently to get a different outcome?”

This doesn’t have to be a huge change. A small change can be enough to change the direction. Think of yourself as a large ship. If you wanted to change direction or ‘alter course’ you would make a small change to the course you are on. The speed at which the direction can change will depend on a number of factors. The same is for humans, but even a small change can turn the ship.

If you want to change the direction of a ship, then a deliberate change has to be made to change the rudders and keel. This is where the phrase ‘even keel’ comes from.


Definition:  even keel (plural even keels)

(nautical) The situation in which a watercraft is floating or proceeding in a level and smooth manner.

(idiomatic, of emotions, etc.) The state or characteristic of being under control and balanced.


If you want a different outcome, you must do something different. A small change of direction but keeping yourself on an even keel. If you continued at the same pace and in the same direction where will you be in a year? Even 1% can make all the difference.

Practical examples of how a small change can make a big difference

David Brailsford of Team Sky is credited with championing a philosophy of ‘marginal gains’ at British Cycling[ii]. The principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike and then improved it by 1%; you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

This was proven successful for cycling but also transfers quite nicely into any plans to make improvements or to progress towards a goal.

1%.  A percentage that is small, realistic and most definitely achievable.

For example, if you are looking to improve your nutrition then the first week you may introduce more water, and you may look to increase your number of steps.

Both are small changes.
Both are positive increases (focusing on the goal ahead not what you are leaving behind)
Both help towards the goal.


If you were looking to improve your sleep and rest before bed, then you might go to bed half an hour earlier and find a relaxation exercise in the 10 minutes before you turn out the light.

Both are small changes.
Both are positive increases.
Both help towards the goal.


When considering the 1% ask yourself;

What do I want more of? 

What can I do more of to help me reach my goals?


Think about the answers to these questions, and then adjust it by 1%.


Whether change happens to us, or we decide to make the change, the power is within us to take control and move forward to a positive outcome.

  • Small steps
  • Small changes to take you in the right direction
  • Increase the actions that take you to your goal by 1%



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