How has your weekend been so far? I am taking a chilled Sunday today, originally I had planned to go to the Science Museum, but I had recognised that I have done a lot of socialising this week and it was starting to take a toll on me. For those who have followed me for a while are aware that I am an introvert (it is also in my tag line!). I love seeing my friends and I live for genuine and deep meaningful conversations. However, eventually, I crash and need time to recover and recharge my batteries.
As mentioned in my previous post, I have moved in with my boyfriend, and I have started to find alternative ways to get “alone time” as I no longer have my own room. Today, I wanted to write about change and how that can impact one’s mental health. The below is purely my experience, but I wanted to share how I didn’t manage the big change of moving with a significant other, and how I think I would have done it better (if there was a next time). Today’s post will be a long piece, so sit back and relax 🙂
Change Management – why is it all business?
I recently completed a people manager course for the company I work for. It was very interesting because we spent half a day on just the topic of managing change. If you google “managing change” there are 6.13 billion search results but if scan the first page – it is all in relation to organisations. I can understand why organisations/psychologists have spent so much time and effort in developing theories in this area. However, if you try to google “managing personal change”, you will find that it is all about how to change behaviours or skills.
This is disappointing/frustrating because I strongly believe that big changes in my personal life have a larger impact on my personal wellbeing and mental health than compared to work; such as moving away from family, a heartbreak, a loss of someone close to you. Do you feel the same?
Therefore, I want to explore whether these “change theories” are applicable to my scenario: moving in with my boyfriend and whether this can be helpful for you for any future changes in your life.
This might be quite familiar to most people; the change curve was originally developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for grief, but this has been applied to change management in organisations. I believe that this can also be applied to other forms of change in our personal life:
- Shock – when we first discussed the topic of moving in, I definitely went through a stage of shock. I was extremely excited by the thought, but it is so different to how I was living, and there was a shift towards panic – what if it doesn’t work out? what if we break up from this because we actually can’t stand each other? Do I want to give up what I have now? Am I prepared to commute?
- Denial – There was a period of time where I dragged my feet. Given we had talked about it for so long, my boyfriend was wondering why I had not moved in 2018, he kept asking when are you moving in? Give me a date. I was in a state of denial.
- Acceptance – Despite loving the idea of moving with my other half, I recognised that it was the right choice and also inevitable if we want to positively move forward in our relationship (marriage, building a family together, buying a home etc.). When I set the date – 1st Feb – it was clear the change was real. Looking back, I did not realise that I was very frustrated by the whole process of moving. I didn’t even know how to begin packing. The constant dread whilst going through my stuff and wondering whether it will fit in the flat. During this time my boyfriend was completely supportive and just said pack everything and we will worry about where to put it later. This added to the frustration because I was not wired that way – I want a place for everything. I didn’t want clutter. I had accumulated a lot of stuff in my lifetime and I knew that I had to #konmari my belongings and truly ask myself what I loved and should bring. There was A LOT of tears and worry.
- Experimental/Decision – There was no experimental part to the move given that I had set a date and everything just got moved in. There really wasn’t an opportunity to put my “toe in the water”. I think this added to the shock, however, I think I am comfortable in the Decision stage where I have accepted the reality of living without my sister and with my boyfriend and we are slowly finding the right rhythm between us.
- Engagement – onward and upwards! (Hopefully!)
The change curve is important because I think it is necessary to recognise the various stages of change and the emotions that come with it. Before, completing this exercise, I did not appreciate the significant impact of the change on my emotional/mental health.
If I had an opportunity for a “do over” I should have taken time to understand my feelings and not try to power through it all. Understanding that I did not need to feel guilty when I had become “frustrated” or “angry”.
Communication is key with change and I should have worked with my boyfriend to manage this change properly.
If you are interested to learn more, here are a few more links on the Change Curve:
- There is also a similar theory based on this curve by John Fisher – https://www.businessballs.com/change-management/personal-change-stages-john-fisher/
John P Kotter is a name you will hear often on the topic of understanding and managing change. He developed an eight-stage change model and written books – ‘Leading Change’ (1995) and the follow-up ‘The Heart Of Change’ (2002). Let’s see if it is useful for my situation and whether I could have managed it better.
- Create Urgency – the idea is to develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. In my example, I believe that this was created and this was through communication with my boyfriend and him giving me pressure that this is something that has to be done quickly for the good of our relationship. What is important about this stage is the need for communication – you need to get all parties involved to start thinking and talking.
- Building a guiding team – get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels. For my example, I believe that my boyfriend and I did have the right emotional commitment, but not necessarily the right mix of skills. I should have considered hiring a “professional” man in a van and moved everything at once, rather than driving and doing it all in bits and pieces, which added to my frustration with the change.
- Create a vision for change – When you first create change, everyone will have an opinion or idea. It is important to create an overall vision and strategy. Everyone needs to understand why they are doing something and their role in the change process. This was a particularly easy stage for my boyfriend and I given that we know the ultimate goal was to move in with each other. However, I don’t think I communicated that I required emotional support from my boyfriend. Unfortunately, during this time there was a lot going on his personal life as well and I did not want to add to his list of things to do. However, it is important that I need to also recognise my needs. I think it would have been useful to involve him in the process of integrating (i.e. my stuff in his space and him knowing what I have done to change in his home) so he was part of the “vision”.
- Communicate the vision – Talk about the vision and address peoples’ concerns and anxieties, openly and honestly. This ties very closely with Stage 1 of the process, people need to understand the change and it is communicated where the end goal in. As you can see, communication continues to be important throughout.
- Empower Actions – remove obstacles and enable constructive feedback. Again, communication is key. Having those open conversations on what you think is working and not working was extremely important for my boyfriend and I. By actively asking him how he felt about me moving in, what he has liked so far, what has annoyed him and what could we compromise on, has made this process a lot easier to navigate. He did the same with me, so we can try and reach a point of equilibrium asap!
- Create short term wins – set aims that are easy to achieve. I think this is very dependent on the situation, but measurable targets are important and tracking against those targets gives a sense of satisfaction that progress has been made. I definitely need to think this through a bit more: potentially making a meal together at home together and spending a day together at home could be my next targets.
- Build on the change – real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change. I am currently in only week 1 of living together. The long term change is ultimately living together in harmony before we move again to an eventual family home (fingers crossed).
- Anchor the changes – Last, but not least, make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your life. I have not yet told all my family about the move in (do they really need to know?). Though this is daunting, I think it is important as this will embed the change and people around me understand the change. As communication is key, it is important to talk about the change and process to others.
For more information, here are some handy links:
Personal Change Management
Thank you for reaching the end of this long read. I hope you have enjoyed the post but please note that what I have written is no substitution for professional help if you are dealing with a significant change in your life. I just wanted to discuss and consciously understand the change that is happening in my life.
Do you think you can apply the change curve and change management models to your personal life? As always, I would love to hear from you.
With Sweet & Sour Love,
Pineapple Chicken x
For those are looking for another deep read, my boyfriend has posted a deep and meaningful post here.