The 7 Stages of Personal Growth (Through The Lens of WIDOWHOOD)

Personal change is an internal experience and also an external one at the same time. It stems from a change in our mindset and thus branches out from there.”

So I didn't write this article. My coach did. ( Kain Ramsey, Achology Academy). When I completed my coaching certification, this article stuck out to me because I wanted to look at it from a widowhood perspective. Because change and personal growth look VERY DIFFERENT to someone who is just barely living through the last big change, and is being forced to grow into a new space of identity. I'll let you read thru it, but I'm going to comment along the way, to add my two cents, translate some of his “science talk” and present the view from the lens of the widow's experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy!

The Seven Stages of Personal Change

Stage 1) Developing Awareness.

The motivation for change begins with a sense that we aren't fulfilling our full potential in at least one area of our life. Even before you can put your finger on the particular source of internal discomfort, you feel it on some level.

For widows… you might think the awareness stage would be the blaring reality that you're being forced to face every day – and that the “internal discomfort” is grief. Nope. The urge to grow comes, I think, when you've finally stopped rejecting the reality (and this takes TIME!) – and you start to think about what you could DO, how you could change, what realistically ( or even in a fantasy) would need to happen for you to GROW to LIVE this way and LOVE life again.

Stage 2) Discovery.

The discovery stage is where your conscious mind has located the primary source of your discomfort and is doing it's best to help you become more aware of its presence. Be warned, at this stage; you may experience some resistance from your ego!

The human ego often seeks refuge in denial, where it pretends that your discomfort is resulting from a source that's external to you opposed to an internal one. For personal change to occur beyond this stage, it's crucial that we accept that the source of our uneasiness is within ourselves, and also within our ability to control. Capacity to adopt a new mindset is a prerequisite for moving on to the next stage in this process of personal change.

Yes Death is external. But the GRIEF is internal. Yes death affects your life. But the GREIF is YOUR response. Therefore it IS within your ability to (in some ways not all) control. In this case I think the “ego” resistance is the “this happened to ME”, “I am helpless”, “what's the point” “I'm too sad” “I cant do this” cycle. You've learned in a horrible experience that hope, love, fairness and wanting something bad enough have NOTHING on reality and the hand she deals. So you've become the authority on what is “really” worth your effort after seeing the world for what it “really is” – and in your mind… not a whole lot is looking “worth” the effort.

The denial is in the details. Our first instinct is denying that we have any control, and that there is any point in trying to do anything about it.

Stage 3) Ownership.

In this stage, we must take sole responsibility for our discomfort or unease. That means that we must fully acknowledge that the source of our problem/s is internal and not external. At this stage, we consciously recognise that it is our thought patterns, emotional inconsistencies, lifestyle habits, perception, limiting beliefs, or our faulty reasoning that needs to be amended.

This essential step brings us to the realisation that we alone are in control of how it is that we choose to respond or react to the circumstances/situations that we find ourselves in. In life, empowerment comes via taking responsibility, and assuming full ownership of any given situation opens the doorway towards a whole new level of maturity, empowerment and personal growth.

Ahhhh this part. At first its a little offensive. What? Excuse me? This “discomfort” is MY fault? It's INTERNAL? Death happened to ME – I didn't do anything wrong!! But- That's not what he said. He said it's your responsibility to take OWNERSHIP of YOUR part here, YOUR life in the aftermath, and DO something about it. Not death, obviously, but how you are going to REACT to its impact on your life, and what you will DO (take ACTION on) and how you will THINK, in order to live abundantly in SPITE of it.

Stage 4) Exposure.

This is the stage in the process of change where we expand our search to identify the habit or attitude that has stopped serving us. ( In other words, identify the thing we want to stop doing, feeling, or struggling through.) This can be challenging for many reasons. One reason being that logic is seldom a useful tool in the emotional arena, and secondly, we tend to assume that our beliefs are universal truths, and therefore consistently look for ways to justify them. ( Agree. Logic is great, but if you believe everything YOU believe is always right – you'll logic your way into thinking your habit is justified. )

Rather than initiating a confrontation, it's often easier to reflect upon our patterns of behaviour to identify how our different beliefs (Albert Ellis' Irrational Beliefs) might be affecting our lives. Once we recognise that we've been held back or limited by a particular idea, we will then have both logic and emotion supporting our desire for change.

English? Realizing your beliefs around death, grief, and what is “possible” might be what is actually keeping you from moving forward. This realization makes you want to learn more, OUTSIDE yourself, to see where it takes you.

Stage 5) Intention.

This is the threshold of personal change. You have identified an old belief (or behaviour pattern), and you are now motivated to replace it with something more useful. You're ready to move away from your previous stage and embrace the new. Itโ€™s time to choose a direction.

Upon reaching this stage in the process of change, it is relatively easy to identify what your desired state is (i.e. where you want to be). The same comparison process that exposed your source of initial discomfort will have now revealed your ideal future end goal. All that remains left for you to do is to embrace a proactive mindset and formulate your plan of action.

YES! This is where I come in. I love coaching this part because I call it the ah-HA moment for my widows! Where you are finally ready to let go of the old belief that “this is just your life now” and realize you can choose your new direction. When you're ready to plan what that looks like and HOW to get there. It's an exciting time of rebirth, renewed faith, self love and hope. I love what I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stage 6) Action.

Taking consistent action is the only means by which to achieve real time results. ( Say that AGAIN Kain!!) If you donโ€™t take action, nothing will change, and your discomfort with the present reality will intensify due to your now greater awareness of it. <<This part.

Taking action demands that we let go of fear and apathy, and embrace faith and uncertainty, as we step out of the comfort zone and into the gap between where we previously were, and where it is that we envisage ourselves being.

Nope I'm good here. This is exactly right. What we are afraid of as widows? Probably failure. We are afraid to be “right” in the sense that planning for the future is doomed. We are afraid to run out of time because we SAW someone do it. Afraid that changing our lives means leaving our loved ones behind. Problem is, that fear does nothing to serve us. It doesn't protect us, because heartbreak happens whether we were afraid or not. But you know what else happens – LIFE. LOVE. Good things. Whether you are afraid or not. Fear LESS.

Stage 7) Integration.

This is the last phase of the process of personal growth where change has now happened. What started out as a mental awareness that an adjustment needed to be made in your life, has consequentially resulted in a new evolution in your journey of personal growth and development.

You have now grown in your appreciation of what's achievable for you, and at this stage, it is also likely that you have let go of an established belief or pattern of behaviour that wasn't serving you. This has now been replaced with something more useful.

This is the part where in my case, as a widow coach, I get to see you all GLOW. You're smiling again. You're chattering on about life and how you either met, flubbed, or shared your “new goals” this week – and the outcome isn't what matters – its the fact that you're having a great time TRYING. You're LIVING again. You feel like you have purpose, and you're no longer STUCK in that dark place of despair. Crazy thing is – no miracles have happened yet. You're not even “there” yet, to the end goals or the “made it” place… the only thing that has really changed – is your MIND. And the GROWTH that that takes, is powerful.


Choose Personal Growth!

The more you take control of this process, the more natural it becomes. For those who embrace change, personal growth becomes a way of life. Resisting change is the easier course of action, which only ends up costing people the sense of happiness and fulfilment they hope for. When you embrace change, you embrace life!

Right on, Coach Ramsey. :) #TRUTH