The Peaks and Valleys of Change

Mount Everest and other peaks of the Himalayan range are seen from air during a mountain flight from Kathmandu

Maybe it’s because we’ve seen far too many line graphs in our lives, but most of us tend to think of change as an upward-ascending process, like a diagonal line on a chart or graph.

But real, lasting change does not occur in a linear fashion.

Experts say that sustainable (lasting and enduring) change occurs in spurts, or in a series of small epiphanies.*

Makes sense, right? This is why we tend to have good days and bad days as we work toward a goal.

You know the feeling: One day, you’re on fire; making awesome connections with people, having an insanely productive day, banging off emails like a boss. The next day, you hit a wall. You mess up simple things. You forget a routine appointment, you send zero emails. And then, you tend to blame yourself thinking, “What happened? Yesterday I was a Olympian, today I’m a toddler.”

But it’s not you. It’s the science of change.

Dr. Melvin Smith, PhD and Professor of Organizational behavior, has this to say about sustainable change.

Behavioral change does not necessarily occur in a smooth linear continuous fashion, right? Instead it occurs more in discontinuous bursts or spurts. [Intentional Change] theory suggests that sustained change occurs through the emergence of five of these bursts, which can be described as epiphanies or discoveries.

Dr. Melvin Smith, PhD

Therefore, don’t despair. Let it be a comfort to you when you have those paradoxical good and bad days.

Although the final ย glorious result of behavioral change is reaching new peaks and heights in personal improvement, the process of getting there is a series of nonlinear discoveries.


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