The Four Stages of Change

How to effectively navigate change. The stages, how to know which one you’re in, and how to move past it.

Toku McCree
4 min readDec 7, 2021


Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Change in people follows a predictable pattern. Understanding this pattern can help you understand where you are in the change process and how to move to the next stage.

Stage 1: Unconscious to conscious

The first stage is going from unconscious to conscious.

In recovery work it’s called admitting you have a problem. In meditation, it’s called noticing when you’re thinking.

Sometimes this happens because you’re forced to wake up to something you didn’t notice before. Sometimes this happens because you want to change and you start looking. No matter how it happens before you can shift something you must become conscious of it.

How to know if you’re here: There’s a problem you’ve been avoiding. You know you need to deal with it, but you’re afraid to admit it to yourself or someone else.

How to move on: Share what’s going on with someone you trust. Ask them just to listen and reflect. Sometimes telling someone else can be really powerful and healing.

Stage 2: Fixing to Facing

The second stage is going from fixing to facing.

Once you notice something you’ll start seeing it everywhere. You’ll want it to be different but you won’t really know what to do about it. You’ll try to control, suppress, or hack your way around the problem. This generally doesn’t work very well. Some of these solutions will work for a little bit but usually you are just fixing something in the short term. It doesn’t really change things.

A lot of people get stuck here, just noticing something and fixing it so they can forget. This is why beer was invented.

If you’re really committed to change and you’ve got good support you’ll eventually move beyond this. You’ll realize that you can’t just fix what’s happening, you have to actually look at what’s causing it. You’ll have to change how you relate to it and address who you’re being that’s making this problem show up again and again.



Toku McCree

Executive coach and writer. I’ve toured with rock bands, trained as a zen monk, and taught preschool. My hope is that my writing makes you think.