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Riding Your Career and Life Waves: Frameworks to Navigate Change

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

We tend to get caught up with what’s happening in the present and have difficulty seeing the overall picture. If we are experiencing something unpleasant we think it is going to continue, similarly with good times or things. Think gamblers on a winning streak. 

The truth is everything goes in cycles. Moods do, businesses do… so do careers and relationships. Nothing is static. So how can we keep this in mind when we think/feel it is permanent? 

Permanent thinking can “throw us off” and wreak havoc on our lives; we can make poor decisions based on the moment, we can think we are a failure if things are not working out and not seize other opportunities, we could feel we are invincible and not plan for future events…the list goes on. 

If you fall into the permanent thinking or shortsightedness trap, here are some frameworks to help you navigate or overcome it so you can buffer any pitfalls and be prepared for things to come. You might have heard of some already: 

Four Seasons

Living in Toronto, Canada I experience four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Boy, do I –and other Torontonians- experience winter! Each season comes whether we like it or not. Similarly, we tend to have seasonal experiences in life. 

Spring representing new beginnings or renewal at work or in relationships, summer a time when things are hot and happening, autumn a time to harvest (reap what you sowed) and winter a time to slow down, reflect and reassess. They do not have to coincide with the actual seasons (besides not everybody experiences four seasons), it’s just a way to describe certain stages i.e. “My business is going through an autumn.” 

The four seasons also can also parallel the Four Cycles of Change. 

Four Cycles of Change 

I first learned about the Four Cycles of Change during my coach-training program. John Beck studied many corporations and found they all went through similar patterns. Martha Beck, his wife at the time, coach and trainer, saw that it could be applied to the individual as well. 

Square One is the stage where everything is reassessed and reevaluated. One tends to lose their bearing because it usually comes after a dramatic event or loss of some kind (but not always). It tends to be an unpleasant and uncertain time because you are “off-kilter,” however, it’s important to go through to be stronger in other stages. 

Square Two is all about dreaming and scheming. This is when people start to feel hopeful again after square one and start envisioning and planning what’s next. People in square two tend to change their appearance or environment in some way to reflect their internal changes. 

Square Three is called the hero’s saga. It is the stage of action. It’s actioning the things that came out of square one and two. It’s been termed the hero’s saga because it is one of the hardest stages. One can feel like they are taking “three steps forward and two steps back.” It’s not smooth sailing but if you keep to it you will persevere. Because it can be difficult some people quit at this stage or get thrown back to square one to reassess their goals. 

Square Four is where one enjoys the fruit of their labour. Things are good and things seem to come easy because of all the earlier hard work and implementation. Square four, usually the latter phase, can also be a time where people start thinking about the next move (that would eventually catapult them into square one).


You can be at any of these stages at different times of your life and in different areas, i.e. you could be a square one in your career and a square four in your relationship. 

One could argue that square one is winter, square two is spring, square three is summer and square four is autumn. The four cycles of change also encompass some of the Stages of Change. 


Stages of Change

Another framework to help guide your transition from one square or change to another is called the Stages of Change. These stages are a result of many studies done on a person’s willingness to change (typically a comparison of individuals who change problematic behaviour by themselves with individuals who seek outside help). 

The stages of change are:

1- precontemplation 2- contemplation

3- determination

4-  action

5-  maintenance

6-  termination

7- relapse 

Knowing the different phases of change can help you navigate through them with more ease. It’s good to know that taking small steps to change a problematic behaviour or a dissatisfying situation can happen in the determination stage, however, it is in the action, maintenance and termination stages that great effort and results are visible. This said it is common to relapse into other cycles before true termination occurs. 

One can draw parallels to the Stages of Change and the Four Cycles of Change: relapse, precontemplation, and contemplation can be likened to square one, determination to square two, action to square three and maintenance and termination to square four. 

Hopefully, these stage and cycle frameworks help you when you feel stuck or would like to be more grounded and realistic throughout changes in your life. If all else fails, think of yourself as a surfer of life…riding career waves.

Career waves often come from experiencing career dissatisfaction. A position is not a fit so onto the next surf, however, some people dislike certain times of work and projects forgetting that they like their overall job. They forget the cycles of it. 

Changes, and therefore cycles, are inevitable. It’s good to identify where you are at. It helps with clarity, direction, and action, and to know that it’s not forever. Know that wherever you are, however you feel, “it too shall pass.” 


Ps. If you feel you would benefit from more support in riding career and life waves, please contact me for a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.

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