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Even when people have decided to make a change, and have been involved in making the decision, and consider it a good or positive change, there is an adjustment process and often resistance to that change (Figure 6). Figure 6 shows the phases people experience on dimensions of pessimism over time. People can tolerate just a certain level of pessimism and it varies among people.
When people plan a change in their personal or work lives, they do some investigation into the alternatives. Despite this information seeking, they still enter a change process with "uninformed optimism." This stage means that they don't know exactly how it will affect their lives, even though they think they do.
As people put the change in place, they move to "informed pessimism." In this phase, they actually experience how the change will affect them and the consequences it will have on them. They begin to experience the actual costs of making the change. Then they begin to doubt the change decision and question whether this change is what they actually want to do.
At that point, a "checking out" period may occur and is a normal occurrence in the process. This period is a time to acknowledge the issues and questions that surround the change. The "checking out" can occur either privately or publicly. The latter is less hazardous because issues are discussed in the open and the problem-solving process can proceed. In private checking out, people do not share with others their doubts and fears but may act them out, confusing others involved in making the change.
If a discussion of doubts and actual impacts of the change occurs, needed adjustments can be made. Then, the person moves to the "hopeful realism" phase. There may still be doubts at this stage, but the individual has reaffirmed that "just maybe" this change will work for them. The checking out phase doesn't need to occur. If it never takes place or is done publicly and problems are managed, the concerns of informed pessimism begin to subside.
As the change becomes more integrated, people move on to the "informed optimism" stage, where more confidence is experienced about the successful incorporation of the change. The completion stage is characterized by an understanding that costs surrounding the change are worthwhile and a commitment is made to that change.
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