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  • Writer's pictureEmily Smith

Triangle of CHANGE

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Awareness Acceptance Action Model: Triangle for Change

Change is a process. In order for true change to occur and stick around, we have to recognize that change is not a linear concept that can be attained in an expedited manner, but rather is a journey that often entails backtracking at times and revisiting old patterns in new ways. It comes with experiences of success as well as failure – both necessary pieces of the change process. It can be instinctual to want to impulsively make a change or to “clean up the mess.” However, as in a play, changing the scenery does not change the characters. A simple yet effective tool to help guide the change process is called the Awareness, Acceptance, Action Model, or the “Triangle of Change.”

Considering each piece of this model as its own individual stage encourages intention that leads to lasting effects, which is what is desired when we’re talking about making true changes in one’s life. The first stage of this model is Awareness. There can be no true change without a level of awareness for an issue or dysfunction being in existence. Like a light in a dark room, awareness is the enemy of denial and therefore a “first step” to what is unhealthy, debilitating or needs to be healed. Guiding oneself to awareness requires openness and curiosity. It is during this stage that a significant amount of reflection is done following sometimes extensive relational damage. When people are looking to make change it can often be born out of taking notice of the relationships in one’s life being impacted poorly – whether this be relationships with others or the relationship with oneself.

The second stage of this model is known as Acceptance. This stage is about acknowledging that this is simply where one is in the here and now and taking a good hard look at one’s discomfort zone. It is important to recognize that acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement, as this stage is about honoring that changes need to take place and exploring where the changes need to occur. Without acceptance, it can be challenging if not impossible to move forward or beyond the dyfunction. A lack of acceptance can mean resistance, denial, or ignoring of the problem. In this stage, blame is a common defense that can present itself, particularly for those who are developing a stronger emotional intelligence. The acceptance stage involves some ownership over what has led to the problem. Questions are asked such as:

- How did this mess come to be?

- Whose responsibility is it do the cleaning?

- How long have I lived with this mess and why have I chosen to live in it for as long as I have?

Acceptance can often be the trickier piece of this model, as this is where one is coming to grips with the idea that “this problem is part of me but not all of me.” Combatting shame can become a necessity in order to move beyond the sometimes intense dissatisfied emotions that often follow the acceptance of the dysfunction in one’s life.

After developing awareness and acceptance, the third stage of the model is Action. It is in this stage where we seek to “do something different.” This is where a plan is implemented to restore those things that have been lost to the dysfunction – self-esteem, relationships, hope, to name a few. Jumping to this stage before developing awareness and acceptance can lead to misalignment and produce an uphill struggle. This uphill struggle is often what leads many to not experiencing lasting change, as there is still information to be gathered about themselves before taking new steps. However, when we’ve gone through the process of understanding, reflection, asking questions, accepting what is, and moving through to action based on all of that information, we’ve built energy around it and set the intentions that can carry lasting impact.

Let’s work together to bring to light what might be in the darkness, get to a place of accepting and honoring that part of you, and finally take some steps to make real, lasting change.



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