Change is Rarely Linear

I have lived in Wisconsin most of my adult life and so I have endured my share of jokes about the weather here, especially in winter.   My friends who live in warmer climates freely provide their moral their support as I endure the snow and cold, here in the land of the frozen tundra. While I appreciate that support, when I really need it most is right now as I, and millions of others, try to negotiate the challenges of waiting for what some may think to be an oxymoron: Wisconsin spring.
   In the last week we have experienced temperatures ranging from as low as the mid-thirties to as high as seventy. I just checked the ten-day weather forecast and the highs in that forecast range from thirty-seven to sixty-nine degrees. This makes it difficult to make outdoor plans-whether to play golf, grill out, go for a walk or bike ride, or work in the garden-more than a few hours in advance.
   My annual experience of spring's slow, unpredictable arrival in Wisconsin is a reminder that more often than not, the process of change is not linear. If spring's arrival were a linear process, then starting some time in April, each day would be slightly warmer than the day before, until finally by mid May spring would have fully arrived. Such linear change would mean one would be able to plot the daily high temperatures on a graph in a nice straight, upward trending line. The reality, however, is that spring's arrival here is nonlinear process, that if plotted on a graph would have more sudden highs and lows than a death defying roller coaster!
     It turns out that understanding that the process of change is rarely linear is a very helpful concept for understanding not just changes in the weather, but other experiences as well. Here are few examples of when other types of change are also nonlinear. I'm sure you could add several of your own as well.
    *Introducing or leading change in an organization that has a set way of doing things.
     *Raising children.
     *Coming to clarity about a major life decision.
     *Working to restore emotional closeness in a relationship thathas become distant.
     *Adopting a significant life style change which includes adopting a new, life-changing habit or discipline.

*Changing careers


*Beginning or letting go of a significant relationship

   In each of these situations change is likely to mirror a Wisconsin spring, with unpredictable highs and lows. These highs and lows will most likely be accompanied by emotions that range from warm to chilly and sunny to stormy, and all in very short order.
   Fortunately, I have lived in Wisconsin long enough to know that eventually spring will arrive. And most of us who have lived long enough have the perspective now to know that children do grow up, organizations do learn to adapt to change, and major life decisions do become clear over time. If you are like me, though, it is easy to lose my perspective when I am dealing with a change or transition that I wish would happen quickly and predictably.
   What changes or transitions-meteorological or otherwise- do you find yourself in the midst of right now? Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that the long term forecast for any significant change you are encountering right now probably mirrors a Wisconsin weather forecast-lot of highs and lows in the weeks ahead, but gradually, an overall trend of warmth and clearing will emerge.