5 Typical Mental States of Change (or the Spaghetti of Change)

We sometimes talk about the different stages one must go through when faced with a change. While these models are useful to describe the different emotions that can come up during change, they give the impression that these emotions are experienced in a linear way, one after the other. In reality, emotions can be all over the place during change, more akin to a plate of spaghetti than to a nice straight line!

This tool describes five typical mental states that arise during a change process. The good thing is that we’ve probably all experienced at least one of these. Becoming aware of this reality, and remembering that one of these mental states can be summed up as “I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again!” is rather reassuring, in more ways than one.

You can use this tool as a self-diagnostic when undergoing change, or when helping someone else through this type of situation. When we ask How would you describe what you’re going through right now?, most people have a clear idea of their mental state. With advice and appropriate questions, we can help them to further their reflection, and more easily untangle their spaghetti!


  • You notice someone around you needs to shine a light on the way they are living the change.
  • You want to reassure someone as to the states of mind that can be expected at a given time during a change process.
  • During a coaching session or discussion with a colleague, when you wish for this person to put their finger on what they are experiencing – at this very moment – so that they may take necessary actions to move forward.


  • The tool can be shared to support an individual, personal reflection.
  • It can also serve as the basis for a discussion as a team or among colleagues.


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