A journey through change
One of the best parts of having the opportunity to listen to users is to be able to peek into many different lives. Everyone with their own unique stories, emotions, challenges, and motivations. We all have very different paths and lenses to see the world we live in. It was a practice that awakened a great sense of empathy.
After about three interviews, I started to notice a pattern. After five interviews, I doodled the pattern that was forming in my head into my notebook. It was a curve that resembled the path of a roller coaster. And it was the curve that every single user described, in their own way, on how they went through change.
So, how do we usually go through change?
The first thing the participants talked about was their life before the change itself. The story of how things used to be. Old habits and routines. Where they used to work, and live. Their surroundings and companionship at the time. Then, what seemed to trigger change every time, was a big life event. Some of the positive life events can be having kids or getting married. The interesting part is, that in most cases, change was mostly remembered and perceived through a difficult and challenging life event. Moving countries, losing someone, or getting diagnosed with a particular condition were some of the situations mentioned by our users when asked about overcoming change.
When such a life event occurs, the first thing that happens is a lot of rejection towards it. The very well-known phases of anger and denial. This phase makes them feel like there is nothing they can do about it, and that they might as well just keep going “downhill”. But after a while, people get tired of feeling bad, and when they finally feel like they’ve hit rock bottom, they start to want to feel better, healthier, happier, and be able to enjoy life with those around them. To start to take the necessary actions to get back up, something great needs to happen: acceptance.
Acceptance, by one of its definitions on Wikipedia, is “a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition, often a negative or uncomfortable situation, without attempting to change it or protest it”. Acceptance is the force that allows them to let go and move forward.
Once acceptance sinks in, the participants talk about how they started to learn, adapt and improve. This is a process that requires strength, commitment, and a lot of patience. Eventually, step by step, and one day at a time, users felt like they were able to feel better, eat healthier, walk more often, lose those extra pounds and keep that health condition at bay. After achieving the set goals, people go through a process of stabilizing in their new lifestyle.
But, as we all know, this is not a linear process, and even though things have improved, setbacks might occur. People might gain some weight again, stop walking every day or go to the candy aisle in the grocery store. It’s okay. It’s a process of constant learning, of good and bad days. And once the major effort has been done, the participants tend to get back up easier, knowing that it is doable and possible if they set their minds and hearts to it.
From a UX design perspective, mapping out this curve is very helpful for us at Changing Health; it allows us to understand our user´s path through behavior change, to be able to give them the right tools at the right time, and to acknowledge the particularities of each stage. But this curve is not only helpful for us internally. We calso set the hypothesis that it might add value to some of our users by showing them that change is not a linear uphill process straight to success. We think it is very important for them to be able to visually see that it is normal to feel scared, that setbacks might occur, but that change is possible and achievable, especially with the right support.
When looking at this curve and reflecting on it with my own lenses of experience, I relate to it too. Through time, the curve starts all over again many times, but each time around, we are not the same. How we go through change is how we go through life, because life itself is a constant movement. Nothing remains the same. We are constantly growing, evolving, and learning.
I would like to finish with this quote by Sebastian Cole that says: “With peaks of joy and valleys of heartache, life is a roller coaster ride, the rise, and fall of which defines our journey. It is both scary and exciting at the same time.”