Have you ever tried to make a big change in your behavior or habits? How did it go? Pause for a moment and think of a specific example. What was the change you wanted to make? Were you successful? If not, what got in your way?
If your attempt at change ended in failure, you are far from alone. In fact, the majority of goals and resolutions we make will be abandoned before we make any significant progress. (I believe it’s something like 8% of New Year’s Resolutions that make it past February?) Why is this? Why is it so hard to finish what we start? Why is it so hard to become the person we actually want to be? And what does it take to get to the breakthrough we are seeking?
These are some of the questions I’m going to address in a series of posts entitled “How Change Happens.” For the past 5 years, my primary work has involved guiding folks through an intentional process of transformation, and getting to experience the fruits of that transformation myself. But I desperately want to share our learning with a wider audience, so this series represents our very best thinking on the topic of personal transformation. It will include the mindsets, tools, and exercises needed to grow you into the change you are seeking, as well as addressing how to combat many of the obstacles and challenges you will face along the way.
In this introductory post, I want to share about one essential belief that will make or break you before you even get started – let’s call it a prerequisite of transformation. I will also share a visual construct to help you think about how change happens, and will guide you in an exercise to begin applying this construct to your life.
Let’s begin with the one essential belief. Because real transformation is often sought but rarely achieved, it’s easy to become wildly cynical about what you are and are not capable of. But cynicism is the number one enemy of transformation; the two simply cannot coexist. Unfortunately, it’s no easy thing to overturn a deeply embedded belief (e.g. I could never…) But let me be clear from the outset that I’m not asking you to change your beliefs. I’m simply asking you to play a little game with me. The game is called “Try This On.” Here’s how it goes: I’m going to offer up a premise, and I want you to just pretend, for a limited period of time, that it’s true. Here it is:
Change is possible.
“Try it on” like you would a new coat.
Are you trying it on? How does it feel? Close your eyes and imagine you live in a reality where this is true. What’s different? What else is possible in this alternate universe?
If you’re afraid of falling into a fantasy world that will inevitably come crashing down and ultimately lead to greater cynicism, then set a timer for yourself so you know when to snap out of it. But what if, for the next hour –
Change is possible. And it’s possible for you.
I’m not talking about temporary behavior modification. We’ve all seen those brief gasps of pretense that only feed the beast of cynicism. I’m talking about genuine transformation, the kinds that alters your being, not just your doing. I’m talking about the kind of change that lasts a lifetime.
(Still having trouble believing me? All good, because remember, we’re just pretending, and it’s only for an hour.)
But so what? What difference does this make for you?
Imagine a genie is standing in front of you ready to grant you one personal transformation wish – what would you wish for?
The CONFIDENCE to start your own social enterprise?
The DISCIPLINE to create space for your passions?
The COURAGE to share your art with the world?
Wisdom, compassion, joy, self-acceptance, insight, patience, peace, strength, love.
Anything you can think of, take your pick.
And remember, in this scenario, you don’t have to do any work to get the change, so don’t waste this on something easy that you can attain on your own. Set your sights high – what’s something that feels somewhat terrifying and next-to-impossible, but if you had it, you could change the world and die knowing you held nothing back?
To make this more real, let’s engage in a brief exercise. I want to strongly encourage you not to just skim through the text. If you aren’t able to fully participate now, then pause here and come back later when you’re free to do so.
Ok here we go:
- Go get two blank sheets of paper, and something to write with.
- On the first sheet of paper, draw a response to the questions above, repeated here: If a genie were standing in front of you ready to grant you one personal transformation wish, what would you wish for? What’s something that feels terrifying and almost unthinkable, but if you had it, you would change the world?
- Somewhere on that same sheet of paper, write a short sentence that sums up your drawing – ten words or less.
- Circle the word in the sentence that is most important.
- On the second sheet of paper, draw a response to this question: What is your current reality as it relates to your first drawing? (For example, if the change you want to see is greater confidence, then draw your current level of confidence.)
- Write a short sentence that sums up your drawing – ten words or less.
- Circle the word that is most important.
- Tape up the two sheets somewhere you will see them everyday.
If you completed the exercise – well done! Whether you realize it or not, you have just begun a transformation journey. Of course, you can always choose to halt your journey. You can jump off the train and go back to where you came from. But the wheels are already in motion, because you have just uncovered the two foundational elements of change: Vision and Current Reality. I give you…*drum roll*…the Infinity Construct:
In the exercise above, you caught a glimpse of your Vision (where you want to be) and your Current Reality (where you are now in relation to that vision). Simply getting clear on those two things is extremely powerful, because it creates a natural tension between the way things are and the way things could be. That tension can be leveraged as an unstoppable force of motivation, if you have the mindset and tools to take advantage of it. But that’s for the next post – how to get from your current reality to your vision via the path of transformation.
I feel the need to make the disclaimer that what I am offering is by no means a “quick fix.” This is not “5 Simple Steps to a Better Life.” The journey of transformation is hard work. There are challenges along the way, and the opportunities to give up are abundant. But the reward is life itself. It is like breathing in a lungful of air after being stuck underwater. It is like the view from the top of a mountain peak. It’s that feeling you got as a kid on the swing set when you reached the highest point and leaped off, soaring through the air.
But don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourself.
[This is the first post in a series on “How Change Happens.” Subscribe here to get an email whenever subsequent installments are published. You will only receive an email when new material is posted, never more than once a week, and you can unsubscribe at any time.]