Radical vs. Gradual Transformation

Are you making changes but not changing?

I was speaking to a woman on the phone this morning who is finding herself in a position that just about everyone I work with finds themselves in at one point — she’s feeling stuck.

After making small, gradual changes in her diet over the past few months, it’s radically different from where we started. For the first time, she’d worked out 6 times in one week. When we started, it was hard for her to work out once. Not even once a week, just once.

She’s creating a dream of leaving her day job and working in a field that’s creative, and although she’s been taking daily action, she told me it feels like “nothing’s happening.”

Though she feels stuck and frustrated, like “it’s not working,” she’s actually in a beautiful place.

Transformation happens in two ways. One is called Satori, where you have radical transformations, insights, and awarenesses that instantly and forever change who you are. These are the insights and epiphanies that you have that create a change where you are never able to go back to who you were or how you thought before.

You feel like the before-and-after photos happen through moments of Satori and get frustrated when your body doesn’t look all that different after four weeks of working out. But radical transformation happens differently.

New jobs, promotions, births of babies, weddings — these events feel like moments of Satori. The exciting moments where life feels different, exciting, and new. The transformation is palpable and obvious.

But there’s another kind of transformation that happens under the surface. It’s not as sexy, but it’s just as profound. Kensho. Kensho are the subtle, almost invisible and tiny shifts that accumulate over time and change you cell by cell, millimeter by millimeter. It’s not until you turn around and see where you were a year ago that you can really see and feel how different you truly are.

Kensho is deceiving, because it doesn’t always feel like anything is happening. When we transform in this way, we can feel impatient and frustrated, sensing that we’re doing “all this work for nothing.” But Kensho is powerful. And it’s patient and permanent.

If you’ve been working toward something you want, it’s easy to focus on how close or far you feel from it. You’re likely measuring your success against one or two measures.

But if you turn around and look at your life as a whole — as it’s changed throughout your process of transformation — notice how many other measures have improved.

For my client, she’s eating nearly perfectly all week and enjoying whatever she wants on days it fits and feels right. She works out about four days a week. She even worked out six days last week, and while that’s not her new “normal,” before, it wasn’t even a possibility.

She’s completely changed her view on what is possible for her, and she’s working to create it everyday.

But Kensho has deceived her. The changes we’ve made over the last 3 months have been millimeter shifts. So small that they didn’t feel challenging or overwhelming when she made them. So small that they were easy to create and keep around. She’s radically transformed without even feeling it happen.

When you really want something to be different — to lose weight, find a new relationship, become more fun or adventurous — you crave Satori. But what you need is Kensho.

The bigger the transformation you want to create, the smaller the step you need to take.

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