Is it change or transformation?
Have you ever made some lifestyle changes to improve your health? Exercising regularly, eating more healthily, giving up alcohol, going on a blitz before a ‘significant’ birthday?
We’ve all ‘been good’ for a while, perhaps done it several times, but we often lapse back to our old ways.
Changes are temporary, it seems.
Changes are also external.
You can be a ‘gym bunny’ for a while, to lose weight or run a marathon, but it doesn’t make you a thin person or an athlete. If you are still a fast food lover or a couch potato at heart, that’s the behaviour that you go back to once you have achieved your goal.
Change is the domain of the yo-yo dieter. The New Year resolver. The January Gym member.
‘Ah,” you say, “but you can have lasting change. It doesn’t have to be like that, people can stick with their new habits.”
And that’s true, they can, but only if they become a different person inside. Only if the way they live their life, the values that they honour, the way they see themselves, changes. That is transformation.
It’s permanent because It’s internal. You don’t revert to your previous behaviour because you are no longer that person.
We go through many changes in our lives but only the ones that are permanent are accompanied by a transformation.
As anyone who has children will tell you, the birth of your first child is a massive change. Your life will never be the same again but it is also transformational. YOU will never be the same again. This often comes as a surprise to new parents. We use change and transformation interchangeably and so we do not appreciate the difference. The change you feel within yourself as a parent is so unexpectedly strong that it really underlines how different they are.
You find yourself overwhelmed with emotions, knocked sideways by a completely new perspective of the world and your place in it. You are caught unawares by desires to protect and nurture that are suddenly awakened within you. This is transformation. You are now a different person and your behaviour changes permanently.
Transformation, then, can be born from change. Change is the external stimulus but you have to internalise it and make permanent changes to your mindset and your life choices.
So, going on a health blitz and saying no to the chips and beer is a good thing to do. However, to make it permanent, you have to go through a transformation. You have to become the type of person who doesn’t eat chips, who moderates the amount of beer they drink. You know this has happened when you don’t have to make a conscious choice, you just automatically chose the salad over the chips because you prefer it.
The people I work with have been through change, either by choice or circumstance. Often, however, they have not been through transformation. They have left the corporate world but they still see themselves as corporate executives, they have the same default behaviours, the same values, the same perception of themselves and what constitutes normality for them. This is often why they are struggling.
And I completely understand that. It took me a long time to make my own transformation from corporate executive to the person I am today.
However, without transformation, change is often painful. The dissonance we feel between our inner selves the surroundings we now find ourselves in causes us distress and anxiety and can even cause actual physical pain and ill-health.
We can choose to live in that pain, to retreat back to what is familiar by going back into corporate life, even if it makes us unhappy. Or we can undergo a personal transformation that accepts the new reality we find ourselves in and embraces the opportunities it brings.
For many, going back is not an option. We are too old, or do not meet the requirements that companies now have, or are disqualified on some other grounds. Or the cost of living in that world was too great, it was harmful to us and we needed to escape it.
The choice then is to live in the pain and discomfort of our new circumstances, or to transform ourselves so that we are adapted to this new world and able to thrive in it. This transformation may be difficult, challenging and, in itself, painful. It will lead, however, to a new state where we will be at peace with our world and comfortable in our own skin. It will no longer take effort to cope with world but the world will energise us with opportunity because the changes to our behaviours will be imbedded, they will be permanent.
That’s got to be a goal worth getting.
I created After the Mothership to provide the environment for you to work out your own transformation, in the company of fellow travellers and with the advice, information and support you need to successful transition to your new life style and career.
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First published on www.afterthemothership.com/blog on 31st August 2017