The process of true personal transformation is changing who you are, so that you can change what you do. Just changing what you do is generally not sustainable change in the long-term, because it means you are constantly operating (doing) in a way unaligned with who you truly are at your essence. As such, the process of personal transformation involves critically looking at your core beliefs, inner values, personal character, and desired destiny with the intent of manifesting deep, lasting, and significant change to your identity. This process can be valuable when a major painful life event occurs (like a divorce) or you are simply not happy with where you are at in life in the Present. Personal transformation is about reinventing yourself so that your inner and outer personas are in alignment.
Levels of Engaging Personal Transformation
Transformation often involves moving yourself through four stages, to identify what needs to be different in order to make major identity changes. True personal transformation happens in the final two stages.
People who get stuck in the initial stages tend to “spin their wheels” and experience repeated pain until transformational change finally occurs.
We focus on surviving adverse circumstances, but do not really learn from them. Often we will not take personal responsibility for our current reality, and differ blame to others as a defense mechanism against the pain we are feeling.
- Outward Change
This ties back to those that think they can change from simply doing. We make practical, external changes without taking a hard look at who we are, and generally eventually fallback to old patterns and what we find comfortable.
- Engaging the Heart
Either by revelation, complete fatigue, or other means, we finally allow circumstances to trigger a fundamental reevaluation of our personal identity and beliefs.
Our transformational experience becomes a springboard for seeking out others, and our sense of Self is reinforced by identifying with people that are in alignment with our new identity.
Tuning Into Purpose
Often a first step in transformation is moving from a resistant or victim posture to one of seeing purpose in the process. People who can find purpose will then embrace change, instead of avoiding it.
Moving Beyond the Tactical
When we initially start looking at ourselves honestly, our natural instinct is to engage at the doing level. For example, we examine the mistakes we made in what we did or said, or what skills we could acquire that would help us do better next time. While learning at this level is positive, it only touches on the outer workings or symptoms of what is going on inside of us. To summarize, changing what you do does not have the same transformational effect as changing who you are.
Engaging with the Heart
When we are able to engage with our heart, and create personal transformation within, a real opportunity for self-reflection and inner growth emerges. Difficult experiences lay bare the heart in a way that allows transformational change—if we have the courage to really look inward and see what is there true personal transformation can begin to take place.
(credit: the inspiration for this post came from the book Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills.)