Personal transformation is what an athlete goes through to win a gold at the Olympics; it’s what a martial arts practitioner faces on the journey of becoming a master, or an executive going up the ranks of a well-managed organisation to the top, or a junior officer seeking to become a general in a modern army; or an artist, dancer, singer or painter aiming to reach the pinnacle of their profession; or a couple choosing to be in a long-term relationship that gets better and better; or an anxious soul learning to be at peace with themselves, and the world.
You cannot know what your potential in life is, but you can have the curiosity and the discipline to explore the very best in you, and this is the journey of personal transformation. Ultimately, it is not about how successful you are in the eyes of the world, but whether you are satisfied that you have expressed who you truly are into the world, whatever anyone else thinks.
Personal transformation has two key dimensions:
1. A life transition from an old way of being to a new way of being, or a transition from one set of life circumstances to another set of circumstances. Examples of the transition from old ways of being include: moving from a sub-optimal view of your career potential to pursuing your dream, or from being single to being ready for a relationship, or from being stuck in the past to creating your future. Examples of a transition from one life circumstance to another include making a career change, or a marriage, or a divorce, or the children growing up and leaving home. Life transitions can take many forms.
2. A transformational attitude of mind over the long-term in which one takes continuous small steps to
- fulfil your potential in life, realise your vision, express your Life-Calling, focus on your strengths and maximise your psychological resources.
- heal, transform and include, neglected or disempowered aspects of your own psyche. This will support all of you working together as a single whole so that you both fulfil your potential more easily and are also at peace with yourself.
- have access to your own resourcefulness and resilience whenever difficult external circumstances arise. Life is great – except when it isn’t. The practices that create well-being and happiness also develop our ability to face and overcome difficulty, failure and tragedy. Resilience – the ability to bounce back from difficulty, failure and tragedy, is a key life skill.
- Learn about what works and learn from what doesn’t work, to change your behaviour, skills, beliefs and, if necessary, your sense of identity and your sense of your place in the universe.
Personal transformation happens in the following way:
Supporting and creating a successful life transition
The first step is to develop a rough idea about
- what doesn’t work for you in your current life (present state).
- what your vision is for yourself post-transition (future state)
- your personal history and your psychological history that has caused the present state.
- a plan to mobilise your psychological resources and take action to get you from present state to desired state.
We only need “a rough idea” about these things because, as human beings, we are not just rational, but also aesthetic; we have a conscious mind and also unconscious thoughts, feelings and forgotten memories. Creating a personal transition is a recursive process – as we explore ourselves, we will keep updating our view of our present state, our desired future state; we will increase our self-awareness and have deeper insights into the cause of our current situation. We will discover and build our psychological resources, and find new things that empower us. As Winston Churchill said “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”.
The components of personal transformation
Supporting, creating and empowering a successful life transition requires developing the components that are needed for self-development and self-fulfilment over the whole of one’s life. These components are:
- Maximise what’s great about you
This includes knowing and expressing your
- Life-Calling: your purpose in life and your gift to the world.
- Life-vision: your vision for your life. How you will know you have had a good life.
- Strengths: what you are great at. There are 3 key ways to know what you are great at: your own self-assessment, getting feedback from others, and psychometric tests.
- Psychological resources: positive experiences in the past that empower you; people who love and believe in you; archetypal and spiritual forms that remind you that you are part of something greater than yourself.
- Well-being practices: find the activities that make you feel great, that put you in the flow and that enhance your well-being. Prioritise them in your life daily, weekly, monthly and annually, depending on the nature of the activity. Well-being practices have a double effect: you feel good at the time, and they also have an impact on longer-term success and happiness: with a sense of well-being you are more emotionally intelligent and take more risks, increasing your likelihood of success.
- Heal and transform inner obstacles to success and happiness.
- Heal old disempowering experiences: to bring healing to old experiences that undermined you, traumatised you or reduced your belief in yourself and the world.
- Create new empowering beliefs: historical disempowering experiences have often resulted in disempowering beliefs about oneself, other people or the world itself. We need to both heal those old experiences and create new beliefs that support us and empower us to have successful lives.
- Discover the gifts that come from healing old experiences: once sufficient healing has taken place in old, disempowering or wounding, experiences it is possible to discover how the healing process itself has given us powerful gifts that support us expressing our Life-Calling into the world. A final stage of healing an old wound is to discover that what we have learnt brings us through the healing process, makes us deeper as people, brings wisdom and enhances our gifts to the world.
- Develop resilience: resilience is how well and how quickly you bounce back from difficulty, failure or tragedy. The same practices that create well-being and happiness also develop our ability to face and overcome difficulty, failure and tragedy. Resilience – the ability to bounce back from difficulty, failure and tragedy, is a key life skill.
- Take action
- Take action to make the most of yourself and to heal yourself. Take action to maximise what is great about you and to heal and transform obstacles to success and happiness.
- Learn to end bad habits and create new ones. Learn to create new daily habits and practices that bring well-being.
- Try out new behaviours. With increased well-being you will find you are interested in taking more risks in your life, and are willing to try new things.
- Have a vision and a strategy: turn your Life-Vision and your 10 year and 3 year vision into a plan, with action steps this month and week. Continually update and improve the plan in response to the world.
- Experiment: entrepreneurs take “smart steps” which are short in duration, low risk, and can be improved on once feedback comes in. Then include the feedback and take a further smart step. Repeat.
- Discover and feel the support of life itself.
- Develop mindfulness: “Life as music”: mindfulness is more than just a technique to de-stress. When you listen to music, you want to savour every note. You are not trying to get to the end of the song, but to enjoy each note and moment of the music. Life is also about savouring every note, every colour, and the whole experience of Being, moment by moment. Life is both a journey to fulfil one’s potential in life, and also about being, enjoying the moment, just for the sake of it. My article on these two dimensions of life can be found here: Listen to the music on the journey of a Lifetime.
- Attend to “the field”: there is me and you and there is “the field”, the environment or system in which we are situated. It is possible to experience the field locally – this room, regional, planetary or cosmic and/or at physical, biological or cultural levels. Connecting with empowering aspects of the field at rational and emotional levels helps us draw on resources greater than our own lives and to situate our issues in a larger context. In mindfulness (or meditation) practice, attending to everything in awareness is a key step in revealing the great mystery of human consciousness.
- Wonder at the mystery of life: find a way of connecting to your place in existence through science, experience (phenomenology), spirituality or orthodox religion. Everyone can benefit from a stronger sense of their place in the great mystery of existence, given that death is waiting for each of us.
- Connect to archetypal resources: symbolic images of natural universal forces such as love, transformation, purification, inner peace can be helpful in enabling us to build a relationship with these qualities. God, Mother Earth, the big-bang, Buddha, Christ, Lao-Tse, Richard Dawkins, Mohammed, Krishna, Padmasambhava and the saints of different spiritual lineages can help us experience these powerful universal qualities more fully.