The Process of Transformation

I think we all wish that we could magically transform into our best selves and instantly be living the life of our dreams. It’s as if we’re waiting for a miracle to happen which will wake us up in a lasting and substantial way. Almost like the dream of winning a huge lottery, we imagine all of our troubles would disappear and we would be set for life.

Or maybe I’m just talking about myself. I don’t think this has been a conscious wish, however when I reflect on how I’ve lived most my life, I think there is some validity to this idea. Sure, I’ve spent a few decades reading personal growth materials, attending workshops, studying spirituality, and seeking a deeper understanding of myself and others. I like to tell myself I’ve been “working” on personal transformation most my life. I certainly have an expanded awareness as a result.

Yet, that very awareness has also created a deep discomfort and pain. Part of that pain is due to the simple fact I’m incredibly hard on myself. However, most of my pain is caused by continuing to make choices or do things that aren’t true to who I want to be. This in turn leads to finding distractions to numb that pain, often resulting in doing more of the very activities I want to avoid. It can become a vicious cycle.

The pain of not being who we want to be insofar as lifestyle choices is made more acute when we recognize we’re doing this, yet don’t do anything about it. We know our relationship is a dead-end, but we can’t leave; we know we need to lose weight, but we reach for the extra cookie; we know we shouldn’t smoke, but we can’t stop. You get the drift — there are thousands of ways we compromise ourselves because it’s too hard to change.

Then, if we do try and change, we often can’t sustain it or we feel we have failed in some way. We leave the relationship, only to go back; we lose weight, and then gain even more; we quit smoking, then start again. After awhile, it all feels so hopeless we delve again into keeping ourselves busy and distracted so we won’t feel the pain. As I said, a vicious cycle.

I should know. This pattern has comprised much of my life. Maybe that is why I’m so passionate about figuring out a different way. Maybe that’s why I’m still looking for an answer to the million dollar question: what will it take for us to make the changes we know (or believe) we should be making?

I was talking with a friend recently who shared how when she was younger she would wake up and journal in the mornings. However, now she gets up and spends her time surfing the Internet instead. She wishes she could get back to starting her day differently, but doesn’t. I shared how for years now I’ve been wanting to start my day with yoga and meditation. We commiserated on how difficult it was to take our talk to the next level.

Our discussion made me question: How bad does the pain have to get before we choose something different? Why is it so difficult for us to simply do what we say we want to do? Where’s the magic pill that will miraculously change our behavior to match our desire? I’ve certainly read my share of books promising it and done my share of wishful thinking trying to create it.

Lately the pain of continuing to stay in this cycle of non-action and distraction had become more painful than the pain of doing something about it. This means I’ve had to give up my illusion that there is a quick and easy way out. As creatures of habit who generally don’t like change, it’s not easy to step outside our comfort zone. Yet, that is exactly what has to be done if we want something different.

In looking at myself, I’ve also become sensitive to how difficult it is for me to recognize where I have changed. I believe if we can’t see our progress, then making further strides in the direction we want to go will be even harder. So, it’s been important for me to acknowledge how my decades of questioning and seeking for answers has not been without merit. I am not the same person today as I was 5 or 10 years ago.

At the same time, I can still clearly see the gap between who I want to be and who I am. I don’t need to be perfect, but I do desire to close this gap. In order to do so, I need to take personal responsibility to make that happen; and that means I have to buckle down and do the work.

Because the process of transformation is work. And it is a process. I’m reminded of the Japanese proverb: Fall seven times, stand up eight. In some of the areas where I need to change, I’ve tried before and failed. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try again — and again, and again.

First, I took a long hard look at what I was doing, or not doing, and identify where I felt out of alignment. Next, I worked to determine specific, measurable actions needed to help me feel I’m on the right track. It was also necessary to find acceptable comprises between my ideals and the reality of where I am in life so that my goals would be both realistic and obtainable.

Fortunately, as I was working on this, a friend shared a graph she had created with a check list of weekly goals. The days of the week were listed on the left side of the page, with the desired actions or goals listed across the top. I simply used her graph to put in my own ideas.

If you’ve followed my blogs, you know at least a few of the things on my list. I won’t cover them all, but to give you an idea, the first check box is labeled “Yoga/Meditation,” and I have a goal to do this 6 out of 7 days of the week. Some additional goals on my page include: spending at least 15 minutes per day outside (weather permitting); watching no more than 2 hours of TV per day (so much for binge watching Netflix for hours on end); and engaging in either writing, journaling, watching educational/spiritual/business video/audios and/or reading self-development books at least an hour each day.

My list may need modification as I go along, but it’s a start. Although I am only on the first week of doing this, I can already see the advantages and benefits. For example, I didn’t feel like getting up early yesterday or today, but I knew I had to if I wanted to check off that box. Once I pushed past my inertia and kept my commitment, I felt great.

This is also helping me see which areas of my life are more difficult for me to manage than others. Again, if you’ve read my blogs, you know I love on-line poker. I’m not sure what it is about the game I like so much, other than it’s one of my “go to” ways of relaxing and sort of “vegging out,” however I’m aware playing games on-line can easily eat up all my time. So, I set a goal to play a maximum of one hour per day, no more than four out of seven days of the week.

After only four days, I’ve already seen this is going to be a difficult goal for me to keep. Yet by limiting how often I do this, and keeping track of how long I’m doing it, I’ve been able to become more conscious of how much of my time this activity actually is taking up. And I can see I need to take a closer look at what’s making me want or need to escape my life so much.

I have no idea how this chart and process will work for me long term. However, I have certainly done enough reading and have enough personal experience to know that over time actions become habits. I’ve crawled out of bed the last three mornings, half asleep and unmotivated, determined to do my morning practice. The reward of finally feeling as if I’m getting in alignment is definitely worth it, and I am hopeful it will eventually become routine for me.

In summary, this practice has given me a sense of actually starting the process of transformation rather than just talking about it. I will admit, it’s not easy. But I remember that any transformation requires work: the bird has to break out of the shell, the butterfly must push out of the cocoon, and I out of my fixed habits. I believe the effort will be worth it in the long run.

If you have the pain in your life of feeling out of alignment, I feel for you. I’ve lived it most of mine. Let’s work together to reclaim our power and do something about it. I’m here to cheer you on and encourage you to begin examining what actions you can take to begin the process of change. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, or all be done at one time, but with each step we take, we will bring ourselves closer to the transformation we desire.

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Thank you for being a part of my journey. I share freely so that I may assist those who can relate to what I’m saying. We are not alone — each connected to one another in our own unique and individual ways, a part of a greater cosmos beyond understanding. I am committed to this connection — to unity, to growth, and to love. This, I know.

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Shannon Crane