“The term ‘transformation’ is frequently misused…to refer to a ‘big change’…Transformation and change are different phenomena…Transformation is a function of altering the way you are being – to create something that is currently not possible in your reality.” (The Last Word on Power, Gross)
We see transformation often in nature, for example –a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We may assume the caterpillar wants to be a butterfly. But what if the caterpillar wants to be a caterpillar? After all, that’s all it has ever known. Maybe being a butterfly – even though we think it is more beautiful and free to fly – is terrifying to a caterpillar. The caterpillar has no choice in the transformation. It automatically follows the course nature set out for it.
As humans, we choose to transform or not. Transformational opportunities present themselves to us cloaked in many disguises:
A spouse leaves the church
An unexpected job loss
We become “empty nesters”
The last child goes to kindergarten
Death of a loved one
A child makes choices that worry us
As humans, we choose to transform or not. Like the caterpillar, we may want to stay the way we are – after all, it is comfortable (even if not useful anymore). Like the caterpillar, we can’t see the butterfly that we could be. Most of us resist transformation.
But, if we can be open to the possibility that transformation might be helpful, we can start to see the chance of being a butterfly.
Yes, transformation requires a dramatic shift in who we are. Caterpillars disintegrate entirely in the cocoon before becoming a butterfly. They don’t just gradually grow wings and learn to fly. A butterfly is not caterpillar 2.0, it is an entirely new creature, that couldn’t have existed without the previous iteration of itself.
Transformation requires letting go of your old identity. It is voluntarily going through an identity crisis. You must create a whole new version of yourself – not just an updated version. As my coach, Brooke Castillo, said, “If you want to transform, you have to make yourself unavailable to your current life.” You cannot create the new you while holding onto the status quo. The singer Jewel also expressed this idea in her memorable line, “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.” We cannot put our time, thoughts, and emotional energy on “what we wish to be free from” – whether that be a painful past or even a fantastic past. To move forward, the caterpillar can’t keep “lending strength” to being a caterpillar. All its strength must go into the process of becoming a butterfly.
And when we open ourselves to the possibility of transformation – only then can we can create a future that is not available to the current version of ourselves. We can create a whole new identity, new abilities, new goals, and new skills. Like the butterfly, we can unfold our true beauty and learn to fly.