“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” - Maya Angelou
Change is constant. While we often think of the swirling uncertainty all around us; we less often think of our daily personal revision. You are changing each day, never the same exact person from one day to the next, but you don’t really believe that.
Interestingly, perhaps as a coping mechanism for the change all around us, we have a cognitive bias against acknowledging personal metamorphosis. Harvard University psychology researcher, Daniel Gilbert, found that people, regardless of age believed that they would maintain their same “essential selves” throughout all of time, even when they acknowledged that they had essentially grown and changed, often dramatically, within the last 10 years. Everyone underestimates their future transformation.
But maybe this bias comes from a different understanding of self. Is there not a deeper self that does remain true, unchanging, eternal? Spiritualists would say yes and encourage us to call upon that higher self when we are caught up in the constant uncertainty of life’s circumstance and drama. But whether we are striving to become more connected with a true or higher self, or trying to personally transform the core of who and what we are on the planet, transformation is both imperative and unavoidable.
Considering this, you should probably get in the game. Be a guiding hand to your change as it occurs -- influence it, mold it, call it forth and cultivate the change you wish to see and the person you wish to become.
While changing from a size 14 to a size 4 often feels like a going to war with your old self and old ways, many transformations don’t respond well to blunt force. Consider this more tempered advice on personal transformation by Joseph Campbell in his book, Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation: “Revolution doesn't have to do with smashing something; it has to do with bringing something forth. If you spend all your time thinking about that which you are attacking, then you are negatively bound to it. You have to find the zeal in yourself and bring that out.”
Being bound to the negative, say a negative past, makes it impossible to move forward in a truly positive, transformative way. Transformation as the positive development of self which we crave, requires a bit of unfucking ourselves -- letting go of past hurts and failures along with the negatives that seemed to define us, but ultimately do not.
Like so many things, letting go of a negative past and wielding effective personal influence on change, requires of constant and consistent practice of self awareness. Coming to a deeper level of understanding about the nature of the essential self, value and motivation, while also understanding that these things may all change, is a bit of a complex mind fuck once you delve into it. After all, everything around you is in a constant state of change and to acknowledge the hard truth that you are also always within that constant state can leave you feeling unsteady.
Frankly, transformation is not for the weak. It requires courage. Courage to be unmoored, which means being vulnerable, and then the courage to act and exact even more change within that vulnerable state.
To continue the unmoored metaphor, let’s say that to transform meaningfully, intentionally, you’ve got to lift the anchors and sail the ship. This means both getting outside of yourself and delving deeper in -- commit to navigating uncertain waters (higher purpose) while learning all you can about your vessel (self awareness). This is no easy feat, which explains why so many of us stay put and eventually take on water.
So how do you start on a path toward intentional transformation? The poet Rainer Maria Rilke says we must live within the questions and embrace the uncertainty. “I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves...Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
And then, of course, you must slowly, patiently do the work you know will aid transformation. You must be the change you wish to see, day in and day out. You must leave your comfort zone, take action, and make choices with intention in order to live fully.
“Life is a sum of all your choices,” wrote Albert Camus. "Large or small, our actions forge our futures and hopefully inspire others along the way."
So embrace yourself, your life, the uncertainty and the challenge. Know yourself in the face of these things and use all of it as an opportunity for transformation.