4 Steps to Personal TransformationAnd the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anais Nin
Sometimes the path of life comes to a crossroad. One direction ends in stagnation while the other leads to transformation.
When I entered my junior year of college I had a sudden identity crisis. I had always been an athlete throughout high school and junior college, and a fairly good one at that. A very shy person normally, my abilities in sports gave me confidence and brought out leadership skills I didn’t know were within me.
But now my skill level was finally surpassed by the expertise of the University-level teams. My sports career was over and I felt completely lost without my self-image of the student-athlete to lean on.
Who was I now? What did I bring to the world if not my athletic abilities? Would anyone care about me now that I wasn’t scoring points and winning?
I sunk into a depression, feeling completely groundless. Without my previous structure and direction, I took classes and dropped them, finding no interest in the vast number of subjects available to me.
Slowly, I began to realize I was at my own personal crossroad with a decision to make: to choose to transform into a new me or stay safely in the past with an outdated sense of self.
What is it about change that is hard? We are an analytic society. Whether we are aware of it or not, we constantly apply a cost-benefit analysis to decisions we make in our lives. So we ask ourselves: Does the risk of change outweigh the risk of standing still?
It took some time, but I eventually decided the risk of stagnation was too painful for me. To begin my own transformation I had to:
- Let go of the old “student-athlete” image over time including allowing myself to grieve over the loss of that identity to which I was accustomed.
- Look within myself to find who I really was. As the poet William Stafford says, “Who are you really, Wanderer? … and the answer has to be, ‘Maybe I’m a king [or queen.’]”
- Realize that the absence of sports opened up a whole new avenue of opportunities for me.
- Understand that the intrinsic parts of being an athlete still stayed with me: leadership skills, excelling at teamwork, the drive for excellence. These were aspects that I wanted to carry with me into my new way of being in the world.
As I opened my eyes to opportunities available to me and started understanding that I was more than one-faceted, I noticed that I really was interested in something: psychology.
I ended up completing a psychology degree and as my path unfolded, I was not only able to use many of the leadership skills I had honed as an athlete, but I blossomed into the guide and mentor I was called to be.
Maybe your life’s path has led you to the possibility of transformation. What does your cost-benefit analysis reveal about where you are in life? Are you ready to let go of that bud and become the beautiful blossom you truly are?
Try this simple affirmation for the next few days: I am discovering who I am and growing exponentially. I am maturing from a tight bud into a beautiful blossom.
Then meditate on these transformation skills and use them when you are ready:
1. Let Go.
Brainstorm the parts of yourself you may need to leave behind as you pursue your personal transformation. Write them down on a piece of paper so you can see them. If you need to grieve for these aspects of yourself, allow time to do so.
If you feel like celebrating the letting go process, make sure you do that, too. Either way, create a ritual for letting go.
Perhaps you want to burn the paper on which you wrote down the old part of yourself. Maybe you want to bury the paper as though it were a funeral. You can do this ritual alone but it may be more powerful to do with close friends as witnesses to your commitment to transformation.
2. Who Are You Really, Wanderer?
Sit quietly and become focused on your breath. As you exhale, breathe out the tight bud you used to be. On the inhale, welcome the beautiful new blossom you are growing into. When you are ready, give thanks for being open to discovering the new you.
3. Look For New Opportunities
A friend of mine named John wrote an interesting article for his church newsletter. He talked about clearing the clutter in our lives, both externally and internally, and how, when we do that, we create a vacuum where the old stuff was.
Nature abhors a vacuum so that space is now available to you for expansion of your transformed self. Jot down new opportunities you see for change in your life now that you’ve let go of the old clutter.
4. Take the Good Stuff with You
Even if you are shedding an identity you didn’t like, remember that you learned some positive skills and character during that time, so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
In my career as a psychotherapist, I have worked with many people who struggled to shed old ways of being in the world.
Some were ashamed that they had learned to manipulate social systems to meet their needs and yet, as we talked about their experience, it became clear that there were some useful skills in there, too: the ability to problem-solve, the creativity to come up with a variety of ways to get needs met, and innate assertiveness, just to name a few.
Just as you wrote down the parts of yourself you will need to leave behind in the first step, take some time now to note the characteristics that serve you and others well. Take those with you on your journey.
* Ready for transformation? The world eagerly awaits a beautiful new blossom.