Now and again I get questions about the phrase “transformative change” and what it means in my work as a career and life transitions coach. Does it imply a “magical” change-- something way out of the ordinary and, more importantly, done to us-- as in one of the Oz books where a witch in the land of Oz “transforms” a young boy into a green monkey? Or-- in what ways do we have a voice, or personal agency, in the transformative changes of our lives?
As I see it, “trans-formation” is not a passive state of becoming something you are not, but rather a conscious journey towards becoming more and more who you really are. Transforming your life is neither a magical process (though it may seem so), nor a planned strategy. Like happiness, it is a possible and desirable by-product of going towards what we feel called to do, inwardly and outwardly, during the transitional change times of our lives.
As William Bridges says in his exquisitely wise book drawn from his own personal and professional journeys, The Way of Transition:
Transformation is the true destination of transition . . . How transition does that is a mystery, but it somehow involves . . . [spending] time near a boundary between . . . one life-phase and the next. The borders of Oz [the place of awakening to new possibilities] are everywhere, although the price of passage to the other side is often nothing less than your life-- at least your life as you have known it.
In my own book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I offer my own interpretation of the journey of transformative change in this way:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
— Jelaluddin Rumi, from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
I love this poem by the Sufi spiritual master and poet, Jelaluddin Rumi, for the beauty of his words and images — and for the eloquence with which he expresses this movement from habitual acts to transformative action. This is what I love, too, about doing life coaching — helping people blossom with the joy of self-discovery as they create the changes that really matter to them in their careers and lives.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” The wake-up call — it’s time to stop settling for less than our authentic calling and go for “the beauty we love” in our lives. What is it that we really want? What is it that we are ready to put all our heart, energy, and passion into now? How do we really want to contribute to the world, to our families, to ourselves? What is the “beauty” that feeds our souls and frees us to move forward to where we feel fulfilled?
We all have had some experience of “waking up empty and frightened” — of losing what is important to ourselves, of not expressing our true selves in some way, of dying without having lived fulfilled.
The key is not to go back to the old habits, not just to “begin reading” — but to step past our fears onto a new path that may feel radical. “Take down a musical instrument,” sing with your authentic voice, and follow the unknown songs and sounds that emerge to new opportunities that free you to be yourself!
What do you notice about your own journey of transformative change?