Creating Transformational Change

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What is transformation? And what is so important about the radical shift that transformational change can make in your life?

Recently, I read former First Lady Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming, and was struck by how clearly she described the beginnings of a major career transformation in her late 20's. A graduate of Harvard University law school and then a lawyer in a high-powered law firm in Chicago, she admitted to herself after a few years there, that she felt "empty" as a lawyer, "even if I was good at it." The unexpected death of a very close friend "awakened me to the idea that I wanted more joy and meaning in my life," even if "I had no concrete ideas about what I wanted to do." 

In my coaching career, I've had the privilege of helping many people make work and life-balance changes that came from new awareness of who they really were and what kind of a life they felt called to create for themselves. Sometimes, a dramatic happening in their lives shifted their perspective on what was important to them. For others, like Ms Obama, it was a slow accumulation of dissatisfaction and a feeling of going nowhere or in a wrong direction that led them, finally, to realize they needed to make a core change.

I now know that there's a profound difference between the experience of simply making changes— and that of connecting with your awareness and inner passion to create changes that transform the shape, energy, and reach of your whole life.

This is what I call transformational change, and what Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), calls "changes that occur at the level of identity or being." When I work with people who are creating transformational change, I often notice a sharp rise in their level of self-confidence and joy in living.

As Ms Obama says, it's vital to learn to be strong in yourself and find your own voice. Rarely does that happen in a vacuum.

My client, Leslie, for example— an unhappy employee at an up-and-coming restaurant in Portland, Oregon— told me she'd seriously considered working with a coach who promised to help her get a high-level management position in a prominent restaurant. Leslie, however, had a strong feeling that she wanted to explore other possibilities, and that my emphasis on "transformative change-making" was the way she wanted to go with coaching. 

In choosing to work with me, it soon became clear that, although she loved cooking, she was dissatisfied with the restaurant industry as a career path. During one coaching session, Leslie had the sudden flash of insight that she wanted to get married. She hadn't put that down as a goal, but she had a gut-level intuition that she longed for the warmth of a home with a partner who was committed to creating a family together. She just wasn't sure how to make that happen, nor how to put that together with changing her professional path.

The fact that her position in the restaurant consumed most of her waking hours, and that she felt lonely and disconnected from friends, family, and a sense of purpose, pushed her into realizing how joyless her life felt. From this new consciousness, she began to plan and manifest how she really did want to work and live. Synchronistically, she reconnected with a former boyfriend who now wanted to build a life together. Her glow of delight at this new evolution of her life was palpable— as was her new, purposeful career plan to work in a community setting teaching cooking for health and fitness.  

As coach and public speaker Ron Renaud, PCC, says, "Coaching is about helping people get access to the richest parts of themselves in order to clarify and create the deepest and most satisfying way of living fulfilled. Excellent coaching has resonance, aliveness, and engagement for the client."  

I fully agree. As a coach I've noticed that following my intuition with clients, challenging them to expand and deepen their connection to what brings joy and meaning in their lives, is the foundation for lasting, transformative change.