What is transformation? And what is so important about the radical shift that transformational change can make in your life?
In my coaching career, I've had the privilege of helping many people make the changes they wanted in their work and other aspects of their lives. However, I began to see 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.
For example, Leslie, an unhappy employee in a small restaurant, told me she'd seriously considered working with another coach who promised he'd help her get a high-level management position in a prominent restaurant. But Leslie also had a feeling that she wanted to explore other possibilities. In choosing to work with me, it soon became clear that, though she loved cooking, she was dissatisfied with the restaurant industry as a career path. She also longed for the warmth of a home with a partner who was committed to creating a family together.
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. 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.
In the case of Eric Sun, "a devastating diagnosis led [him] to find new meaning in an old pursuit," as I read in a recent New Yorker magazine. Eric had played violin from early childhood through college with immense technical prowess. However, both his instructors— Kyung Chee, violinist with the Seattle Symphony, and Dawn Harms, violinist with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra— tried to convey to Eric that he needed to learn "how to emotionally move people through [his] playing." Somehow, despite his obvious talent, it just didn't seem to happen.
Meantime, in 2009 Eric was hired by Facebook, after completing a master's degree in statistics at Stanford. The next year, he married his waltzing partner, fellow violinist, and the love of his life, Karen Law. He kept on playing and in 2014 bought a rare Vuillaume violin in London. In 2016, Eric developed symptoms of what was a malignant brain tumor. He took a medical leave from FaceBook and kept on playing, even as his prognosis worsened.
As his health declined, Eric began to share his feelings about dying and living with purpose with his wife and his friends. He opened himself to the wisdom and compassion of his wife who urged him to go deeper within himself and find out which desires were most important to him at this time in his life. These included the dream of winning a place with Stanford's resident St. Lawrence String Quartet's chamber-music seminar— which he did. Lesley Robertson, violinist with the SLSQ, sharing with the group Eric's medical condition, added from her own life learning, "Making music can literally be a matter of life and death . . . That profound moment of making music that takes you to another world is something we're very privileged to experience."
Then came Eric's playing the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof— which catapulted him into his own emotional stratosphere. To help him prep for this role, he went back to his high school instructor, Kyung Chee, who had him slow down his playing so that the "very heartfelt" quality of the Yiddish melody could come through. As you listen to his solo, you can hear and see how he plays this incredibly difficult piece with his whole heart and self. As Karen said, "He was trying to convey his own personal story and the story of the fiddler. He pushed the boundary of what he felt comfortable with."
In Leslie's situation, transformational change was about shifting her awareness and the vision of her life as a whole. Interestingly, though she was close to her own family, before coaching she'd never put "love" and "home" into the equation of how she wanted her chosen work to look and feel in her life.
In Eric's case, he never lost his passion for playing the violin. In the end, he broke open his heart and shared his passion for living and loving through his music. And so he transformed his life.