A non-exhaustive list of how and where transformation happens
Transformation is a passion of mine and, ever since starting my podcast early this year, I have been on a quest to research it, define it and understand it in my own way so that I could better help people in the work that I do.
When I had to initially pick the “category” for my podcast, I looked in detail but couldn’t find the word “Transformation.” I saw words like “Self-Help,” “Spirituality & Religion,” “People & Blogs,” and so on. Transformation was something that got everyone’s attention, yet there was no category for it.
To many this word invokes some far off spiritual idea or fantastical Oprah episode. I don’t think it has to be that grandiose. I think transformation can be something as simple as making your bed in the morning or sharing something personal with a friend. It doesn’t have to be froufrou and out there, so I set out on a goal to prove otherwise through a series of interviews titled,
“What is Transformation?” The point? To engage all kinds of people in an everyday conversation about their life and work so that the dimensions of what transformation is would be made available to anyone listening regardless of their involvement with it in their own life.
Over the course of a few months, I held dozens of interviews with people from all walks of life — artists, dancers, entrepreneurs, even an orthodontist. I wanted to ask them about the transformative aspects of their work both in themselves as well as the impact on their clients.
What was their experience of meaningful change? How did they perceive transformation?
Personal growth and transformation is not a new thing to me — I’ve taught over 10,000 lessons in my career as a professional ballroom dancer and competitor and each and every one of those lessons required goal planning, motivation, overcoming obstacles and many other typical “personal growth” stuff. I’ve helped to organize a successful non-profit event centered around transformation and I’m writing a book from my many experiences in personal growth seminars, energy and healing retreats and competing as a professional athlete.
Yet, despite all of this interest and experience — there is always something new to learn. What’s also interesting is that the level of surprise with what you learn is also determined by the level of openness to the situation.
This is a difficulty as we amass experience in a particular domain, yet it is the character trait that keeps the greatest minds curious and hungry for novel information and, consequently, pioneers in their respective fields.
So, what is transformation? When and where does it happen? Well, thanks to the many inspiring interviews I had, I put together a list of 7 easy ways to identify and create it in your life. Here’s the best from what I’ve learned in my own journey as well as my talks with some amazing and successful people over the last few months.
If you want to listen to the full episode detailing this discussion, you can do so here.
#1: When You Give Up Something
Letting go and giving something up are probably one of the most common and immediate ways we think about transformation. Attachment to results, perfectionism, expectations of others and ourselves, resistance — these are common obstacles on the path toward living a created life and they are transformed by the art of letting go. I use “art” because it is definitely a matter of continued practice and refinement.
In my own experience there will be one item in this list that resonates with you more than the others and, for me, this one is it.
Letting go and being at peace with what is has been a recurring theme in my life in many important areas. I wrote an article here about my experience getting out of an engagement titled, “The Art of Letting Go” and in everything from my work with clients, personal projects, my dance partnership — this has been my main area of continued transformation.
To practice letting go is to practice peace, and often one of the most transformational experiences can be to obtain this seemingly less and less available state of being.
#2: Happens Mutually
An interesting observation began to occur to me more and more as I interviewed my guests — every time we talked about contributing to someone else’s life or causing transformation of some kind, the feeling was always mutual.
I remember having a great lunch with my mom talking about her difficulties with the fitness journey my buddy Joey and I had planned for her (video below). We talked about being organized, being diligent and what it really means to be independent.
After we parted for the day I felt good knowing that I had motivated my mom towards a higher purpose and, later that day when I was inspired to record my episode, The 4 Pillars to Independence, I realized that our transformational lunch hadn’t been a one-way street — we had both gotten something meaningful out of that exchange.
So, the take home? Whether you are in a position like my mom was as the student or as I was (in this example) as the teacher, it doesn’t matter. Both people were open and as a result transformation happened. Be open — whether that is to receiving or contributing — and it will always be mutual.
Know that if you are helping someone you will always get it back in return, and know that when you allow others to help you that you are actually helping them as well regardless of their status or experience.
#3: When You Try Something New
Another “typical” place we tend to relate to transformation is in trying something new — a new look, a new relationship, a new job, a new body. But these kinds of makeovers, to me, are less interesting than the internal ones. Changing external circumstances can have a very obvious effect, but in the work I do with people I am always fascinated by a change in perspective that leads to new actions, new values, new habits.
This, to me, is the more meaningful understanding of “trying something new.”
We are creatures of habit, this you already know. I remember reading once that if you wanted good brain health to alternate the things you do by habit — brush your teeth with the other hand, that sort of thing (thank goodness I get my dose of coordination from dancing all day). In this respect, trying something new is not just for transforming your life but for maintaining it, period.
Life is movement — stiffness and rigidity are the opposite.
Everything that moves is alive, flexible, malleable. This is one of the major principles I teach that I have learned from competitive ballroom dancing and it speaks to transformation and trying something new. Life is constantly changing, reinventing, reconsidering, re-creating. It is an endless cycle of impermanence.
Many of the things that cause us anguish do so because they resist this principle — because we have created them to be permanent in our minds. “My life/partner/job is ________.” And then it is so forever in our minds because we have made it permanent instead of trying something new, holding the situation at even a slightly different angle to see what could be there for us.
Life is ever-changing, always trying something new — it is human beings that desperately cling to certainty, routine and predictability (those are important too, don’t get me wrong). Try something new in an area that hasn’t had much new in it lately and reap the rewards of transformation.
#4: When You Give Something
Human beings evolved as social creatures and what that means is that our wiring rewards us for positive group behavior — contributing to others, to the tribe, achieving things, spending time with others, developing our role in the community and so on. Most longevity research these days cites social integration and healthy relationships as the top two factors for living a long life — and it’s no surprise because giving to others makes us feel alive.
They say that if you are upset or having a bad day, find a way to contribute to someone. It will instantly turn your day (at least a little) better. When we give, we change our state of being from one of lacking to one of abundance. We obtain a sense of connection with another human being, a sense of importance in someone else’s life. This is not philosophy, it’s biology.
Learn to hack your own program and create a contributory mechanism in your life that keeps you giving — volunteer regularly, be part of community projects, use your gifts and skills to teach or impart information to others. Life truly exists when we give, so rack up those transformation points by doing it as much as possible.
#5: Exists in Language
Understanding the creative power of language is a key component in the work that I do with people and it plays a significant role in transformation. When I use the word, “creative,” I don’t mean as in “creative writing” — I mean in the generative ability of language to create reality.
You could see your chore of making the bed in the morning as a “problem” or as a “transformational exercise.” Which is more exciting? Words are a big part of the stimulus-response mechanism we have as animals and understanding their power to create emotion, mental experiences, motivation — as well as the opposite — is a pivotal part to taking control of your life and living it full out through transformation.
How we frame things is the key to everything. Transformation doesn’t have to be a crazy new haircut or losing 100lbs in a short period of time — it can be as simple (or difficult) as re-framing how a problem is languaged in your mind.
#6: Is Authored by Intent
In episode 34 where I interviewed one of my best friends on his transformative work as a DJ creating memories for people, I asked him how he dealt with the mundane aspects of his work — having to set up shop every time, tear down, do whatever work that just was there as an obstacle before the fun stuff actually started.
“I think it all comes down to your intent”
Mundane challenges are always lurking and, without proper vigilance over our mind we will soon be overcome with cynicism even in a line of work that is very creative, contributory and fun. So how do you overcome it? For my buddy DJ MBRACE, it’s all about setting an intent for what you are going to do.
I often tell people that when you see an avalanche you only see the last part of it — not all the countless snowflakes that had to fall before it finally became obvious.
Intent setting is powerful because it doesn’t require physical effort. It happens in your mind and it is the first order of business before taking action.
Transformations like the ones we see in the media or all over the internet are the obvious results that manifest in the physical world through a process that is not as obvious — the continued action upon an intent. Intent is the beginning of transformation, and maintaining that intent through consistent effort is where the rest of it lies.
Most people quit before they even start or shortly thereafter. At least half of the reason is that they do not have a clear intent or vision of why and where they are going. A powerful intent is transformative in its ability to pull the future to you — make use of it and transform your life by being clear and dreaming big.
#7: Has an Empowering Meaning
If the Universe’s only constant is change, then what makes transformation special? Everything is transforming all the time, changing, being altered, dying off, being reborn. Transformation is part of the very fabric of reality — but why do we distinguish it as a special situation?
This is the power of meaning.
Change does happen all the time, we just so happen to choose the ones that hold meaning for us. Shaving my head may seem like no big deal to many people but to me it would be a total transformation (one that you definitely wouldn’t want to see), and me going through my choreography full speed with my partner during practice may not be a transformational experience to me, but for a first-time bystander it could inspire them to try something newin their life and transform their reality.
Ultimately, meaning is subjective but that doesn’t take away it’s power. The key here is to use it productively in your life. Go back to the making your bed example — you could let the mundane world take over that situation and fill your mind with meanings like, “chore, problem, obstacle, time waster” or you can take control of your mind and superimpose a different reality like, “transformational exercise, creating my morning” and so on.
Transformation happens when there’s a meaningful change, and the second part of that is that the said change needs to be empowering. What is Empowerment? I wrote an article about it here. It is an objective tool to evaluate your state of being and the choices you make in the world, and it is one of the key principles that I work with people on in creating a life they love because, at the end of the day, it comes down to whether something is giving you power or taking it away — and this includes your self.
I always make a habit of evaluating whether a relationship, situation, decision or anything else is creating power or robbing it and through that develop a keen barometer of my energy and state of being.
Like the age old story of Sisyphus, life’s meaning is what we make it and in that respect I urge you to go where the reward is. Who knows what the meaning of life is, whether we are in a simulation or not, or if there are multiple universes or just one and so on. What we know to be most real is right here, right now. It is a blessing to be alive so you might as well reap the rewards while you’re around.
Transformation is not something reserved for TV show episodes, it is what makes our life worth living.
Create something that will empower you, set your intent, try something new, let go of what you need to let go, try to re-frame the situation, give something to someone and remember it’s always mutual so be open. These are my seven easy ways to create more transformation in your life, let me know how they go in yours?