In my many years of working with clients on transforming their lives and the decades spent working on my own personal transformation, I’ve come to recognise that not only is there a universal process of transformation but that there is also a common way that many of us screw this process up. The following is an illustration and explanation of what I see happening a lot.

The transformation process final

Position A: The Comfort Zone

You find yourself in your comfort zone, which we’ll call position A. This is where most of us live most of the time. Within position A everything is familiar. Everything feels within your control (or so you think). There are few surprises here. Little space for fresh thinking or new experiences. Not much to get your heart racing and for many people this is just perfect.

But it’s not perfect for you. (Let’s be honest you wouldn’t be reading this post if it was). For you this monotonous existence has started to feel like a chore. The ease of life within your comfort zone feels irritating. You feel bored and restless. You start to feel, deep within you, a call for something greater, a call that only gets louder and more insistent with the passing of time. You come to realise that spending the rest of your days nestled safely within your comfort zone is not a viable option. Suddenly seeing the rest of your life mapped out ahead of you with nothing on the horizon but more of the same feels unbearable. Then it hits, you know that something has to change. You desire something different. More happiness, more fulfilment, more adventure.

Leaving position A: In search of something bigger 

So you start to dream. You start to envision something new. Something bigger than your current position – your vision of what is possible expands and your current life feels small by comparison. You allow yourself to feel the excitement and rush of achievement that you believe would come from eventually realising your dream and you start to wonder about the steps it might take to get you there.  You turn to personal development books and blogs for guidance on how to get there. You admire people who have already made it and devour anything and everything they say on the subject. You might even hire a coach to hold you accountable for your actions. You spend hours each day researching and thinking about your goal.

Position B: The place where you transform

You are at the threshold of B and you’ve taken the first step, maybe even two or three in the direction of your dreams. The initial high of taking action has died down. In its place, something else is stirring, your mind has started racing with thoughts of possible failure. Questions like Who am I to have an impact on the world? and What could I possibly offer the world? flood your mind. Your attempts to take further action get lost in overwhelm and procrastination which are promptly followed by shame. Why can’t I do what I need to do to achieve my dream? which is quickly followed by thoughts like Maybe I just don’t want this enough and maybe I’m not cut out for this sort of thing.  Suddenly you find yourself in a position where you feel worse than you did in position A and you start focusing on the craziness of that. You started this journey to feel better, to feel happier and more fulfilled. Instead you’re now feeling filled with fear, uncertainty and shame. This wasn’t the plan.

Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair. ~ Rick Warren

Ready to fly

How we screw it up: Running back to comfort 

You start looking back at A. It doesn’t look so bad from here. In fact it looks pretty cushy. The safe job, the regular pay check. The known and the comfortable. So you start to turn back. You tell yourself that life wasn’t so bad after all and besides everyone else seems to be happy in their comfort zone so why can’t you be. Once you’re safely back home in position A you can breathe again. What a relief! you tell yourself, I don’t need to change my life, I should be happy with what I have. And for a while this works. For a while you’re okay. Life seems okay. Easier, less stressful and you like it because you feel better which is really all you wanted in the first place. With time (how much varies from person to person), the whole process starts up again and what felt easier soon shifts to unbearable once again. This can take weeks, months and in some cases years. Some people will repeat the A to B and back to A process over and over until they die with their song still in them. But don’t despair, there is another way.

Another way: Getting through B to C

So here is my truth about transformation:

You have to navigate the stormy seas of fear, doubt and insecurity before you can reach the calm shores of your success and the live that you dreamed of.

Rather than spend your life perpetually bumping up against the edges of your comfort zone and living in a cruel cycle from boredom to anxiety and back again, you can instead accept that what happens when you leave your comfort zone and head in the direction of your dreams is to be expected. Not only that but it’s perfectly normal and it’s something that every successful human being has gone through and survived. There isn’t a person on this planet that hasn’t experienced fear and self-doubt in the pursuit of their dreams. The only difference between those that make it and those that don’t is navigating your way through it.

I’m not saying this is easy, but in my opinion it’s a damn sight easier than repeating A to B and back to A again. So how can you navigate this process so that you reach your dream life? There are many ways that have worked for me and for my clients, too many to cover in detail here but I’ll share a few to get you started.

  • Recognising that everything comes from thought: When we can see that the world around us is created from thought, we start to see the potential to create something different.
  • Creating the space for fresh thinking: Rather than battle with our existing thoughts and think more positively, like a lot of personal growth advice would suggest, we can instead learn how to create space for new thinking to emerge. This expands our view and allows us to see things differently (a crucial component of transformation).
  • Asking better questions: One way to see things differently is to ask better questions. Which question do you think gets more useful answers from our subconscious mind? Why am I so terrible at taking action? or What positive changes could I make right now to take more action today? Change your questions and you change your life.
  • Focusing on the one thing: Rather than using the excuse of overwhelm to procrastinate and wallow in indecision, we can learn to focus on the one thing that will move us forward today, this week or this month.
  • Moving from knowing to doing: Many people get stuck in the place of needing to know more before they take the leap. Trust me when I tell you that you will never learn in a book what you will learn from trying and failing or trying and succeeding. It is only in action that the real learning takes place.
  • Adopting a fluid self-concept: Stop telling yourself who you are and what your limitations are. If you feel shy and awkward today, there is nothing other than your own thoughts standing in the way of you being confident and articulate tomorrow. If you believe you can, you can and if you believe you can’t, guess what? You can’t.

Only one thought quote

I recently set myself the challenge to book 77 powerful coaching conversations in 30 days. Until Friday 14th August, I’m accepting applications to receive one of these complimentary calls. For details of why and what kind of person I’m looking for, click here for details: 77 calls challenge.  If you feel like you are stuck in your process of transformation, this call might be all it takes to break the cycle.