Transformation seems like a really ambiguous and vague concept. It can feel totally outside of our control and out of our reach.
But it’s not. Simply defined…
Transformation is a shift in purpose.
What’s necessary so it can happen?
Just as a caterpillar cannot force themselves into a butterfly, you can’t snap your fingers and be transformed into who you want to become.
But there are actions you can take to cultivate an environment so you to be transformed.
One of the mysterious parts about transformation is that a caterpillar doesn’t choose to become a butterfly, but it does choose to create a cocoon and stay in there until the transformation is complete. Then, the transformed caterpillar chooses to break out of the cocoon and fly like the butterfly they were designed to be.
Transformation is both mysterious and measured.
When I was in my 20s, my spiritual director asked me what I could do to become my whole self. Being the ambitious, people pleasing, altruistic human I was (uhhh…am?), I think I rattled off about 20 things I could do.
She graciously smiled while listening, embracing my fervor, passion, and naïveté. Then, she said something that altered the entire trajectory of my life. She told me there were two things required to experience transformation.
First, Transformation Requires Openness.
lack of restriction; accessibility
In order to become more of yourself, you cannot be closed off to new ideas, thinking, patterns, habits, practices, or beliefs. Closed people are restricted people. Transformation requires you to let go of old things that may have served you well for a time, but are no longer supporting the woman you need to become.
The caterpillar is open to becoming an entirely different insect.
One of the greatest transformations in my life was the looooooooong journey to becoming a mom. For years, I wasn’t open to the idea. At all. Motherhood felt like it’d suck the life out of me. It felt like a sacrifice I didn’t want to make. It felt like a patriarchal narrative I was required to write as a wife.
My transformation began when I opened my heart and mind up to the possibility of parenthood. I let go of self-limiting beliefs. I rejected old scripts that defined motherhood in a way that didn’t suit me. I accessed new ideas about myself, my marriage, and my future that gave me vision for becoming a mom.
I opened myself to what was possible as a mom.
I experienced the greatest shift in purpose when I opened up to who I could become if I said “yes” to motherhood. All these years later, mothering is still the greatest transformative opportunity in my life.
In order to be made new, you have to open up to what could be if you say “yes” to the shift.
Second, Transformation Requires Willingness.
the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness
There’s a difference between open and willing. Open is a posture within. Willing is an action outside.
Open is internal. Willing is external.
Willingness precludes that you’re open. Willingness means that you will do the work that’s required.
A caterpillar may be open to the idea of becoming a butterfly, but willingness looks like climbing into that damn, dark cocoon and being made into something entirely new. Transformation is messy. Transformation can be brutal, but it’s also beautiful. Butterflies are exquisite, in part, because we know what they looked like before.
Willingness looks like doing the work.
It’s reading new books. Asking different questions. Letting go of beliefs that were lies loosely laced with truth. Practicing new habits. Engaging different kinds of people. Willingness is saying “no” to what doesn’t serve you well, and “yes” to what opens your soul to more wholeness.
Willingness for me has looked like conscious choices to let go of the past and engage my present in a way that sets my feet in the direction of my preferred future.
Practically, my transformation journey has looked like willingly going to therapy to heal from wounds, putting down my phone to pay attention to the person in front of me, closing the laptop so I can rest.
I can confidently say—there’s been NO transformation in my life or leadership without the interplay of openness and willingness.
In order to experience transformation, you have to have both. You can’t have one without the other and expect to become a butterfly.
It’s worth it every time. If you are going to live and lead with wholeness, become best friends with Openness and her sister, Willingness. They are the beginnings of beautiful fruit. They’re also required for the coaching journey.