By transformation I mean one of the following:
- You started to see the world in a fundamentally different way
- Something made you question your assumptions or belief system
- You made a life-changing decision
- You were converted to a new way of thinking or a new pattern of behavior
- You changed your mind about something that you felt strongly about
Transformative experiences don't happen that often, but they are powerful moments that can seem to turn the world inside out.
If we can find a way to engineer more transformative experiences, it might be a first step towards making real and lasting change in our world -- a world that seems stuck in patterns of behavior that seem unproductive, sometimes even destructive.
I am curious about what kinds of things can trigger these kinds of major insights. Think back to the last time you really looked inside and questioned your own assumptions; the last time you truly tansformed as an individual:
- What triggered your transformation?
- Were you alone, with another person, or with a group?
- What frame of mind or emotion made you receptive to such major change?
- If you were with other people, what did they do or say that helped the transformation happen?
- What happened afterwards?
Please share your thoughts on this important topic.
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I think it's a rare occasion that sudden transformation occurs, I can only think of a few times in my whole life where I've '180'ed on a topic and see it in a completely different light.
The one the that spring to mind is reading Dan Savage's book 'The Kid', an account of two gay guys adopting a child. It was always my opinion that the best place for children to be raised by a Mum and a Dad. Two guys bringing up a kid, seemed wrong. Don't get me wrong, it's not a homophobic thought, I'm 100% gay.
After reading the book I realized that caring and loving people raise children and sexuality has no part in that. Families are diverse, different across cultures and counties, all different shapes, sizes and make-ups.
It was a realization that changed my thoughts not only on gay adoption, but also how I as a person fit into society, interact with other people and even though I don't have children, I have to make an investment in the future. After reading the book I think I understood the concept of community much better.
Now people may disagree, or be offended by my thoughts, that's OK, but maybe go read the book or meet a gay parent before making your call.
People sharing experiences in one of the best ways to change people minds, human stories. Whether they be books, films or public speaking.
I have recently undergone a transformation. It began suddenly, but has been evolving over the past year.
My transformation began when I suddenly found myself to be a single mother. I had always been a meek, mild, girl who was dependant on her husband.
I had to become a strong, bold woman who was dependant upon herself.
Over the past year, the sudden change (HUGE change) in my life has completely changed who I am and what I believe in.
While this was a huge transformation for me, I think this large transformation is the first step to many mini-transformations for me. I am no longer afraid of change or making my own decisions based on what is best for me and my child, not on what someone else wants me to do.
Because of that, I can see myself going through more transformations in the future, and I look forward to it. :)
P.S. I am a new reader to your blog - and enjoy it muchly! Thank you!
This is interesting, thank you both for sharing these personal thoughts. I think you are right Graeme, human stories have a powerful impact.
The transformative moments in my life that tend to come to mind first were the result of some traumatic event, like loosing a job or a close relationship, but those are obvious I think. I can think of some that were small events but stick with me years and decades later.
Back in the early eighties, during a job interview I was asked "Where do you want to be in five years?" to which I replied “In my own design studio, working with computer graphics.” I hate that question. Of course I didn’t get the job and found employment elsewhere and forgot all about that interview.
A few years later, I suddenly remembered that interview and my response to that particular question. I was working on a design project in the office of my design studio - just a few blocks away from that where that interview occurred - on my brand new Macintosh computer. Somehow, I had managed to fulfill my answer to that question, and within five years!
It’s hard to describe that moment but it was definitely transformative. Somehow this goal had always been in the back of my subconscious mind and had been manifesting itself slowly step by step, until there I sat doing the thing I had dreamed of doing five years. I had made no conscious effort towards that goal. There was no step-by-step, logical progression towards it’s actualization on my part.
Sometimes goals take time and subtle paths to manifest into reality. They don’t have to be fully formed or detailed concepts, as long as they are a strong and positive ideas to begin with the chances are good that one day you will find that you have been working towards making them real all along - sometimes without even knowing it.
I still hate that question though.
My transformation moment came about 5 years ago when I got a job offer from a US software company, I was in India back then.
I still remeber I had little interest in that interview as I had a good consulting practice going on in India. And to add to that the inteview was on Jan 14th, thats kite flying day in India, my child hood passion.
Anyway the prospect of coming to the US really had me open my mind to endless possibilities. I am happy today I made that decision. After 5 years I still remember vividly that day when I accepted the offer. I started thinking on a different plane the next day.
I think external stimulus forces tranformations in you in most cases. It is increasingly more difficult to initiate a transformation by yourself. I also believe as Dave Mohrman says that transformations brew in you and look for a stimulus to erupt.
I love this thought -- that transformations brew and need to be triggered somehow.
What starts them brewing?
My wife (Danish) and I (American) were on our annual February sojourn from Britain to Antigua to get a dose of much-needed sun.
As we lay nude on the beach, I said, "Why don't we live where there is more light?".
After debating options, in September, we came to explore the Southwest coast of France. We found an apartment close to the sea and rented it on the spot.
By November our UK house was sold and we celebrated my 50th birthday in our new place in France.
Two years later I can say all this transformed my life.
We are surrounded by natural beauty (ocean, bay, mountains, farm land, etc) and lovely people (each morning walking my dogs I wave or say hello to an average of 9 people).
My wife and I decided together, every step of the way. No one thought we were crazy (most already knew we were!).
We haven't looked back...
I continued your discussion on my site. In a conversation with a contractor today, he and I agreed on the following:
*To get more transformation opportunities, more landmines/seeds must be placed. But it will always fall on people to do the heavy lifting on the change itself.
*Opening up people's eyes to be aware/ready for landmines seems to be the goal. When all you have is a hammer...
So, people looking to bring about more transformations might consider ways to "seed" the opportunities for transformation (think Outward Bound trying to help people become leaders by scripting leadership opportunities), and these same people might consider ways to open their target audience's eyes/heads/thoughts to be ready to accept such changes.
Here's more from Chris's blog that I think is very relevant:
"I'm not sure what others will tell Dave about his question, but my opinion is that these [personal transformations] all happened from within. In almost all cases, external stimulii didn't/wouldn't have been powerful enough to have moved me forward.
But the seeds were sometimes sown by things around me. I wouldn't have picked the weight loss method I used had a friend not successfully used this method first. I wouldn't have moved myself to tackle my self-esteem issues had I not received a near-ultimatum from my wife.
So maybe, in the final analysis, what COULD be useful is to find ways to seed the path."
Very interesting question, Dave. I found myself mulling this conversation over all week, and just stopped what I was doing to comment. Ha, there's an example of thought-brewing for ya...
Like some of you touched on, for me significant transformations come from the moment that slowness (contemplation and observation) and speed (the singular moment when the floor drops out from my current perception) collide in a burst of clarity when I'm not paying attention.
I can happily go in one direction for a long time, but then one day I'll feel a tickle in the back of my mind of something else, and change begins. I think the moment when I start to investigate just what exactly the thought is, I also become more open to similar elements in the world around me.
It's like when you learn a new word and suddenly start to hear it used all around you. It's always been buzzing about, but gone unnoticed until your awareness was piqued.
Often it's not until this external influence comes crashing in that I make a decision that seems to take my life 90 degrees from where I am.
But when I do I often discover that there's not really such a big distance between the current and the new, but rather it's the 'big-toe-in-the-pool' step in a new direction that begins to snowball of it's own accord in wonderful ways.
Maybe it's also our perception of how much is needed to make the seed grow that contributes to the frequency of change?
Transformation is something that must build from within. You cannot change core beliefs and perceptions from out of nowhere. Instead you must have a slow build up of potential, that is all released at once.
The trigger could be very small, if the potential is practically ready to burst, like realizing a relationship is over after arguing about where to eat that night. Or the trigger could be something momentous, like the death of a friend or a personal injury. Or it could just be a moment of quiet contemplation that finally allows you to accept something you've known for a long time.
A few personal transformative moments that stood out off the top of my head:
5:30am one morning, realizing I only had 40 minutes left to try to fall asleep before getting the kids up and ready for their day, and completely losing it emmotionally.
Driving to work, listening to Les Miserables, and being hit by a sledgehammer with understanding the sacrifices my grandfather made for us. I arrived at work crying.
Having an arguement over history with a friend, and realizing that if he would insist on believing something so completely contrary to proven fact, we could no longer be friends. Nor were we ever.
Waking up one morning knowing that my father won't stop smoking because he wants it to kill him. Before he gets alzheimers, like his mother.
There are many others, but they're a bit too personal to post here.
These things are emmotional. They're not based on logic or fact, they are an acceptance of an emmotional truth. Facts can build the potential for change, but only emmotional acceptance can lead to true transformation.
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