“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin
I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard someone distinguish the difference between change and transformation. The two words are often used interchangeably but are really two different things. In further exploring and formulating a model for change and transformation it’s become clear that the not knowing the difference could mean the difference between failure to long-lasting change.
When I started to work on a simplified model (simplified not simple) for understanding change, I was quick to point out the huge difference between change and transformation. This is easily several chapters for my book but I’ll break it down. Change is when we want a single aspect of our life to be different. Example, I want to be thinner! If I want to be thinner I focus change on that one area (my body) and eat and exercise to support weight loss. Simply stated, if I want to be thinner I need to eat and exercise to lose weight. And we all know how simple that is! That’s why we all look so good! Obviously, I’m being sarcastic. For some people focus on diet and exercise may work. That is the only thing they need to focus on to be successful. For the mass majority of people who suffer from weight issues, it’s not so simple.
Successful weight-loss for most of us requires transformation. Transformation is when we want a single aspect of our lives to be different but it is necessary to focus change on multiple areas in our lives to support our goal. If I want to be thinner I need to not only focus on diet and exercise, but on my emotions that make me want to overeat, my relationship to people and my environment, my job, every person, place, or thing that affects my physical health. Transformation requires that we inventory and manage change in numerous areas of our lives to support long-term success toward the goal. Transformation happens and we achieve long-term physical health, and when you are able to say to yourself, “I can’t believe I use to live such an unhealthy lifestyle.”
Transformation is easy. It’s complex! …but it’s easy. Transformation requires leverage. When we begin to change many areas of our life to support change in one area we begin to make progress on multiple levels. We release the blocks that kept us from getting what we want. Transformation requires support and accountability from others to help us keep an inventory of our “wins.” Transformation is a slower process, so if you’re looking to get rich quick or get “rock hard abs in 30 days then this is not for you… unfortunately if change worked for you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
Change is difficult. Change is often an oversimplified strategy for getting what we want. Back to our weight loss example… If I only focus on diet and exercise I will lose weight. But long-term weight loss may not be possible if I engage in temporary behavior to lose the weight. Maybe, I don’t go out with friends because my meal plan doesn’t allow me to eat out. It’s possible that once we reach our goals and return to our “normal” routine, we begin to gain weight again.
The quick fix and failure of change strategies that don’t work cause us to give up on what we want. You start to believe that there is something wrong with you! You start to believe that somehow you are worse off than others and that you must be a hopeless case. This is not true! Maybe you’re afraid to try again. You don’t want to be disappointed. You don’t want to get your hopes up. The fear of failure causes us to fear change. You settle into a comfortable level of erosion that slowly hurts your confidence, worth, and esteem. There is nothing more devastating than awareness of the acceptance of a life you don’t love. But there is hope. You tried to change and you held on to your strategy and it worked till it stopped working… transformation may be your only hope.
On a fundamental level, I strongly believe that change is holding on tight to the way things are. If only this one thing would be different then everything would be better. Transformation is choosing to let go. If I work toward making things better and letting go of those things that hold me back, then I’ll change. Transformation requires we let go of people, places, things, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etc., that keep us from reaching our fullest potential; in doing so we become who we want to be.
Transformation is flexible and adaptive to a strategy that is not working. When we are committed to transformation there is no right or wrong only honest appraisal of what works and what doesn’t and the flexibility and willingness to adapt and to keep pushing toward your goals. Time is not part of the equation. There is no milestone to indicate failure or success only a daily pursuit of joy in the journey. When we practice letting go, we move toward transformation, the fear of change dissipates and we feel the joy of transformation.