When we talk of change, particularly self-change, we need to consider an important distinction.
Let’s consider what happened when I began to learn Japanese. Clearly I brought about changes in my life. For starters I have a better understanding of the language, and as a side benefit, much of the 2300 kanji I learned (which derives from Chinese characters) means I can sometimes make sense of Chinese signs and menu items. Clearly a plus. My memory has improved, particularly in use of mnemonics which I relied heavily on to make sense of the kanji characters. Additionally I have a greater appreciation for the differences in languages and how they can reflect the mindset of their respective cultures. I could list more, but this is enough to make my point: learning Japanese has benefited my life in many ways beyond simply learning a new language.
However, as great as the changes were, they were not fundamental changes to the core of my Being. I have taken what was already there and made it better. Self-improvement, pure and simple, and it is the basis of what we refer to as Work in this collective. It is though this work that we strive to enhance our strengths, hone our skills and available resources, and challenge our perceived limits and comfort zones with the intent to evolve or transform ourselves.
But this alludes to another change. Something more profound, where there is a fundamental change to our very being. This is a transformative change, where there is suddenly access to greater sophistication and complexity in our very Being. We refer to this change as Personal Evolution. Through Personal Evolution, we unlock new potential and abilities that were either not there or inaccessible before. There is more “You” than you had previously… you have Transformed, or a more evolved form of youself has Come into Being.
Obviously while both self-improving and transformative changes are significant to our personal growth, there is a certain allure to this idea of becoming something more than we were. But unlike the change through self-improvement, transformative change occurs on a much deeper level and cannot be consciously forced or controlled. It happens on its own timescale, and in its own way. So how, then, do we bring about our Personal Evolution??
Here lies the secret… the act of engaging in our Work (self-improvement) helps to create the situations and internal tensions/environment where transformative change can take place.
Thus we focus on our Work, reaping the rewards of self-improvement, always striving to maintain our focus so that transformative change can come about and we can further our Personal Evolution. It is the bigger picture to what we seek to accomplish.
Furthering Transformative Change
While the nature of our Work will vary with the individual, there are certain characteristics that make it conducive to furthering our Personal Evolution.
- Constancy. The Work we do to improve ourselves typically is long-term. It is something we need to stick with, and resonates well with the idea of Mastery. It is less about reaching a fixed objective than it is the development of lasting habits through continued, deliberate practice.
- Intentionality. The Work we do is done consciously, with intention. We have a reason for making this effort, and objectives we strive for.
- Challenging. To bring about change, we must push past limits, perceived or otherwise and challenge our comfort zone. It is outside the security blanket of our comfort zone and familiar patterns that transformation lies.
- Realistic. We need to know and accept present limitations and what resources (internally and externally) we have to work with. This is not to say we can’t strive to surmount such restrictions (which are often merely perceived limitation with no true foundation) but that we must work within the context of our current reality. We each have our own genetic baselines for example which we cannot change, and so must recognize and accept such things in order to find ways to move beyond them. Additionally we can only address our failures and weak areas when we are willing to accept their existence.
Hone The Skills That Will Further Your Work
This website is all about exploring skills which will further your efforts in self-change. Each skill is valuable on its own, but when applied toward specific objectives they become potent tools in the furtherance of your Work.
As you develop various skills, find practical ways to apply them to your everyday life. This will further enforce them and make those skills more readily accessible when you need them most.
I am reminded of something my Sensei shared with me in dojo. “The best you will be in a real-word fight is the worst you are in class.” The reason for this is that in class, I am calm, focused and ready to practice, working with people I trust and who are trained in proper and safe technique. I know what to expect.
In a real-world fight however, I may not be ready and willing to fight. I may not know my opponents and they certainly don’t have my well-being in mind or any plans of following with expected or proper technique. My system will be flooded with adrenaline making it difficult to be calm, and narrowing my field of vision. I won’t have the luxury of thinking through my moves and asking for a time out or re-do. Ultimately I will have to rely on whatever techniques in my training have become habit.
This is why it is important to be proactive in your life and develop the skills you feel you need to deal with the various challenges you will face in life. The more accessible those skills are at the worst of times, the better equipt we will be to respond effectively.
Cultivate curiosity and a desire to learn. Ask questions and seek out answers. Watch TED talks and documentaries.
Recognizing Transformative Change
Given the allusive nature of transformative change, how then do we recognize it when it happens?
Generally, such fundamental changes will leave a telltale footprint which may not seem so welcoming at first glance. Things start to break. The patterns and systems we have been relying on (consciously or not) suddenly seem to break or not work as expected. There is this sense of dissonance. It is as if the universe itself is responding differently to us.
The reason for this chaos is simple. Those patterns were designed for the old you. Who you have Become no longer fits neatly into those systems and they will need to be adapted or scrapped completely. The more you try to cling to those outdated patterns, the more discord you will experience in your life. Like a snake who feels the pressure of its growth and must shed its skin, so too must we break out of the shell of our former selves to remanifest ourselves.
This reorientation or remanifestation can be a slow process, and working with mindfulness techniques will be of great value in coming to realize what aspects in your lifestyle and mindset need to be adjusted/reoriented to better resonate with who you have Become.
You may also find that your Work may need to be reoriented or refocused both to cultivate these changes, and to tap into new or greater potential that is the result of your Personal Evolution.