Transformation Ain't Sexy
“Her steps are blue.”
This is one of the things my friend says when she is trying to tell someone about me. It’s a from a time where I mentioned one day that I wished my steps to the basement were blue rather than brown. I had just been talking about all of the things I needed to get done and then I added in “and these brown steps are making me crazy! I wish they were blue!!!”
Two days later my friend came over and I had painted to steps. She tells this story because I’m one of those instant gratification kinds of gals. I want to see it NOW. I’m a Ready Fire Aim person.
Put another way, my husband likes to say, “You’re not a very good waiter. You don’t like to wait.” I want to see results right away. I don’t have time to wait! Let’s do this thing NOW!
Are you like this? Are you impatient and want to see change happen immediately?
But more often than not, things don’t’ change that fast. Transformation takes time. We can’t simply buy a can of paint and make everything in our life look exactly the way we want it to look.
Transformation requires us to navigate the tension between knowing the results you want to see immediately and the inevitable waiting that must happen as Live our Life on Purpose.
Years ago, I wrote a piece for a local paper in Asheville North Carolina about my three favorite items. They were paint, mulch, and Rubbermaid storage bins. These things are still my favs. Why? Because they can cover up or hide a lot and give you instant gratification. Think about it, no more scuff marks, cover up that bare earth or weeds and you can hide that junk you’re just not sure what to do with.
But in most areas of your life, instant can’t happen? That doesn’t keep me from trying.
This summer, I started using arm weights in the pool a few days a week and I would ask Mark, Am I buffed yet? A few days of restricting carbs and I want to have gone down a pant size. Send out 2 emails about my new coaching program and I want all of the spaces to be filled.
But things don’t work that way.
Change—true transformation—takes time and patience. To be successful with this we have to navigate the tension between where we are and where we want to be.
What do I mean by navigating the tension? I’ve talked about this before. In this case, it’s living in and appreciating that sweet spot between seeing what is (or rather, not seeing anything change) and knowing . . . no, trusting . . . that things will change. You hold the vision of how you want it to be.
This is hard. It’s literally visualizing what you want, without seeing any evidence that change is happening. That’s the natural course of how most things change.
You don’t see a tree grow; you just notice it’s bigger.
Now that we’re on computer and not typing on real paper, you can’t see the volume of what you’ve written, you have to trust there are thousands of words on your hard drive.
You don’t see huge amounts so money accumulating as compound interest occurs. You just have to trust that it’s all adding up.
You don’t see pounds drop, or people who like what they are hearing on your podcast, or the positive impact you’re making on your supervisor as they consider you for a promotion, or your cortisol levels decrease from 10 minutes of daily meditation or how long your car will last as you make certain to do regular maintenance.
We don’t see the results of the majority of our actions.
We also can’t see the negative impacts either. So, we eat fast food a few days, we can’t see what that does to our cholesterol levels. We buy a few unnecessary items we don’t’ need, we can’t see what it could have done for us had we saved that money instead. So, we don’t market out product, keep our commitments to write daily, put ourselves out there to date. We don’t see the negative or the absence of change either.
It is the slow speed of change which is often at the root of NOT living on purpose. It is this lack of visible transformation that keeps us living by default. It’s what keeps us doing the same behavior over and over and over until one day we wake up and Crap . . .look where I am. Or rather, look where I’m not.
This is crux of what Living On Purpose is. It’s about deliberately deciding what you want and making daily choices that move you in that directed DESPITE the lack of evidence your efforts are working.!
The butterfly is often the symbol of transformation and it’s a good one. They begin as a caterpillar and then naturally emerge as a butterfly. We love this metaphor. But the change happens in the cocoon which we don’t see.
The change is invisible to us. The outcome is the big finale, the big finish, but the real work is the daily cellular shifts that happen with in the cocoon.
Same with us. Transformation is, more times than not, invisible.
Well, if this is true, what are we going to do about that? I’ve got 5 things for you to consider. Things for you to chew on as you consider your own transformation.
First, lasting transformation happens in small steps. The caterpillar can’t decide that, ‘You know, I got things to do . . . I’m just going to fast forward to the butterfly part.
You can’t skip the part where the change actually happens. So, as we choose those actions, more times than not, we’ve got to start small. You can’t run the marathon the first day you put on the tennis shoes. You can’t transform the culture of your business the first day of your staff retreat. You don’t find the love of your life the day you go on Match. You can’t declutter a lifetime of accumulation in a weekend. You can’t change careers, get fit, save a million dollars, find a new tribe, in a day.
These things take time. We have to watch out for the desire to jump all in and force (or try to force these things to happen overnight). Rather our focus must start out much smaller and way less sexy.
We love the transformation story., But life isn’t like American Idol where an unknown becomes an overnight sensation. That’s not reality. It’s more like what Cher said, “It take years to become an overnight success.”
So we start small, rather safe, mundane and manageable.
Therefore, we have to measure behavior, not outcomes.
Most things we want are not as simple as buying a can of paint or covering things up with mulch. Things are a bit more complex. The more important they are, these shifts are even more elusive. Seeing the immediate results of our actions just isn’t realistic.
Rather than looking for the change to happen, we have to look at our behaviors that will lead to the outcome we want. These we can see.
When tacking a ship, that is turning it in a new direction, the ship’s wheel must be turned many times before you actually see the vessel begin to move. It’s takes a lot of effort and action before the ship actually changes direction. The captain must trust that the message from the helm of the boat is reaching the rudder underneath the ship to begin to steer it in a new direction. In this case, the captain can see the wheel turning and know that they are doing what needs to be done to have the outcome they want. They know and trust this even when the boat seems to be not moving at all. And the bigger the ship, the slower this tacking may take.
So, what do you measure? You can measure your time with your butt in the chair writing or the number of words on the page. You can measure, the number of miles walked, the number of emails sent, the number of days without alcohol or sugar, the number of rooms cleaned, etc.
Essentially, you measure time and actions not outcomes.
I’ve found this to be a crucial step to living on purpose. Without evidence, we human stay put. We peter out. We stay on default mode. This decreases the chances that our mood can hijack us. Which is the 3rd thing for you to consider. Mood.
As much as we can, we want to lead our life, make decisions with our highest and wisest self driving the bus. We are careful to not let our mood assert itself into the driver’s seat. Our moods are what can take us off course. And our moods can sound very reasonable and adult like. Moods are resistance dressed up in fancy clothes to distract us. Resistance is inevitable when you are Living On Purpose. Why? Because there is a part of each of us who wants things to stay the same. While change is inevitable, we crave certainty and there is nothing more uncertain then going a new, untraveled path. So, resistance shows up, often dressed up as a something rather benign like, “I’m just not in the mood today to go exercise, I’ll go tomorrow.” “I’m not in the mood to cook, let’s just order out.” I’m not in the mood to work on the marketing of my business. I’m not in the mood to talk to my staff, clear out the clutter, write those thank you notes, deal with my finances.
This is okay once in a while, but understand, this is how we resist change. One mood at a time. In truth, I’d probably never be in the mood to do a lot of the very things that are required for me to have the life I want. So, I have to override my moods some days and do “the thing” anyway.
This leads to another tip or strategy for transforming. Tracking. Pen to paper. Old school. I’ve already mentioned that we can’t see the results of actions immediately, that we have to be thoughtful about measure behaviors rather than outcomes. We’ve got to hold the tension between doing what is required to have the results we want AND not seeing the payoff. What do we do? We track.
We quite literally keep a log, write down our actions, collect data in a way to track our behavior. Let me give you a few examples from my own life. I draw out little square at the beginning of the year, each representing $100 toward a trip Mark and I want to take to Europe in 2023. I’ve made a commitment for a certain number of squares to be colored in each month. I see the small deposit is accumulating for something that is not going to happen for quite some time.
I do the same thing with amount of time I show up to write. I capture the time because the output is hard to see. When I’m on the top of my game, I track my food so I can look back and see that I made good choices despite my physical body still looking the same. I track number of business calls made, not the number of people who hire me. I track my behavior not my outcome. I track it literally on paper.
It kind of goes back the potty charts when we were a kids. It’s quite gratifying. But more than that, this keeps us fired up and motivated. There is nothing more depleting then looking for results and not seeing any. And often the results are completely out of our control. But our behavior is not. So, tracking keeps us fired up and honest. I did X for Y reasons which I trust is leading me to Z.
Saying what we want is not enough. It’s how we start but we humans gravitate back to the way things have always been. The transformation we want happens in the micro, like the cells of the caterpillar. If we want to emerge as a butterfly, we have to patiently do the work, setting ourselves up to beautifully emerge!
So, we tack, we track, and we trust.