A Simple Model for Transformation

When we want to change, grow, and develop, there are a couple of ways that we can get at it. I try so many different things, sticking with none, that I am all over the place and not finding any traction.

It helps to have a simple (but not easy) model. In just three steps:

  1. Self-Awareness: Notice our habitual patterns
  2. Self-Exploration: Digging into our fears, facing our shadow
  3. Self-Development: Embody a new way of being

1. Self-Awareness is where you realize a pattern of your behavior, and it starts the transformation process.

The patterns we notice are different for everyone, but one thing is for sure, we all have them. It’s part of being human!

The Enneagram is a great tool to develop Self-Awareness. We can also receive feedback from others about our patterns that we may not be able to see in ourselves.A meditation or contemplation practice is important to support self-awareness and transformation. Take time in silence, stillness, and solitude to observe ourselves to see how we are thinking, feeling, and acting.

2. In Self-Exploration, we take time to dig into the root causes of the patterns we have observed. This is not easy work, as we are exposing the shadow side of ourselves, which by definition is hard to see and hard to acknowledge.

In regards to our patterns, ask ourselves some questions. Why are they there? Where do they come from? Where else do they show up in your life. What benefit do they serve?

These patterns may have served you in the past. It could be what helped you be successful in your field of work, but now it is hindering you from becoming all that you can be. What does it cost you to hold on to this pattern?

Once we know the source of these patterns, and why they exist, we are more capable of letting go.

3. The Self-Development stage is where we embody a new way of being. We can still be aware of the old pattern, but it is not running the show.

For us to grab onto something new, we have to let go of the old. But there is a risk at stake in letting go. It can be difficult to move beyond our typical operating system. If it was easy, they wouldn’t still be showing up in your life. These patterns are defenses to keep us safe. What is at risk for you in letting them go.

We are not tossed around or going along for the ride and feeling seemingly out of control.

We can consciously choose how we are going to proceed. We walk in a new way, which might be with a limp!

A Recent Example from My Life

On a Saturday afternoon in Chicago, I was going to a concert with friends who flew in from out of town. I picked them up, went for Italian Beef sandwiches, and drove them closer to the field to meet up with other friends.

As I parked, I got the impression that “I’m doing something wrong.” But I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I didn’t know if it was the parking spot, or how long I could be there. I was about to get into trouble. I needed to prepare to find a way to get out of it. I needed to cover my arse.

After the mind-blowing concert, and quality time with my friends, and over the next couple of days, I have been able to dig into it and look for the root.

This pattern of “I’m doing something wrong” or “I’m doing it wrong” comes up in my work world. Like when I am handling a customer situation, and I have to talk to management about the conversation. I feel like I need to explain myself or justify my actions, so I don’t get into trouble. The customer situation may have resolved itself, but I still felt like I did it wrong.

Sometimes this can be immobilizing. Out of fear, I’m unsure of what I need to do or unable to do it, so I do nothing.

Other times, it leads to impulsiveness. A give it to me now attitude; it is mine. Thinking that I can do whatever I want and still avoid repercussions or consequences. I don’t have control over my actions and I am trying to avoid discipline.

As I thought about this pattern more deeply, and why I felt like “I have to cover my arse,” a memory of a traumatic experience from Year 7 came to mind. I got the cane, two lashes, from the High School Boys Master, Mr. Kidd, who was also my best friend’s dad.

When I asked about why I was getting the cane, it was just because I had it coming. It was not for something specific that I did wrong; it was that I was wrong. I was a loser and deserved punishment.

Crack! It hurt like hell. Crack!

My arse was bringing like fire. I couldn’t sit down in class, or on the bus ride home. People at school knew about it, so I made up jokes to make light of the situation. However, I couldn’t tell my parents, from fear of getting into more trouble.

An event that happened one afternoon thirty years ago is still having an impact on me today.

As I stepped into work on this issue, and re-write the story, I knew that I wanted to experience greater self-discipline, an ability to have control over myself.

I went after it and took the cane away. In fact, I turned it into a fucking Light Saber! I always wanted one, and now I have one, so I got that going for me, which is nice!

The risk I was taking in letting go of the old story was that I now had to be responsible for my actions.

With power comes responsibility, and I was on the hook for how I used it. I had the power, but I couldn’t use it to hurt people. I have power, but it comes with responsibility. I can’t just do whatever I want with it.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 12:48b

This experience was empowering. I can take action. It’s ok to be wrong and alright if things don’t turn out perfectly. I can own what’s mine to own and deal with the consequences as they arise. I don’t have to be always covering my arse.

Another Way to Think About Transformation

This three-step journey of transformation can also be seen as a descent before we can ascend. If we want to go up, we have to go down first. Down to the depths of ourselves, where it feels like we may never get out before we can be pulled out.

In the awesome book Change By Design by the legendary creative Tim Brown, he refers to this descent that typically happens in the creative process, as the Valley of Insight.

I love the phrase Valley of Insight. It reminds me that wisdom is found in the valley of adversity. And therefore, I need to be more willing to get there.

Healing comes when we embrace the hard and difficult parts of life.

Christ Model’s Transformation for Us

He went from the infinite expansiveness of heaven to be confined and vulnerable as a human being. Born in a manger, to a poor family.

Who, in being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11

Knowing that God identifies, in Jesus, with the suffering, pain, and hardships we face as humans is an immense comfort. When I tell him I was caned and I didn’t do anything wrong, he says, “yeah mate, me too.” But His suffering served a great purpose for us all.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
1 Peter 3:18

He descended into the grave, and ascended, to bring us with him.

Therefore it says, 
“When he ascended on high,
he led a host of captives, 
and he gave gifts to men.” 
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Ephesians 4:8-11

The One who went through it all is there with us, to bring us through it all.

By Luke Harris

From the exotic coastal shores of Australia, Luke now resides in the Midwest, which he lovingly describes as “the armpit of America.” He is on a mission to create environments for people to become fully alive by connecting deeply with others to promote growth and freedom. Both the Crucible Project and Prison Ministry have ignited a passion in him for seeing every life transformed in Christ. He writes on the internet at Seacliffs.com.

However, here is Luke’s preferred, edgier bio:
Is he who rides through the clouds,
on his faithful steed,
with a bow – to tie off its braids,
and arrows – like Cupid’s,
but with flames,
that doesn’t scorch or singe,
yet set ablaze the hearts of men,
to become fully alive.