Transformational Guiding and Personal Transformation
What does personal transformation really mean?
When deep into personal growth work, we quite often view a heart-opening, inspiring breakthrough moment as a heralded transformation – that AHA moment when the proverbial light bulb flashes on, when the hair on the back of our neck stands up, when we get goosebumps and chills.
Perhaps tears of understanding and release are shed or a much needed, heartfelt connection occurs. These moments often do feel as though everything has changed. We certainly have gained a new perspective. Yet how long before the snap back (Maxwell Malts – Psycho-Cybernetics) takes place and we are back to our old ways?
These moments are not transformational in and of themselves but rather peak experiences. In fact, you could consider them peek experiences (Ken Wilbur – Ken Wilber in Dialogue) that provide glimpses and glimmers of profound insight. In contrast, true transformation lies in the consistent and difficult work of putting into action or incorporating the newfound understanding into our life.
Systems theory informs us that true change occurs during that powerful bifurcation moment when the system has reached its max in energy and disequilibrium, and there is no other option than to brilliantly transform into a new rendition of itself.
A disservice to our clients and students
Holding this in mind, it is clear that in many ways we’ve done our clients and students a disservice by adhering to the notion that the peak/peek is the transformation. These moments are but sprouts of transformation – they are deeply important and vital, yet still only sprouts.
So often we look outside ourselves to experience transformation, expecting a quick fix to whatever ails us. In actual fact, transformation is an inside job. It takes work, lots of it. Anyone or anything that seems transformational to us has actually only helped us make our own needed connections. Or they have energized our system in a way that helps us experience a new perspective from which to view our life.
True transformation occurs when we integrate the enlightenment into our life’s path, using the inspiration gleaned to remain motivated and focused upon the realization of our goals.
The neuroscience of transformation
For both our internal experience of ourselves and our environment (beliefs, patterns, behaviors, reactions, etc. – our mind) to change, our brains must also transform. We may become confused and believe that transformational change is this magical, nebulous, unknowable occurrence. Really, it’s not.
Consider even spiritual, shamanic, and energetic methods for mental healing and personal growth – regardless of the dimension, the external input is sending undeniable signals to our brain. Again, these signals are but the seeds of change. Occasionally, the seed may be implanted so strongly that there is no question but that it will come into full bloom, yet our brain still must change in order for us to transform.
We may, for example, have a predisposition towards impulsivity, yet still want to become more patient and mindful in our decision making. The fact that we feel impulsive and that we act impulsively are two different things. The action of impulsivity is the result of our brain wiring itself in a certain way, most likely due to the signals released by our genes as we interact with the environment.
At some point, we become aware that the pattern of circuitry (which dictates our behavior) is no longer serving us. So we decide to change it. What exactly are we hoping to change?
Changing the brain circuitry
Every time the brain circuitry gets activated (whether intentionally or unintentionally), in order to change it, we must redirect the flow of energy to a different neural pathway. We must keep doing this until the new desired circuitry becomes stronger than the old one. This is what transformation is all about.
Essentially, we are continually enacting a new program that will eventually become second nature and work its way back to the source of the previously undesired pattern.
One spring, my family and I were camped in a beautiful Utah canyon. My kids were playing in the creek, taking cups of water and pouring them over a dirt pile. As they poured the water, it began to form a trench that grew deeper and deeper, much like the canyon we were sitting in. One of them decided to dam the trench to see what would happen. As expected, the water backed up.
When the combination of dam and dirt reached the maximum volume of water it could contain, the water spilled over both sides of the trench and over the top of the dam. After a few more cups, the water began to form new channels around the dam. Then one of my boys abruptly decided to remove the dam.
Even though new channels had formed, most of the water continued to flow in the original channel. A few cups of water later, the newly formed channels became obsolete. The water was running down the original channel again, causing it to grow progressively deeper.
The seed of change
In coaching and guiding work, our clients often come to us because the original channel, so to speak, needs to change. That knowing is the seed of change – it is the moment when the person has entered into a deeper state of self-awareness and contemplation.
Perhaps the program you work for provides opportunities for increased self-awareness. Through the events and activities that occur, the seed of change is born. The choice to act upon the change and seek support is the planting of the seed.
Harness the motivation
If our intent is to change the original channel such that the water (energy) flows consistently in a new direction, then we must encourage our personal transformation clients to harness the motivation that occurs during inspiring peak moments and nurture it until the change truly takes hold, carving indelible and breathtaking new canyons (neural pathways).
How can transformational change occur?
Two critical components must be present for transformational change to occur,
- A first moment of inspiration or enlightenment when we both understand who we are and recognize our true potential. And
- The long-term, integrative application of that change.
Draw on our coaching skills and the natural world
As Transformational Wilderness Guides and Nature-Connected Coaches, we draw on the skills of Professional Coaching and the powerful reflective experience the natural world provides to help our clients find inspiration and enlightenment, and then integrate those gleanings into their lives.