There’s no such thing as personal transformation.

We’re drowning in advice about personal transformation; books, articles, speeches, and blogs chock-full of how-to’s and sage advice. In my earlier years, I ate it all up. I thought I needed to transform myself into who I wanted to be.

Today, after a couple decades of what others might call a mid-life personal transformation — changing my appearance, my career, my country of residence — I now realize that I didn’t transform at all.

I’d simply (finally!) taken off the mask, and then my outer world easily evolved to match my insides.

THE TRUTH IS, WE NEVER REALLY CHANGE

This may be an unwelcome truth, but here goes: we never really change. Just as a dog can’t change into a lion, or a mountain goat into an eagle, we can’t escape our realities. Here I am, like it or not.

We are our truest selves when we’re kids. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you stayed true to that identity as you grew up. But a lot of us — bewildered, believing we weren’t OK as we were, or sensing that we’d get more love if we showed up differently — donned masks to fit in.

Reassuring masks that helped other people feel more comfortable with us.

Constraining masks that squeezed us into boxy jobs designed for specific outputs, not for complex humans.

I kept wondering why I wasn’t content… why things just didn’t work the way I wanted, or why I couldn’t force myself to do the things I thought I should do. Perhaps Mindset 101 was simply too hard for me. 

I was driven by the idea of personal transformation, which implies that there’s some magical process that could turn me into the person I wanted to be but wasn’t currently. I sought to eliminate the gap between me and my mask by changing myself to better fit into it… instead of simply taking it off.

I didn’t know that I was yearning to be mask-free — no wait, that’s not enough — to be seen and heard and appreciated for what was underneath the mask. Sound familiar?

Dazzled by too many options

As a coach for “rebels with a cause” —  gifted outliers who are dazzled by too many possibilities — I’ve seen how capable we are. We’re quick learners, and it’s alluring to believe we can transform to be someone we’re not. Or that we can fit into snazzy-sounding jobs that really don’t suit us. Or that we can maintain relationships by being what they want us to be.

I can make this work, dammit. This was my refrain for too many years… until finally I accepted that I couldn’t be anything or anyone I wanted. I could only be myself. And the moment I reached this acceptance, everything changed for the better.

Transition, not transformation

Today I think of it more of a transition than a transformation: the same human transitioning into ever-more authentic levels, stepping into their own brilliant truths, making new choices that are more deeply aligned with our passions, strengths and limitations.

The butterfly is already encoded in the caterpillar’s DNA. It transitions; it doesn’t become something entirely different. Its true nature is — and always has been — to fly.

The process starts by seeing and hearing and appreciating ourselves for who we are: no but’s, should’s, self-criticism or judgment. It is enormously liberating to say, I love how unique I am. I don’t need no stinkin’ mask. I don’t need to fit into a box that someone else defined for me.

And I damned sure don’t need personal transformation.

When we finally step into our truth that we’d forgotten, we see all the ways that change truly is needed: not within ourselves as we used to believe, but in our outer worlds and lived experiences that we’d chosen to fit someone else.

The people who have only known your mask will believe you’ve transformed, but you’ll know you haven’t; you’ve simply accepted your true nature… and your wings.

Inviting others, but going alone

We can invite loved ones and friends to get to know us all over again: to set aside what they think they know about us, and enter into truer, deeper relationships. Some of them will, gladly, deeply grateful for the opportunity to know the real you and be known in return.

Others — the ones who love your mask — may be quite upset by this process. They may accuse you of abandoning them, of changing in ways that they can’t track. Eventually you may need to leave them behind, knowing that they’d be happier with someone who is genuinely the person you only appeared to be.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine a thriving, authentic life that fits you like a custom-made suit when that’s never been your experience.

But a lack of imagination doesn’t mean it’s not possible. And you don’t have to make any hard decisions right now. This whole process can be much easier than you might think; when we stop fighting against the current and simply fall into the flow of what is, embracing what’s true, magic happens.

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PPS: I coach rebels through transitions – within themselves, their personal lives, their careers, or even taking their businesses to the next level. I’d be happy to chat with you if you need a sounding board; you can book a no-obligation call here.

Seeing clearly: three life lessons from a lost pair of glasses

I lost my eyeglasses last weekend while hiking in the mountains: snazzy designer glasses that I’d worn for years, but were admittedly less than perfect. They were constantly sliding down my nose unless I kept tightening the arms; the lenses were scuffed from being dropped too many times; one of the lenses was cut for an astigmatism that had miraculously cured itself a few years back. 

Bottom line, I was long overdue for new glasses, but must have been in denial. It seemed like an unnecessary and pricey expenditure while I was in the midst of personal reinvention. They were fine… like worn and comfy jeans, quirky and imperfect and familiar. 

Fast forward to today: I’m wearing new glasses that actually fit my face. And they’re clear! Holy cow, I had no idea the world was this crisp and clean and beautiful.

These new glasses got me thinking about all the ways we don’t see things clearly, and how we can improve that state of affairs when it comes to transitions and transformations. 

What we refuse to see

For decades, I refused to see and embrace the truth of who I was: that as a gay, neurodiverse and gifted adult, I would never fit into mainstream society. It was unsurprising that my eye developed an astigmatism, getting warped out of shape and blurring my vision. It was also unsurprising when my astigmatism (and my gut issues) later vanished once I decided to love my quirks instead of hide them.

We can never effectively work within a reality we refuse to see. Seeing clearly starts with embracing our uniqueness, and then intentionally designing our lives and work to fit who we really are.  

Questions: What do you not want to admit to yourself? Without any judgment, complete this sentence: “I am ____, and I’m good with that.” Given this truth, what wants to change in your life or work? 

What’s hard to see (where’s Waldo?) 

We rebels can be dazzled by too many possibilities. Our brains take in more information than the average person, and we’re usually fast learners. And that means we have a hard time prioritizing options and taking off the table anything that’s not a Hell Yes

If the authentic path forward isn’t clear amidst the clutter, our old and familiar way of seeing — overanalyzing and wheel-spinning — doesn’t cut it.  

When federal agents are looking for a handful of counterfeit bills out of thousands, they don’t rely on their eyes; they simply pull out a blacklight and look for the florescent symbols that are printed on authentic bills. The human version of a blacklight is our gut-level wisdom, which can easily detect our true priorities.  

QuestionsWhat does your gut say? Which option feels expansive, uplifting… like a Hell Yes?  

What we can’t see

“I have no idea if I might like that line of work,” is a common refrain from the people I coach through transitions. In the absence of direct knowledge, it’s way too easy to simply sit with the question mark, waiting for an answer to appear out of thin air, or just playing around the edges of the known world. 

It would be super nice to see a clear path forward: to have the equivalent of a map or GPS system for life. But in the absence of psychic powers, our only choice is to take a small action and see what happens.  

Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark (yes, I’m totally dating myself) when Indiana Jones steps off a ledge into thin air… and onto a walkway that only revealed itself after he took the step? 

Our eyes can deceive us. Stepping into the void requires not only courage, but also conviction and faith. We have to go through the previous two stages — accepting what is, and listening to our guts — to know the treasure we’re seeking. And then, in experimentation, fumbling forward in the darkness, the path appears… an inner vision is activated… the right people and opportunities show up.

Questions: Thinking about a possible life direction that feels like a YES, what is one baby step you can take to explore that option? Who’s knowledgeable in that space that you can speak with? 


Ok, that’s a lot of insight from a lost pair of glasses! Did you glean anything new from this deep dive into clarity and sight? Feel free to leave a comment; I love hearing from you.  

PS. I only have one coaching spot left in 2020. If you’re feeling the need for transition or transformation but can’t see the path clearly, let’s talk. You can access my calendar here. 

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Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Have you embraced your true nature?

Sometimes I get depressed and anxious, regardless of pandemics or nail-biting elections. I start sinking into heaviness, retreating to my bedroom where I re-read old favorites or binge-watch shows on Amazon Prime. 

I know myself well enough by now that this pattern is a signal: a red flag waved by my fiercely freedom-loving self that I haven’t been living in accordance with my true nature. 

If I were an animal, I’d be a bird: a hawk or a falcon soaring high above the earth, wings outstretched. I have an innate restlessness, a compulsion to explore. When I don’t nurture this side of me, life loses its zest. I feel trapped. Earthbound. 

Of course, pandemics and nail-biting elections magnify these downer feelings, which is why I spontaneously rented a car on Sunday and escaped to the wild Kazbegi region on the border of Georgia and Russia for a couple days. 

Monday found me hiking along a stream briskly tumbling down from snow-capped mountains. The weather’s perched on the crisp edge of winter this time of year, sunny with a bit of a chill. Sure, the lush flora and fauna of summer are gone, but this is my happy place. Marinating in the silence of this valley among the peaks, camera in hand, my heart was full almost to the point of tears. 

Depression vanished, displaced by deep gratitude to myself for feeding my true nature… for not suppressing this very real need as “impractical”… for refusing to continue living someone else’s life. My inner bird whispers thank you… thank you. 

After my hike, I drove back to the lux Rooms Hotel for a swim, then a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the mountains (with COVID safety precautions, of course!). These two days are my reward for rapidly approaching my max client capacity for the year.

I’m here to testify that when we do what we love — when we’re in the flow, powered by an alignment with our core truth — we’ll be taken care of. I have found my security within my freedom, not in spite of it. 

If you were an animal, what would you be? Are you truly living in accordance with your true nature? What is yearning to be acknowledged and nurtured within you? How can you intentionally design your life and career to celebrate (not suppress) the truth of who you are? 

Authentically yours, Jen

PS. I have only one coaching spot left in 2020. If you’d like some help in exploring these questions, I’d be happy to chat with you about it, no strings attached.  Book a call with me here.