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The Transformation Journey

What a week!
This week ushered in a new hope in politics, but elections, like transformations, are just a beginning. Today’s post talks about the 5 main phases of any successful, long-term transformation.

To get a complete picture of all of the phases of a transformation, I want you to visualize a road trip. Each phase will use different tools and strategies, to best continue on your journey, each with its own benefits and pitfalls.

The 5 Phases of Transformations

1. Motivation Stage 
During this stage, you’ve had a spark of inspiration.  That spark led to a different mindset, where you tell yourself “This time I’ll stick to the healthy eating” or, “I’ll finally be consistent with working out.”

But motivation is fickle, so this stage is also fickle.  The first time your motivation wanes, you have one of two options.  The first is what most people do, which is to simply go back to old habits. 

To keep with the road trip analogy, say you rent a car and are going to pick up a friend who’s going to go on this road trip with you, but on your way to their place, you start doubting the idea, “Can I actually drive this much?  Maybe I’ll just go back home now.”

That’s the motivation aspect of the Transformation Journey.  It’s fraught with self-doubts and self-indictments of whether the journey will be worth it, whether or not it’ll be fun, and often times you stop yourself from taking action, before you’ve fully committed to new actions.   

If you re-commit though, despite not being “motivated,” then you’ve entered the second phase, which is the Momentum phase. 

2. Momentum Stage
The momentum phase is where you’ve pushed past internal resistance, at least the initial one, and now you’re on your road trip.  Once you’re in the momentum phase, it’s more likely you’ll continue.  Whereas, with the Motivation stage,  internal resistance had had the largest risk to derail you, here in the Momentum stage, external factors are. 

Often times these external factors are the small annoying things, moreso than the large ones.  The large external factors often kill our hopes in the motivation phase (our doubts kill our dreams before we start), but here, it’s the small external things that derail you. 

Your “car” starts making a weird noise and instead of chancing it, you decide to turn around, return the car, and catch a flight back home. You get the common cold and that derails you for a week, which then turns into a year (or two).  Or, you get busy with work, skip the gym, and have pizza because you’ve worked so hard.

Yet if you continue, despite those external factors, then you’ve probably come up against some trials and tribulations that derail most people’s journeys.  At this point, you’re feeling pretty good  and somewhat confident.  You feel like you’re making progress. 

This is where most people truly fail, because at this point, you have two options.  Now your challenge isn’t a lack of motivation, or even external factors, but complacency.  This complacency shows itself in two ways: 

  1. You grow habituated with the routine and get bored.  You’re used to this to an extent, so you start allowing things wouldn’t have in the past and it starts a slow decline of your new habits.  You become more lax with your eating, or with going to the gym consistently. 
  2. You’ve been relying on a model of change that says “You will change and then you’ll be done.”  That’s what’s really happening with complacency.  You’re working with a flawed model of change and you need to come to terms that you’ll “never be done.”  That’s hard for a lot of people to accept, but if you can accept that, then you enter into the third stage on this Transformation Journey. 

3.  Repair and Maintenance
This phase of the Transformation Journey is called Repair and Maintenance, not because you’ll be maintaining (that’s for when you’re at your destination), but because you have to go back in, re-think your whole strategy, and recognize you have to re-evaluate what you truly want from these changes. 

This is where what prompted you to start, no longer feels worth it, long-term (at least by itself).  This is when you start seeing these actions in a new light, that is helping to form as a new part of your Self or identify.

What do you truly value and how will you incorporate these changes into a long-term strategy, while simultaneously seeing the results you want, AND being able to enjoy the totality of your life?  What inner work (ways you’ve been thinking about change) do you have to accept, so you’re not constantly hamstrung with trying to be “perfect?” 

To me, this is the most under-rated, but most important, stage of the Transformation Journey.  The first two stages are good for making a rapid transformation (a 12 or 16-week program), but they won’t sustain the changes for the long-term.  Without this inner work, you constantly go back to the starting line, never truly getting to your destination. 

If you do that inner work though, then you enter into the 4th phase of this Transformation Journey. 

4. The Long Haul Phase
This part of the phase is the “boring” part of this road trip, but you’re fine with it being “boring” for stretches at a time.  This is where you’ve re-evaluated what this change represents for you, how to work it into your life, and now you just have to do the work, day in and day out, week by week. 

If you were driving across country, maybe the first three Stages felt exciting, where you had places to look forward to.  But now you’ve been at it for 6 months, and you realize that you still need to get to Seattle and you’re in the panhandle of Florida.  It’s been an experience so far, but now you just want to get to your destination.  

So you allow it to be monotonous, where you experience the same scenery, day after day, but you know you’re making progress AND you’re actually content with how the journey is going.  The roads all tend to blur into one at some point, but you’re fine with that because you know you’re getting closer to your destination.   

Finally, after a long while more, while working through all the things that will inevitably arise, even in a “straightforward” trip, you actually get to your destination.  When you do, you’ve entered the 5th Stage of this Transformation Journey. 

5. The Destination

By the time you’ve reached your destination, the road trip has changed you.  Who you are when you left, is not the same person that arrives (kind of the whole point of a transformation), but although you sort of knew that when you started, there were some changes you weren’t expecting. 

You might have a new body and habits that sustain that body, but now you know it’s the lessons and actions you’ve learned on the journey that will sustain you for the long-run. 

The mindset that sustained you on your journey, the times you re-committed to the journey have led you to being a different person.  What motivated you to start the journey is rarely the one that gives you the spark to continue the journey, day after day.  And since you’ve been taking the actions for so long, you know the simple habits that allow you to enjoy being at the destination, while not forgetting how got you there. 

The Best Tools for Every Stage of Your Transformation Journey

1. Motivation
The best thing you can do in this phase is to use that spark on inspiration to set up a plan for change.  Learn to readjust that plan, but the key is to make it as easy for you to take action consistently.  Therefore, the most useful tool would be a plan you can alter (aka, don’t get tied to the plan), along with the actions you trust you can regularly take.

2. Momentum
The best tool here would be a System of Recommitment. Here, external forces  will derail you.  Cool.  Have a System of Recommitment, and enact it as quickly and regularly as possible.  

For example, if you eat a meal that doesn’t vibe with your goals, cool.  At the next meal, eat one that does mesh with your goals…at the NEXT meal.  Or, if you miss a few days in the gym because you got super busy at work.  Cool.  For this System of Recommitment, re-start going to the gym on any given day (not a random Monday or “next month” or some vague “when work settles down” (which it never does).  Recommit to working out, the first chance you have, which can be on a random Friday, Tuesday, or even Sunday. 

The quicker you can accept there will always be detours on a long road trip, the quicker you can recognize that you will have to recommit to the plan over and over again.  Accept that fact and recommit. 

3. Repair and Maintenance
The best tool at this phase is to use a Values assessment.  For this, you’d take a list of 50 to 100 values and do the 10/5/3 method. 
First pick 10 values that speak to you.  Of those 10, narrow them down to 5.  Finally, narrow that list of 5 down to 3. 

Of those values, recommit to your Self and figure out how to make the journey both enjoyable and worthwhile, while living by the 3 most important values for you. 

Beyond that, learn what “inner work” you might need to do, in order to recognize when you’re having conflicting values and goals that are throwing you off.  If you can do this, you give yourself the greatest chance of success. 

4. Long Haul
The best tool here is a checklist.  Have you done what you wanted to do that day?  And the day after, and the day after that?  At this point, you should know what works and what doesn’t.  You should anticipate any types of derailments, and plan accordingly.  The goal here is consistency.  With the checklist, the goal is to not only be consistent, but also to notice what was it that caused you to miss one of your “Musts” for that day. 

5. Your New Destination
The tool for this is a “community” that ties in with your values and your long haul habits.  This “community” can be your family, your friends, your co-workers, random strangers on the internet. 

The goal though is for you to enjoy this new lifestyle for…ever, and in order to do that, you need the support of others.  This doesn’t mean they have to do these things with you, but they have to be “on your team.”  Those closest to you can’t be subtly sabotaging your hopes and aspirations. 

If those closest to you are subtly sabotaging you, then you’re not really at your destination.  You’re still in the long-haul phase. 

If those closest to you are are fully accepting of your changes, and you’ve done the inner work, while sticking with the habits for the long haul then, and only then, can you say you’ve “arrived” at your destination. 

That doesn’t mean your work is done, but you’re at a place congruent with:
1. Who you are on the inside,
2. The actions you’re taking on a consistent basis,
3. While having the people who are important to you in your life, on your side.  When all three of those aspects are aligned, can you say you’re “Where you want to be.”

The question is, what phase are you in on this Transformation Journey?