How To Reach A State Of Personal Transformation
In fall 2015, a good friend of mine came back from walking over 790 km (490 miles) from France to Spain.
She was transformed. I could see it in her eyes and sense it in here body language and laughter. She had this calmness surrounding her, this joy and ease that most of us wish we could experience perhaps just...once in a while.
She had spent 5 weeks walking El Camino de Santiago and she came back transformed.
The state of feeling transformed is probably one of the greatest feelings in the world, I’ve personally experienced it many times, but how do you get there?
Well, fact is you don’t have to go on a 5-week spirit awakening trip to challenge your current state of mind, I never did, but you do have to challenge yourself.
1. Get out of your comfort zone.
Growth doesn’t happen unless you challenge whatever it is you want to grow. Simple as that.
Julian Hayes talks about leaving your comfort zone because:
“Just like a caterpillar doesn’t morph into a butterfly by random chance, nor does a personal transformation randomly occur.”
Just like you don’t get bigger and stronger and more resistant in the gym unless you break down some muscle tissue only to let the body rebuild it again - stronger and better. I think you get the point.
But where do we start? That's the challenge a lot of people, including myself is constantly facing. Over the years I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter where you start…you just have to start.
2. Just Do It.
Nike truly created the best slogan the world by encouraging us to “Just Do It.”
Something I have lived by for years because I wasn’t thinking too much about “taking action” and so I just did things, perhaps because I’m a little “crazy”.
But sure, it can feel overwhelming and this is exactly where I think a lot of people, including myself, fall prey to procrastination because we live in a world of choices and abundant offers and possibilities so it can end us paralyzing us in our actions.
“I truly don’t know where to start"
I remember wanting to learn how to code, I would search google for “How to learn to code”, "Best way to learn to code", “places to learn to code” - and I ended up so decision fatigue, I never got started because I had spent my entire time on google and was overwhelmed with the information and choices presented to me.
It’s kinda like when you’re buying a car, at least it was for me, what brand, what’s a good price, where to buy it, used or new, what about insurance and who can I trust to give me useful, trustworthy advice?!
Fyi, I ended up buying a green Peugeot 107 from '97 for EUR 1000, I had it for 2 years and I sold it again for 600 EUR. It was my first and I’ll always remember that car like my first love. I remember trying to bargain my way into getting the dealer to cut down the price, it was in Spain and I didn’t speak much Spanish at the time and he didn’t speak a word of English, but we both spoke some kind of broken German, and I remember bargaining with him in the funniest kind of German ever. That was a fun experience, my point is, I kinda dived right into it because I had to - I needed a car.
Just like I did with coding because I had a desire to learn to code. I didn't learn on my own, I did, however, join a coding retreat, because I knew that I would never learn it on my own.
So my point is, besides being true to your strengths and weaknesses, I knew that one of my weaknesses was definitely sitting down and learning on my own. I would never get started so I planned it out so that I could learn in a fun environment face-to-face with other people and mentors.
Secondly, be true to your own capabilities and needs and try to create a comfortable environment because, as with everything, when you’re first starting out and leaving your comfort zone, everything seems daunting and scary, so creating some kind of safe haven is always a good idea.
So the secret to getting started? There really is not secret, it’s just a matter of doing it. Even if it is just 10 minutes a day or 10 minutes every other day or every once a week.
3. Finding your motivation
Now let’s talk a little bit about motivation...because we all know, that behind every action is a motivation and behind every motivation is a desire or need so to speak.
To be motivated you have to desire or need something badly enough to be able to sacrifice something else in return for what you need. Agree?
If you sit down and close your eyes and really give yourself some time to think about what is most important to you and what your needs and desires are, you’ll probably find that none of them are material assets. Why is that? Well, because material things have a very short lifetime value, whereas experiences and moments touch us at a much deeper level because they help transform us.
Not so long ago, I wrote a blog post on learning from a strikingly awesome startup and I talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid which I think is essential to understanding human behavior and I believe that we as humans all fall into the same pyramid of basic needs.
At the bottom are our survival needs, in the middle our success needs and finally, at the top, our transformational needs!
Everything we do, we do to feel fulfilled, to feel loved, to feel like we belong to feel transformed and to feel like there’s meaning - to essentially feel alive.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
Victor Emil Frankl (1905 – 1997)
4. Finding Meaning
Have you ever had a near death experience? Well if you did, then you’ll also know that feeling of having your life flash before your eyes and the very thoughts that race through your mind are probably the thoughts - things - people that are most important to you. And what happens following an event like this, is a search for meaning - at least it was for me.
"Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man."
So we’ve nailed it down to finding meaning in one’s life and according to Frankl:
“Without meaning, people fill the void with hedonistic pleasures, power, materialism, hatred, boredom, or neurotic obsessions and compulsions.”
Now, I’m not saying that you’re a neurotic, compulsive freak if you haven’t found meaning, I think very few of us have found meaning and purpose, in fact, very few of us are even thinking about finding meaning and purpose.
In my own experience, searching for meaning in a world that seems meaningless, has made me realize that my limits today are much less about accessibility and much more about limitations that I impose on myself — and I am not alone.
Which brings me back to my personal quest for meaning in life and why I’ve started Learn With Locals, because I have a belief that we actually have the chance to gain exposure to information, people, cultures, and experiences from all over the world — today — and we are not simply limited by our current experiences and knowledge as we might think so, but what happens, is that we don’t take very much advantage of that accessibility.
5. Asking The Why’s
Back to my good friend who walked El Camino and who came back transformed, she recommend me this book that a lot of people were talking about during El Camino, it’s called: The Why Cafe.
The Why Cafe essentially asks three questions:
- Why are you here?
- Do you fear death?
- Are you fulfilled?
Three essential questions to think about, three questions I think most people would like to be able to answer in their last hours, not to sound too dramatic, but questions to take in if you want to live a life full of meaning and purpose.
Why am I here? I don’t know. What is the purpose of my life, my existence? I have no clue. I bet that most people will not be able to answer that question straight up, but if you can, you’re lucky, because if you know the reason for being here, you have identified your purpose for existing and you can begin to pursue that purpose. Perhaps you already are…?!
As for me, I have absolutely no clue, but at least now I know where to begin because I know that the reason why I’m here, is not to be found within my current experiences and current knowledge.
Do you fear death? Most of us would probably answer yes, no harm in that. I guess for me, this question has made me think about whether I am taking the steps to answer the previous “why are you here” question, because people, like myself, who haven’t been given this question much thought, we are the ones who most certainly fear death and because we haven’t had the concept of death at the forefront of our thinking, we’re naturally not aware, that every day is one day closer to not being able to do what we want in life, or at least trying to figure it out.
So yes. I do fear death, but at least I am conscious of it.
Last question. Are you fulfilled?
Here’s a hypothesis we’ve all heard before, the reason we get a job and work is to make money, because we need money to pay for the things we buy, a lot of what we own are things that help us escape for a while, things that help us unwind and make us feel better about our lives and surroundings.
How many of those things would we want if we did not need to escape? I know it’s a cliché and I get caught up in all the materialistic wonders of the world myself, it happens all the time, but I’ve come to think about what makes me feel fulfilled as a human being. What makes me happy? Am I doing what I truly want to be doing or am I limiting myself? And why?
What I do know, is that I want to feel fulfilled and I want to do everything I can to pursue that feeling - and so should you because you owe it to yourself, to life, to wake up every day and feel happiness, fulfillment, and love for yourself and for your life.
Lastly before I leave you, I also wanna point out the importance of finding/having a mentor in the pursuit of finding meaning.
Now a mentor can be anyone, a family member, a friend, someone you know or an idol, a public figure, an influencer, a celebrity and it doesn’t have to be just one person, it can be a lot of people, like a community where you can belong.
Some of the people I am inspired by and have allowed myself to learn from, either by reading their work, following them on social media or simply reaching out to them and meeting them (or wishing I could have) in person are:
And if you're lacking some inspiration, here are some of the books that I would recommend reading to get a sense of this state of personal transformation everyone's talking about:
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- The Why Cafe by John P. Strelecky
- The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
- PEAK How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow by Chip Conley
- Emotional Equations by Chip Conley
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih
- The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton