The revelation of Bruce (ahem, Caitlyn) Jenner was obviously an extreme example of a profound transformation in life. He had resoundingly closed a chapter in his life and embarked into unchartered waters. But how does he go about changing his rituals and habits in search of creating a new image for himself (uh, herself)? This transition can be daunting, especially when he was so strongly associated with his manhood as an Olympic world champion, the epitome of testosterone!
Most of us will never experience the dramatic changes (nor aspire to be a Kardashian!) as Jenner, but it underscores the fact that we will all go through transformations in our lives. How we define ourselves, our external image and overall identity will morph as we travel on this journey called life. Our persona will evolve and we will have to adapt, often not by choice. Age and/or injury are typically the biggest culprits for change as we all ultimately have to face our limitations, but often life events, environmental factors and our own desire for change can play a role too.
We are all creatures of habit and transitioning away from something we so readily identify ourselves with is a major challenge. In Charles Duhigg’s best-selling book, The Power of Habit, the author states we have programmed cues and rewards which become deeply ingrained in our minds due to patterns we follow. Often we aren’t even aware of the existence or formation of these habits, so making life-changing transformations can be daunting. A good starting point to mentally prepare us may come with the following five perspectives:
1) Time for change: Embrace this new chapter in your life and resist the urge to fall back into comfortable patterns
2) Time to experiment with new perspectives: Keep an open mind to new endeavors and concepts
3) Time to simplify: Take the path of least resistance by simplifying your life to discover what is truly most important to you at your core
4) Time to reevaluate relationships: Some relationships may not be conducive and instead impede your transformation as a change agent
5) Time for Mind, Body and Soul evolution: Transformation requires a conscious effort for change in all three. We must accept the concept of change mentally, physically and spiritually.
One successful example of a life transformation which personally inspired me is my friend Runner Girl. We all called her Runner Girl because, well, she ran like the wind. Every day, rain or shine, throughout her 20’s she ran long distance. It was more than a lifestyle; it was her identity. She always carried the latest copy of Runners World, ate only organic foods, and dressed in tight running shorts and flashy Nikes. Even her username for profiles and social media was Runner Girl. All her close friends were runners or gym rats as this physical outlet became her primary social network.
But Runner Girl gradually started to experience chronic pain in her leg. Every time she challenged it by aggressively running, her body punished her exponentially. This daily ritual, the essence of her identity, painfully started to disintegrate like a car crash in slow motion. She’d miss a day, return the next only to further aggravate her leg causing her to miss the next two days. It was a slippery slope. She fought it courageously each step of the way, but every time she stubbornly tried to return to the treadmill, her recovery took longer. It was literally three steps forward, two steps back. Her absence of days turned into weeks, then into months until Runner Girl was no longer showing up at the gym.
Fast forward: Runner Girl is now 34 and her last run was on her 31st birthday. It was a painful, arduous process but she ultimately followed the steps outlined above to successfully transform her identity (she no longer identifies with Runner Girl and is an avid reader of my website). After a tremendous period of denial, she had to come to grips with this new reality: she had to change her lifestyle habit. Her body simply could not sustain it any longer. The tears of resistance slowly faded as she surrendered to her new reality, embraced change and opened her mind to new perspectives. She dropped out of the social scene for runners and all the racing events. Only upon being forced to come to a grinding halt and remove herself from that environment could she take time to reflect and ponder her new identity. Life became simpler once she finally acknowledged her running days were over. The Body broke down three years ago, but it took her Mind and Soul over two years to catch up to this new reality and accept this transformation. To surrender and stop the resistance of our inner dialogue is empowering. Today, Runner Girl is known for many superb qualities and attributes, but running is not one of them. She’s now focused on a promising career and traveling the world.
Life transformations like Runner Girl experienced are difficult transitions, especially when they are mandated by age or health. At least professional athletes have a more predictable segue (as Father Time is undefeated!) and can properly prepare mentally and spiritually. It may not make fading into the sunset any easier, but the advantage is the Mind and Soul have the benefit of advance knowledge in order to ensure a soft landing. If the Mind, Body and Soul are aligned concurrently in the transformation, it makes for a natural transition as there is mutual acceptance in one’s surrender.
Consider the transformations you’ve made – and will make – and be aware of the impact to your Mind, Body and Soul. The better aligned, the easier the transition. If the change is a desired, planned transition like becoming a parent, new career or moving out of state, you will be willing to sacrifice other areas of your life such as social events and hobbies to achieve this goal. Conversely, if the change is sudden and abrupt, be mindful of the collision between Mind, Body and Soul and manage that to the best of your abilities. Following the five steps above will help you overcome the denial phase and gradually arrive at acceptance in this new phase of life. Just remember, Father Time is indeed undefeated and the only constant in life is change.