Most of us have plenty of experience with change in our lives. Sometimes it came naturally, one choice leading to another in an orderly fashion, and we could take one step at a time. Other times, change came abruptly, joltingly, and we were left in shambles, putting our lives back together after a storm we did not expect or want.
And then are the times when we hunger for real change in our lives.
Perhaps this hunger, these feelings, are what we find at the beginning of each new year when we are so full of resolutions and possibilities. Filled with that energy, we start new health regimes, change jobs, move, or even break up long-term relationships in an effort to start a new chapter in our lives. Each of those changes makes a difference, but maybe not the profound change we were hoping to find. More often, we find ourselves quickly returning to old habits or stuck again in a familiar situation.
One of the reasons our good intentions do not develop into long term, positive results is because of how we attempt our transformation. Our society believes that we must jump as quickly as possible into whatever we have chosen as our new way or place. We try to fix everything that way, from relationships to weight problems. Sadly, this method often creates confusion and we end up losing our momentum before long.
So what does it take to make a real change or transition in our lives? How do we know when we are ready, and how can we make that transition in a positive way?
Teachers and coauthors Meredith Little and Steven Foster created a valuable tool for orienting and navigating our life changes: the Equation for Transformation. It is simple in concept, but challenging to implement because it takes time, attention, intention, and because we have learned the exact opposite.
The Equation for Transformation teaches us to:
1. Start with an ending.
This seems like a strange place to begin a new phase in our lives, and yet, the work here is vital to stepping free from the past with energy and imagination for the future. Whether it is a relationship, job, project, or phase of life, we need to finish things, see them through, and bring them to completion with understanding and clarity. It can be time consuming and frustrating, but this is where we set ourselves free.
2. Go into the middle.
After all the activity and work of endings, most of us will come to a quiet place with nothing much to do. We do all the work of the first step and then we . . . wait. This stage is often the hardest for us because we feel guilty wasting time and not doing anything. Why do we have to sit and wait? Because it takes time to digest all that is in us, to let ideas simmer and brew. To let that happen, we must stay in the present, not dwell on the past or try to impose an old idea on the future.
3. Pass through to a new beginning.
In the space and clarity we create in the middle phase, really new ideas and inspirations have room to sprout just as a seed grows from the dark fertile soil into the light. We cannot see the process, but we can surely see the results.
What does a new beginning mean to each of us? It could be tangible, like a new job or a new relationship, but it could also be finding ourselves with a new attitude or ready for a new way of life.