So much knowledge, little transformation.
Do you feel this describes your experience?
We can know all the right things and even appear to do the right thing but this won’t necessarily lead to transformation.
Transformation in my understanding begins when who we desire to be on the outside aligns with who we are on the inside. The work of transformation is first an inside job. All things are created twice. First within and then without.
My concern both for myself and others has kept me wondering – Why don’t people change or experience personal transformation as they expect. From my observation and personal struggles, I have identified the following:
1. Trying to microwave change
Real positive change, the kind that is sustainable takes time. You can’t compare the time it takes to dig the foundation of a bungalow with that of a sky Scraper. The greater the depth you seek in your life, the more of yourself and your time you will have to invest. We often wonder why God doesn’t make things go away quick. Sometimes, it’s often because lessons have not been learned and character growth has not been accomplished.
2. Trying to change our lives at once
A temptation that often sets me up for discouragement is to try to make sweeping changes in my life. It looks exciting but doesn’t deliver the goods. When it doesn’t, what then is the response? Give up altogether or conclude i shouldn’t have tried in the first place.
C.S Lewis wrote, “Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.” Some changes in our lives will be dramatic. Some will be gradual. I have learnt to be patient with myself and more importantly, not to give up on myself.
3. Not identifying key levers habits
This will refer to habits or thought patterns that when mastered or broken free of tends to unlock freedom from other habits. It is best to focus your energy on them. This is because freedom here inspires courage to master other habits and impacts other areas of your life.
4. A life with little or no contemplation
Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not what living.” Insight doesn’t just happen on us, we must seek it through deep thinking. Stillness is something we must learn to give ourselves to. There are so many distractions to prevent a life of contemplation.
Technology can feed us so much information and stimulation that we are constipated. I will be the first to admit that smartphones have brought me much good by way of knowledge and much harm by way of distraction. Instead of thinking, you just surf.
5. Giving up in the face of resistance
Try to be nothing. Don’t have an ambition or try to just coast along and you will find the downward slide a smooth ride. Try to climb uphill and you are bound to encounter resistance. It is almost like a force of nature.
Resistance is ever present for anyone who seeks to make a positive change. Learning to overcome resistance is a rite of passage on the road to transformation. (Read Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin’s book, Do the Work to understand this phenomenon better).
6. Half-hearted Desires
Sometimes I find that my own desires are not wholly for the cause of change. I fancy the idea of it but at the point of demand I find myself wanting in commitment. So apt is the proverb that says, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labour.” It also reminds me of St Augustine’s famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and Continence but not yet.”
I have recognized that when we find an army of contradicting desires at war in our heart, we must continue to fight till all foe is united for the cause of transformation. Indeed, the battlefield is in the mind and that is where we must first win before we change circumstances.
7. A lot of reading but little internalization
I enjoy reading. I’m hungry to know and to equip myself with knowledge. I share the belief that to do better, we must know better. But knowing should not be confused with information. Knowledge is when facts have been internalized and have become our own. They permeate our consciousness strongly enough to influence action. We must not only read but think deeply in order to apply we read.
A mentor once shared that after every encounter with knowledge, this question must be asked – what will I start doing or stop doing? This because the goal of knowledge is not information but transformation. Transformation only comes through action.
8. Ignoring the law of repetition
This looks like a repetition of the above but taken further. We often need regular reminders of the truth we know. According to Kenneth Copeland, “Repetition is the law of lasting impression.” The bible even says, “We must listen carefully to the truth we have heard or we may drift away from it.” The best way not to drift is through repetition and to have a tender conscience that is vulnerable to the truth.
9. Refusal to take responsibility
Ultimately, we are responsible for our actions. Yes, we are. We mustn’t blame anybody or any circumstances. Sam Adeyemi said, “Whatever you are willing to tolerate, you cannot change.”
One of the lies we can tell ourselves to excuse unbecoming behaviour is to place the responsibility outside of ourselves. This will keep us longer in the wilderness of struggles. Let your motto be, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
10. Not practicing a long time perspective/delaying gratification
The ability to delay gratification comes from taking a long term view of our actions today and to make choices that empowers our future. The seduction of impulse is to focus on the here and now, making the reality of consequences to fade out of sight or pale in comparison to the immediate reward.
A true measure of intelligence is seen when we align our daily actions with the vision/rewards of the future and knowing that it is easier to resist the initial desire than to satisfy those that will follow after it. Clear thinking is a necessary virtue here.
11. Trying to change our actions without changing our thinking
In my experience, I have often mistaken remorse or feeling sorry for repentance. I have tried to seek change through will power alone without doing the hard work of inner transformation until I understood what repentance means. It means to think differently, to change one’s mind, to regret our unbecoming actions and to change our actions. The starting point of change is to think differently. At the root of most bad habits are wrong thinking patterns that must be uprooted.
12. Assuming that because we know something means we will do something about it
I believe this is responsible for the growing cynicism about the plethora of change your life seminars, events etc. You can get all excited and sure you need that motivation but discipline is what will see you through your commitment when the excitement is gone. It is a great test of our character to follow through on a resolution long after the excitement with which it was made has faded.
13. Underestimating today and overestimating the past or the future
To change your life, do not consult your history and do not trust the future. Do not trust the past because our past actions do not seal our fate. Do not trust the future because today is the future you talked about yesterday. If we keep saying someday, few years will roll by and we might still find ourselves stuck in a rut.
Today is the safest place to change our lives. Do not entrust tomorrow with what you can do today and do not consult your past except to learn from it. Positive change does take time but it can start today.
14. Lingering guilt
It has even been proven by science that guilt is formula to ensure we never find the path to transformation. Beating yourself up, stewing in guilt only perpetuates the behaviour you are trying to avoid. We tell ourselves – You have blown it, why not go all the way go. That is the lie.
We can’t because we have fallen into a mud and then choose to wallow in it. Seeking forgiveness from God and forgiving ourselves will be more helpful in the road to transformation. Guilt enhances the appeal of self-sabotaging behaviour.
15. Ignoring Persistent, positive and intelligent action
The observation that knowledge is potential power is true. It is the wise application of knowledge that guarantees transformation. Action overcomes fear and self-doubt. True knowledge is in doing.
The law of transformative action is that action must be persistent, positive and intelligent. Persistent because it is what we repeatedly do that changes our lives. Positive because it must be guided in the direction of our dreams. Goals and higher self. Intelligent because we must be informed and we must act with clear thinking and discipline.
16. Lack of a support system
On the path to transformation and lasting change, we need a support system. We need people to keep us accountable. I recognize the place of personal responsibility but I’m often reminded of Stephen Covey’s words in 7 habits of Highly Effective People, “I believe that there are parts to human nature that cannot be reached by either legislation or education, but requires the power of God to deal with. I believe that as human beings, we cannot perfect ourselves….I personally struggle with much of what I have shared in this book But the struggle is worthwhile and fulfilling. It gives meaning to my life and enables me to love, to serve, and to try again.”
God is still in the business of transformation when we turn to him.
Let’s have a conversation
This list is by no means exhaustive and represent my views of the topic. You can freely share your insight from your own struggles and victories, perhaps you even have something more inspiring or compelling to share. Please feel free to comment below.
(Image: courtesy of thechangeblog.com)