The first question he asked was probably the most common one: “After I do this, this I’ll be finished, right? I’ll be fixed. I won’t have to do more programs or training or reading, I’ll be fixed. Yes?” I wanted to say yes, and the pleading, almost-desperate look in his eye told me he wanted it as well, but that would ignore the harsh reality of personal transformation: you’re never done.
You’re in a constant state of flux. One program or book or personal coaching session won’t permanently lift you to a god-like state of nirvana. Things are always changing.
On your better days, you’re strong, powerful, free, and feel deeply connected to yourself and those around you. Other days, you’re confused, lost, and alone. You change, your experience changes, and it changes all the time.
This constant change and inability to ever be finished might seem frustrating, but it’s actually incredibly beneficial for two reasons.
The first is that the fact you are constantly changing means that you can work your way out of any situation. In the same way you can go from confident and strong to scared and weak in a matter of days means you can also go back the other way. You can go from being intimidated by the world to powering forward in the blink of an eye and find the strength to recreate your life in any way you want from seemingly nowhere.
The second positive of constant change is that if you observe it for long enough, you’ll start to see a pattern. The randomness and confusion will start to evolve into a regular heartbeat with clearly defined stages and progressions. And after 12 years of working with clients through their frustrations and challenges, it’s become clear-as-day. Every client who comes back to share their tales of regression and frustration fits into one just a few small phases.
Yes, the underlying scripts and mechanisms shift from person to person, but the broad phases remain the same. Not just for each person and each time they move through this process, but through the rest of their life.
Below are listed those 10 phases. As you’re reading through them, see if you can identify a time in your life where you fell into each of them and which phase you’re in right now. If there are phases you want to be in but haven’t yet found a way to get there, our LifeOS Transformation Programs are a good place you start your journey.
The Inner Transformation Journey
The Inner Transformation Journey is a 10 stage, continuous cycle that you can expect to repeat throughout your entire life. It encompasses the depths of frustration and despair to the soaring heights of personal fulfilment and satisfaction and everything in between.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the 10 Stages of the Inner Transformation Journey:
Stage 1. Lack happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction
This is where you know something is wrong but it’s manageable. Things don’t feel right – your life is routine and monotone – but it’s not enough to drive you to action.
A typical example of this life is the regular 9-5 grind of what is depressingly common in our society. The ‘average’ person who went to college to get a degree in something they don’t really care about because it had good employment opportunities upon graduation. They landed their expected job and has been crawling through 45 minutes of peak hour traffic each way, every day, for the last 8 years. They perform roughly the same unfulfilling tasks surrounded by the same uninspiring people while they complain about a case of the Mondays or hump day or whatever other things people complain about in an office.
Maybe they go to the gym twice a week with that guy from accounting twice a week to stave off impending middle-aged spread and have after work drinks in their ‘casual Friday’s’ Hawaiian shirt every other week.
Whilst there’s technically nothing wrong with their life – they have food, shelter, water, and safety – their life has a continuous and monotone-grey fog that encompasses their entire existence. Nothing is exciting or rewarding or fulfilling or inspiring. Everything just is, and it just keeps crawling on, day-after-day, month-after-month.
The fact that nothing in this stage is really wrong means that people can exist in this phase for years and years and years with some people never leaving it. They live their entire lives oscillating between mild disappointment to slight and infrequent burst of mild amusement whenever some celebrity posts a controversial tweet or Instagram picture.
Stage 2. Pain becomes too much and action becomes the only way out
Hopefully (and I actually do hope so), something goes wrong. And not a little bit wrong, but really wrong. If the person is lucky enough, some catastrophic event occurs to shake this person from their spinning wheel and slap consciousness of the bleakness of the current reality right into them. Maybe they’ll be fired, or a friend will pass away, or they’ll suffer some sort of high-risk medical emergency to knock them out of their routine long enough to fully comprehend how dire their reality has become.
It’s in these moments, when the weight of the world presses down on them and their own mortality is thrust squarely into their consciousness that the energy to shake free from their current reality becomes available.
I would love to say that it’s at this point, every person who faces this crisis of their reality radically transforms their existence and finds the deep-seeded happiness and fulfilment their heart has been desperately craving, but it would be a lie. Most people will take this newfound energy and use it to clean their garage or renovate their kitchen before slowly stepping back into Stage 1 and continuing as if nothing happened. But, a small percentage of people will take their newfound energy and use to change their life for the better. They’ll use it to move to Stage 3.
Stage 3. Attempt to fill that hole from the outside in
Those who take the newfound energy of Stage 2 and put it to productive work take the first step towards a better life in Stage 3. And whilst taking a step forward is important and powerful, this step isn’t a giant leap towards the solution they’re looking for. It’s more of a sideways step.
In Stage 3, the awakened soul searches for salvation in an external form. They crave validation, recognition, control over others or release from the pressures and frustrations they perceive have been placed upon them by the world around them. This can take the form of a new career, wardrobe, spouse, routine, hobby, or any other form of lifestyle adjustment. Maybe they finally take that overseas trip they’ve been saving for or go diving with the sharks. Whatever it is, they use that energy to make a radical shift to solve the pains they perceive have been forced upon them by the world around them.
The amount of time spent in this stage typically correlates directly with the amount of success they have in finding external solutions to their externally perceived problems. If things go well with their new job or new partner or faster car, then a person can remain in this stage indefinitely. If that’s the case, a person in this stage will typically experience the same frustrations and pains found in Stage 1 after a few years without another Stage 2-type event to shock them out of their system.
But that’s not always the case:
Stage 4. The external solutions fail
Hopefully, at some point in time, those external solutions fail. The car/wardrobe/career still don’t solve the underlying frustrations felt in Stage 1 and once again, the energy of Stage 2 comes back.
At this point in time, there are three options:
- Continue with Stage 3: Search for different external solutions. Maybe this time, try a different job, or a different wardrobe, or a different car.
- Go back to Stage 1: Conclude that change just isn’t possible and you’re going to be stuck like this forever. Crawl back to your Stage 1 life and slide right back into the corporate slipstream.
Stage 5. Realise the true failure of the external solution
The step when real change and growth start is in a simple realisation: the external solution failed because the external wasn’t the problem in the first place. The problem isn’t the world around me, it’s me.
This is a tough realisation to come to: that you’re the real cause of every bit of pain, frustration, disappointment, and struggle you’ve faced in your life. It means that every moment of your life that was anything less than ideal was your fault.
But this realisation also comes with tremendous power. If you’re the victim of your reality, where everything is the fault of someone or something else, then all you can ever hope to do is manage the inevitable misery the world throws your direction. If you’re the creator of your pain then you can eliminate it from the core.
That’s true power: not in learning to continuous apply the same bandaids to the same problems, but to make sure those problems never appear again.
At this stage, there’s a big mix of emotions and energy and confusion and shame and excitement and doubt and joy. It’s a whirlwind that can last weeks with people having to reconsider their entire perception of their reality and question everything they thought they knew about the world.
Eventually, they find the energy to move forward:
Stage 6. Find internal solutions
The realisation that they’re the cause of every problem in their life leaves people with a common question: how do I stop causing these problems? They start the search for answers and start applying these answers to their everyday problems.
Whilst coaching can accelerate a person’s progress through this stage to as little as a few weeks, most people will quite happily spend months finding new challenges and solutions to work through.
Stage 7. Regression
As progress is made, old challenges start to appear.
People in Stage 7 notice that their internal solutions start to produce results. Not only in the frustration and disappointment starting to disappear from their life, but they’re also starting to get the external things they were looking for in Stage 3. More attractive people start to notice them, new and better job opportunities start to appear, they start to make more money, everything starts to fall into place.
This doesn’t sound like a challenge, but it creates a mental hurdle:
Stage 8. Their focus shifts back to the external
As all these things you’ve craved for so long start to fall into your lap without even really trying, your focus starts to shift. Instead of looking internally to solve problems and
The acquisition of external solutions is attractive. The money, the power, the invitations to events and the inclusion in a group you’ve never been part of before.
The slope has gotten slipperier.
As more of the outcomes and objects they desired so much back in Stage 3 start to flow their way, they start to become more and more dependent on them.
They stop sharing themselves openly with everyone in favour of just hanging out with their girlfriend.
They stop planning exciting adventures in favour of just hanging out on the adventures their mates plan.
They stop pushing themselves at work and just rely on their reputation to carry them through.
Instead of continually creating the internal fulfilment that brought all the outcomes and objects to them, they rely on the outcomes and objects for that sense of fulfilment.
Stage 9. The fulfilment and satisfaction that was helping get these outcomes and objects has gone. Therefore, so have the outcomes and objects
Their friends don’t want to hang out with them anymore because that sense of adventure and excitement that drew them in is now gone.
They get demoted at work because the drive and passion that helped them lift themselves above the pack has drained away.
Their girlfriends become distant and disinterested because that compassion and life that drew them in has faded.
They become dependent, needy, and clingy, and because of that, the outcomes and objects they were relying on to make them happy are out of their reach.
Stage 10. Go back to step one
Lather, rinse, repeat.
The Journey of The Journey
Making it to stage 5 is the hardest part of The Journey. A lot of guys spend years in Stage 1, never making it beyond. And most that do make it though, get to Stage 4 and then slip back to Stage 1 again when everything seems too hard.
Because of that, the first 4 stages can take years to make it through.
But seeing as you’ve made it to Stage 5, I’m going to start the journey of The Journey from there.
The first time you go through Stages 5 – 10, it can take as little time as a week.
Lets say you finish coaching and start working through Stage 6. You spend 3 days having the best time of your life, doing what you want, living your life on your terms, and experiencing the fulfilment that comes with that change.
On day 4, you head out to a night club and notice all the women are into you. You take a girl home for the first time in your life. Bring on Stage 7. You can see just how the internal strength and focus has landed this girl in your bed.
On day 5, Stage 8 hits. You wake up next to this girl and start focussing on how to get her to have sex with you again, rather than on being internally fulfilled, and she can smell it. She gives you the ‘I have to get to work’ line and runs out the door. You never hear from her again.
On day 6, you head out to a club again and you’re firmly in Stage 9 now. You’re doing all the things you did last night but no-one is interested in you. Every woman you speak to can’t get away fast enough and no-one wants to hear your stories. You go home alone.
On day 7, you wake up in Stage 10.
This is frustrating, disappointing, and annoying. Things were great and now they suck.
Bring on round two of The Journey. This round has a distinctively different flavour. You spend much more time in Stage 5 and Stage 6 and less time in the others.
As the lessons of taking action are still fresh in your head from coaching, you quickly move into starting to take action and commence round two of The Journey.
You almost skip Stage 2 and you’re right into Stage 3.
You keep pushing yourself to go out and flirt with women, but you’re still externally focussed so it doesn’t get you the results you want.
After a frustrating week, you sit down and go back through your work in coaching. You realise that the nights when you had the most success are the ones where you were living for you, not for anyone else, and you move through Stage 4.
A few days later and you’re heading out again. It’s all Stage 5 and 6 from here.
The memories of the last week are still fresh in your mind and you’re determined not to repeat them again. You stay focussed on your desires and following those desires despite the numerous distractions that you encounter.
There are times you start to slip to Stage 7 and Stage 8, but you bring yourself back in line again. You keep this up for a week or so before you forget, and it’s down the slippery slope once again.
You held out for nearly twice the time you lasted last time but eventually, you broke.
Stage 1 hits you hard again but you’re more committed than ever this time.
Round 3 – Onwards…
This is how your journey will continue for as long as I’m aware of.
I’m still rolling through this journey and I have to keep bringing myself back to the core principles again and again.
The most significant change you’ll notice, the more times you go through this journey, is that you’ll spend more and more time in Stage 5 and Stage 6 and less time in the other 8 Stages.
If you surround yourself with the right tools, people, and systems, you can spend months and months in Stage 6 and then fly through the other 9 stages in a few hours.
If you don’t, you could bounce through your 1 week cycle constantly for the next few years of your life before settling back into the standard Stage 1 – 4 cycle that so many people live their lives in.
I’m sure you don’t want that.
So, keep pushing yourself, challenging yourself, revising the tools, exercises, and activities in coaching, and make sure that you end up in the fun journey of The Journey, rather than the painful, and difficult version.