How to Find Personal Transformation
By Deepak Chopra, MD
The one thing in life that never changes is change, or so people say. But in reality we all experience a struggle between accepting change and resisting it, trying to make things different and yet feeling an anxious need to keep things the same. This struggle is what makes personal change so difficult. We can’t make up our minds once and for all how we feel about changing.
If change is so difficult, how can there be personal transformation, upon which the whole movement of human potential is based? It takes vision and commitment to believe that such a thing is even possible. Most people have mixed feelings about how their lives are going. “Taking the bitter with the sweet” is an old saying in English dating back to the 13th century, but it expresses a universal experience in every society.
In the face of life’s mixed blessings there runs a contrary trend, however, based on a deep yearning for transformation. The yearning is expressed through visions of a heaven where eternal bliss is gained, in romantic literature where perfect love is found, and in imaginary utopias of every kind, including a lost Eden or Golden Age.
Is this yearning for transformation mere wish fulfillment, like dreaming of what you’d do if you won the lottery? If you are totally pragmatic, you abandon such fantasies so that you can productively direct your energies to becoming better off by inches and degrees. (There’s at least one bestseller promising how to get ten percent happier, for example, which sounds like opening a passbook savings account — better to get a small safe return than shoot for a higher but much riskier reward.) Even then, modest goals aren’t always achievable. We settle for half a loaf, or less, because common sense tells us to.
But the real issue runs deeper. Transformation exists throughout Nature. Consider the total change of state when two invisible combustible gases, oxygen and hydrogen, combine to form a liquid, water, which is so non-combustible that it puts out fires. Two poisons, sodium and chlorine, combine to make salt, which is necessary for life. The essential nature of the two ingredients give no hint that they could be transformed so completely. But that is what transformation means, as opposed to gradual stepwise change.
What would it mean to achieve personal transformation? Despite the stubborn way that people resist change, clinging to beliefs, fears, biases, and personal habits for no rational…