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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

The butterfly’s journey: 4 ways change is different from transformation [Wise Wednesdays]

We can get so hung up on titles and what they mean but no one ever asks what ‘transformation’ as in ‘transformational coach’ means.

There’s an intuitive sense of what it means.

Things, people, and we ‘transform’ – from one ‘form’ to another – over a lifetime.

The pandemic has certainly transformed how we work, raise children and relate to each other. It’s forcing us to reconsider our place in the world and how to be in it.

Change and transformation are not the same. Here are a few distinctions to bear in mind as we navigate uncertain situations:

  1. Change can be linear but transformation is usually more significant.

  2. Change is an extrapolation of the past, transformation usually breaks with the past

  3. Change is inevitable and stressful, transformation can be intentional and fulfilling

  4. Change is a trigger or by-product of evolution. Transformation IS evolution.

Ground-breaking science philosopher Thomas Kuhn described this type of significant, non-linear, major change as a ‘paradigm shift’ defining it as:

a radical change in the beliefs, images, concepts and structures that govern the way we think about something.

One day you’re on a conventional track in your career and life. The next you wake up feeling like you don’t even know who you are or what you want.

You’re left with no choice but to tap into a whole new vision of life and what’s possible/not possible. Or you wake up to a pandemic and are kind of forced to do so...

It doesn't have to be grandiose. But it's real and it's very different.

Whether we realise it or not, our lives are governed by the beliefs we have about these 3 things:

  • the world

  • other people

  • ourselves (our ‘identity’)

These beliefs shape how we relate to these areas and what we think is possible. The beliefs that are misaligned with what’s truly possible and meant to be for us in life become ‘limiting beliefs’.

We often try to change things on the outside (the world e.g. a work situation; others e.g. how people behave; ourselves e.g. how we look).

But we have much faster and more powerful leverage by shedding light on our limiting beliefs and facilitating their transformation. Then, there’s a chance for true clarity. Resistance and fear melt, action can flow and we experience more ease across the board.

It’s one of the reasons I advise my clients not to leave a job reactively. But to find a point of balance and peace in their current situation, learn everything there is to learn, transform outdated beliefs, first. The right decision as to whether to stay or leave becomes more obvious from a place of calm and clarity.

Legend in the making: Louanne who is a member of Presence Power Possibility (a group I set up for visionaries with heart) was a highly qualified accountant in finance. She had followed a stellar track that took her from South Africa to London’s financial world and act as the head of Finance for a number of companies. But something tugged at her and called her to do something different and more deeply fulfilling in her career. She applied for a dream role as a specialist advisor in a Circular Economy venture. It was a stretch of the imagination and required her to believe that a transformation of her career and life was possible and she was shortlisted. She was ready to let go of societal expectations She didn’t get the role but she didn’t give up on her calling. She went for an interview for a more junior role with the same company. She impressed them so much in the second interview that they decided to give her the original, senior role anyway! And just like that Louanne went from conventional accountancy and finance to working in the sustainable economy. It wasn’t her forever role but it opened up a whole new set of possibilities that she could not have imagined before. She also eventually moved with her partner closer to the ocean and learned to surf. Congratulations, Louanne on following that initial nudge and making what was undoubtedly a scary transformation! Exciting adventures lie ahead.

The butterfly’s journey from caterpillar is a powerful metaphor for transformation in the field of psychology – it represents a category change in the same creature.

In fact, in Greek the word psyche, which we generally use to signify ‘the mind’, means both soul and butterfly.

Questioning the thoughts and beliefs that organise your world and drive your actions is one of most powerful self-coaching tools and practice that I know these days to facilitate career transformation and the personal transformation underlying it.

That’s why the HAPI process (a kind of CBT on steroids with the emphasis on awareness/mindfulness rather than thoughts and narratives) is at the core of the transformational coaching I offer.) You can find a worksheet here.

Whenever you feel stuck, there’s usually a belief in your mind saying: it’s not possible, you’re unrealistic, you can't do this. Just ask this simple question:

Is it true?

Feel free to let me know if you bust any of those limiting beliefs and what happens…

Have a great week,


p.s. I’m starting to create this year’s content. I’d be grateful for your quick input on which kinds of topic you’d like to learn more about. Click here to complete this 2 minute survey and shape Wise Wednesdays and the live events that go with it.

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