Unexpected Transformation

Spring: the season of renewal and transformation, and the time of year where anything seems possible. The air is fresh, the flowers are blooming and days are longer. Our world is transformed from grey and black to full colour! Transformation is everywhere.

If you live in New Westminster it’s hard not to think about transformation. From the River Market, to the Pier Park, the Anvil Centre, the demolition of the parkade and the changing streetscapes, our town is changing, seemingly one day to the next.

And, as anyone who has followed the epic debates about the parkade can attest, change doesn’t come easy. Not everyone agrees and consensus can be hard to reach.

Change is Hard

While personal change doesn’t normally involve public debate, that doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict. Sometimes it feels like there are two warring factions within you, bringing any hope of advance to to a halt. Or maybe that’s just me. Be it trying to eat right or spend less time online, there’s often an internal debate that rages on, and sadly the good side doesn’t always win.

But we shouldn’t be daunted by this. There are some tricks to help our chances of success. Katherine Milkman, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at Penn, suggests in this Freakonomics podcast that by combining “temptation bundling” – whereby you bundle an enjoyable activity with one that’s not so enjoyable, such as watching your favourite TV show while on the treadmill  – with the “fresh start effect” – starting a new behaviour at a time that is tied to a new beginning such as a new year, a birthday or even a Monday – there can be increased chances of success. Food for thought if there’s something you would like to change, whether it’s stopping a bad habit or creating a good one.

Of course, not all change is pre-planned and sometimes transformation catches us off-guard.

My Transformation

My transformation into a full marathon runner is a great example of an unplanned transformation. For nearly six years I’ve been running half-marathons and have been rather happy with that distance. The thought of running 42.2 km has always seemed too daunting and to be honest, simply ridiculous. However, here I am, less than a month away from running the full BMO Vancouver Marathon all because of an incident on an uneven piece of sidewalk.

Last summer, near the end of August, I was on a short run around New Westminster when, about 500 metres from my house, I tripped and fell. My ribs were badly bruised and my shoulder was badly injured; thankfully though the only thing broken was my pride. Although I was in serious pain for about a week, the most difficult part of this fall was that I couldn’t run for about six weeks.

When I was finally able to lace up my shoes and do more than walk around the hood, I was so happy that all I wanted to do was run. In September and October I clocked more kilometres on my running app than ever before. By the time November hit I’d convinced myself that I was ready to take on a full marathon. After completing my longest run ever, 26km, I registered for a full marathon clinic at the Running Room. After the next 26km run, I registered for the marathon. So while I appreciate Milkman’s approach, sometimes the less you think and plan, the better chance you have of succeeding. Take for example my friend Donna’s foray into paining.

Donna’s Transformation

An accomplished photographer and poet, painting was never something that came easy for Donna, so for many years it wasn’t something she spent much time doing. Things completely changed after going on a date at Raw Canvas in Yaletown. While the relationship (and the restaurant) didn’t last, her revived love of painting did. According to Donna, there’s something transformative about painting, as she says “[it’s] a meditative, relaxing and flowing way to spend my time.” It is an activity that has helped her live more in the moment and “focus on the process, not the end result.” Of course, her finished products are amazing and truly transformative pieces of art (find out for yourself on her Facebook Page).

Glenda’s Transformation

Of course, as a busy parent, it’s not always easy to enjoy the journey, and living in the moment can seem more reactive circumstance than an intentional choice. I have tried Milkman’s “fresh start approach”, usually on a Monday after a not so stellar Sunday night bedtime routine with the kids, however by Wednesday I’ve often returned to my not so proud parenting moments. “Tomorrow is a new day,” I chant. Sometimes, living in the moment isn’t the answer; instead it’s planning an actual journey.

Glenda is no stranger to losing herself in the world of parenthood, work and married life. While her children are now in their 20s, when they were younger she had her own company, was working on her PhD and homeschooled her children. It would have been easy to have completely lost her sense of self during this time, however no matter what was going on she managed to get away a couple of times a year to re-connect with friends and herself.

One annual tradition is the Winnipeg Folk Fest, where she “packs [her] backpack, gets on a plane, turns of [her] phone and visits with friends.” Glenda continues, “as an academic you spend so much of your time in your head, so these getaways are a way to escape that and get in your body, in your physicality.” This time away allows her to renew her sense of self, fortify and nurture who she is as a person, outside of her roles as wife, parent, student, business owner.

So as we enter this time of renewal, be your transformation planned, unplanned, large or small, be open to trying something new and don’t be afraid of failure. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination.