The Monarch caterpillar has no choice. From the time it emerges out into the world to become an eating machine, it has but one destiny: it will transform into a Monarch Butterfly. It is a necessary part of its life cycle. It begins life in one form and will end it in an entirely different form. We consider this transformation to be an amazing feat of nature, and yet in viewing it with such awe, we forget that we ourselves often transform in even more dramatic and powerful ways.
There is a crucial difference though: We have a choice: To transform or not to transform?
I work with people who want something better for themselves, for their lives. They are not happy with where they are, and they desire to move into a place that they believe will make them happier, more fulfilled. In the course of my work, I often see people make amazing transformations. Nervous, frightened, timid, anxious people become confident powerhouses of performance and excellence. They transform.
But then they want to transform. They are willing to take the steps and do the work that brings about that transformation. They desire and so choose the transformation. Not all people who are at a miserable place in their lives choose to make such transformations. They know they can become the beautiful, free butterfly, but they opt for remaining the caterpillar and all the limitations that go with that choice. They do this largely out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of becoming something more, which will introduce a more complex set of responsibilities to their lives.
You Have Two Choices
What I always say to people who find themselves on the brink of this transformation is this: You have two choices: You can choose to embrace the transformation and become something and someone totally new and better than what you are currently demonstrating, or you can also choose to withdraw from the transformation and return to your comfort zone, which while most likely painful, is familiar and something you’re used to dealing with.
There Will Be Pain
Unlike the caterpillar, you have a choice. Understand that whichever option you decide to go with, you will experience pain. The pain is a given. It is painful to return to a situation that you’re not entirely happy with, that in many ways is unsatisfying, unfulfilling and a kind of slow death. The pain of this choice can last for the rest of your life, or until such time as you decide that it is finally time to embrace change.
It is also painful to transform. This is because a transformation often will involve the destruction of all that you are comfortable with. In other words, all hell will break loose during a transformation. I liken this to the germination of a seed. Plant a seed in the ground and after a time, you will see a shoot coming up through the soil. There will also be unseen roots under the ground branching out in all directions. The shell of the seed breaks and everything comes out, everything begins to happen all at once. Take a look at that seed in a couple of weeks, and you will find that it is no longer. It has been totally destroyed. The old has given way to the new. Certainly, when likened to a person’s life, a painful process.
It may involve relationships coming to an end, loss of a job or a house, or of everything familiar and comfortable.
Sometimes these things are taken away from you and sometimes you have to choose to leave them for the sake of your sanity. But you always get to decide what the events and circumstances will mean to you, how you will deal with them going forward. This is probably the most crucial factor when it comes to embracing change and the often painful, undesirable circumstances that accompany it.
You Are in Control
When you know that you have a choice regarding how to process the events of your life, you are empowered. You then recognise that it is you in the driver’s seat, holding the wheel, steering the course of your life.
People believe themselves to be at the mercy of outer circumstances, and when they hold this belief, it becomes a truth for them, and then they truly are at the mercy of other people, conditions and events. But these outer circumstances need not rule your thoughts and emotions. You are the one in control.
Think about it like this: Imagine someone you love is gravely ill. How does that make you feel? Most people say that it makes them feel sad. But this is simply not true.
Imagine now that the same loved one is gravely ill, but you don’t know about it. How does that make you feel? Most people say, “Well, I wouldn’t feel anything, because I’m not aware of it.”
In each case, the circumstances are the same – the loved one is ill. But this outer reality is not what causes you to feel sad because in the second instance when you’re not aware of this reality, you feel nothing. So the outer reality does not cause you to feel anything. It is your processing of that reality which causes you to feel a certain way.
And because of the way we have been taught to think, feel and process our outer world, when we receive such news, our processing of it, that is our thoughts about it, cause us to feel sad. The event itself has no meaning – only the meaning you choose to give it. And you always have a choice.
You Always Have a Choice
And this again is the crucial difference – choice. The caterpillar has no choice. It can’t fight the transformation, consider the pros and cons of embracing it. It isn’t scared of what might happen, worrying about whether it should or shouldn’t. It simply is what it is and does what it does.
Not so with human beings! We have to process it all, think about it, decide what it means if we do or we don’t, if we will or we won’t. And we can put ourselves through hell with all these thoughts – this is what it means to have the power of choice.
But having the choice is such a wonderful thing! We get to decide that this or that experience will be transformative, and that because of it, our lives have moved up a level, that we are now far more empowered, that we can now become a force for good in the world that we couldn’t have been before. We can decide to become the butterfly – or not!
So whether a choice to transform is forced upon you or if it is something that you can either decide to embrace or not, know that the circumstances, whatever they may be, are not what will cause you to think and feel a certain way. You will process those circumstances, and it is you who will decide how you think and feel regarding them. Those decisions will determine the course of your life.
Here is an example:
Some awful thing happens – and you say, “Oh no, my life is ruined, I’m a failure. I’ll be depressed forever, my life is over.”
The same awful thing happens – and after taking some time to calm down, collect your thoughts, rein your feelings in and take a few deep breaths, you say, “Okay, what does this really mean? Is it really as serious as I’m making out? How else can I look at it? How can I use it to improve my life? If this happened for a higher purpose, what would that be?”
In the first instance, your mind is closed and you’re reacting blindly to outer circumstances.
In the second instance, you’re taking some time to think, take stock and calm your mind and body before deciding how you’ll move on, and you’re asking yourself some truly empowering questions.
Each is painful in its own way. You decide which one to go with – caterpillar or butterfly. The choice is yours.
Dante Petrilla has been studying the success literature for the past decade and used the techniques and skills he learned to turn his own life completely around. He transformed himself from a depressed person to a happy person once he learned to direct the focus of his thoughts and emotions. Dante is also a writer who enjoys writing in the personal development area.
Dante is an AUNLP certified life coach and NLP Practitioner, member of the American University of NLP, and also a Global Sciences Foundation member. He is currently studying to become an NLP trainer.
He is also the author of Debt Freedom, Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life, and How to Lose Weight Fast, all of which are available on Amazon.