Harness Transformational Courage to Change Your Life

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

We are, all of us, descendants of immigrants. In fact, American scientist Carl Sagan once said, “For 99.9 percent of the time since our species came to be, we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the savannahs and the steppes.” As humans, we have a voyager spirit. It drives us to journey to new lands.

But many of us today find ourselves stationed in our plot of terra firma. Maybe we make a move or two, but very few of us have made the life-or-death sort of transformational journeys of our ancestors. These were people who journeyed far, fleeing harsh conditions to endure a grueling passage that many did not survive to an unknown and possibly unforgiving new land.

Laurie Fabiano, the O Magazine-recommended novelist, wrote a fictional story based on people from her family who emigrated from Italy to the United States. In her novel, Elizabeth Street, Fabiano described the horrors from which people were fleeing. In my interview with Laurie, she told me, “It’s not like the people in my family were looking for adventure. They didn’t want to leave Italy, but they were starving to death. The poverty there was horrific in those days. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Wow! Let’s have an adventure and journey to America!’ And the journey itself was also horrific.”

If today we find ourselves too rooted in either land or life, how can we channel the spirits of our immigrant ancestors to journey to the life of our dreams?

It’s worth noting that we don’t have to physically uproot our families to revive transformation courage in our lives.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the book, Eat, Pray, Love as a sort of memoir of her multi-month journey to Europe as she was recovering from a divorce and rediscovering her own identity. During times of self-reflection and renewal, people choose to reinvent themselves in different ways. Some, like Elizabeth Gilbert, go on journeys. But that’s not always a practical option for everyone. Elizabeth says herself that it’s possible to transform yourself right at home. The trick is committing the time and energy toward that endeavor.

You may be considering a major life change like a new career or you may be looking for space and permission to finally write that novel. Or maybe you’d like to stretch yourself by running for the school board. Living a successful life is all about that: stretching yourself, learning, growing, and then learning some more.

How can you use transformational courage to help you along the way? Here are some tips for creating your own transformational journey.

Acquire satellites

After you punch an address into your GPS, “Acquiring satellites” is usually the first message you’ll see. That’s because the only way to get to where you’re going is to understand where you are.

Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Create for yourself a Transformational Journal (any spiral notebook will do) and begin the first page with an assessment of where you are in your life. Write down areas where you’re happy, where you’re ambivalent, and other areas where you’d like to see some changes.

Become a wonderer

Have you ever pondered a “what if” question? What if you would have taken that advanced track in college? What if you would have jumped at that impromptu trip to Europe? Now it’s time to take that wondering spirit and apply it to your future.

Get our your Transformational Journal and on the next page, write this down:

“I wonder what would happen if I ___________.”

Then begin filling in the blanks. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way at Work, suggests creating this Wonderer as an inner voice in your life. She says that you can “get to know and trust your Wonderer as an important guide to creative breakthrough.”

Set some coordinates

In the show, A Very Brady Sequel, Mike Brady says to his family, “Remember kids, a very wise man once said, ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’” Yes, it’s true, this is a quote from the Brady Bunch, but the point is still valid. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in your life?

Maybe you’ve thought about starting your own business. Or taking an art class. Now is the time to get some of these goals on a page. On page two of your Transformational Journal, write down some dreams you have for yourself, whether it’s improving an existing skill or learning something entirely new.

Define the standards

Are you looking for the freeway route or do you want to take the scenic side roads? There are certainly pros and cons to both; you just have to know what the priority is for your life. And remember, there are no right or wrong answers here: you can combine both speedy and sedate segments of your journey.

Maybe you want to sign up for a brief, two-day photography workshop, but take your time developing a blog to showcase your work. This is an entry for page three of your Transformational Journal. Write down the “how” of making your life course happen. Brainstorm ideas such as networking with people in the industry of your choice, to taking courses, to exploring websites that can help you learn more.

Pick a milestone

Setting some achievable landmarks along the journey can help you feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. Milestones can occur at any point in a journey, but their purpose is the same: to inspire the weary wanderer to stay the course. Think about the immigrants who braved brutal conditions crossing the Atlantic to come to the United States. The Statue of Liberty was a significant milestone for many of them.

Take another look at your Transformational Journal and on the next page write down some milestones that can help you know you’re on the right path. If you’re aiming to become healthier, then list ways that you’ll know you’re getting there, such as getting back into those jeans from last year.

Get on the road!

The longest journey begins with just one step. You’ve heard this many times before, but it remains true today. Don’t judge yourself in a negative light for taking even the tiniest of steps. It’s those tiny steps combined together that will get you to your destination.

We are all immigrants on the journey of life. Carl Sagan was right. We have been wanderers from the beginning. It’s in our DNA. The trick is cultivating those immigrant skills to lead us to the life of our dreams. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.

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  1. I myself was greatly moved by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. I was at a difficult point in my life and kust realizing that we can make choices to change our life is is huge. I am still onmy journey even though I have hit many bumps along the way.
    Great post!

  2. This was perfect for me at this time. Thank you for reminding me of what I already knew but lost sight of.

  3. Our journeys have a starting point and a ending point. Much like a book ‘first chapter’ and the ‘last chapter’ – but what is important is how the journey rides out in between.

    The stories of our journeys are all special, all have their own objectives but admittedly some are unaware of where they started from and where they want to go – but for most were are clear about this or at least in the stage of planning where we want to go. It’s also good sometimes to just step back a little and take a look at the journey over all and to see if anything can be improved.

  4. This post resonated very well with me.
    Till a few months ago, I was feeling disillusioned with my job at Wall Street. I was looking for something more meaningful to do in my life and used a process similar to the one above, to decide my purpose and what I want to do further in life. I quit my job in New York and moved back to my home country, India 3 months ago. Now, I run a blog on personal development and am enjoying every moment of this new life and the challenges it is offering.
    I believe that the process you have mentioned above has to be visited again and again to better understand and fine tune our purpose and how we plan to realize it.
    Thanks for posting.

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