Self-transformation is a flawed idea. Not because sweeping change doesn’t occur in our experience of the world, but because we don’t consider transformation as an incremental climb up or down a continuum. It’s not how our brains work. We’re not exactly wired to perceive tiny changes in appearance, thought patterns and discrete skills in real time. It’s why most people’s fitness journey ends after the first two weeks of grunting and sweating to no apparent win.
When we consider developing ourselves, we seem to frame it in bianary terms. This is where I am now. That is where I want to be. Invariably, we fail to consider what each point on that continuum may actually look like. Our brains think it’s just a matter of being that thing we want to be. For me, it’s not being depressed. Time and time again, when I reflect on my mood, I’m tempted to say: “I’m just not going to be depressed anymore.” I have thought. I have agency. I have the power to reject that dark presence that creeps over me again and again.
How naive, I know. But surely we all think like this in some area of our lives. As if salvation is just one proclamation away. “From now on I…”–How many times have you heard someone utter this misguided plea for peace? I know I’ve said it. Hell, I still say it, and I am accutely aware of how meaningless such a claim is certain to be.
The falacy is this: we’re always in the process of change. There is no start point, there is no end point. Our whole life is transformation in action. And when we die, mother nature recycles the atoms in our bodies and we become something else. It is one of the few absolute truths in this wacky place we call reality.
So consider this next time you start getting hard on yourself. Before you make that concrete claim of never doing this again, or always doing that, know that change will come regardless of your agency. Make peace with that change and you’ll find a satisfaction that transcends that self you’re trying to be.
This, I believe, is where true salvation lies.