Are you seeking change or transformation?

Change and transformation are buzz words these days, as is "transformational change". Have you taken the time to reflect on what these words really mean. Consider the difference between ‘change’ and ‘transformation’. It may seem simple, yet it is profound.

When we take time to look beyond our words to the essence of the idea being expressed, we start to ask different questions, we open to alternate approaches, and we ourselves begin to transform. This in turn can enable us to be more effective in spurring and enabling transformation in the people, organisations and systems around us.

So what is the difference between change and transformation? The most powerful explanation I have heard is that of Lynne Twist, a global activist and award-winning author of The Soul of Money. when she talked about the distinction between change and transformation during the graduation speech she gave at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (now Pinchot University and soon to be merged with Presidio Graduate School) in June 2012.

Change can change back. We can go from conservative to liberal, from disciplined to undisciplined… Change is volatile. Transformation is completely different–though sometimes it is called change. Transformation never makes the past wrong. It transforms it. It doesn’t deny it. It honours it in a way that you can move forward without making anything wrong, and having the past somehow now become complete, rather than wrong. Transformation has a permanence to it–where once you transform, once you awaken, once you see the stations you didn’t see before, you can’t go back. Transformation has the ultimate power of time, and what the world is crying for now is transformation, not necessarily more change, though some change may be a part of it, the route to transformation. Transformation suddenly makes the past make sense, and new futures open up.”
~ Lynne Twist

As you reflect on these words, pay attention when you or others speak about change and/or transformation. Pay attention to what you and others are really seeking in the situation. Listen to the larger systems state and signals. Ask yourself what is ready to shift, what is wanting to be expressed? Notice what prompts real transformation and what prompts impermanent change? Try responding from a place of radical acceptance–i.e. from that place that doesn’t make the past wrong, but recognises it as a step on the way to something better.


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[This is an updated version of a post originally posted on 5 Feb 2013 on our previous website.]