Whoever we are and whatever our background, I’m sure most of us can agree that the past few years have been dramatic and full of upheaval.
While we often start a new year in the hope that it will bring success, peace, or fulfillment, there’s something a little different in the air regarding the year 2020. If you’re already thinking “Yes, that’s how I feel too,” then you’re one of the people this message is meant for, especially the creatives, the dreamers, the emotional, passionate ones.
People like us—right now, we’re battle-scarred. We’re definitely more tuned in than we used to be, and we’re fiercely protective of all that matters to us. We’re consciously trying to save it all, from our planet to our sanity, and everything in between that’s precious to us. The past decade has truly put things into perspective.
For this reason, I’m calling 2020 “the year of brutal honesty,” because none of us have time for pampering, beating around the bush, or vaguely hoping things are going to turn out okay.
The type of growth we’ll go through in 2020 and the coming decade will help us experience better relationships, friendships, careers, and creative endeavours.
Let’s focus on a key truth that will help us to unlock our full potential this year. It might be painful to hear this, but I’m bringing this message to you in the spirit of evolution:
Transformation and procrastination are polar opposites. This means that every action of procrastination you make is a direct vote against your own transformation.
Is this one of those soundbites from a typical coach that sounds super smart but doesn’t really stack up? Let’s put it to the test.
Surely, the opposite of procrastination is action, rather than transformation? When you quit procrastinating you accomplish tasks, and that has got to be the opposite of things we do to procrastinate, like checking social media, taking bubble baths, and watching kitty videos online, right?
Unfortunately, accomplishing tasks and being active can be a form of procrastination in itself.
At the lower levels of development, getting things done instead of messing around on the internet is a great achievement, and that does lead to sometimes rapid transformation—but that is the beginning of the process rather than the end. The higher you go, the more easy and comforting it is to procrastinate by accomplishing tasks, rather than going through a process of transformation.
This is why otherwise high-level artists, business people, and athletes get stuck at a certain level. Just because where they’re at now is an enviable position for those below them, remember that it’s all relative.
If you’re having trouble visualising this, think of two incredibly famous singers from the 1980s: Prince and Terence Trent D’arby. Both were huge stars early on in their careers, had incredible ability, sold millions of albums, and were adored by fans for their striking good looks. However, one managed to transcend their own and everyone else’s music and image again and again, and the other disappeared without trace for years.
Obviously, I’m simplifying this, but the take-home from this story is that the process of transformation was too much for one of these artists to bear.
Brutal honesty again: transformation is painful.
Our most transformative moments are often those circumstances we wouldn’t wish upon our worst enemies, never mind ourselves. We might never consciously choose a difficult childhood for example, but when reflecting on it, we can appreciate that these circumstances can impart strength, wisdom, and empathy beyond a child’s years that will lead us down a more conscious path in life.
Why does transformation hurt? Because it’s dramatic growth; only the slow, gentle kind of personal growth can happen without us noticing.
Imagine if you had to do whatever a caterpillar must do—fold yourself into a dark coffin and allow your entire body to turn to mush for weeks, leaving you completely vulnerable until you emerge again as an entirely different being. I’ve often wondered whether it hurts or whether it’s stressful for the caterpillar to experience this, and whether it knows that it’s going to be a butterfly at the end of it all. Probably not!
It’s a cliché to talk about a butterfly as a symbol of transformation, but it’s one that’s endured for thousands of years because it encompasses every aspect of the human experience of transformation. While lots of things change and transform in nature, the caterpillar to butterfly experience reflects what can be an extremely dark and limiting period of our human life, often with no end or hope in obvious sight. To us observing the caterpillar building its chrysalis and becoming still within it, it seems like a perfectly natural process and nothing to be afraid of. However, going through this process as a human can be terrifying.
Who would willingly put themselves through the “long, dark night of the soul” with no guarantee of growing wings at the end of it? Our biggest transformations tend to be outside our control—they’re challenges we overcome.
This is why we resist our most dramatic transformation. We are scared of being swallowed by the darkness along the way. And it’s the root cause of procrastination at the higher levels of functioning—like staying at the top of your field of expertise rather than starting over in a new one, or remaining at the same level of ability and peer respect instead of challenging the status quo.
I want to reach out to members of my “tribe”—the people with a calling to be creative, to make a difference in some way, the ones striving to be the best that they can be for their own sake, to contribute to the world, to experiment, to discover joy, to create an impact, rather than those operating from a place of insecurity.
I really feel that despite the darkness in the world right now, this year is ours for the taking. Let 2020 be the year of brutal honesty with yourself, and begin your transformation before the year is out. You won’t be alone—there are others just like you going through exactly the same process.
Are you with me?
Here are some ways to mark the true new beginning of 2020, which isn’t the stroke of midnight or the month of January, but the moment you embrace transformation.
Choose one or two that seem natural and obvious to you to really set your intentions this year. By reminding yourself often that you’re on a different track now, your procrastination habits and choices should start to naturally dwindle away.
Remember that the more you consciously invite and welcome your transformational experience, the less difficult and painful it will be. Not all transformational experiences have to hurt or be unpleasant, but even the most amazing experience can be overwhelming and scary if it is unwelcome and unexpected.
>> Give something up. Immediately, and with the intention of discarding it forever. Obviously, this should be a negative habit and something that represents your old self. Smoking, drinking soda, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram late at night, biting your nails, using sugar in your tea, your Friday night fast-food binge, recurring negative thoughts, or excuses for not exercising. It doesn’t matter how small it is, what matters is that you’re embracing change.
>> Start using something every day that symbolizes your transformation. This can be very small and personal—you don’t have to change your car or your entire wardrobe. Try a journal, an eco phone case in a meaningful colour, a small bracelet, a healthy ingredient, or a brand new coffee mug with something meaningful to you printed on it.
>> Begin using something that you were saving for the future. Not your life savings obviously, but if you’ve had a piece of clothing, a kitchen item, or a piece of equipment that you were saving for some time in the future, you’re symbolically stepping right into the future by using it today.
>> Invest in yourself right away. Buy that piece of software or equipment, book that course, or go and explore that opportunity. Treat it as if it were the urgent next step in your career that you can’t possibly put off for another second.
>> Make your ideal, future self a priority. Carve out time during the day to read, meditate, practise a new skill, network, or whatever you normally do last, when the “vital” stuff is done. You might only get the chance to do it for 20 minutes a day, but doing it first rather than last is a powerful statement of intent.
Going back to the 80s and the rivalry between singers Prince and Terence Trent D’arby again:
D’arby, now known as Sananda Maitreya after a self-confessed spiritual transformation, was facing the level of extreme fame that Prince had already reached.
We’re all familiar with how talented stars can come undone under the pressures of fame. Rather than plunge himself into the next level before he was ready, the U.K.-born singer backed off, unravelled, and re-invented himself in a more low-key way. He claims that this “saved his life,” and I don’t doubt him for a second. He couldn’t commit to the transformational process that would have pitted him against Prince with every new music release, and he declined the opportunity. Prince had already committed to his transformation and done the inner work, and his distinctive stage presence, success, fan base, and style were all symbolic of this.
Declining the next level of fame was D’arby’s personal decision to make, and both artists were honest with themselves about their readiness for the next step.
There’s a version of that story happening in your life—right now.
Which way do you need to go in 2020? If brutal honesty tells you that you’d like to be ready soon, then there’s no time to waste.
The “next level” usually takes us by surprise in some way—we’re offered an opportunity we never dreamed existed, or plunged into a situation that we didn’t realise we could handle. Things might suddenly go crazy in your life for a month or two and then seem to “click” back together, but in a better way than before.
There are a thousand ways that change and transformation can manifest, and yours will be personal to you. By replacing procrastination with a bold announcement to yourself that you’re ready, you’ll help this to happen swiftly, and be ready for your transformation when it finally appears. You might even enjoy every second of it.