We are all looking to change, grow, mature and transform our lives. It might be losing a few pounds, quitting caffeine or saving money—or something more substantial like controlling emotions, becoming more Christ-like or overcoming addiction.
Change is possible for a few days, but then we revert to our old ways. Transformation is different from change—it's an ongoing recalibration of our default settings. Change is a superficial modification but transformation alters our core and manifests itself in our daily life.
From God's transformation in my personal life and in my work as a psychiatrist, I have found 7 Essential Elements for Transformation:
1. Change is POSSIBLE!
I often meet people who are stuck—so stuck they believe who they are is who they have to be for the rest of their life. They say things like, "There's no hope," "I'm a lost cause," "This is how God wired me," "Change is impossible." God sent Jesus and gave us His instruction book not only change us, but also to totally transform us—for this world and for eternity. God also gave us psychological science and medications to help us apply His transformational instructions. The Bible, TV, Internet, bookstores and churches are filled with testimonies of transformed lives. And mine is one of them.
2. Identify and Define Specific Goals
To accomplish anything, we need goals. Leaving home with no goal of reaching work will get us nowhere. Randomness never helps us achieve goals. Unfortunately, we often have vague goals instead of specific ones. Goals help us focus on what we want, then allow us to precisely set our internal GPS to facilitate the most efficient path to our destination. Determining and identifying specific goals dramatically improve our chances of achieving them.
3. Know Your Real Starting Point
People often make a crucial mistake in the transformation journey—not knowing their true starting point. If my destination is Chicago and my starting point is New York, I will travel west. But if my starting point is Los Angeles, I will travel east. Knowing our specific starting point, or more precisely, identifying our core strengths and weaknesses that affect the change process, is vital for a successful journey. Our efforts to change are often derailed by our lack of honesty in identifying and admitting our personal deficits. Be honest and really assess who you are today.
4. Be Motivated
Certain changes might be necessary for health or financial reasons, while others might move us toward exciting opportunities. Regardless, change requires breaking old habits. Shedding the old self for a new one isn't easy, so motivation is vital. Realizing the consequences of maintaining the status quo will energize you. At the same time, understanding the rewards of psychological and spiritual growth—especially as you reap the fruits of the spirit and honor God—is a supreme motivator. Remind yourself daily of the pros and cons of change to keep your motivation. Satan will tell you that remaining stagnant is better than transforming, but he is lying.
As Christians, we are called to radical change—to stop conforming to this world and to transform. To implement our transformational strategy, we need energy from a significant power source. The Holy Spirit is all-powerful and energizes us in ways we can't imagine. We can try our best, but our efforts pale to the Holy Spirit's power through Jesus Christ. In fact, the first three steps in any 12-step program illustrate this: 1) We admit we are powerless. 2) We recognize and believe a power greater than us can restore us; 3) We make a decision to turn our lives over to God.
6. Know How Your Mind Works
When traveling toward a destination, knowing how your mode of transportation works is vital. If you fill a horse with gas, you aren't going anywhere. And try throwing hay under the hood of your car. Desiring change is like setting out on a trip. Your goal is your destination, and your mind is your mode of transportation. Your decisions get you from where you are to where you want to be. Knowing how your mind works (this is where psychological and brain science is helpful), then developing the Mind of Christ, guarantees a successful journey.
7. Have a Decision-Making Strategy
Randomness in any endeavor makes the process longer, more difficult and mistake-ridden. Intentionality in transformation is necessary. Just as your GPS provides a course to get from point A to B, your mind needs a strategy to process situations and make good decisions. I teach my own decision-making strategy, and you can use yours, but we all need a plan to help us be not only hearers but also doers of God's word.
Reading the Bible and praying are vital ways to seek God's answers regarding these essential elements. Don't wait till New Year's Day or your birthday. Start transformation today!