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Putting Lipstick on a Pig Isn’t Very Effective!

Transformation vs. change — if you look these words up in the dictionary, you’ll actually get somewhat similar definitions, however as I explore in my own life and work more and more with clients, I’m finding that there is a very important difference in these words.

Transformation (noun): A complete or major change in someone’s or something’s appearance, form, etc.

Change (verb): To become different; to make (someone or something) different; to become something else.

(As you can see, even the word “change” is used in the dictionary definition of transformation itself!)

In my understanding and interpretation of these two words, it’s almost as if “change” is about having things be more, better, and different as opposed to transformation which is about a fundamental shift in thoughts, beliefs, actions and results in our lives. Almost as if to “change” is to build on top of what already exists, whereas transformation is more comprehensive in the sense that it includes reexamining our underlying thoughts and beliefs that have generated our past actions and results in order to make new choices to generate new thoughts and beliefs, and thus new actions and results.

Let’s see if an example will support in clarifying the difference between the 2 words (yes, this is where you get to learn about putting lipstick on a pig!). If we were being honest, a pig doesn’t necessarily have a reputation as an incredibly attractive and clean animal, does it? Nope, it doesn’t. (Sorry little piggies…I’m sure you’re sweet.)

So, if we put lipstick on a pig, it could be perceived that we were trying to dress up the pig to change its appearance and have it feel more beautiful or to look better. Yet what happens if deep down inside the pig doesn’t think or belief that it’s beautiful? At this point, you will have changed its appearance on the outside, however will the pig truly have an experience of transforming into something beautiful? Will it truly believe it is beautiful and act accordingly? It’s unlikely since the pig may have underlying thoughts and beliefs based on what others have told it that it isn’t beautiful; so regardless of the outside change in appearance, the thoughts and beliefs won’t have changed which will mean the pig will keep taking actions and creating results consistent with the belief that it isn’t beautiful.

While this is a dramatic example, I hope it makes the key point here. You can make an attempt to change something by making it “more, better, or different”, yet if you don’t address the thoughts and beliefs under the surface that are having you take action that creates results, you’re only glossing up the outside surface instead of creating lasting transformation.

I’ve seen this time and time again with my clients as well, so I’ll close with an example from a client (and good friend) several years ago. This friend wanted my support with understanding her finances better and learning positive financial routines and habits to help her begin stabilizing her financial situation while paying down her debt and increasing her savings. I was enrolled in supporting her to do that, however I was aware that she had an underlying belief that she wasn’t good at math or money. So I could try to support her in changing the way she approached her finances (I knew the techniques and mechanics of proactive money management), however she was unlikely to actually be able to transform how she handled money if she didn’t address the thought/belief that she wasn’t good at math or money. It was only once we acknowledged that belief and spent some time to shift it to something more positive that she was able to absorb and implement what I taught her in terms of money systems and processes to create financial stability for herself.

So, based on this distinction what do you choose – transformation or change?

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