The Foundation of Transformation
Recently, I was asked to prepare a talk on transformation. So, I began sifting through my toolkit of thoughts on how a person, a relationship or an organisation evolves into a new and better version of itself. What I came to realise quickly, though, is that the word transformation was insufficient to describe the process of striving for the fullest potential. It sounded satisfying enough and certainly seems to assuage the yearnings of so many who seek change. And yet, it seemed to sit only superficially in my conscious. I had a nagging sense that there was something much deeper I needed to understand about transformation. Working through the process of Thinking At the Edge (TAE)[i], and drawing upon my own life experience, I discovered the heart of transformation, and it is enlovening.
If you type the word enlovening, the editor will likely show it as an error. Moreover, if you go searching for it in a dictionary, it will bring up a blank. And yet, enlovening does exist and is occurring around us each and every moment. Enlovening is the act of:
Enlovening is taking action to identify and appreciate the false notions and fears that exist within our environment, removing them from their place of prominence and replacing them with love. And this makes enlovening the essential foundation of transformation, for it creates the foundation for flourishing.
Before diving in, though, let’s clarify what we mean by transformation. The dictionary tells us that it is a change in either composition, construction, character or condition[ii]. When we use the term in personal or professional life, though, three elements of transformations are implied, and that distinguish them from other types of change being that it is:
- Significant. Transformation suggests a change that is extensive in either scope or scale. It may touch many people or things or many dimensions of one thing.
- Enduring. Transformational change is difficult to undo or to revert to the original condition, as the underlying foundations have shifted during the process.
- An improvement. A change can be helpful, harmful or neutral concerning achieving an ultimate aim or goal. When we use the word transformation, we suggest that the change propels the object closer towards its fullest and most positive potential and the achievement of its highest-order goals.
In this way, we can further refine the definition of transformation to be:
“A change that is significant in scale or scope, is difficult to disrupt, and which moves an object towards its highest purpose.”
One of the most dangerous assumptions you can make is that when you say the word love, everyone else will know what you mean. The reality is that we all have our own understanding of what love is, shaped from our very first experiences in childhood. We bring these unique views into every interaction with our families, friends and peers. So, if we are to advance the notion that we can fill something with it, then we need to be on the same page with what love is.
There are many that explain love as a feeling fostered through moments of shared positivity.
“First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike.”
And yes, while emotions are a primary driver of all that we do, they are insufficient in themselves to influence the delivery of any difference in our lives. We can all wish the best for ourselves and others, but what is required is action. This is made clear in the great description of love presented in the Bible.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” — 1 Corinthians 13
This portrayal of love does not reveal a reliance on warm fuzzy feelings. Love does not depend on the emotions of excitement or ecstasy. It is the actions of love that are integral. The actions of love, kindness, patience, understanding, and rejoicing in the truth are the enablers that allow individuals and groups to thrive.
The selfless, calm, profound nature of love that this verse suggests is motivated by care for us and the other and not just concerned with securing emotional highs. Through actions of faith, kindness and compassion, love aims to reduce the suffering of ourselves and others and help us both move towards happiness. Jim Rohn sums up the nature of love in action beautifully when he says:
“Love is much deeper than a feeling. Love is a commitment we make to people to always treat that person right and honourably.”
And Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and a professional researcher in the field of positive emotions, also concludes that:
“The most essential feature of love — a feature that spans all varieties of love, from romantic to parental to platonic — identifies such care and concern, expressed abstractly as your “investment in the wellbeing of another for his or her own sake.”
From all I have learned about love, I have developed the following definition:
Love is action taken to create happiness and remove suffering, for the purpose of understanding and achieving true potential.
The benefits of love
Before I provide the proven benefits of love, I invite you to recall a time when you took action to bring joy to someone else, helped them solve a problem, reduced their pain or inspired them to tap into their truth. From this experience, you would gain a felt sense of the profound effects that come from the actions of love. The breadth and depth of the results of love are difficult to convey in words adequately. However, have been summarised to be as follows:
- Love opens you up and expands your awareness of yourself, others, and your situation. This boosts your IQ and causes long-term gains in cognitive ability, making you smarter and wiser.
- Love counteracts fear and stress, which reduces inflammation and improves every element of physical health.
- Taking actions of love improves a sense of agency, purpose and meaning that enhances mental wellbeing and resilience.
Love then is good for body, mind and spirit!
“The more you experience it, the more you open up and grow, becoming wiser and more attuned, more resilient and effective, happier and healthier. You grow spiritually as well, better able to see, feel, and appreciate the deep interconnections that inexplicably tie to you to others, that embed you within the grand fabric of life.” ~ Barbara Fredrickson
The positive energy created through actions of love does not just rest within. It moves forward, like the breeze that nudges the leaves, the ripples flowing from a little duck’s legs, or the warmth we feel from the sun’s rays; it changes the world around it and brings awareness that there is an alternative state of being.
The process of enlovening
What prevents love, then? What inhibits us from filling our lives, communities, and organisations with this life-sustaining power? Conversely, what causes us to choose the life-destroying condition of living without love? You may come up with an excess of explanations, everything from the expectations of others, the demands of the material world and the policies propagated by the powers of the day. Ultimately, though, all of these apparent answers boil down to one simple and yet more sinister barrier — fear.
So many wise people have attested to the fact that love and fear are mutually exclusive, that you cannot have love where there is fear.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love”. ~ 1 John 4:18
“There is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” ~ John Lennon
And from my spiritual guru — Michael Leunig[iv]:
There are only two feelings. Love and fear. There are only two languages. Love and fear. There are only two activities. Love and fear. There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results. Love and fear. Love and fear.
Fear shuts us down from connecting with our true selves, with other people, and moving forward to achieve our greatest potential. Everything benefit that love can bring is unattainable in the field of fear. Spending our days in fear is nothing short of destructive — for those living in fear and the world around them. Because as Lennon so wisely perceived:
“When we are afraid, we pull back from life.”
Fear closes us down to others and our potential. We mistrust ourselves and sacrifice our ability to make a positive contribution to this world. When we fear how others react, we do not give all of ourselves. We are not honestly and fully ourselves. The result is that we live in a state of conflict — there is a war between who we know we truly are and that which we display to others. Care, creativity and contribution are stifled. Gandhi recognised this when he said:
“Fear kills the soul.”
Fear kills the soul of a person, of a relationship, of a society or an organisation. Therefore, fear then must be moved out to allow love in. This is the process of enlovening.
Enlovening, though, is not about beating or banishing fear from our world but recognising and respecting its role, and instead of cowering to it, connecting to it with confidence and care.
Because fear is an immature and indiscriminate friend, it yearns to keep us safe yet is deficient in the discernment necessary to judge between threats to our survival and the perimeters of our potential. Fear is insufficiently insightful and intrinsically insecure. It will always err on the side of caution, advocating for cessation, closure and constriction. It is comfortable yielding to discomfort and content to ignore the calls of creativity and change. Fear is strong, simplistic and superficial but also a purposeful and powerful portent.
Fear longs to feel recognised, respected and cared for and summons the counsel of love to embrace fear as a valued member of this expedition called Life. Fear is the finest flare for illuminating the frontiers of our flourishing. Fear is also a first-rate forerunner, scouting for danger and heralding the battalions of Bravery. Fear may not be able to focus through the fog, but it has a pivotal place as an antecedent of self-awareness and a precursor of perception.
Enlovening then is not about eradicating the feeling of fear but filling it with love, so it can receive the benefits and melt into its magic. Forcing away fear does nothing but mark the way for future mutiny.
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ~ Sigmund Freud
True Transformation is Enlovening
Websites are awash with advertisements for products that will, for a fee, deliver the best version of yourself to your doorstep overnight. Consultants claim to have frameworks that will quickly and conveniently bring about organisational change. Social media is bursting with salespeople offering ways to improve your finances, relationships, career, appearance and ability to manifest your dream future. And yet none of them hit at the heart of what brings about meaningful change in our lives — love. In fact, they do a darn good job at preying upon and multiplying our fears.
These profiteers recognise the wisdom of John Lennon when he sang, “ Money can’t buy me love.” They want money, so they peddle ways to keep us petrified. As the process of enlovening shows, only dedicated action to finding and smothering our fears with love will bring about the changes we seek. Only enlovening will help us evolve from the mundane to the magical.
[i] TAE — a systematic way to think about our world and ourselves by directly referring to a felt sense. Find out more at Thinking at the Edge (TAE) | International Focusing Institute
[iii]Fredrickson, Barbara L. Love 2.0 : Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. 2014, ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BB19014985.