Creating change is an art. And anyone striving to develop personally and professionally is both the artist and the work of art at the same time. We are all constantly writing our autobiographies and painting our self-portraits. Essential for such creative work, I believe, are the cornerstones of awareness, responsibility, and transformation (ART).
Awareness. It is all-too-easy to go through the day on autopilot, acting out of habit rather than intention. Becoming aware of habitual thoughts and behaviors is necessary in order to change them. For example, someone who finds teaming difficult because of how he expresses anger will need to become more aware of his behavior patterns and the kinds of situations in which he routinely “gets hooked” and vents inappropriately.
Responsibility. For desired change to happen, we must be intentional about the effort. Taking ownership of our own growth requires making an honest assessment of difficulties and options and committing to change what we can. For the person learning to manage anger, taking responsibility may mean acknowledging the impact on others of his habitual behaviors and actively learning and practicing new responses.
Transformation. Reaching for our goals requires taking action over time. Transformation, however, does not happen only once we reach our goals, but as part of the process. We are transformed by the journey itself, even before reaching the destination. The path toward desired change, whether it’s losing weight, career advancement, or better managing anger, will involve twists and turns, frustrations, and mistakes. But learning from each experience and seeing signs of progress (such as a successful instance of taking a breath and asking a question rather than immediately raising one’s voice in anger) are transformative.
Creativity, whether in writing or personal and professional development, requires more than a flash of inspiration—ongoing effort is necessary. These three cornerstones (awareness, responsibility, and transformation) are foundational for intentional personal change, just as rehearsals are essential to be at our best on opening night.