catalysts to transformationChange happens.

Catalysts spark big change.

I am so not talking high school chemistry.

Sophomore year: the perfect storm of my teenaged flake-out and Mr. Elmer’s elephant-like memory.

And possible mid-life crisis.

The only teacher to remember my big brother after eleven years, he still held a grudge against Steve for an infraction so minor none of my family remembered it. The way he took it out on me made me decide I hated science, for way longer than the gap between my brother’s graduation and mine.

So my chemistry chops are lame, which means I’m not even going to mention the one chemical symbol I can still read, 2HCl. (Oh, wait. I just did. Oooh, H2O. I know that one, too!)

Instead, I’m going straight for the metaphor, as great coaches are wont to do.

In chemistry, catalysts increase the rates of reactions.

In our lives and careers, catalysts spark transformation.

Think back to when you learned to ride a bike as a kid.

Training wheels off for the first time.

Mom or dad gives you a push.

They let go, and it’s up to you to keep pedaling.

Where you end up and how fast you get there is up to your little legs, sense of balance, and ability to steer.

Their push is the catalyst that helped you get started more quickly.

(Thanks, Chemistry for Dummies friends, for the analogy.)

You transform from a kiddo who can’t ride a two-wheeler to a budding cyclist. You can’t turn back. Well, maybe until you get old and get one of those big ol’ tricycles, but I digress.

Catalysts spark transformation.

In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck describes three types of catalysts that spark the kind of life transformation from which you cannot return.

Imagine you win the lottery. Your relationship with your partner comes crashing to a sudden end. You walk into a sudden meeting with your boss, and she hands you a carton to clean out your desk.

Those types of catalysts are shocks. They’re sudden and major and happen from outside of yourself.

Let’s say the meeting with your boss leads to the offer of a fantastic promotion. Your parents offer to give you their mountain chalet because they want to travel they’re still young enough to enjoy it and are allergic to real estate agents.

I think of those catalytic opportunities as sudden-ish, since you may have had an inkling they were on the horizon, but they come to fruition quickly. They’re similar to shocks since they also originate outside of you; different because they’re typically more about opportunity.

Transitions are the most challenging catalysts, the ones that we try the longest to ignore and that can be the most difficult to embrace.

Martha Beck describes a transition as a catalyst that comes from inside, a sense of yearning and inevitability that you step into a major life transformation – not a small course correction –  even if you have no clue which direction you’re meant to travel.

Transitions can induce the same kind of fear and guilt as shocks and opportunities.

They also tend to pack boatloads of shame, self-doubt, indecision, and social disruption.


I knew nothing of the Change Cycle or catalytic transitions at the time – Martha hadn’t written about them yet and I’d hadn’t heard of her anyway – but I intuited the social disruption piece enough that I took my parents out to dinner and plied them with an abundance of wine before I told them I was leaving the corporate gig where I made more money than my dad to go to music school.

They were supportive, but I still had to travel all four stages of the Change Cycle from the boardroom to my own classroom.

So, yeah.

Change happens.

Catalysts spark change.

Shocks, opportunities, and transitions lead to life-altering transformation.

Transitions are tricky.

And navigable. With ease, agility, and even liberal doses of joy.

If you’re starting to feel the whispers of yearning that marks a catalytic transition, I can help.

Because the upside of my dismal high school science career is that it ultimately led me to my north star, coaching, where the catalysts lead to incredible transformations.

Facing a shock-, opportunity-, or transition-induced transformation? Navigate Your Next is a great way to right your ship and sail forward with agility and ease.


image: pixabay, with permission

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