A Pattern of Personal Transformation

The Hero’s Choice is a story about the personal transformation of Hal Stratton from a successful but emotionally underdeveloped man into a person who discovers wholeness inside and goodwill in his relationships. At the beginning of the book, Hal is not emotionally prepared to deal with the crisis of being fired as general manager of Western Realty. (Most people would have a difficult time responding to such a turn of events.) Hal, like so many of us when in crisis, is negative and reactive. He shows little self awareness or willingness to see his responsibility for what has happened. He simply acts out his emotions in non-productive ways. He comes from “survival” rather than “serenity.”

Of course, this changes as the story progresses and Hal slowly starts to see himself and his life in a new way. At first he reacts with skepticism and resistance. But gradually he opens his heart and mind to the lessons his mentor, Donald, is teaching. His life begins to change as he starts to take responsibility for himself, interrupts old defensive patterns, creates a new vision, and makes new, more empowering choices.

Many of you have read the book and so know the story. Whether or not you have is neither here nor there. The purpose of my brief recap is to make the point that personal transformation is not random. There is a pattern governed by just a few core principles. I believe that these principles are at work, usually implicitly, in all personal transformation and for this reason I want to make them explicit. They are steps that you will find operating in your life as you learn and grow and change. Being aware of them can help you better understand the process by which you, too, can improve your life.

In a nutshell, here are the steps for personal transformation:

Step One:Wake up Being aware and honest; fully present, alert, and conscious of what is happening within and around us. It is the context from which we make choices and find joy, fulfillment, and success in life.Each of the principles Donald taught were designed to help Hal become more aware and see himself and life in new and more empowering ways.

Step Two:Take accountability Seeing how our current results (reality) are related to choices we have made. Claiming ownership rather than living from blame and excuses.Accountability (one form of personal responsibility) can be a bitter pill to swallow. We often associate it with self-blame, being wrong, or inadequate. And yet it is also the gateway to empowerment and the ability to make new, healthier choices.

Step Three:Interrupt old patterns Recognizing and refusing to get sucked into habitual, negative, previously unconscious, ways of thinking and behaving. Doing something (anything) incompatible with the old.Change requires breaking old, self-defeating patterns. Not doing so is like refurnishing a home without removing the old, worn-out furniture. Breaking an old pattern makes room for new choices.

Step Four:Clarify a new vision Getting clear about what we want. Thinking deeply about what is most important to us and how we want to live (purpose and principles) and all the good we want to attract into our lives.Vision provides motivation, direction, and sustainability in the change process. It must be compelling and matter more than the payoffs we get out of the old way of being.

Step Five: Make new choices Recognizing our ability to choose, at this moment in time, how we think, feel, and act. Willingness to make choices to act rather than react to events.Making new choices (a second form of personal responsibility) is a conscious decision that often requires inner strength and even courage. It is an ultimate act of freedom that transforms us into powerful, self-governing beings.

Step Six: Practice and Persist Making new behaviors habitual and permanent through repetition, especially when confronting new challenges. This is being deliberate in creating and sustaining new patterns of living and behaving.Old patterns are like gravity that continually pull us back to our lesser selves. We have to practice and be persistent, even self-forgiving, to sustain change.


The steps seem simple and straight forward. And yet they express the essence of change. Hal experienced each of these steps.

His journey began with awareness. The concepts Donald taught him (The Three Rs, Key Moments, Four perspectives, Payoffs, etc.) prodded him to wake up and see himself in new and different ways.

Donald also challenged him to be accountable for his choices. It began as he “owned” his choices in his relationship with Kathy. He deepened the process, later in the book, as he owned up to his part in being fired.

Hal also learned how to interrupt old patterns or negative responses during his key moments (tendencies to blame, retreat, judge others) as he challenged the distortions in his thinking and saw, clearly, the negative consequences of what he was doing.

He clarified a new vision, typed it on a sheet of paper, and taped it to a nearby wall. He deepened his vision as he thought deeply about his guiding principles and later identified a unifying theme, a compelling sense of his life’s purpose.

Hal learned that he had the ability to make choices regarding his thoughts, actions, and feelings. He became more proactive about making choices as he clarified his intent and the outcomes he truly desired (“I choose…”).

And, of course, he practiced and persisted, especially when people did not respond or events did not go as he had hoped. In short, Hal cycled through all six steps of personal transformation, in fact, several times, with each new key moment.

I want to invite you to do a quick assessment of your life. Are you awake, alert, and aware of the patterns of thinking, feeling, and relating to others? Do you take accountability, rather than blame when things go wrong? Are you able to interrupt old, negative patterns? How clear is your vision of what you really want? Can you make new choices? Practice and persist when the going gets tough?

None of us is perfect. We backslide all the time. But being aware of the steps helps us know where we are and how to move forward.

Would you like to read more? Have a look at our blog post A pattern of personal transformation- part II.


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