Coming to Terms with the Nature of Change

Photography: Stefan Bookblock  Words: Milena Nguyen   

Photography: Stefan Bookblock
Words: Milena Nguyen

This is Part I of a three-part series on realising Transformative Change

It’s that time of the year again. The Earth has travelled yet another full-cycle around the sun, cities across the world have decked their skies out in pyrotechnics and everyone is in a festive mood – the office is emptier than usual, and it's acceptable to take a bit longer to get back to people over email (NB: Out of Office alert, #FTW). Not everyone can go on vacation at the same time (someone has to 'man' the fort), so either you're still vacationing, or you're in the office with more time on your hands than usual.

When idle, the mind wanders – perhaps to lengthier lunch plans or the latest holiday blockbuster you just have to catch with pals after work. Maybe you're thinking about the year-end bonus, and wishing that there was more of it. If you're a mother juggling both work and a baby, you'll be assessing whether you're up to standard on both fronts. For some, it will be existential questions that will plague them. 

“Another year has passed – what am I doing with my life?"

"Is this work that I am doing, making me happy? Is it leading me toward where I aspire to be?"

"Am I happy?"

"Am I mediocre?"

"Am I just settling for what is easy?"

Whether you’ve been a fan of Year-End reviews and New-Year resolutions or not, the arrival of a brand new year 'wakes you up' like a bell chiming loudly, so that you can realise that time waits for no one. This time of the year naturally prompts you to reflect. Unfortunately, the only change visible in the lives of most people is the physical ageing of their bodies.

Many people live the same year, over and over again. They go through the same cycle of worries, living through the same old sense that something is 'missing'. They put up with chronic exhaustion and remedy it with distraction. They may even choose to maintain toxic relationships, just to 'keep the peace'.

Of course, the specificity of these scenarios differs from individual to individual. But if you look deeper, you’ll see that they’re all cut from the same cloth.

This brings to mind Kahlil Gibran’s verse, from “Do Not Love Half Lovers”, written in the early 19th century, “You are a whole that exists to live a life, not half a life.”

The message is clear: Our days are numbered and we must live life to the fullest. 

In the summer of 2011, I was involved in a bus accident along a deserted highway in Kenya. While I survived, I vividly recall how my life flashed before my eyes. It is perhaps a cliché to say this, but that incident changed my outlook on life forever: I was able to understand how life is as gorgeous as it is fragile.

We all have changes in our lives that we crave for but do not necessarily have the courage to act on. Whether it is kick-starting a passion project, finding a life-partner, building a company, or taking steps to feeling more healthy and alive – 2018 is giving you another chance to do things differently. You can enact change that will allow your life to blossom in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to you. 

At this point, you must be thinking, "All right, I'll set some resolutions, and I'll follow through with them and change will happen, and my life will be great."

Let's be real about this.

We all set resolutions and conveniently forget about them. We know that we should take action in various aspects of our lives but often find ourselves stuck in a state of mental paralysis, which leads us nowhere. I have personally behaved this way dozens of times until I realised how powerful taking a step toward change could be. That's when I understood that the main reason why people fail to make lasting changes in their lives is that of a disregard of the importance of laying the right foundations. 

If you've read until this point, you're one step closer to taking concrete life-changing steps for yourself, because I am going to walk you through what I have learnt about change:

1.    Change is hard, and it doesn’t happen overnight

Whatever issues you wish to improve upon–be it a lack of confidence, getting out of bad relationships in your personal life or at work–there is no magic pill or motivational Youtube video or wellness article (like this one) that will help you change overnight. Before you make changes in your life, you must first accept this fact. 

2.    Change is an intense process, but stagnating will hurt you more

Making changes to what has been set in stone isn't going to be a walk in the park. However, believe me when I say that resisting change will overall be ten times more painful in the long run. Picture this: living the same year, over and over again. Reliving the same issues, on repeat. You're going to be in a lot of emotional (and sometimes physical) pain because you're allowing the same wounds to be inflicted upon your being. The crazy thing is you may not even know it because you've grown so accustomed to your state of affairs.

3.    Change occurs in stages

In my eight years as a transformative life coach, I’ve worked with serial entrepreneurs, 'solopreneurs', directors of small and medium enterprises, high-flying executives and consultants, school teachers and students on sabbaticals, among many others.

I’ve helped people transition from terrible breakup to a blissful engagement; being depressed and exhausted with work to finding their dream job; decades of self-hate to self-love and experiencing the bliss that comes with it.

Like the 20,000 species of butterflies in the world that all go through the same life cycle, these distinct and fundamentally profound changes that my dear clients have gone through share something in common: they all happen in a beautiful order.

In fact, there are precisely eight stages of change, and while I want to share all of them with you here, magazines enforce a word limit on articles, so you'll have to learn about the stages of change in my next article, which will be available soon, at this link. 


A quote by Kahlil Gibran. (n.d.). Retrieved December 28, 2017, from

North American Butterfly Association. (n.d.). Retrieved December 28, 2017, from

Milena Nguyen, one of our lovely PAUSE Guides, is a three-time TEDx Speaker, multiple-business founder and life coach. She has spoken in six countries about self-love, lifestyle design, conscious relationships, healthy living, happiness, and finding one’s purpose in life. She will be conducting a Life-Design Workshop (open to both PAUSE Circle members and the public). More details at this link, here.