Transformative Learning Environments
Several weeks ago I went to Amsterdam for a three-day hackathon about transformation. The hackathon centred on the question “how to help adult education trainers design learning environments for students’ transformation.” I was mainly interested in transformation that leads to better awareness, new insights and bold actions.
For those of you who have difficulty with the meaning of “transformation” – you are not alone. Words confuse me sometimes. I can even distrust them. I trust more what I see and sense.
Notwithstanding those doubts, I was happy to join the hackathon. I was in the middle of several big life changes myself: leaving Berlin, rethinking my career, building a loving relationship. I thought the stay in Amsterdam would give me the environment I needed to reflect on those changes.
Three Powerful Lessons
My journey toward personal transformation began when I was dating a woman whom, I realized, was not treating me well. Despite this realization, I was not able to break up with her. I had been facing issues in relationships for several years already and felt stuck. Two close friends recommended that I see a therapist to discuss my situation. They both saw strength, not weakness, in seeking psychological help.
Acknowledging your struggles is a good motivator to start a process of transformation.
My journey had begun! I enrolled in a one-year personal development course, intuition and meditation training, a leadership course, constellation training, a Theory U course, an introduction to Buddhism, yoga and tai chi lessons. In my professional life, the new knowledge led to me becoming a change manager.
But can one at all call him or herself a “change manager”? Can you manage change? Every time I worked on a change project I questioned the value of my work. I wondered if the desired change was simply a matter of time. I also reflected on this question in relation to my personal life. Did all the time and effort I put into all the training and coaching pay off or had it been enough to let time pass?
And what about “transformation manager”? Can you manage transformation? My experiences have shown me that true transformation comes from the inside. While change happens around us, transformation happens inside us.
I questioned both my professional role and the concept behind it.
It took me years to change several destructive patterns that I had. I’m not even sure if I can speak of transformation. What I am sure of, is that I will keep looking for ways to be the best me for myself and my surrounding.
With time I learned three powerful lessons:
- Distinguish between impartial advice and input based on a person’s projection.
- Trust my body and my senses that tell me so much more than my scattered thoughts.
- Keep working on my challenges either on my own or with like-minded and trustworthy people.
Facilitation Not Management
This week I saw two videos about forced transformation. The first video presented thought transformation camps in India; the second conversion therapy for LGBTI persons in the United States. It was shocking to see that people were forced violently to “transform”. I believe that forced transformation, with a focus on people’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation, should be forbidden. Dictating transformation from the outside is not only ineffective; it can even be destructive.
Instead of change or transformation “management”, it may be productive to strive to facilitate change or transformation within individuals and organizations. I believe that individuals can be led to better awareness and new insights with the help of mindfulness practices, inner learning experiences and in-depth knowledge sharing. The formation of a community of practitioners can thereafter lead the way towards bold actions.
My advice to adult education trainers is to create an environment that considers those aspects and make them the pillar of meaningful transformation processes.
If you want to know more about designing such an environment then let this blog, about conscious event organising, inspire you.
Picture by Floor Martens, Consultant and Community Builder
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