Learning Vs Transforming: How To Accelerate Your Rate Of Personal Evolution

Recently while reading a brilliant book called “Exponential Organizations” by Salim Ismail I came across this fascinating line on a discovery Google made about us human beings…

When I shared this on my instagram a lot of people commented that they had noticed similar patterns among people they know.

So why does “deep personal loss” seem to make us better people?

To understand why, you have to understand the difference between Learning and Transformation.

Anyone can learn. Schools, books, and podcasts all help us learn. But learning is a tiny fraction of what really changes us.

Massive change requires Transformation.

The professor Robert Boyd explains it this way:

Transformation involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions. It is a shift in consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world.

What Boyd is saying, is that when you “Transform” you irreversibly start seeing the world in a fundamentally different way.

An expanded mind, in short, can never contract to its original size.

Yesterday, for example, I listened to an audio clip from the news of dozens of young children of illegal immigrants who were separated from their parents and held in a detention facility.

It was the type of sound that would make most of us feel for these kids and experience a sense of sadness or shame. But in the midst of that audio, you hear a guard jokingly say “Boy we have an orchestra here” and then chuckle.

I don’t believe that this guard is a cruel man. You can educate him on empathy or the science of why separating a child from their parents can cause permanent harmful changes in the brain — but he’d probably not change his behavior.

But if he experienced being separated from HIS child, maybe losing that child in a shopping mall and being reunited 4 hours later — and seeing the fear in that child’s eyes, he might transform. This type of transformation is called “A sudden disorienting dilemma.”

He might also transform over many years, maybe through world travel or through raising a child from a baby to a teenager. This type of transformation is called “evolving meaning-schema over time”. It means maturing, growing up and changing our worldviews through a gradual accumulation of experiences that shifts the way we understand how we fit into the world.

So transformation requires one of two things:

  1. A Sudden Disorienting Dilemma.
  2. Evolving Meaning Schema over time.

But here’s the problem.

Neither is easy.

The first (disorienting dilemma) is painful. It goes back to why Google found that deep personal loss contributed to it’s best people.

The second (evolving meaning schema over time) is slow. Way too slow.

So we’re in a situation where most human beings transform painfully. And transform s-l-o-w-l-y.

And this is why the modern schooling system needs a shift. It emphasizes learning. But learning is far less significant on making us better human beings than transformation.

The important thing here is being able to accelerate one’s “Rate of Transformation”.  And to do so with minimal discomfort or pain.

So how do you shift from just learning to transforming?

There is a 5 point model we use at Mindvalley.

By knowing these five points you can engineer a faster rate of transformation in yourself and other human beings you’re in contact with.

Try using this framework in your life to accelerate YOUR rate of transformation.

The first is..

1. Critical Reflection

Critical reflection is a meaning-making process where you expand your understanding of the world by reflecting on your experiences to extract more meaningful and useful interpretations from the same experience. Part of this is questioning your own beliefs.

By assessing your fundamental assumptions and beliefs honestly through a critical reflective practice, whether as a voluntary process or taking advantage of an unexpected disorienting dilemma (a painful or kensho moment in your life, you dramatically increase your chances for triggering lasting transformation.

You might lose a business. Ask yourself…what did I learn from this that I can apply in my next venture.

You might lose a love. Ask yourself…how can evolve to be better in my relationships.

Now here’s a tough one. You might buy into the ideas of a particular political party or religion. Ask yourself — how did I arrive here?

What was the stacking of ideas, beliefs and learnings from childhood to now that made me arrive at this particular form of identity? Did I create these beliefs based on my own experiences? Or did I inherit them from fathers, mothers, preachers, teachers or the news media?

Hey, no one said it was going to be easy.

The second practice is…

2. Critical Study & Writing

Regular study and writing, particularly the reflective kind and on subjects dedicated to better understanding the human condition (such as psychology, personal growth, and neuroscience), most commonly leads to the accumulation of changed meaning-schemes over time.

This means reading. A ton. And not just reading but being able to connect the dots between different books, podcasts or Mindvalley programs you take.

It also means paying particular attention to fields that help you understand what it means to be human (Congrats. If you’re reading this you’re a Mindvalley subscriber and already pretty much into personal growth, one of the most essential fields in this list).

3. Social Discourse

Social contexts that make it safe to discuss, examine, and question

  1. disorienting dilemmas,
  2. shared learning experiences,
  3. case studies, and
  4. critical-theory related subjects

…have been shown to help people develop new frames of reference and integrate learning into practice.

This is why every program we create on Mindvalley — whether it’s our real-world events like Mindvalley U, or our online learning on Quest — is so focused on community building.

We transform when we can learn and discuss and share best with others.

4. Application

Acting out your new knowledge and beliefs is essential to integrating and automating its adaptive effects. All new knowledge, beliefs, and values are imbued with new implicit behaviors, actions, or practices that must be acted out in order for your new frames of reference to take hold permanently.

In short, learn — then act.

Mindvalley is now getting rid of all online courses. We’re focusing solely on the Quest model of learning which we pioneered. A key reason for this is that Quests get you to ACT daily on a new idea. This makes it not just learning — but applied learning. And the applications of these, stacked up over 30 days, helps create lasting transformation.

5. Altered States

And this is a fun one.

State-altering practices/events such as mindfulness meditation, peak or flow experiences, psychedelics, and other contemplative practices have been associated with lasting transformation.

According to Ken Wilber, Daniel Goleman, and Richard Davidson, state training (meditation) is one of the single most powerful practices you can adopt to set off lasting transformative experiences.

My friend Steven Kotler, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author stated on stage at Mindvalley that we need to start moving from a mono-phasic state of existence to a poly-phasic state of existence. This means recognizing that there are different states of consciousness we can access to tap into the full range of what it means to be human. Meditation is the best way to start doing this.

So with these five elements, you can start to understand why learning alone is not enough. And why we need to think about our “Rate of Transformation”.

Learning is important. But Transformation is essential. And the essence of personal growth is not about learning (that’s a means goal), it’s about the end goal which is transformation.

So think about how you can bring these five practices into your life and the lives of your loved ones.

I’d love to see a discussion on best practices here. Share which practice you’re applying and how in the comments field. Looking forward to hearing your ideas for generating transformation in yourself and ideas.

P.S.: This coming month, I’m in Northern Europe working to create a new type of University and to bring Transformational Education to schools across Northern Europe.

I’ve been super active on Instagram sharing the progress. This is the first step in a massive 20-year plan to transform human education across every country on Earth. If you find this intriguing, follow me on Instagram to see my updates and join the discussion.


Which route will you take in your journey of transformation? Share it with us in a comment below.

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani is the Founder and CEO of Mindvalley; the transformational education company which brings the world's best teachers and authors together to revolutionize education worldwide.

He leads a team of 250 people from 49 countries building personal growth programs with cutting-edge leaning technology and real-world events across the globe.

Vishen is an entrepreneur, speaker, philanthropist, and a former board member of the XPrize Foundation. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller and #1 book on Amazon, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.

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