I was left to ponder a remark made in a group session recently. One of the participants said that not all caterpillars become butterflies and that some caterpillars can become some other creature, like an eagle. That was so unexpected that I haven’t forgotten it.
Caterpillars turning into butterflies is a metaphor that has been used for decades to describe transformational change. A butterfly is not just a caterpillar with wings, a butterfly is a completely different creature that is created from the dormant cells that lie within the caterpillar.
Like the caterpillar transformation, change is hard. Whether you are trying to change at the personal or organization level, change takes work and needs time. While people change subtly all the time, nobody likes being told what or how to change. And knowing what and how to change and actually exhibiting the changed behavior are completely different things.
And this is what makes transformation so challenging. The change required for transformation is significant. It can become overwhelming. True transformation goes deep into the heart and shifts the mind. True transformation vibrates at a completely different level from where it started. True transformation is like developing a new community with different beliefs and behaviors and living a completely different life.
Very much like the butterfly that has absolutely no recollection of having been a caterpillar.
And so with some imagination it is entirely possible to stretch the metaphor to visualize a caterpillar transforming into an eagle. Or any other creature really.
And that is what makes this metaphor so much more powerful for me.