There are three distinct phases to the self improvement cycle which I like to refer to as the Butterfly Process. (Link to Butterfly blog post) At any given time in your life you are in one of three energy cycles: The caterpillar phase, the cocoon phase, and the butterfly phase. When you identify which phase of energy you are currently in, you stop expecting yourselves to perform in ways not suited to that phase. This relaxes you and enables you to make the most of the time at hand. Let’s go through all three steps in the self-improvement process from the beginning of the cycle.
Phase 1 - The Caterpillar - Time to gather and learn..
If you have been feeling like you are at a standstill in a given area of your life, it is probably because you need to become a student again. This phase of self improvement recognizes the need to listen, read, and gather resources without trying to make immediate use of the information.
For many, being in the Caterpillar phase of self improvement is their favorite realm. For others, it can be a challenge to step out of the teacher or leader position and return to the basics of study. But identifying for yourself that it may be time to become a student again can bring great relief. When you are in the caterpillar phase it is time to:
1. Sign up for a course in your chosen interest
2. Find a new expert on your topic and read their book
3. Join a workshop or social gathering around that topic. Check out our monthly self improvement workshops!
Once you dive into the new, unfamiliar territory of learning, make time to study that topic weekly if not daily. Carve out time and guard that time with passion. This routine that may seem extravagant but it is an investment in yourself that will be how you transform and improve.
Eventually, after a period of time spent in the learning phase, you will inevitably arrive at…
Phase 2 - The Cocoon - Time to stare off in a daze
A caterpillar spends days munching away at a leaf bite by bite until eventually it can’t take even one more step forward or take one more bite. At this point, all the nutrients it consumed in its first phase of life gets put to use. With that energy she makes a private space for herself where she completely dismantles everything she thought she knew and everything she thought she was. It all becomes a cosmic soup inside the cocoon. This phase is impossible to track or control. All the learning is now in a profound process of self-organization. The Great Mystery.
When you are in the Cocoon phase you feel spaced out and have very little concentration. This is all as it should be. Don’t try to keep track of things when in the Cocoon time. For women this can often parallel their moon cycles, but not always. For men this phase can be quite challenging because western culture measures worth by tasks completed. But in this phase the time of doing has come to an end. The time of data input has reached critical mass. It is time to let the creative process take over. We can not be a conscious part of our learning process at this time so just let yourself go down the rabbit hole. Trust that your powers of articulation and your sense of timing will return, but only if you yield to the need to gazing off into space for a while. A time of rest and not doing is vital to the natural process of improving one’s self. When in this phase, social gatherings may feel awkward and one-on-one private interactions may be more relaxing. This is a time to keep things simple.
If you find yourself staying in the first phase of gathering and staying active, you may be resisting the necessary rest phase needed to move all the learning and refinement into the expression phase.
Practices that help shift into the Cocoon phase include:
Not checking your phone or email first thing in the morning. GIve yourself at least an hour of morning time to let your thoughts flow at their own pace. Immediately checking what new emails may have arrived in your inbox shifts you out of the relaxation achieved during sleep and sends you into task mode.
Listening to Binaral Beats. Scientific studies have found that listening to two different tones at once helps calm brain wave frequencies. There are lots of apps, tracks, and videos offering a variety of frequencies to help with a variety of activities. Find a track you like and use it for meditation and relaxation.
Long walks. Take a day to just walk for two hours. Let your mind wander and observe your immediate surroundings. This has tremendous value in relaxing the mind so that resolutions to situations often just appear without effort.
The cocoon phase is a time for self-care and introspection. If you struggle or resist the relaxation phase of the self-improvement process you will delay the expansion that you worked so hard to achieve. Let things slip out of your control at these times and trust that you are rapidly approaching…
Phase 3 - The Butterfly - Time to shine.
This, like phase two, is something that happens to you. The caterpillar phase is all about your efforts. The other two phases are about yielding and allowing. Self-improvement is at its core, a yielding process. We allow ourselves to be influenced by outside sources. We allow our perspectives to be affected by other perspectives, and we take it all in to become someone new. All the work you put in during the caterpillar phase has now culminated into a bursting forth of expression. Let all the knowledge you acquired earlier transport you into the spotlight where you share what you have learned with others. This is the expression stage, the teacher and the leader phase of self-improvement. Stepping into a calm position of leadership (no matter what the scale) is the real mark of successful self-improvement. Standing in your given field of interest with a calm, confident sense of belonging is the true goal of any goal we may have in life. Any topic you study for a length of time will inevitably carry you forward to becoming an expert in that field in some regard. Stepping into a leadership roll is the third and final process of self-improvement that asks you to start seeing yourself as a valued member of your field.
When in the third phase of the self improvement process it is important not to critique or attempt to learn overtly at that time. You are in the teacher phase. The learning phase is rapidly approaching, because the whole process is a cycle. But for now, try to focus all your attention on encouragement and appreciation of your work. See only what is going right at this time. The reevaluation process will begin shortly. But you need a healthy dose of positive experience in leadership time, so do yourself a favor and just celebrate a job well-done. You will make it even better the next time around. The amount of positive encouragement you give yourself in this phase of the self improvement process directly determines how soon your next opportunity to shine will come. Butterflies are fragile, beautiful creatures and so are you at this time. Treat yourself gently. And remember…
It is a cycle. Soon you will return to the learning/gathering phase soon. Every expert keeps up with the newest discoveries of their field. Every master is a master because they are comfortable always being a student.
These cycles can last weeks or months or even years depending on the level of complexity and refinement you are pursuing. Once you have identified which energy cycle you are currently in, it is time to yield to the nature of that energy and let its way guide you.