There’s a well-known trope in motivational and self-help circles: discomfort makes you grow. You might hear comparisons to lobsters shedding shells, or clams making pearls out of sand, or any number of other “as in nature” scenarios. The idea itself is very intuitively grasped; put strain on your muscles and they grow stronger, work through a difficult project and the lessons you learned will help you later on in life. Challenges transform us. The mechanisms through which is does this aren’t always so easy to quantify.

We aren’t always so keen on transformational challenges, though. When someone walks up to you and starts to challenge your most deeply held beliefs, you might not be so interested in what they have to say; in fact, our beliefs might become more deeply rooted when challenged. There is a constant push and pull within all of us, a desire to change and grow coupled with a desire to stay the same. Here, we can begin to consider free will.

Let’s say you’re an ambitious individual, and you’ve decided that you’re going to start a business, something you’re passionate about. When you believe you can succeed, it’s not always to your advantage to have that belief shaken; once you’ve poured money and effort into something, it might be best to see it through instead of questioning yourself about it all the time. You need the ability to change and transform, but not so thoroughly that you lose your sense of identity or place in the world. You want something to be unusual enough that it causes you to change how you see the world in a positive way, but palatable enough that it integrates into your conceptions about how the world works; if it shakes your core beliefs, it might not be what you need. Or it might be! Everyone is a bit different here. What you want is enough change to increase your ability to make impactful and meaningful decisions, without taking away what you consider meaningful in the first place.

That’s a tall order; is it even possible to shake your core beliefs and change your way of thinking while maintaining your moral and personal centre? While it’s probably different for everyone, one way of investigating new possibilities is by having motivational speakers give talks for your organization. One of the most powerful things about narrative is that it allows us to experience change without having to literally go through the story. We put ourselves, our subjective experience, into the story, and as the speaker goes through the things they’ve experienced and how it altered their perception, you may very well feel your own perception altered as well.

Change is an absolute; you change until you die, and for all we know you change after that, too. All of life is changing constantly, so to motivate yourself to change, simply remember that you’re never not changing; find what changes you like best, and gravitate towards them. The feeling you’ll find might be something like finding a pearl at the bottom of the sea.