From Caterpillar To Butterfly

A dear friend told me the story below a few years ago, when I was struggling with some personal challenges. Whenever I’m in a time of transition or experiencing “growing pains,” I remember it—and that remarkable woman—very fondly.

Monarch Butterfly by photographer Peter Miller |{photo}

Once upon a time…

… a caterpillar and a butterfly sat together on a stem. The caterpillar admired the butterfly’s wings and brilliant colors. “How can I become a butterfly?,” the caterpillar asked.

The butterfly responded:

You have to want to be a butterfly so much that you’re willing to give up being a caterpillar.

It’s simple (but not easy): For your current circumstances to change, you must allow change happen. Be committed to change. Do the work to change.

So when I feel stuck, I ask myself: Are you being resistant to a new routine? Is your affection or nostalgia for what you’re doing now—what’s comfortable—preventing you from moving forward with something new and better-for-you-right-now? Are you letting fear of change keep you from adapting? Can you let go of what you’ve been and been doing to become something new?

Spread your wings.

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  • longwaytogo says:

    What an awesome article/concept. Just what I needed today, thanks!

  • Suzanne says:

    Thank you for the blog about being willing to change. It struck an important chord for me. I hope to want to be a butterfly so much that I’m willing to give up being a caterpillar. I enjoy your insight and your humor.

  • Ruby says:

    We’re moving from Seattle to Portland on Friday. What perfect timing for this little reminder. Thank you.

  • Such an important part of change–getting really honest about what we’re hanging onto “just” because it’s comfortable in its familiarity.

    Years back, before shifting to a full-on paleo eating pattern, I was hooked on having a particular muffin at a particular coffee shop every day for breakfast. Only when I went grain-free for 30 days as an early experiment–and then re-tried that muffin after the 30 days–did I realize how I didn’t even enjoy the taste of it all that much. It was just a familiar, comforting, known part of a crazy day.

    These days, I eat paleo-primal 100% of the time (except for perhaps 5 or so times a year, when at some restaurant where something seems worth going astray). But the “muffin lesson” taught me to look for other places in life where I get a little too attached to something less than ideal or less than delicious–just because its familiar and thus comfortable. And, in seeing those places, I try (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to stretch a bit beyond them.

    • This is such a great story! One of the most valuable things I learned from my Whole30 experiences was that awareness of what I was eating — and by extension, doing — in my life. When I worked in an office, I was the WORST about just eating whatever crap showed up in the breakroom. Old bagel because I was bored? You bet! Donut because it was Tuesday? Sure. Now I’m pretty good about thinking before anything goes into my mouth, and it’s made a world of difference. That awareness has trickled into the other areas of my life, too… just as you pointed out.


  • Emily says:

    Wow. This perfectly describes what I feel like when I’m really ready to commit to a change. I find that I can’t commit to a change – whether it’s Whole30, a new training plan, or even doing a lengthy chore – without this particular feeling where I’m in-my-bones committed. It’s because I’m ready to give up being a caterpillar. I love it!