Imagine, this morning, you receive a call:

“This is Tim Smith, senior partner at Smith, Deringer and Lewis,” the voice on the phone says. “I’m calling to inform you,” he continues in a syrupy Southern drawl, “that an elderly man in McDermitt, Nevada, who wishes to remain anonymous, picked your name out of the phone book and named you his heir. You’ve just inherited $752,222,344 after taxes and fees.” After you ask a few pointed questions to make sure this isn’t a cruel scam, Tim gives you the address of his office’s Manhattan headquarters, where a bank check is waiting for you with his receptionist.

Most of us build our lives in reactionary mode—often reacting to both our childhood and financial pressuresYou now possess three-quarters of a billion dollars. You make yourself a cup of coffee, and you sit at your kitchen table, thinking about the money. How does it change your plans? How does it change who you are?

How would $752,222,344 change your life?

Most of us build our lives in reactionary mode—often reacting to both our childhood and financial pressures. My career was certainly a reaction to both: when I became an independent adult, I rejected the simple, spiritual life I had been raised to value, and sought material possessions. I worked hard to earn money, and when success came, I bought lots of pretty, shiny things. I built a successful life on this foundation of reaction: every day I put on my strong suit and worked like a robot until the day was done. My mind was focused on what I had, and what I was going to have. My life was a continuous cycle of buying things, paying bills, working, buying more things, paying bigger bills, working harder, and on and on and on.

I never heard from Tim Smith, but I did receive a more subtle wakeup call: my son was ten years old when he started looking forward to his bar mitzvah. “What’s going to happen?” he asked me one morning, as we walked home from a friend’s kiddush. “What does it mean?” I explained to him how important a milestone a bar mitzvah was. We talked about what it means to be a grownup, how each of us shapes our life, and how I, as his mother, hoped he would shape his own.

That night I couldn’t sleep. As I tossed and turned, my conversation with my son came back to me . . . what it means to be a grownup . . . how we create our own life. I was struck, deeply, by how badly I needed to consider the very words I was trying to teach my young son. I had spent my adult life in a cycle of reaction to my family and my finances—but who was I? What kind of adult was I? What kind of life did I actually want?

It was a life-changing realization. It left me feeling lost. Beyond trying to prove to myself that I was financially successful—who was I, really? I had no idea what I really wanted my life to be about. A few days later I was talking about this new awareness with a friend of mine, and she “introduced” me to Tim Smith.

“Imagine,” she challenged me, “you got all this money, so you didn’t have to worry about bills or buying things; you had everything you desired. If Tim Smith called and told you that—how would that change your life?”

It’s been five years since I “met” Mr. Smith.

My life is no longer about money, bills or shopping. It’s about what I love to do most: help other people realize their dreams. When I went through the process of discovering my passion and realized how much I enjoy it, I realized that not only do I want to empower others to find their own truths and become their best selves—I want to do even more. I decided to educate others so that they, too, can fulfill their own purposes as coaches, and begin an exponential process of empowering others. The working definition of this process is Transformational Coaching: the art of assisting people, enhancing their effectiveness and helping them feel more fulfilled.

I had no idea what I really wanted my life to be aboutTransformation implies huge, sweeping change. To transform means to change in the way that a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, or a baby into a child and then an adult. After the process is completed, the previous form ceases to exist. Ice no longer resembles water after its transformation; steam no longer has the properties of liquid.

Using a big word like “transformational” to describe the process has many benefits. It certainly signals change. It encourages the coach and the coachee to fully engage in personal and professional development, to support the accomplishments of goals and objectives. It sets the expectation that something big is going to happen.

Many of us have been conditioned in the traditional Western mindset, in which we’ve adopted a hierarchical command-and-control mentality. Moving from this traditional mindset into “Transformational Thinking” requires us to do more than learn a few new techniques. It requires us to discover what we think—about our values, our roles and the outcomes we attempt to achieve—both within our own lives and with people we connect with every day. It requires us to transform both our thinking and behavior. A transformation like this one means to become the “king” over our own lives.

In Hebrew, the word for king, MeLeCh, spells out exactly how to make this process happen: we need to put our Mind (Mem—Moach/Mind) on top of the Emotions (Lamed—Lev/Heart), followed by the Instincts (Chaf—Kaved/Liver). It’s all there inside each of us, and our body already has it in the right order . . . it’s just about realigning our perspectives with the natural way things work, to unlock the keys to transform.

While it may seem that this process is a personal one, the personal aspects of our lives never really stay out of the arenas we interact with. We all bring to our home, our work and our community the entire array of our personality—thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, habits, needs, wants, fears, desires, roles and conditioning. A Transformational Coach realizes that performance is enhanced when people develop genuine pride in themselves, their families and their teams, and so the coaching journey becomes a process of mutual discovery. Deeper levels of trust, respect and appreciation develop, proving that the process of transformation itself is what holds the key, and coaching helps make that connection crystal clear.

The personal aspects of our lives never really stay out of the arenas we interact withOne huge transformation later, and I still don’t have three-quarters of a billion dollars . . . but the intriguing thought experiment of imagining that I did helped catalyze me to explore what I wanted beyond financial success. It caused me to reach down into the depths of my soul and apply principles of effective leadership in the ways I conduct myself and interact with others, in order to become a congruent role model. And I got something better than three-quarters of a billion dollars: on that proud day when my son became a man, as I watched him walk to the front of the synagogue to accept his new role of responsibility as a grownup, I could feel assured that I was setting a good example of a thoughtful adult life.

Now it’s your turn: You’re at your kitchen table, with Tim Smith’s news ringing in your ears. If you could escape from the materialistic rat race—who would you really be? What would you be capable of? Once you figure that out, can you find the courage, even without a real Mr. Smith, to build the life of your dreams?