The Truth About Personal Growth

The thing about embarking on a journey of personal growth is that it’s not all roses and ice cream. At the outset it sounds great. You’ve got all these wonderful plans and big dreams. In reality, you will be called upon to let go of things that have become comfortable in order to allow space for new things to come in. Now it may seem that letting go of what you don’t want should be easy. After all those are the things that are holding you back, but people get sentimental. They get scared. They don’t trust. So it can seem easier to stick with the devil you know than to venture out into new territory. Lots of people give up.

The truth about personal growth is that it’s hard. Here’s why:

You Will Have To Leave People and Things Behind

There is only so much time, money, and energy given to any one of us. Some relationships, activities, and interests will have to be left behind in order to give time to new people, new interests, and activities. Self-growth is time consuming – especially at first. You may need to read a lot, meditate, learn new things in a class, by watching videos, attending meetings, or talking to a coach. You may get interested in taking better care of your body.  Old habits and friends may compete for your attention. You may have to decide over and over again to a life make-over that doesn’t include things you once loved.

People Might Criticize You

The system seeks homeostasis. It is designed to function that way in order to perpetuate itself. What this means for you is that your friends and family will likely push back against you changing. They may withdraw support, criticize or even sabotage you. They do this because people are uncomfortable with change. They want things to stay the same. If things are predictable, they are comfortable – even if that predictability isn’t healthy. Unfortunately, the comfort zone is not the same place as the growth zone. You will have to decide between comfort and growth.

You May Feel A Lack of Confidence

The stages of learning are unconscious incompetence (meaning you don’t know what you don’t know), conscious incompetence (you do know what you don’t know), conscious competence (you can act competently when you think about it), and unconscious competence (you are competent without thinking about it). When you are learning something new, you start by knowing that there is something out there that you need to learn. This is a place of not knowing. It may feel embarrassing to not know things that others seem to know. You may feel clumsy and unskilled. This could lead to you to hold back or give up. Don’t! It’s a natural part of learning that everyone goes through. Confidence is gained through skill. The only way to get that skill is to practice.

Your Progress Depends Upon Your Effort

I’ve talked to a lot of people who think that all they have to do is decide to do something differently and then the rest of the world will respond according to their intention. This is not the way it works. The world changes based upon your continued effort.  There will be days when you don’t want to put forth the effort. There may be long periods of time when your effort shows no positive result. That’s just how it works. As long as you are moving in a steady direction, the scenery will eventually change. Just keep moving.

The Path Is Not Linear

Our plans are often linear. Our results are almost never linear. This is okay. Curve balls make life fun. They can be diversions that skyrocket you to success, show you something that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise, or slow you down so that you can do something else for a while. Personal growth is not just about meeting your goals. You can learn from just about anything and anyone. Keep an open mind. Keep moving. The growth is in the journey, not in reaching set goals. If you notice you are off course simply adjust your sails and accept that growth rarely happens in a straight line.

You May Have to Start Over

Do you know anyone who graduated from college only to realize that she didn’t want to work in her chosen field after all? What about someone who was downsized out of a failing industry? How about someone who got divorced? Anyone who was widowed? Anyone who moved a long distance away where they knew no one? All of these people started over. Life is full of new beginnings. It’s what we do when something isn’t working or something had ended. If, during your journey, you discover that it’s time to start over, start over. It’s better to put energy into an effective strategy than to pour energy into propping up something that never was, can never be, or is dying. Instead of looking at it as failure or work, look at it as an adventure!

You Will Still Have Problems

As long as you are breathing, you will encounter problems. You can’t grow beyond your problems, but you can grow your skills so that what is a problem today is an inconvenience tomorrow. It’s all about skill level. An item on the to do list that just requires time and attention is a task. Something that requires some thought before we tackle could be a challenge. Issues don’t rise to the level of “problem” until we don’t have the resources to deal with them. Issues don’t become crises until they overwhelm our ability to deal with them. So, people with few skills have many problems and crises. People with many skills have fewer problems and crises. Growth just makes it easier to get through whatever life has in store.

So Why Bother?

As you grow in awareness, your world changes. You lose fear of failure because you’ve experienced success. You lose the need for safety because you’ve jumped into the unknown and survived. You lose the fear of loneliness because you discover that you’re pretty cool company. You lose the fear of endings because you know that they are also new beginnings. You learn that you can rely on yourself. You learn that you can deal with problems. You learn to enjoy the ride. Whether you are cooking corn muffins for the first time or scaling the Alps, life becomes the adventure you always knew it could be. Do you dare?

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