That was the question I asked myself one winter evening, while sitting on my bed with my head resting in my palms.
Personal development didn’t seem to be what people said it was. Where was the change? Where was the positivity?
All I saw was more of what I didn’t like.
My bookshelf was filled with books on spirituality, self-growth, productivity, and even out of body experiences, but none of them seemed to do any good, or did they?
You see, the counter-intuitive (and funny) thing about embarking on the path of personal growth is that it’s not going to be all cakes and cookies.
Some people give up when the going gets tough, but those that stick with it realize that it’s not about achieving the end result and becoming perfect—free from problems.
It’s about the journey of growth; of becoming more of who you already are.
That’s why in this article I’ll share some of the harsh truths about personal growth. Don’t worry, it’s not all bad, because it all leads to the right place.
Many, or dare I say most, who get into personal development are in a hurry to get to a place where everything is perfect and problems do not exist.
And that’s a normal response to have, because they haven’t yet traveled the path far enough to realize that it’s not about getting rid of problems.
It’s about how you perceive “problems.”
We’re taught early in our life to value achievements. It’s all about doing stuff. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it becomes a problem when all you focus on is the end result.
You’re never here, because you’re always thinking of where you want to be, and when you get there, you’ll be somewhere else again; dreaming about the next goal.
It’s a never-ending cycle, unless you stop and change it.
Now, when I first stumbled upon personal growth, I wanted results. I wanted them now and I was willing to work hard to get them.
It’s almost like a mirage in the desert. Personal development becomes for you exactly what you need at that particular moment.
It may be a positive experience, or it may be a negative one. As long as you keep going, you will grow, even if you believe you aren’t on the right path.
The path most commonly traveled by people not on the path of personal growth is one of avoidance, comfort, and familiarity.
It makes sense, because when you first start observing yourself and thinking about how you can improve, it can be painful.
There’s so much stuff that needs to be cleared and it feels like it’ll never end, so why even try?
That’s an excellent question, and one that you alone will have to answer. Only you can find the inner drive to change and grow.
And it won’t happen until it happens.
You’ve probably tried to get friends and family members to read a book that had an impact on you, or attend a workshop with you, but it simply doesn’t work.
They are not where you are, and they don’t have the same experiences you’ve had.
You have to allow others to find their own path, and you have to allow yourself to travel your unique journey without comparing yourself to others, and thinking about how far you haven’t yet come.
There will be suffering, but the fact that you feel negative about something means that you are aware of it, and that you can change.
It’s not bad, it’s good.
It may not feel like it is, but once you get through the bumps on the road, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and you may even know already.
There are a lot of things you don’t know that you know.
How comfortable are you with confusion?
Not all that comfortable, right?
The funny thing is that we try to spend most our life avoiding confusion and uncertainty.
However, if you think back to a breakthrough moment where suddenly everything made sense, you may become aware of the fact that just before that breakthrough, there was confusion.
Whenever you’re learning something new, which you are doing almost all the time, you will be feeling slightly confused. You may even feel fear.
The confusion comes from the assimilation of new information. Your brain literally has to restructure, especially if you bump into a piece of information that’s “life-changing.”
So when, in the future, you’re feeling confused or uncertain, know that it is happening because you are growing and learning.
It’s just a sign that something new is going on. It might not be pleasant, but it is always leading you to higher understanding and clarity.
Personal growth is not all pain and suffering. There will be times when you experience quantum leaps.
After awhile you will begin to notice improvements in the most surprising areas of your life. It’s different for everyone, but still very fascinating.
You see, when you grow in one area of your life, it ripples outward. Every aspect of you affects every other aspect.
What you will also realize is that it’s not about changing your external circumstances as much as it is about who you are inside.
When you change your internal workings, the external naturally follows.
For example, when I started on this journey, I complained, agonized, and almost hated life in general, and my life wasn’t fun.
However, since I’ve worked on myself and let go of a lot of unhelpful beliefs, the external has begun to shift.
As you gain deeper insight, you will begin to realize that it’s all about following your heart, and going with the flow of life.
When you resist the flow, you feel bad, and life brings you down. It’s like trying to stand still in a powerful downward stream. It takes effort, and it isn’t fun when you start feeling your muscles wanting to give out.
You alone are responsible for the results you get, and who you become. There is no one else that can make your decisions for you.
As I’ve worked with clients, I’ve started noticing that there are some people that want life handed to them on a silver platter.
Then there are the go-getters who just need a nudge and off they go. Which of the two people are you?
What will your life look like if you keep this up for the next 5, 10, and 20 years?
If looking into the future feels good, then you’re on the right path. If not, then make the necessary changes.
When you are willing to take action, you will see the world open up before you. Uncertainty will become possibility, because you never know what will happen.
And even when you don’t know the answers, you have the power to move forward and see what happens. That is how you figure stuff out.
If you’ve been looking for the key that will make your life work, know that it doesn’t exist outside of you.
You are the key to your life. You are the missing ingredient, and you alone have the power within to create the life you desire, even if you don’t believe it yet.
6. Not Knowing
By now, you already know that confusion is an inherent part of self growth, and what usually happens when you’re feeling confused is that you’ll want to find something familiar.
You will look for certainty. You want answers from people. You will search for guarantees and anything else that will alleviate the confusion.
This includes addictive behaviors and negative states. Whatever is familiar and comfortable is what you will try and grab onto.
And that’s to be expected. But know this: the more you try to resist the confusion, the harder it becomes.
As you keep bumping into confusion and all the other friendly faces on your path, you will get to know them better.
You will know when they are about to pop up, and you will know what is coming next. You will become more comfortable with all of them.
The big lesson is that you don’t have to know it all. That has been a big one in my life, and while I know it, I still want to know it all, right now.
It comes and goes in cycles. Sometimes I’m okay with it, while other times I am not.
You don’t have to know it all to take action. And often when you start taking action, the pieces fall into place.
The best thing you can do when you feel confused is to breathe, accept where you are, and think about the next smallest step you can take toward what you want.
This can be anything, and may at times seem irrelevant. It might mean reading a book, attending a workshop, or just taking a walk.
You just never know what you will discover when you take that next step.
7. Not Getting
What you want now won’t always be what you will want in the future.
The best you can do is look to the future from where you are now, but when you start moving forward and experiencing life, things start to change and shift, and your heart will take you to places you never imagined wanting to go to.
When you set a goal and go after it without flexibility, you literally put blinders on yourself, and block yourself from seeing all the possibilities around you.
When you know where you want to go, you don’t need to know how to get there, although if you know the steps, that does help.
What I’m saying is that you don’t necessarily need a rigid set of steps to get anywhere, because you never know what path you will end up taking.
That is why I recommend you follow your passion, and follow your heart, because they will lead you to where you need to be.
It’s tough to let go, because it feels like you’re losing control, but you aren’t.
Allow both the positive and negative into your life. Sometimes it may seem that you’re not making progress, but you always are.
I’ve discovered that it is when I’m going through a thunderstorm of negativity that I grow the most.
It gives me the opportunity to let things go and allow whatever is happening to be okay.
Not easy, but easier than resisting.
Image by Stefan