What is personal growth? It can be many things related to the physical, emotional or spiritual aspects of our lives, as well as social, financial, occupational and intellectual. But overall, each of the following could be applied to any of those areas (and should equally). Personal growth is not just the pursuit of any of the following things (that is the journey), but the action you take when you arrive at your new achievement. Take a browse through the following items and then I’ll give you an example.
- Developing self awareness
- Expanding deeper knowledge of self
- Reawakening your identity
- Improving confidence and self esteem
- Establishing & improving strengths and talents
- Learning new skill sets
- Enhancing quality of life & experiences
- Cultivating greater health and fitness
- Strengthening emotional intelligence
- Nurturing or repairing relationships
- Expanding a sense of meaning and purpose in life
Pursuit of any of the above would be considered one’s journey towards personal growth. Many call it a Spiritual journey because of how we experience the changes that are essential along the way.
Growth, for example, would be who you’ve become and how you live and what you choose to do with your greater insights.The journey is like going to school. Growth is what you do after you graduate. For another example, I’ll use food.
The journey is like deciding to level-up your meal game and creating a weekly plan, making a list, then going to the grocery store and gathering all of the right ingredients to prepare these amazing, healthy and delicious meals for the week. Growth is coming home and throwing out all the shitty food that doesn’t fit into the desired system, cleaning the fridge, unpacking the groceries and putting the items away in places you can see them & they will remain fresh until you use them, then preparing your first meal…and your second meal and your third meal… and using everything you gathered.
Metaphorically speaking, many people buy a lot of things at the grocery store with the good intention to create healthy meals and then all that healthy fruit grows mold before it’s been eaten, the lettuce turns brown, the carrots become orange spaghetti and the berries turn into moldy chia pets.
Spiritual and/or personal growth cannot peak with intentions. Intentions must be put into action. When we create new rituals that support our intentions, often there are setbacks. It takes consistent practice to transform. Each setback is an opportunity to expand your awareness.
Why did I react that way?
What did this person say that triggered me? What is my belief behind that?
Why did I choose to eat ____ knowing it sabotages my health?
Rather than guilt, self loathing, or beating yourself up – this is the opportunity to become aware and sinking into negative thought patterns interferes with awareness.
Awareness + A Plan + Consistency = Success.
One more, with a word of caution.
If your goal is to pursue a deeper understanding of your Self, and the things that ignite your passion and energy, then to achieve this understanding you may go on a Spiritual Journey for 12 months of reading, journaling, doing self reflective exercises and working with a coach, maybe attend a few workshops or weekend retreats, learn deep meditative practices to counsel with your Spirit Guides or practice some plant medicine or participate in 1 or 2 ceremonies, who knows. That would be your journey.
Festivals, retreats, medicinal ceremonies, reading books or quoting the Dalai Lama on Instagram is not growth. These are experiences and moments of enlightenment or inspiration. Consistent practice of thinking, feeling and doing the things in your life that align with these insights and experiences is growth.
Say you came to the conclusion somewhere three-quarters of the way through this that everything you were doing in your life was the opposite of what you really wanted to do. At the very core of your whole being – that you are now connected to – you do not love the person you are married to and/or you do not love the job you are married to. And at the achievement of your journey, you reached the maximum level of knowledge you needed to know this without a doubt because every fiber in your body, every thought in your mind and every original belief that you have now transformed is guiding you towards a life outside of the one you are currently living.
Let’s say you have some decisions to make that will support this new path; go back to school, quit your job, start your own business, move to a new town, end some toxic friendships, leave a marriage, maybe you have to decide it’s time to stop being everyone’s caretaker and just take care of yourself… whatever those decisions are (and there can be many), they are difficult. THIS IS GROWTH. This part, right here, is where growing happens.
See, you cannot read a Brene Brown book, go on a retreat and have some “A-ha!” moments and call that growth. You cannot read the Bible for a year, attend marriage counseling or attend a Tony Robbins event and say “I am changed!”.
You have to BE the change.
You have to enact and put into purpose that change, and demonstrate through your actions; in everything you do, everything you think and say what you learned and what has changed.
You can’t just think it or feel it and carry on like some monumental shift has happened in your life. Look around you. If all the shit that was falling apart before is still falling apart, then you didn’t do anything!
You can’t just think, feel and say it either because now you’re an even bigger moron walking around professing all this wisdom and wearing a mask of chivalry, humility, self awareness and “growth” but you’re not doing it. Even if you’re putting on a good show (social media is such a great tool, I know), the charade will not last forever because the truth always, always reveals itself when you are not ready. And by the way, we’re all morons! This is the most difficult part!
You have to think it, feel it and say it (the journey) with truth and conviction until you truly believe it, and then you have to be it (the growth) with truth and conviction.
It isn’t easy or glamourous. The growing part doesn’t happen overnight. Those decisions each person (myself included) has to face once they are collided with Truth are not easy decisions to make, nor enact. You can’t just quit a job or move or dump your friends or immediately build walls around yourself and become some narcissistic asshole. No, you have a life you’re responsible for. That is all part of the growth process. It takes time. It’s a process, and each step along the way – you are growing.
We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.
— Laozi Tao Te Ching 11