The desire to grow, to become a better version of ourselves, lives in almost all of us. According to Tony Robbins, it’s one of the six human needs.
To grow, we have to learn new skills, work with others, and learn how to get out of our own ways.
Rarely does one stop growing because they’ve run out of skills to learn, or people to work with.
In almost every case, personal growth stalls when perseverance turns into paralysis.
We might still have the desire, but we stop doing the work.
I’ve found four common reasons people stop taking action toward their goals, and become paralyzed by personal development.
Dreaming Instead of Doing
In every book, seminar, and course I’ve ever experienced, there is a point in time when I’m challenged to dream, create a vision, or start setting goals.
The longer I daydream, the longer my list becomes. The longer my list becomes, the more excited I get. It’s euphoric.
At some point, I finish the book or the program, and I’m left with my list of goals. Then it’s time to go to work.
The euphoria is over. Reality sets in.
This is where the process ends for many people.
Dreaming is exciting. It’s easy. It requires nothing more than your imagination.
Doing the work is the hard part. Doing requires initiative. Sometimes the doing can even feel like drudgery.
When it’s time to go to work, the excuses start filling the mind.
I don’t know enough. I might try and fail. I’m actually too busy this week to get started, so I’ll get started next week. I’m going to wait for a better time to get started. Maybe I should read another book or attend another program instead. I don’t have enough support yet to get started.
Your mind is never more creative than when it creates excuses and reasons not to pursue your goals.
Imagining your goals is easy. Taking initiative is difficult. And so, many people end up in perpetual cycles of dreaming, but never doing.
Every great success story involved far more doing than dreaming.
Comparing Your Results Without Comparing Your Process
If you have a fixed mindset, and compare yourself to others, you see the obstacles you have that prevent you from achieving what you see others achieve. You’ll come up with reasons why they have it easy and why you have it so hard.
If you have a growth mindset, and compare yourself to others, you see the opportunity you have to do something someone else has already done. You look for ways to learn from them and follow their lead.
If comparison is leading to complacency or paralysis, you might be seeing things from a fixed mindset.
Comparison can also lead to a distorted perspective.
You see only what someone else has accomplished, but are blind to seeing what they’ve done and overcome to get there. On the other hand, you know all the struggles you’ve faced yourself, so you feel like it’s unfair that you’re not experiencing the same succeed.
Comparison is the greatest thief of joy.
I love what Vanessa’s coach and personal trainer and coach says about comparison:
If you’re going to compare yourself to someone else in one thing, you have to compare yourself to him or her in everything.
— Mark Schneider
If you’re going to compare your results to someone else’s, you have to compare everything…their experience, their background, their motivations, their purpose, their work ethic. And, you have to compare everything they’ve done that led them to that success, with what you’ve done.
You might look at others’ bodies and compare them to yours, but then you have to compare the discipline they have in what they eat and when they exercise. And their genetics. And dozens of other variables.
You might look at others’ successes in a corporate role, but then you have consider the hours they poured into their job late at night and on weekends to what you’ve done.
If you’re going to compare, compare it all. Then you can decide if you’re willing to do what others have done to get where they are. Don’t simply compare where they are with where you are.
In my opinion, the only reason to compare yourself is to convince yourself that something bigger and better is possible, because somebody else already did it.
The Paradox of Personal Growth
I love to write. Actually, I love to share my thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Writing is how I do that.
I’ve written several hundred articles at this point. The first blog post I ever wrote was titled Spice Up Your Fat Loss. It is posted on the Life Time Weight Loss site.
You can Google it if you really want to find it. I’m not hyperlinking to it, only because it’s so bad.
Seven years later, I’m still learning about writing, and realize how much better I could be. Or will be in years to come.
The better I try to become at writing, the more I realize how far I am from being a great writer. And for every word that makes it onto a blog post, I’ve probably written 10 more that never made it onto the draft of the article. And then I cut out a large number of words that do make it onto the first real draft.
I strive to get better. I invest a lot of time making mistakes. And each year I get a little bit better, but remain a long way from greatness. And that’s what make the process so rewarding.
Personal growth is a lot like this.
The more you grow, the more you realize how much more you have to grow. As you grow, you put in a lot of misdirected effort and make mistakes. That’s how you learn.
To me, that’s exciting! It means that I’ll always have something to look forward to. I’ll always have a new challenge to face.
Not everyone sees it this way, though.
For some, the idea that they’ll never “arrive” is a depressing concept.
It’s as though they are on this long journey through the desert. They see an oasis in front of them. As soon as they get close, the oasis jumps out in front of them, just a little further away.
Eventually, they fall down in the sand and scream, “What is this all for?!”
If that were you, and I was standing with you in the desert, I’d ask you to turn around and look back.
Look back and see how far you’ve come, so you can appreciate how much progress you’ve already made.
Personal growth is often a slow and steady process. Since we’re with ourselves all the time, we don’t see how much we’ve grown.
It’s not like the distant relative you see every few years that sees these dramatic changes in you. You’re making tiny amounts of progress everyday, and you lose site of the progress because it is so small.
Look back to where you started, and you will be surprised. Your energy will be renewed. You might never get to the oasis, but eventually you’ll find yourself on the other side of the desert.
We’ll never get to the end of personal growth. Our fulfillment comes from the journey, not from reaching a destination.
So look back once in a while and see how far you’ve come, then look ahead and keep going.
The Misconception That Personal Growth Is Personal
Personal growth, and self-help are misleading terms. They suggest you go on a process that’s all your own.
Personal growth is not an easy process. To grow, you have to stretch beyond what is comfortable.
It can even be painful.
When you feel the pain – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – you will be tempted to stop. Your willpower will only last so long.
You need someone to hold you accountable. Someone to challenge you. Someone to listen to your excuses, and challenge you on them. Someone to understand your feelings of fear and discouragement, but won’t let you wallow in them.
Friends cannot do this. A good friend will challenge you, but when you’re in a mental state where you don’t like being challenged, you might respond poorly and damage the relationship. The same could be said of relying on your spouse to hold you accountable.
In my opinion, this is where a coach or counselor is so effective.
You pay them to hold you accountable. They aren’t emotionally attached to you, so they don’t get pulled into your emotions. They are skilled to handle the excuses you make, and the fluctuations in motivation you feel.
Personal growth is a personal process insofar as your path is unique, but to successfully grow, don’t go it alone.
You need someone who knows how to handle you when you meet your moments of personal growth paralysis. And they will come at you from time to time. It’s better to find the right person to prepare you for the obstacles, than to look for someone when you’re in the midst of them.
We all encounter times when our growth starts to slow, motivation disappears, obstacles start to seem insurmountable, and we don’t want to take another step.
The good news is that everyone encounters this. The bad news is that you will too. And sometimes the best thing you can do is to just take one more step at at time toward your goals, even when you can’t summon the energy or desire.
Eventually, the action will create the energy. You just have to choose to take action.
Thanks for reading. A quality life comes from making quality choices. Make good choices today.