Tapping the Promise of Personal Growth

March 1st, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

The nice thing about working on your personal growth is that when you make a concerted, dedicated effort to improve some part of your life, there’s an excellent chance that you will succeed in the long run. You may have a lot of gunk to clear out in terms of limiting beliefs, and you may be starting from a disadvantaged position, but given enough time, it’s entirely possible to completely rework some part of your life for the better.

For example, you have the potential to go from rags to riches, from shy to socially confident, or from unhealthy to vibrant and fit. It may not be easy to make such transitions, but there are numerous successes to model. These are transitions that many, many people have already succeeded at, and they’re often more than happy to help out people who are interested in taking similar journeys. You certainly don’t have to stumble forward blindly.

This, of course, is the grand promise of personal development — that you can consciously remake some part of your life, re-sculpting it from what it is now to what you desire it to be.

But there are two very common problems that prevent many people from receiving the full delivery of this promise.

Getting Clear About What You Want

First, most people never get clear about what they want.

Since they don’t decide, there’s nothing for them to move towards. Moving away from where you are now is not a specific heading. An “away from” mindset is like a bunch of crazy, chaotic arrows pointing off in all different directions, but in most cases that isn’t enough to get moving with any consistency. “Not here” isn’t a goal.

When I ask people what they want out of life, most of the time I get a very vague answer. They can’t tell me. So of course their lives aren’t going to change much. They have no direction. If someone asks you what you want out of life, offer up a clear and specific answer.

Don’t look to life to tell you what you want. That’s your burden — and your privilege — to decide.

Not deciding is still a choice. If you can’t decide, then you’re deciding to continue the status quo, and you’re broadcasting the intention that more than anything else in the universe, you want to continue experiencing what you’re experiencing right now. And so essentially that is what you’ll get. So when you keep getting what you’re already getting, be grateful that the desires you voiced are being fulfilled. You are simply receiving what you’ve been asking for.

Don’t pretend that your life will change until you first make a clear decision about where you want to go next. You can bitch and moan about the burden of having to make that choice, but there’s no point in that. It’s better to celebrate the honor and privilege of having the freedom to make that choice. Be grateful that you can choose. Appreciate the fact that you get to decide where your life goes next. Consider yourself lucky that you have a choice.

Making a choice is really, really simple. Most people overcomplicate the process tremendously. Ask a child what they want for their birthday, and they’ll probably rattle off a number of specific items. How do they decide? They just decide. They don’t worry so much about making wrong choices. They voice intentions based on what experiences they feel drawn towards. It’s that simple. If you feel drawn to a certain experience, then that’s an excellent candidate for a new decision.

Real Decisions vs. Fantasy Decisions

Secondly, when people do finally decide, they usually don’t make a real choice. They make a fantasy choice instead.

There’s a major difference between a fake decision and a real decision. Let me ‘splain that.

A fake decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, but you don’t accept the far-ranging consequences of that experience. This is like deciding to pick up one end of a stick while denying or ignoring the existence of the other end of the stick. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the other end of the stick is coming along for the ride. If you resist the true nature of the stick as a whole, you cannot pick up the front end of it. If you resist the consequences of your desires, you block your desires from becoming real.

For example, you may set a goal to have a million dollars, but if you do not invite, welcome, and accept the consequences of becoming a millionaire, then your goal is a mere fantasy. It isn’t a real goal. It’s just a delusional waste of time.

A real decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, and then you do your best to predict and understand the likely consequences of that experience, and you decide to invite and welcome those consequences too.

Think of it this way: Either you desire the entire stick, or you desire none of it. To desire one end of the stick but not the other end is to create a block that translates to desiring nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo.

In order to set a real goal or hold a real intention, realize that you must intend and accept its consequences as well.

So in our example of desiring a million dollars, a real decision includes accepting how you’ll manage that money, how it will alter your relationships with others, how it will impact your lifestyle, and so on. This includes accepting any likely effects you may perceive as negative — and welcoming them into your life.

Understand this: If you cannot accept the likely consequences of a decision, then you have not yet made the decision.

I.e. if you cannot accept the likely consequences of a new relationship, then you have not yet made the decision to attract a new relationship. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of doubling your income, then you have not yet made the decision to double your income. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of being at your ideal weight, then you have not yet made the decision to reach your ideal weight.

Quite often people claim to know what they want, but the truth is that they’re stuck in fantasy land. For example, they’ve decided to reach their ideal weight, but they fail to accept and invite the possibility of getting more attention from the opposite sex, buying different clothes, maintaining more disciplined diet and exercise habits to maintain that weight, etc. Mentally they understand that these are the natural, logical consequences of reaching that goal, but they aren’t yet there emotionally. They don’t really “get it” yet.

In order to achieve a goal, it’s important to listen to your logical predictions about what the consequences may be and to accept those predictions. Even more important than that is to integrate those predictions into the goal itself, so your goal represents the total package of what you’re going to create, not merely some isolated element of it.

Goals as Growth Experiences

How can you invite and welcome the consequences of a desire? Perhaps the best way to do that is to view your goals as growth experiences. Every goal, desire, or intention is a growth experience, and every growth experience is a package deal. Along with every desire you get a pack of free bonuses. Those bonuses are called life lessons.

Along with money, you get bonus lessons in money management, scarcity, abundance, and generosity. Along with new relationships, you get bonus lessons in communication, negotiation, and compassion. Along with a better body, you get bonus lessons in self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-esteem. Along with a successful business or career, you get bonus lessons in responsibility, productivity, and life balance.

These bonuses are awesome! You just need to recognize them as such. In many cases the bonuses are worth more than the initial desire. When you can regard the consequences of every potential goal or desire as a valuable pack of personal growth bonuses, it gets much easier to desire the whole package instead of obsessing over the front-end offer.

So in summary, we have two key hurdles to overcome in order to begin realizing the promise of personal growth: 1) Decide what you want, and 2) Identify, accept and invite the likely consequences of what you want.

Now… have you completed both steps yet? Of course you have. Either you’ve done this for a new desire, or you’ve done it for the status quo by default. Either you’re actively creating something new, or you’re actively perpetuating what you already have. Regardless of your choice, you are succeeding, so celebrate that! :)


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