“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Personal growth seems to occur in spurts. We gain a little, lose a little, surge ahead or slide into a holding pattern wherein growth seems to be stagnated. Here are some ways to get back on track.
Recognize that growth continues, despite our best efforts to prevent it. There’s a saying: God’s time and mortals’ time differ. Nowhere is that truer than in the area of personal growth. Growth can be likened to fermentation; it often occurs well below the surface and appears dormant for long periods. Still, much is going on, if only we have the good sense to realize it. And there ARE things we can do to break through the surface layers…
Engage in the process; give up being stuck on the outcome. We live in a results-oriented world. That’s both good and bad. In the short term, it enables us to get more done faster. In the long term, however, it conceals a great life truth: ultimately, ALL is processing, and as we engage in the process and relinquish our obsession with results, the results occur spontaneously, easily. To be involved fully in the process is to be fully in the present.
Work on one thing at a time. High achievers and type A’s pride themselves on their ability to keep several balls in the air at one time. For many, it works, but there is a price. Multi-tasking, as it’s come called, splits your focus, reduces the energy devoted to any single task, and–when the balls mysteriously begin to get out of control–leaves the serious multi-tasker at a loss for words or acts. But to work on one thing at a time is tantamount to enjoying the beauty of a single rose, savoring the clean clear taste of cold spring water, and feeling the exhilaration of a new day. Single-tasking gets the body and the mind going again, inspires, and invigorates.
Stop thinking, writing, and speaking in the first person. Here’s a fun exercise. It’s called, and I inventory, and it goes like this. Review our correspondence file, the letters you’ve written, and note how often you begin a sentence with, I. Then, pay attention to your conversations with others. How often do you use that word, I? If you journal, take a yellow (better yet, red) marker and overline every single I. All of these are good measures of your preoccupation with yourself. Try taking a vacation from the word, I. You may find it both refreshing and stimulating.
Realize that it can take great effort to achieve a state of effortless achievement. Sounds like double talk doesn’t it! But it’s true. In order to achieve effortlessly, which is a measure of alignment, you must get beyond concepts that serve as comfort zones e.g., self-importance, personal involvement, and even enlightenment. With respect to enlightenment, it’s not so much a state to be achieved as one to be recognized. If you’re having trouble with this one, think of Jesus’ words: Before Abraham was, I am (The Bible, John 8:58).
Look for the lesson in pain. This is not a plea for a life of self-sacrifice or an argument that pain is necessary and good. It’s just that sometimes, pain IS. Stopping, taking time to examine what’s really going on in the present state of pain, prevents this all-too-common emotion from developing into anger, resentment, and disappointments. Looking at pain dispassionately, openly, allows you to learn the lesson and move ahead.
Let go of your need to have an opinion. When things go wrong, friends offend, and our progress seems to be grinding to a halt, it’s natural to have an opinion, to explain, and defend. Natural, yes; understandable, yes; but productive? No! To give up the need to have an opinion in such instances is to free the mind to receive answers.
Walk away from it. Years ago, I was going through a rough time but was determined to stick with it until I won out. A friend who sensed my frustration asked if I would tell her about it. With some hesitation, I told her of the problem, the struggles, and the seeming lack of progress. She listened patiently and, after I finished, hesitated a moment, and then said something I’ll never forget: “You know, sometimes wisdom is knowing when to walk away from it.” So, when IS it time to walk away? From a distance of some years now, I would say it’s when the course you are “stubbornly” pursuing is not producing results and you have no real feeling that it will!
Follow your path rather than your plan. The distinction relates to specificity. Paths are often winding, indistinct and surprising in where they lead. Plans are clear, definite, and designed to eliminate the uncertainty. To follow a path is to be open to discovery, to the sudden turns that yield joy, insight, and challenge. But, to really follow a path requires courage and a willingness to give up certainty. To follow a path is to go forward when you can see only a single step ahead, confident that the next step will appear.
HEAR what is being said. Have you ever had a friend offer you some unwelcome advice and preface it with, “You’re not going to want to hear this, but …”? Well, often when new information comes to us that conflicts with what we know, believe, think, or want, we DON’T hear it. Even while we’re “listening”, we’re preparing our replies, defenses, and rebuttals. In short, we’re blocking our chance to learn. To “hear”, as opposed to simply listening, is to refrain from judgment, to go beyond the actual words, and to really be open to the possible lesson that may be lurking just beneath the surface. the difference between listening and hearing is that, somewhere in between, there’s a filter, and it’s usually our resistance to new and sometimes conflicting information.