The self improvement and personal growth world is overflowing with a sometimes baffling range of models, theories and strategies to help you become your best version of yourself. You can sometimes feel that you need someone to write a self help book to help you navigate through the self help book section at your local or online book store – ‘how to know in 10 easy steps what self help path is right for you’ would probably be a best seller (note to self!)
For all the multitude of pathways out there, there are some common themes in most personal growth pathways. A lot of them have their roots in the same ancient wisdom that brought us Yoga and other old personal transformation paths.
There are some fundamentals to effective personal growth that is common to pretty much all programs, including recovery from addiction as well as ‘self help’.
Awareness of where you are at right now is vital. You cannot make any changes until you know there is a problem. As you move along your personal growth journey, your awareness will deepen over time, as more insights will come to you as you shed old habits and ideas, but at the very minimum, you have to know that something isn’t working or could be better.
It is important to at least be honest with yourself about where you are, and how you got there. This is not always easy, and as awareness, will deepen with time as you understand more about where you are, but the more you can be truthful with yourself, the more effective your personal growth work will be.
It is absolutely vital that this honesty is mixed with a hefty dose of compassion, both for yourself and those who have played a part. Blame and resentment are huge blocks to personal growth, whether it is directed at yourself or someone else. You might need to pass through a moment of blame and anger, but don’t stay there. Allow yourself to feel it, then forgive and look for the lessons to be learned.
Look for the lessons
In every challenge we go through, there is a powerful lesson and opportunity for change at the end of it. The phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ might be infuriating when you are in the middle of what doesn’t kill you, but when you have truly survived it, you will be able to look back and see that you emerged stronger, with powerful lessons learned. It can take time for this reflection to come, so don’t push it, but make sure that you reflect on the pain of the past and see how it has shaped the person you are today.
With all the choice out there, it can be overwhelming to know which path to choose. Every personal growth and self help ‘guru’ out there has their passionate advocates, and compelling reasons why you should follow their methods. You could try one today, another tomorrow, and 7 more next week. But this won’t get you anywhere. Find one path that appeals to you, and stick with it for a length of time, and practice the method and the teachings with discipline and consistency. In Yoga teacher training, we were told the ‘3 R’s’ of Yoga – Routine, Repetition and Rhythm. In Yoga this consistency is called Abhyasa, regular, dedicated devotion to the path.
If you are engaged in deep personal transformation, you will change radically and will need to make radical changes to how you live your life. This will not be easy, and it is vital that you have support around you. You need to get those closest to you on board, or at least make them aware that you are doing this, as they will be directly affected by what happens on your journey. You may find that those closest to you struggle with the way that you change, and the impact it has on them, but you must find a way to make peace with this, if this change is important to you, then you must do it for you, it is your life after all, not theirs. You will need support around you from people who will be there for you when you are facing things that are difficult, when you feel isolated, and when you feel that no one understands what you are going through. Online and in-person support can be invaluable, and it is important to surround yourself with the right people.
If you need to get extra support, maybe if your self-discovery reveals stuff you can’t manage alone, get the help you need, if this is medical or therapeutic support, or if you just need a compassionate friend to listen to you, do what you need to do. Don’t think that every problem can be solved alone with a journal, or on a yoga mat. Sometimes you do need extra support, make sure you get it. There is a good reason that recovering addicts go to meetings, the support they get there can be invaluable as they learn to come to terms with their new way of being.
This is connected to compassion mentioned above, but it is so important that I wanted to emphasise the point. You are doing something amazing by embarking on a self-improvement journey, and although it can sometimes feel like swimming through mud, you must always remember that you are doing a brave and valuable thing. Your life will improve as a result, even if you might not always feel it at the time. Make self care a priority, make sure you get enough sleep, hydrate and eat well, be compassionate to yourself, and be sure to take care of the workings of your life. Set reasonable expectations of yourself – challenge yourself, but don’t push yourself beyond what you can actually manage in your life, and be prepared to reflect and amend if you find that you are overwhelmed and struggling.