Picture this: a toddler reaching for the stove that has a pan of boiling water on it.
What do you do?
I see two options.
1. you tell the toddler no and hope they understand why.
2. you make sure the pan doesn't fall on them but allow them to try to touch it, so they learn that hot stuff needs to be handle with care.
Most of us would not allow a toddler to hurt themselves. It's cruel to think that way in most people's eyes.
The reality of the situation is most toddlers and people will continue to do things that harm themselves until they feel pain, understand what caused the pain, and accept there is a different way of dealing with the situation.
As teenagers, we always thought we knew enough to survive this labyrinth called life.
As adults, we get humbled quickly and realize that we don't know nearly enough about anything causing ourselves or others pain.
This reality is just a hard pill to swallow.
Most of us come to the point of realization that pushes us to better ourselves.
That is when personal growth (AKA personal development) comes into play.
Wikipedia says this: Personal development consists of activities that develop a person's capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance the quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.
Personal development may take place throughout an individual's entire lifespan.
Simply put, personal growth is when you take the time to work on yourself and your skills to improve your impact on the world.
I love this metaphor about personal growth:
The Story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree:
Imagine that you have just been given a Chinese Bamboo Tree seed.
And imagine that you plant that seed.
Now, you must keep that seed perfectly watered and at the perfect temperature for it to germinate.
After the seed is planted, you spend the first year carefully watering the dirt over that seed and carefully monitoring the temperature.
Nothing happens. All you see is a patch of dirt.
Then it's the second year, and you again water that patch of ground with great care. Still nothing – just dirt.
Okay, now it's year three.
You give the plant the same diligent care, and your plant is still just dirt.
It's the fourth year, seasons have come and gone, and your neighbors, family members, and friends are laughing at you because they've been watching you water that patch of dirt for four years, which has resulted in nothing.
They can't help but ask you, "Why do you keep doing such a useless task? Can't you see there's nothing there?"
It's now the fifth year of watering and monitoring the temperature, and finally, there's a sprout!
And not just any sprout – that bamboo does an amazing thing.
The tree bursts with life and grows 80 feet tall in six weeks.
How is this possible? How could this tree grow 80 feet tall in six weeks?
Well, the question is:
Did that bamboo tree grow 80 feet tall in six weeks, or did it grow 80 feet tall in five years and six weeks?
Now take a moment and think about this.
Think about how this relates to what you have been going through in your life.
All the effort you have put in to become a better version of yourself.
It can be hard to keep pushing when you don't see the results you want, and a lot of people nowadays will put you down for even trying because they don't want you to accomplish something that they don't know how to achieve.
The answer to the metaphor is five years and six weeks!
In those first five years, although it was unseen from above, that tree was growing!
It developed a solid, broad, and vast root system – a system that could support explosive growth.
Picture it in your mind:
During those first five years with the planter's diligent care, the roots were slowly expanding and getting stronger.
And all that time, if viewed from above the soil, an observer would only see dirt. That is what the real metaphor is in my book.
We work and work and work on ourselves until finally, we seem to achieve everything overnight.
It feels hard to stay on task during all that work if you don't see the improvement you expected.
That brings me to another point.
Expectations are a b!tch.
Excuse my french.
Expectations come in all shapes, sizes, colors, thoughts, experiences, and dreams.
They are all toxic for your life.
Putting expectations on something or someone is giving that thing or person power over your happiness.
That isn't fair to that person or thing, and it isn't suitable to you either.
Another thing about personal growth is that it helps you heal.
It heals past traumas and enables you to let go of that negativity holding you back from achieving your goals.
Here is another story to help you think:
Once upon a time, there was an unfortunate poor man.
His home was also impoverished – a small and empty house, where mice made their nests and spiders made their webs.
People tried to avoid coming into his house – why should they go into those poor ruins?
And the poor man thought that poverty is the reason for his misfortunes – his eternal destiny.
Once, the poor man met a wizard and complained to him about his poverty and miserable life.
The wizard felt sorry for the poor man and gave him an unprecedented vase.
And said: This is a magical vase that will save you from poverty.
The poor man took the vase and wanted to sell it first and then spend the money on alcohol, as usual; besides, why would he need such a beautiful thing?
But then he started admiring the vase and couldn't take it to the market. He brought the vase home, put it on the table, and started admiring it.
It's not suitable for such a beautiful thing to be empty, – the poor man thought. So he picked some wildflowers and put them into the vase.
It became even more beautiful. Not good – the poor man though again – that such a beautiful thing stands next to a spider web.
So the poor man started cleaning his house from spider webs, sweeping out cockroaches and mice, cleaning the dust, washing the floor and the walls, whitening the ceiling.
And it became clear that his house wasn't poor but relatively warm and cozy. And the poor man wasn't a poor man anymore, but a hard-working host, who had no time for the thoughts about misfortune.
During my addiction, I was like this "poor man."
I blamed everyone and everything for my misfortune.
I never held myself accountable for my actions.
When people from my past bring up how I use to be, I still take it personally sometimes because I can't fathom acting that way, and I am disappointed in myself for allowing myself to get that way.
Now over seven years into my personal growth journey, I have started growing at an explosive rate.
I started accomplishing goals and dreams left and right.
My root system is deep and sturdy.
At times I got impatient and tried to force myself to grow quicker or even tried to use some old ways to cut corners.
Doing that almost uprooted me to the point of suicide.
I was closer than I ever was to committing suicide.
Luckily for me, a moment of clarity came over me, and I called my best friend, and he helped me out of that situation.
The next day I got professional help and was diagnosed and medicated for PTSD.
Ever since then, I have been soaring like an eagle.
In my book, "We Are Reborn When We Take The Road Of Recovery," I talk about the five stages of emotional change.
Here is an excerpt out of my book about it:
"When you first get sober, there will be, at some point, an overwhelming overflow of emotions that happens.
Within the first month, the first year, as long as you're working on yourself and staying clean and sober, it's going to happen.
It happens to every addict in my experience.
All this is because it releases the emotions you protected yourself from over the years.
There are five stages.
You move through emotion when changing your behavior.
I will include this graph in the book (pg. 45).
It's five stages people move through emotionally.
Stage one is uninformed optimism.
It is where you first walk into sobriety -- this is going to be easy, I don't need to do my addiction one day, and one moment at a time, I'll be good for the rest of my life.
And then stage two is informed pessimism.
That's when you hit the first action step that you need to take into recovery.
You're like -- shit, this is going to be hard, I don't know if I can do this, there's much work I'm going to have to do, there's much honesty I'm going to have to deal with, there are many things in my past that I don't know if I ever want to deal with again.
But once you hit that, you're going to hit stage three, which is the valley of despair.
The valley of despair is where many people quit.
That's where many people relapse.
And if you want to be successful in life or successful in recovery, in sobriety, you have to push through the valley of despair.
You have to pay attention to when you're in the valley of despair.
Because if you point out that you are in the valley of despair, then you have a chance to fight it.
You have an opportunity to persevere through the tough times to make the rest of your life easier.
Any time you start a new thing in life, you will go through these stages, whether it's learning a new job, learning a new skill, creating a new relationship, each new thing you do, and going through this emotional cycle of change.
The people who end up relapsing or quitting or not pushing through the valley of despair will continuously do stages one, two, and three.
Those are the people who are not willing to do whatever it takes to succeed in their dreams and goals.
You push to through the value of despair; you will get to success.
Stage four is informed optimism. It is when you've gone through the rough spot, and you've realized that it's not that bad.
And even if it was that bad, the outcome is good enough for you to put the effort in, and that it's going to make you happier.
And stage five is success and fulfillment.
Accomplish that goal.
Get through all the steps, and you succeed.
Each day you are liable to go through the emotional cycle of change, but it's up to you in what stage you allow yourself to be stuck on."
Remember, you have survived the most challenging situations in your life.
You can make it through this situation too.
Could you put your mind to it?
Find a goal and the actions to put into place.
Then go to work.
It sounds simple, and it is, as long as your willing to work for simplicity.
Do not over complicate things.
The task might be challenging, but the way to get to where your going is never complicated.
If you get overwhelmed, try this.
Take five deep, slow breaths.
Think about your goal, and then figure out where you are.
Once you know where you are in the steps to achieve the goal, please focus on the next small step until you accomplish it.
Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves we aren't a superhero and need to work smaller tasks.
Slow and steady wins the race.