my unflinching Point of View
The world of personal development is noisy, full of modern-day peddlers of snake oil using gimmicks, empty promises, pithy social media posters, and the power of personality to convince you to seek what you desire.
But is what you desire always right, good, or... clear? Even when the answer is yes, is pursuing goals—which are just desires turned into plans—the real quest of personal growth?
I don't think so.
When we focus first and most on desires and goals, we're in a dynamic of chasing the benefits of growth rather than growth itself. It's easy to think that if you are accomplished, confident, fit, influential, and outwardly successful that you'll then find deep meaning in life.
We have it backwards.
Growth is the increase of meaning. More meaning leads to more clarity, which often leads to more accomplishment, confidence, and other benefits of growth. Most critical is that growth leads to satisfaction and transformation.
Increased meaning is satisfying whether or not we get the trappings of "success." With meaning you can live happy without your desires fulfilled, but without meaning you may not want to live at all.
If you're doing personal development merely to get the benefits of it, then you're doing it wrong. Pursuing the benefits of growth apart from seeking meaning is the road to disappointment, even if you get what you desire. There's a reason the world is full of successful-yet-empty people.
But this is more tragic. . .
Worse than conquering goals only to find them empty and unsatisfying is the cultural lie that we believe—
Personal development is the luxury interest of the ambitious set.
Ergo, if you don't see yourself as particularly ambitious, you get a pass on All. That. Striving.
No. You don't.
When personal growth is perceived in culture as “an interest” that some people are “into” and some aren’t, collective meaning is lost and culture becomes increasingly focused on filling the void and relieving the pain. (Seem familiar?)
Personal growth isn't optional, nor is it unnecessary. It’s not an interest you have or don't have; it's essential to human nature. It's not a choice; it’s a fact. You are growing either better or worse. Which one is determined by your degree of conscious growth and your skills for seeking meaning.
You see, even when we understand our need for meaning and try to seek it, we flounder because we don't really know how to do it. We end up resting on our good intentions, hoping we'll somehow stumble into greater understanding, and self-medicating our pain with our favorite comforts in the meantime.
Soul-suffering is a call to seek the meaning you lack.
If, however, you're stuck on the wheel-of-vanity that is chasing goals, pain is seen as merely another hurdle to overcome.
If you're generally not aware of your need for conscious growth because you're not "ambitious," pain is seen as either a problem to solve or something to endure.
If you're aware of your need for meaning yet lacking a clear path to seek it, pain is seen as a meaningless inevitability and justification for despair.
Our biggest problem of pain is not pain itself. It's that we see pain as something to relieve instead of a call to answer.