(+ a Mini-Manifesto)
Why I Do This Work
(The My Story Bit)
Most of my 30s were spent as a widow and single-mother. Eight years ago, in my mid-40s, after years of intense suffering, the bottom fell out of my life and I again found myself back in the familiar state of singleness and single-motherhood. I was a mess.
I was used to being the de facto "counselor" in my circles, able to quickly recognize underlying problems and see the way out, but not this time. My talents for clarity, problem-solving, and wisdom were utterly foiled. I had to become better, but knew I couldn't do it without help, and professional help wasn't my best bet. So, with my friend Google by my side, I went searching for things like, "Big picture personal growth" and "How to counsel yourself."
Searching for something private, safe, and independent, I wanted a way to heal and excel at the same time. I had both big ambition, and deep wounds. I needed a way to see through the haze of overwhelming emotion, internal conflicts, confused thoughts, and major doubts about my beliefs (and myself). I wanted to see the big-picture of my life, to discern which way was up, and to assess my experience so that I really understood what I most needed and why.
One of my goals was to find a way to cut through the cacophony of contradicting voices telling me what I should and shouldn't believe, and what I should and shouldn’t do, and instead to know it for myself. I needed an organized way to reconsider my beliefs, reorganize my soul, and rethink everything I thought I knew. I wanted to know how to trust myself again after major failure, and to understand my own soul enough to pray for something beyond, "Please God, help."
I searched in vain.
The more I combed the internet looking for what I needed, the angrier I got. Why wasn't anyone speaking my language?
Why had no one provided what I needed so I could get out of pain, reorganize my soul, and develop my talents?
Why was so much of the "personal development" industry focused on getting thin, getting rich, getting success, getting happy, and so little of it focused on getting meaning, understanding, and wisdom?
And why was it all so disjointed, fragmented, and lacking logical foundations?
My angry frustration agitated the conqueror in me and lit up the analytical side of my brain. Ironically, in feeling like I couldn't solve my own problems, I began to solve a much larger one.
I learned that how you define the problems, challenges, and hope of personal growth determines how you frame the solution.
Is it a practical, tactical problem?
A psychological constraint?
A personality deficit?
A limiting belief?
A moral failure?
An emotional wound?
A persistent bad habit?
Or perhaps some combination of all of these?
We tend to think that providers of personal growth products are offering competing solutions to the same problem. They're not. They're offering competing definitions of the problem itself.
Figure out how a brand defines the problem and you'll have a better idea if its products will help you. As I defined the problem for myself, I designed solutions that helped me get my story moving.
How I Define the Problem (and solution)
(The Mini-Manifesto Bit)
Peace. Acceptance. Community. Generosity. Love.
The world clamors for them, our souls cry for them, but how do we achieve them?
I believe we have to draw a clear line from "the world" and the change we want to see in it, to "the individual" and the change we need to see in ourselves.
A functional and peaceful world is composed of flourishing cultures, collectively seeking meaning to share with other cultures. Cultures of any given time period are like children coming up in their families of origin. Some are more stable than others, and have more insight passed down from previous generations.
As a culture develops its collective talents with an eye to meaning, it advances in every discipline of thought, art, and science. Through maturity cultures produce their most profound insights, moving art, and useful wares. They have value to offer and through friendship they can enrich other cultures.
Thriving cultures are comprised of healthy institutions. They have functional and strong families, vital churches, just governments, fair-trade business practices, and effective education. Healthy cultures are filled with truth, beauty, and goodness. They are growing in meaning that’s being passed around, passed down, and built upon through the generations.
A culture is no different than a house or a city... or a soul. Whether it’s being built up or crumbling down depends on the strength of its foundation. It can only be as rich in goodness and beauty as it is rich in truth.
Truth is meaning that weathers the storms of trial and the challenges of opposition and remains standing.
The healthy institutions that make up a healthy culture built on firm foundations of lasting truth, are comprised of healthy individuals with firm foundations. These individuals have the foundation in place for living a meaningful life. This foundation consists of a core set of beliefs that make up a coherent worldview. With a strong foundation in place, these individuals are able to continually add meaning to their lives and the lives of others, overcoming problems, and adding to the strength and insight of their respective cultures.
In a world of cultures at war with one another and within themselves, generations are coming of age in unhealthy, floundering, meaning-starved institutions. Broken families producing broken adults. Churches full of scandal and hypocrisy. Injustice for, and consumption of, the governed in the state. Business practices that steal, exploit, repress, or ignore talent. Education systems that produce workers rather than meaning-seekers.
Where meaningful foundations are missing in individuals, meaningful foundations are also missing in the institutions that form a culture. Where individuals are crumbling, so are families, churches, governments, businesses, and education systems. In place of meaning, there are various forms of coping, seeking to fill the void and survive suffering.
To reverse the decline in the cultures of the world and in their institutions, we must reverse the decline in the individuals that form them. We must stop filling the void of meaninglessness with excesses of pleasure and turn our attention to learning what we failed to learn earlier in life. We must learn what meaning is and how to seek it.
If we seek meaning with integrity, we can establish the firm foundation of a coherent worldview that makes sense of all aspects of human existence. With that, we can begin to build up the broken cultural institutions of family, church, state, business and education.
By seeking meaning individually and collectively we can change the world.
This is why The Curated Soul exists—to build up individuals who seek a firmer, more meaningful worldview foundation so they can make the difference they long to make.
If you believe that we can change the world by changing ourselves, then grab a seat at this table. You're with me.
How we Begin
Changing ourselves begins with a shift in understanding about what personal growth is and how it can help us both personally and collectively.
Here's what I believe about growth:
Personal healing and personal development are two sides of the same coin called "personal growth," and they are best pursued at the same time, sometimes through self-counseling and coaching, always by testing our assumptions for meaning, and rethinking our basic beliefs when they are challenged.
We grow by seeking meaning, not success, whether success is defined as accomplishment or pain relief.
We need to see personal development as a personal and collective responsibility.
We need to understand our pain isn't merely something to relieve or endure, but rather a call to answer.
We need to comprehend how critical self-awareness is to our life story and our impact on the world.
Sometimes we need to seek growth on our own, privately, independently, without fear of judgment, loss, or not being able to express ourselves clearly.
What i'm working for
To challenge the personal growth and development industry to focus first on meaning instead of desires, goals, or simple (and simplistic) relief.
To increase meaning in the world by destroying the lies that personal development is an interest or hobby for the ambitious, spiritual, young, or driven. The more of us there are seeking meaning, the more collective meaning we'll have.
To frame soul-suffering as a call to grow in particular forms of meaning, acknowledging intense emotions while freeing us from slavery to them or desperation in them.
To make seeking meaning easier, clearer, and a lot more effective by creating a whole, connected, and logical process.
To design products that help us work independently, learning to dismiss the voices, thoughts, and beliefs that have no meaning and to better integrate and showcase those that do.