I’m taking my growth seriously.
It’s a decision I’ve come to after realizing that I was unhappy with how my life was playing out and I wasn’t progressing as much as I wanted to. I felt like I was slowly stagnating.
Taking my growth seriously means working on difficult things. It means engaging in deliberate practice. It’s being outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been thinking about my growth for a while, but one month ago I realized I was doing just that…
I was thinking, not doing.
So I decided it was time to start doing more. This past month I’ve pushed myself to commit to new habits, start new routines, eat better, sleep more, and exercise regularly. I’ve started keeping daily and weekly to-do lists, I’m using Pomodoro timers to focus, I’m even scheduling activities into my calendar.
I’ve made great progress.
And in the process, I’ve reflected on my past efforts. I’ve identified many ways in which I have gotten in my own way. I’ve realized that I repeatedly fall into similar patterns of engagement with friends and with colleagues. I’ve found that I can get really excited, but when things get difficult, I walk away. Using a metaphor from Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets – I haven’t been inviting “future me” into my conversations. I’ve let the emotions I encounter in any present moment dictate my actions.
I’ve protected myself more than was necessary.
And that’s an interesting thing because protecting yourself is critical. You can’t expect to get to where you want to go if you aren’t mindful of your energy. You can’t do anything if you’ve burnt out. You can’t perform at your peak if you’ve been injured. But you also can’t grow if you’re staying in your comfort zone. You have to do the hard things.
I needed to find some balance.
For me, this means prioritizing my recovery and building it into my process. It’s recognizing when I should push forward and when I need to stop for a second. It means paying attention to where I am so that I can confidently move forward. This is also taking my growth seriously. Other than eating, sleeping, and exercising well, I’ve started meditating and journaling.
I’m not trained in this, and I haven’t found a guru. Most things I encountered seemed too flowery for my tastes. But I have been reading Mindsight by Daniel J. Siegel. The anecdotes in the book are based on clinical practice and the latest neuroscience. And they convinced me that it was worth considering. Besides, the way he described it didn’t seem very flowery.
I decided to get over my hesitation and just see.
I can’t say that it’s been easy, but I’ve done it relatively consistently for a month now. I’ve started to notice some changes in my thoughts too. Of course, I’m not following any secret recipe. I’m just spending 15 minutes a day focusing on paying attention to my breathing. When I notice my thoughts wander, I just try to focus on my breath again. And my thoughts wander a lot.
At the end of the day, I jot down some notes about how I felt, how I feel, and just reflect. I reflect on my day, on my process, on my accomplishments for the day. I try to zoom out and see how far I’ve come this week or this month. I think about my longterm goals and try to gauge if I’ve moved closer to them or not.
I don’t have a guide, and I don’t talk to anyone “qualified” about this. I don’t know if I’m doing it right at all, or if there are really any changes happening. But it still seems like something is changing.
I’ve realized that my emotions have been all over the place, and they are constantly all over the place. Some days I’m dealing with imposter syndrome and feeling down and doubtful and angry. Other days I’m feeling motivated and rested and optimistic. Still other days I’m feeling rushed and stressed and under pressure.
What I’ve realized is that it doesn’t matter.
Whether it’s due to the meditation, the reflexive practice or something else, I’m now able to see that this is just how I am and how I will be. Today I’m great, Tomorrow I’ll be down. Life doesn’t stop because of how I happen to be feeling. Each moment passes and the next one comes.
Tomorrow, I might be a little bit uncomfortable and then I’ll be fine.
I am not my emotions, I am not my reactions, and I am certainly not my thoughts and beliefs. These are all things that I have. I wander into them from one moment to the next. They guide my path in some sense or another – but they aren’t Me.
One day I’ll wander somewhere dark, and the next I’ll wander somewhere happy. And that’s just the path I’m on. But it’s not my destination, and that’s what I am starting to realize.
The destination is what should be focused on.
I should ensure that every day, regardless of where I happen to be, that I show up and that I take steps forward. Will they always be the right steps? Probably not. Will I sometimes need to backtrack and choose a different path? Most definitely. But consistency is what’s important.
I have an image of a buoy on the water in my head. The undercurrents might be violent. They might be gentle. There might be warm water underneath. There might be cold water. The buoy floats, without fail, and the current beneath is just the current beneath. I’m starting to feel more like that buoy. Regardless of what my undercurrents are at present, I’ll just focus on being steady and doing what I need to do.
Showing up every day is taking my growth seriously.