Before I knew what personal development was, I was reading and working on myself. I was always looking for ways to be better. I immersed myself in leadership books from Steven Covey to Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled.
I was not totally happy and these books offered something in the way of self-improvement. They offered to solve my unhappiness problem.
Years later I would attend a Buddhist inspired graduate school to deeply study myself and to study psychology so as to be more effective in working with others. Part of the core curriculum was meditation. In my very first meditation class the instructor, Dale Asrael said something I will never forget.
She pointed out that most of us are busy “doing” and trying to be better. Meditation is about “being” yourself rather than trying to “better” yourself. The more you can “be with” yourself the more fulfilled you will become and the more of service you will be to others.
A light bulb went on! I realized that in my innocent attempts at my self-improvement project, I had been adding more and more layers to my already entrenched ego. “This new thing or technique will make me happy,” I would claim. Or, “Oh wait, I just need to try harder to be happy.” I looked everywhere.
After many meditation retreats, a lot of therapy, men’s groups, workshops and self reflection, I started to surrender and give up the self-improvement project. Man it was hard. I still get hooked occasionally. In fact, initially Revolutionary Man came from a view that men were not doing enough (lack focussed).
But what makes a man revolutionary is his willingness to soul search, to go inward, to know himself deeply– to begin to practice accepting himself as he is so he can better serve the world.
Many people like me (growth junkies) will turn to religion, self help, therapy, coaching and personal development to improve their lives. Why? Because more often than not these fields promise to alleviate your pain and fix your problem. Sometimes it actually works and if it’s good, it might be very beneficial. Sometimes these approaches just feel good in the face of not being able to feel much at all.
But mostly these approaches play into your false belief that there is something wrong with you. For example, if you and your coach or therapist believe your story that you are broken, both of you will try to fix you and eventually you’ll both end up frustrated at the lack of progress at the impossible task of “fixing” you.
The Revolutionary Way: You are okay as you are (i.e. there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you)
This is the big paradox in personal development: SELF ACCEPTANCE.
If you start out with the view as in Buddhism (which is a very ancient way) that you are fundamentally good and worthy of love and respect at your core right now, then the work with a healer, coach or teacher can be radically different.
Now personal development begins to mean growth toward self-acceptance. Or said another way, self-knowledge becomes self-love. And, as Krishnamurti reminds us “Self-knowledge is the cornerstone of freedom.”
We naturally begin to grow and evolve the more we are able to tolerate and embrace ourselves.
The more we practice self love, the more we are willing to let go of the mask and grow in order to become who we really are.
If you can turn your compass away from the view that you are bad or wrong and instead point it toward your own inherent goodness, you might be surprised at what is possible.