Things I'm Noodling On: Personal Growth

Learning and incorporating personal development practices are by far the hardest work I've ever done. And at the same time it's been more rewarding then I ever could have imagined. Personal growth is the kind of awful work that lights you up completely, but you have nothing to really 'show' for it. The reward is invisible to others unless they've gotten a glimpse.

And if you're anything like me you want to talk about your personal growth journey non-stop because it's like you've been given the keys to the world's biggest and unlimited treasure chest, but you can only have your share when everyone else has gotten their share too. You are convinced this is a no brainer & try to spread this message like the plague. And similar to you actually spreading the plague, people are like, "Dude, BACK THE F OFF - I DON'T WANT YOUR DISEASE!" Talking about this kind of invisible and thought-provoking stuff makes you annoying AF. 

Most of us just want to communicate in these 3 shallow puddles (see below) not in a deep sea of thought and possibility. 
  1. Meaningless small talk
  2. 100% agree with and support unconditionally
  3. 100% disagree with and write-off unconditionally
I know this first hand because I've been the dickhead who didn't get it & wanted shallow and easy too and avoided people or was a jerk to them for trying to have this conversation. So many times before...ugh.

For example, I have a cousin who has always been about 20 klicks ahead of me in this personal development stuff.  Some years ago, when I was still an infant -- actually it was like 10 years ago when I was a full-fledged adult who believed my shit didn't stink & my world was the only true reality -- I was like, "Joe, shut the eff up! You're a freaking weirdo!" 

Now I am in awe of the work he's done and the time he's invested into his personal growth and development. We still aren't on the same exact Journey but our paths are leading us to the same meandering streams and we are falling from the same cliffs. We are there in the Wilderness helping each other find our way by shouting out occasionally to remind the other they are not alone.

Now we are both the weirdos who are doing purposeful and intention driven work with nothing but annoying conversations, challenging questions and a deeper connection to each other to show for it. 

But because there is no trophy or certification at the end of most of this work people have deemed it worthless. We like our work to be celebrated with praise and a flashy prize vs. a true sense of accomplishment & a new outlook on life. We'd rather not think or talk about how we spend our limited time & energy here on earth, we want people to just see how we do when they drive past our McMansion and see our fancy new car in the driveway. 

Old Way of Thinking
Stuff = Valuable
I used to believe things were the reward for the time and energy spent working. 

New Way of Thinking
Learning = Valuable
I now believe that changing my reality with new awareness and perspectives that enrich my life is the reward for time and energy spent working.

One draw back to going on a personal growth journey is that people don't understand why I don't engage like before. Just like I thought Joe was a weirdo before because I didn't know better; understanding has given me clarity. I now know based on my own lived experiences that our thoughts literally turn into our realities, so changes in thought will change our lives. This new reality, is giving me new non-negotiables...
  • I am not willing to let my thoughts or conversations be surface-level bullshit that shames anyone about their bodies, their choices or their emotions...and most fiercely related to girls. 
  • I am no longer tolerant of contributing to destructive behaviors or mindsets that further separate humans.
  • I am calling bullshit to the garbage perfectionistic demands that are pressed upon children.
  • I will absolutely not participate in basement-level thinking about politics.
  • I will not take on someone else's learned helplessness without consistently challenging it. 
I am actively avoiding things like my life depends on it. Because it does.

It's hard. It's painful. From time to time it feels like complete isolation. But the pit of my stomach isn't in knots anymore. The frustration or anger or anxiety that follows my fear & pain based thinking is not constant anymore. Now every time I behave in a way that makes me 'fit in' vs. 'belong to myself', the 'integrity hangover' reminds me it's not worth it.

Now I get to actually use the energy I used to waste talking about people or things, to find people who are going to add to my purpose driven work to learn, grow and contribute. I look for them so they can show me the way. 

And some people actually go as far to think the work I'm doing is useless, indulgent or devalue it with open ridicule or complete disregard. Remember me with Joe -- I know people do this because I did it too. 

That's okay! They've not yet embraced this shifted mindset. The mindset that values things that you cannot see or articulate. I'll just leave this here for them to noodle on while they're in church tomorrow.

Is anyone still reading? How has personal growth impacted your relationships with others?


  1. I really like your non-negotiables, and I respect the journey that you’re on. We should all strive to improve ourselves - to make the world a kinder place. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I've learned a lot from the last 6 years...

  2. It’s interesting how people get defensive and competitive, almost threatened... when they’re exposed to a person on the personal growth train. And when you’re riding the train you’re simply excited to talk about possibilities and ideas.

    Personal growth seems to have ruined as many relationships as it has created... it's taught me ways I communicate poorly and better ways of communicating.

    It's biggest impact has been my relationship with the person in the mirror. It's taught me other people's opinions of me are none of my business. It's taught me what I can and cannot control. And it's taught me to look into the mirror instead of blaming others.

    I love your writing... keep writing, I'm here to continue reading. <3

    1. The Man in the Mirror is often time so starved for internal attention that people do not even know what they needs. And yes, the look inside instead of blame - that's an amazingly freeing practice.

      Thanks for being the pioneer, Joe. Sorry, I was a jerk face.