“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” -Elbert Hubbard
One of the biggest obstacles to accomplishing our greatest dreams and goals is the fear of growth. We are unwilling to change, even in a positive way, because growth is painful. Even when we get stronger as a result, we tend to shy away from the necessary discomfort that comes with the process of improving ourselves.
After all, growth only comes as the result of learning to deal with challenges that are slightly beyond us.
The problem is that,
in order to accomplish our goals, we must grow.
If we didn’t need to grow, we would already be doing what we dream about.
Depending on our particular dream, the kind of change and growth we need will be different.
- We need to get stronger, faster, healthier.
- We need to make more connections and meet more people.
- We need to gain deeper insight.
- We need to learn new ideas and master new theories.
- We need to see the world in a slightly different way that empowers us.
- We need to play a bigger game.
- We need to be comfortable with the things that scare us at the moment.
To a large extent, that last one covers all the others, and it is significant because it is integral to our sense of who we are. Our fears create our limiting image of ourselves.
- I’m just not that outgoing. That’s just who I am (when really, I’m scared to put myself out there for fear of rejection).
- I just prefer to be around other people (when really, I’m scared to face myself without distractions).
- I’m just not into weightlifting. I was built to run. (when really, I’m scared of straining under a heavy weight).
- I’m not meant to run (I’m scared of exertion that lasts more than the time under a barbell).
- I’m just not a numbers person (math terrifies me).
- I’m just…
- I’m not meant…
And of course, when we say these things, we are right.
But the person who achieves our greatest dreams isn’t that person we are talking about. It is the person we will become. The person who doesn’t have those limits. It is a person who has moved so far beyond these self-defining limits that they are practically a different person.
Why is Growth Painful?
The fact that our fears can come to define us means that overcoming them means fundamentally altering who we are. To overcome our fears and grow past them involves changing our sense of self. For significant growth, this can be such a huge change that is actually involves becoming a different person.
It’s like death in a way.
In Buddhist theory, the self does not exist. The self is not composed of passing thoughts, nor is it composed of the aging mortal body, nor is it composed of temperamental emotions. Thus, it is an illusion, constructed by our minds to give us a sense of coherence.
But sometimes, coherence is bad, especially if it is the coherence of a limitation. The possibility to be someone else, someone who doesn’t have your current limits, is an empowering idea.
But it is also terrifying, because it essentially means accepting that YOU as you are now will not exist.
Of course, YOU don’t actually exist at all, right now.
We’ve Done This Before
We have already become different people. When we made the transition from infant to child, child to adolescent, adolescent to young adult, and so on, we completely altered more than just our bodies. Our worldviews changed rapidly. Our values and morals underwent massive shifts.
It was only once we became adults and grew attached to our hard-earned perspectives that we started resisting growth and change. We wanted to feel that we had things figured out, which automatically precludes the possibility for additional growth. We became attached to our Selves, so we grew crusty and we stopped growing and changing.
I think this is why serving a higher cause is so empowering. We aren’t attached to our Self so much as serving our cause, and that gives us the ability to change to suit the needs of making that cause a reality.
So, in order to make your dreams a reality, accept that you won’t be around to make your dreams a reality. You must let go of who you are now in order to accept you can become.
I’ve said before that we must accept ourselves as we are now in order to grow, because the person we are now is the seed for who we will become. Inconsistency and paradox is part of life. Choose the perspective that does you the most good in a given situation.
(photo credit: dno1967b on Flickr)