Step Away From the Candy

First, a shout-out to Dan Doty for his willingness to go offroad in life in general and, in this case, in conversation.

Earlier today, Dan and I were re-recording the second half of an interview we’d done a few weeks back. The first take was good enough, but we were pressed for time and moved quickly past too much great terrain. Rather than settle, we opted for another take.

Good choice.

One of the bits we touched on was the tyranny of self-improvement. It’s something that can happen when personal growth – which is, after all, the business both Dan and I are engaged in – tips into cultish territory or rubs up against addiction.

That kind of thing can go down in many ways. One example is succumbing to the relentless pull to scratch the scab off the belief that one will never be good enough. Variations on “not good enough” include not smart enough, experienced enough, fit enough, tall enough, good-looking enough. You get the idea.

Another is the seductive high people experience in the intense space of group programs. (It’s easy to conflate that temporary buzz with the substance of learning.)

Yet another is the notion that there’s got to be someone else out there – another guru, another leader, another spiritual guide, another teacher – one who’s really offering the Keys to the Kingdom.

Let me hit the “pause” button for a moment.

Getting beyond the persistence of being “not enough” is an important, extremely useful thing to do.

There is nothing wrong with the buzz of group experiences. They’re great fun!

Great leaders and teachers are powerful people to find, follow, and learn from.

Hey, I’m a proud learning junkie. I love this stuff and firmly believe that life is a never-ending growth opportunity – and I know there’s an edge to ride. Crossing that edge can send one into perpetual cycles of unconscious, driven, and yes, addictive attachment to constant personal growth.

Things go sideways when consciousness, particularly around choice, goes offline, when autopilot kicks in, and/or when more shadowy aspects of oneself grab the wheel and go on distortion-fueled drives in the name of self-improvement.

When it comes to growth, as sweet as it can be, the challenge is to develop the discernment and discipline to know when to step away from the candy counter…

…And then to follow through and take that step.

It’s also important to learn to hold one’s wholeness and innate human belonging in one hand whilst holding the (also innate) human desire to grow and learn in the other. I mention this knowing that it can take years of serious inner work to get to the point of recognizing one’s wholeness and accepting the realness of belonging. These things are big deals!

To be clear, the wholeness I’m talking about includes the full catalogue of flaws, wounds, and all the events that make up a human being’s imperfect history. No shortage of rigorous work and self-reflection goes into learning to accept and embrace all of it.

Great inner work is magical. Yet, there’s also magic found in taking time and space to integrate, to seek other perspectives and, most important, to get out of the lab (or studio, shop, workroom, etc.) and into the real world to apply and live what’s been learned.

I’m saying this as one who makes their living doing this stuff. I love the work and the folks I get to share it with. That goes for those I get to partner with one-to-one as well as the men in my programs – past, present, and future. I’m honored and way beyond grateful to work and play in the human potential arena.

And I know, as powerful and intoxicatingly wonderful as this good stuff is, it can be just as powerful and valuable to step, with consciousness and discernment, away from it.

It’ll always be there should you, with time, distance, and fresh perspective in hand, choose to return.

I don’t know for sure if what I’ve laid out here is exactly what Dan was alluding to when he brought up the topic. Either way, his reflections tipped me into important, inspired territory.