Self-development isn’t as easy as you’d think. And it’s certainly more difficult than you’d hope.
Our modern culture teaches us that self-development is only one purchase away. We’re brainwashed into thinking that we can purchase emotional development in the form of self-help books, phone applications, yoga mats, and other products.
But the truth is that real self-growth requires work. Otherwise, only the wealthy would have access to maturation. And that, as evidenced by our political leaders, is clearly not the case.
As a licensed therapist and executive coach, embodying my values is one of my most important aims in life. Part of doing the work that I do with clients requires me to continually improve myself–because in this field, you can only take others as far as you’ve been yourself.
That’s the reason I decided to meditate for 100 days straight–to practice what I preach. To do what I say. And to be the congruent person I challenge my clients to become.
These 100 days have taught me a lot.
I learned that real self-development practices, such as meditation, are windows into your psyche, meaning that you can’t hide from yourself. Not anymore.
When most people move throughout each day, they have several opportunities to look in the mirror. To engage in brief moments of self-reflection and notice how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and other important sensations they’re experiencing.
But most people don’t use this time wisely. Most of us are conditioned to seek stimulation. To look at our phones, our computer screens, to talk to someone nearby, or get lost in the infinite fantasy of our thoughts.
Meditating on a regular basis changed that for me. It forced me to become more aware of my thoughts, feelings, and actions in a way that was, and this may surprise you, painful.
Increasing my attunement to my own experience highlighted how removed from my experience I have become. It showed me, with utmost clarity, the moments in which I was actively choosing to ignore inner experience and look outward for stimulation.
And being constantly bombarded with this reflection was exhausting.
When combined with the busiest year of my life, becoming more present by bringing the unconscious into conscious awareness burned me out. It contributed to my feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
This is the moment most people give up if they haven’t already. Most people throw in the towel once the clash between old patterns and new intentions reaches a crescendo.
And that makes sense, because real self-development practices like coaching, therapy, and meditation are uncomfortable.
The truth is that, no matter how much you wish self-improvement was easy, you must leave your comfort zone to get it. Your comfort zone–all of the things that you know, are familiar with, and that don’t challenge you–are the very patterns maintaining your unhappiness.
Therefore, to move beyond your current unhappiness requires the relinquishment of old patterns and establishing something new–both of which are easier said than done, as I discovered in my practice.
Over time, meditation became a paradox. It became both a moment of refuge from an overwhelming and chaotic world and a brutally honest encounter with my own suffering.
I often thought, “How could something so easy and simple feel so difficult and complex?
There were easy days. Days that I meditated for 50 minutes in a deep, resonate state of silence. Feeling connected to myself and something greater. Appreciative and grateful of each breath.
And there were hard days. Days that I hung on by a thread–meditating for 60 or 120 seconds just to keep my goal afloat. Those days were painful.
However, consistent throughout both the easy and difficult days was my grit–my commitment to ongoing growth, no matter how uncomfortable. I pushed myself. And it paid off.
These 100 days taught me that real change is an arduous process.
It requires insight into your current mental, physical, and emotional patterns. The courage to replace those patterns with something more beneficial. And the grit to persevere through uncomfortable moments to build new habits.
Further, change requires compassion. Knowing that it’s OK to have good days and bad days–for it is the contrast between the two that infuses life with meaning. And practicing self-kindness no matter how destructive your thoughts.
Change is about all of these things and more. But merely talking about such changes and the wisdom acquired from this growth is miniscule in comparison with the feeling of congruence. Of knowing that your progress was earned rather than purchased.
This journey taught me to believe in myself. To trust that no matter what arises in my experience, I have the ability to move beyond it.
And it helped me build the authentic confidence that comes from aligning my attention with my intention to achieve my goals.
It is my hope that, in reading this account, you’ll challenge yourself to do the same.