Why personal growth is so difficult (and how to make it easier)

If you spend significant energy on self-improvement and personal growth, you’ve probably found yourself alternating between overthinking and not getting anywhere, and putting in the work to make progress but being completely drained by the effort.

Specifically, personal growth through our own intentional change (as opposed to the passive growth we experience just through living), is especially challenging.

It is difficult to find the clarity and motivation to change in the first place, and then when we finally start moving, the process of change itself is exhausting. How do we work toward our ideal life without freezing up and without wearing ourselves out?

I want to go over some of the most common hurdles to creating intentional change and to offer solutions so you can start working toward the sustainable lifestyle you want.

TOO MANY OPTIONS

There are so many approaches to self-improvement (and self-care, self-compassion, self-discovery, self-you-name-it) and countless messages about how to embark on these changes that the options become overwhelming.

We are inundated with books, courses, advertisements, and articles on how to be the best person we can be and we end up in a state of decision fatigue, using up any burst of energy for change before we even have a chance to try.

Instead of being distracted by all of the voices out there, we need to focus on a few voices that we trust, and save that energy to apply their frameworks to our actual, nuanced lives.

THE BALANCE STRUGGLE

We intentional types struggle horribly against ourselves when we are feeling out of balance. We think that if we are stressed out, we must be doing this self-care thing “wrong”.

But there is no right or wrong. There is only your agency to choose what is good for you in this moment.

That’s what intentional change is all about: choosing what is right for you at any given time. Sometimes that actually means feeling out of balance for some larger purpose that is important to you. It is okay to choose to be over-committed or overwhelmed for a period of time.

But in order to avoid constantly fighting with yourself, it is important to be set up to return to balance when you are ready.

That means having frameworks, structures, and support ready and waiting for you so that when you have the capacity to move the needle, you can use the opportunity to get closer to what you want. Otherwise, again, that burst of energy will come and go before you can figure out how to take advantage of it.

OVER-INDEPENDENCE

In this pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps culture, it’s easy to feel like you should be able to figure out what you need to change, how you want to change it, and go about changing it all by yourself. But trying to make intentional change in isolation is a surefire way to burn out before you’ve even started.

Accountability and support makes all the difference in creating intentional habit and mindset change without getting overwhelmed. I believe we learn and grow most effectively in relationship to others, so why not seek out relationships that help us make the change we want to see?

SELF-CRITICISM

Self-criticism is rampant and stops intentional change in its tracks. If nothing we ever do is good enough, why should we even try? This harsh voice in our heads makes self-improvement just another part of the cycle of judgment we are trying to get away from.

One of the most effective and beautiful ways to combat self-criticism is to cultivate self-compassion in community with others. In intentional community, we learn to recognize our common humanity as we witness the struggles of others and have our own struggles witnessed in turn.

In that common humanity we find the ability to be gentle with ourselves for the things we can and can’t control and to let go of some of that judgment. We find self-compassion.

And with that self-compassion, we are able to work on ourselves without letting self-criticism keep us frozen in place or exhaust us from the effort.

Your desire for change is real.

And change is not easy or simple.

That’s why it’s so important to set yourself up with a structure and community that will allow you to navigate the ebbs and flows of the intentional change journey. So that you have a sense of direction and accountability, and so that you feel cared for and validated along the way.

Which brings me to today’s exciting announcement:

In 12 days, I will be launching my brand new Intentional Change Community.

If you are trying to create intentional mindset and habit change in your life but are finding yourself caught in some of the traps I wrote about here, I encourage you to explore this new way of working with me in community with other self-reflective, intentional folks.

Through this membership program, you will have access to all of the elements for intentional change you just read about: frameworks and prompts, accountability, support, community, and all of the compassion you could need in order to make intentional change without getting stuck or wearing yourself out.

ICC opens on January 29 for just 15 participants. Sign up to get notified here.

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