Sometimes, when we become committed to our personal growth it is easy to get caught in a subtle and unexpected trap while diligently 'working on ourselves'. The dilemma can be simply pinpointed by the following two questions. Is your life an endless problem to be solved or is your life a reality to be experienced?
Your answer to these questions is telling. On close examination, your answer holds the key to your, perhaps unconscious, motivation for putting excessive time and energy into delving, uncovering and discovering new aspects of yourself. The primary motivation for beginning a journey of self-discovery is usually the desire to solve a problem. Pain is a great wake up call.
There is an interesting phenomenon that has become a part of our recent culture that I am attempting to address today. When we approach life and ourselves as a continuous problem to be solved, we may be misguidedly attempting to reach perfection. When we are endlessly trying to figure out and fix ourselves, the motivation may be more ego- driven than growth oriented.
Right, good, better than, winner, perfect; living happily ever after and never again having to pay any upsetting prices while receiving a constant uninterrupted stream of benefits for the rest of our natural lives is an impossible and unrealistic, though appealing, attempt at achieving ego gratification. We love it when life is flowing and enjoyable. However, sometimes it is necessary to stop, open up and experience the actual pain of a situation so that we can be moved to make new choices.
When we approach our lives as a constant fix-it project, there is no room for real growth. True personal growth requires a serious relationship with how life is in the present, as well as a willingness to be flexible and open to new ways of approaching our life situations.
Self-help books are great. Seminars are terrific. Therapy can be life changing. Spiritual disciplines can enhance our everyday life experience. If we hang on too tightly to these tools and burden anyone within earshot with our latest quick answers to life's problems, it may be time to take another look at our real intentions. We can get addicted to stockpiling answers before life has had time to ask us any questions.
When this happens, we are at risk of having our life run by fear instead of being guided by our inspirational, intuitive knowledge. When our ego is running the show, we can easily get stuck in a bind of never being as good as we think we are and also never being as bad as we think we are. We get caught in a never-ending cycle of berating ourselves one day and over-congratulating ourselves the next day.
Wisdom coupled with enthusiasm is seductive and expanding our personal power feels good. It makes logical sense that more personal power would feel even better. This track, however, puts our feet firmly on the road to perfect.
Perfect translates into all highs and no lows. Always up and never down. When the inevitable bumps in the road show up, we are ill-equipped to handle them with grace and ease because we have become overly identified with the power side of life's equation.
Surrender becomes impossible. The unknown becomes terrifying. We become rigid rather than flexible in our self-knowledge and we become victims of over-achievement turned inward. It can be a bit embarrassing to admit that newfound spirituality is simply that same old hungry ego monster clamoring for more, bigger and better territory. Egomania dressed up in a fancy suit.
Here is where the skill of being able to laugh at ourselves comes in handy.
The next step is to take a moment to come back to our senses. Imagine a bicycle built for two. Your Higher Power, God, Higher Self, Inspiration, Intuition, whatever name you most resonate with that connects you to your inner knowing and houses your guidance, direction and protection is sitting firmly in the lead seat.
Place yourself in the second seat. Suit up. Show up. Lighten up. And then all that is left to do is to keep on pedaling and remember to enjoy the ride.