Humans are not meant to stop growing. In fact, no living thing on earth is meant to stop growing. We are all alive, reaching for the sun.
Progress in life is all about reinvention. I am going to preface all of this by saying that reinvention is not the same thing as endlessly seeking reward or achievement. There is a difference. Seeking an achievement usually implies an “end.” You win the trophy and then you’re “done.” That’s not what you want to aim for–because as soon as you say you’re “done,” you are no longer reaching and stretching yourself, which means you stop growing.
Reinvention, however, leaves the end open–which is actually a good thing. Reinvention is what allows you endless opportunities to continue exploring new parts of yourself. Exploration is growth, and growth in this sense is not outward facing but inward.
Whenever you find something about yourself you want to change, you need to look for a way to reinvent it.
Imagine you are a sculptor. A sculptor looks at his or her piece of stone and endlessly questions new ways to shape it. And if he or she thinks of something to change, there is no emotional attachment. They just do it. This is how you need to see yourself–as a work of art, always in progress. No need to get upset, or come down hard on yourself when you see something you do not like. Instead, like an artist, just get to work.
Far too often, people focus too much on the thing they want to change instead of the habits that formed the thing in the first place. For example: They try to solve being overweight with doing a lot of ab exercises, without acknowledging that the problem is their poor diet. To truly reinvent aspects of yourself, you have to find the habit that created that trait in the first place–and then adjust the habit.
Change is not something you do some days and then take a break from other days. Change is a shift in lifestyle. It requires daily dedication, to the point where that new habit takes the place of an old one and no longer requires conscious effort.
You can’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m not going to be impatient anymore!” Yes, you are. And you actually help yourself by acknowledging that a bad habit like that won’t be solved immediately. Instead, set the goal to be more patient during your team meeting that happens every morning. Use that as an isolated practice space and subconscious reminder of what it is you want to practice. Focus on that for a few weeks, and then go from there.
Things get dangerous when you refuse to stop and really look at yourself–when you avoid self-reflection. There is a time and a place for “go go go” mode, and then there is a time and place for reflection mode. Both are necessary. And you will quickly find that unless you take the time to ask yourself the tough questions, you will fall off track and not know how you got there.
If everyone around you is telling you “yes,” then you have a serious problem. You need people who are going to challenge and question you. You need people who won’t be afraid to tell you the truth. Tough feedback is essential for personal growth.
You will never become the person you want to be by continuing to be the person you currently are. Growth’s only request is that you step out of your comfort zone. That’s it. And unless you are willing to take that risk, to take that uncomfortable leap into the unknown, you will forever stay exactly where you are.
Reinvention is an art. It is a process. It is not a “quick fix” or an “overnight solution.” It is a deliberate practice, day in and day out, until you realize who it is you want to be, you already were all along.
Originally published on Inc.com.
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