One thing my teacher taught me is that you need to build a structure for your evolution. What I’ve learned is that if you're interested in personal growth and being the best version of yourself that you can be, there are certain elements you need to have in place to supercharge your evolution. If any of these are missing, it’s like having one foot on the brake and one on the steering wheel - you get stuck.
It’s kind of like growing a garden… let me explain.
A few weeks ago my mom came to visit to help me put in my vegetable garden. We first weeded, added compost, planted the seeds and seedlings, and finally made sure we had irrigation set up. The garden is happily growing and I’ve already harvested greens!
So how does this apply to our own progress? How can you set up the conditions for your personal growth to flourish?
When creating my garden I had to decide what I wanted to grow. What vegetables and produce did I want to nourish my family with? Once I figured that out I knew what seeds to plant.
Start with the end in mind
"This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday
It's surprising how many people don’t know what they want. They’re living on autopilot reacting to life and defaulting to the lowest common denominator. And not to any fault of their own, maybe they haven't taken the time to really ask themselves: "What do I REALLY want?". This is a big question and can take some deep investigation as there can be a lot of outdated beliefs and old paradigms that we've unknowingly been living in. But as Socrates said, an unexamined life is not worth living.
We need to know where we’re going. Without direction we wander aimlessly. So take a moment right now and ask yourself: What do I REALLY want?” What do you yearn for? Don’t hold back or stifle your desire. Let yourself dream big...
A seed in a packet won’t do much. We need to DO SOMETHING with it. We need to take action to bring the plant into manifestation.
Dreaming is not enough. While the law of attraction might have some merit, visualizing what you want will only get you so far (in my experience). You have to take matters into your own hands and take responsibility for going after what you want.
This begins with taking full ownership of your life. This means not making excuses for why you're not where you want to be. It means that you're willing to do what it takes to get to where you want to go. Are you ready to pay the price? If not, your desire might not be strong enough.
On one hand we need to believe that what we want it possible, and on the other hand we need to be prepared for work and assume there will be failures and challenges along the path. But when we decide to take responsibility, we're putting our stake in the sand and saying - "yup, shit's going to be tough, but I'm going to go for it".
Now you have your seed and you’ve decided to help it grow. You need sunlight, soil and water…
In Ayurveda the energy of fire is called agni. The power of agni is many things one of which is intelligence and discernment. We need someone to impart their intelligence upon us and help us discern what to take in and what to leave out.
Find a teacher
You know you want to grow but you’re not sure how. If you already knew how you'd probably be there right? The thing is we don't need to know how, we just need to put ourselves at the feet of others that do. We need to surround ourselves with people who are a few steps further ahead than we are.
“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.” - Dan Sullivan
You need mentors, teachers, and coaches who will provide guidance, encouragement and feedback. If you don't have the necessary support you will fail. Change is difficult and those new situations will be too much to handle and you'll be likely to give up if. Without sunlight, your garden won’t grow.
Where you decide to plant your seed matters tremendously. The quality of your soil makes all the difference.
Create an environment that supports your evolution.
Your environment has a huge impact on the level and speed of your growth. If you're around by like-minded people working towards similar goals it’s easier to do the difficult things because everyone else is doing them. On the other hand, if you're trying to resist temptation when everyone around you is partaking – you don't stand a chance. Environment always wins.
There's a phenomenon called social contagion which refers to the propensity to engage in certain behaviours because other people in our social network are doing them. Our habits are contagious.
Just think back to a bad habit you wanted to break in the past. When were you most likely to backslide? Most likely if you were around friends who were doing it. If you’ve succumbed to peer pressure you're not weak – you're human. That’s why you need to be intentional about the people you hang out with and surround yourself with people who call you forward as opposed to pull you back.
And lastly, we need to water our seeds daily. Ideally set up irrigation that runs automatically so you don’t have to remember to do it.
Automate healthy habits
Habits are behaviours that happen automatically with little effort on your part. We need to build habits that nourish and feed us on all levels. We need healthy routines to cultivate energy and strength to handle the challenges of growth. When we get good sleep, eat the right foods, exercise daily and practice self-care we are increasing our capacity to do more and to be more.
Start before you’re ready
Don’t put your dreams on hold. There's never a "good time" to make changes. Actually there is, it's NOW.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb
Our lives are just getting busier and more complex. "When the kids get older", "when I retire", "when I have enough money", "when I finish this project/renovation/move", "when I _____" are just excuses for not taking responsibility for your life. Start where you are and start now.
When we have the ingredients in place: a clear goal on the horizon, a firm resolve to do what it takes, the guidance of a teacher, the support of a community, an environment which reinforces our desired behaviours, and an intention to begin right away, then evolution is inevitable. You've created a structure in which you can evolve into the next iteration of YOU. If you build a strong container, growth will come.
“Happiness lies in the cultivation of the garden.” — Voltaire