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Self Discovery, Not Self Improvement. The Path of True Contentment.
Reclaiming your awe and wonder in a world wanting to fix you
Hello & welcome to another edition of Beyond Self Improvement!
Last Wednesday, I wrote In Search of Joy: The Wisdom of the Alchemist.
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The article in four sentences
Feeling like you're constantly trying to 'improve' yourself but getting nowhere? That’s because you're already complete, like a seed waiting for the right conditions to bloom. Step back from the hustle of self-improvement and step into self-discovery. Remember, it’s not about adding to yourself but discovering who you already are.
Have you ever read or heard something that sounds true? It's as if the idea strikes a chord already present within you. This phenomenon is far from a coincidence.
It's a testament that we are not empty vessels seeking to be filled up but beings with intrinsic freedom waiting to be uncovered. In a world captivated by self-improvement, the actual task is coming home to who you already are. Adding to ourselves is not the way, but instead, removing the layers of conditioning preventing us from realizing our original nature and unique expression.
Think about an oak tree, a zebra, or a human being. Each of these creatures is naturally inclined to be what it is. Similarly, wholeness, mindfulness, and physical and mental well-being are inherent aspects of our nature. These inclinations are woven into our existence, from birth to death. Our authentic self is already complete. Our task is not to enhance ourselves but to foster an environment where our inner qualities and abilities can flourish.
Consider everything from learning guitar to creative writing, emotional intelligence, and cancer cells. All of these manifestations require the right conditions to come to fruition. Just like a seed, we, too, possess inherent qualities waiting to be nurtured. The analogy is simple yet profound: the source is present, but without the proper conditions, it remains dormant.
Yet, in a world inundated with messages of inadequacy and consumer-driven spiritualism promising quick fixes for our loneliness and discontent, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing we are broken and need fixing. However, the truth is quite the opposite. We aren’t broken, and there are no shortcuts to self-discovery. Just as a quicker car won’t get you through traffic any faster, we can't sidestep the often lengthy process of uncovering our true selves.
So, why does the concept of self-improvement often fall short? The answer is that there's nothing fundamentally deficient about you or me. The notion of self-improvement stems from a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. We mistakenly believe that by improving ourselves, we will complete the story of "me." Renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle delves into this concept, highlighting how bolstering our false or limited self hinders realizing our true and unlimited selves.
Humans are not projects to be fixed or improved upon. Wholeness, happiness, and well-being are our original nature. However, awareness and realizing this truth are often constrained by the layers of conditioning that have accumulated over time. These layers, born out of our family of origin and reinforced by society, are barriers to discovering ourselves.
Picture a healthy plant or a vibrant human being. There’s an aliveness about them that is not always present in others. On the other hand, dis-ease implies a state of disorder and imbalance. In this way, feeling fragmented or out of balance indicates a misalignment with what is true. Rather than chasing self-improvement, our task is to remove the layers of conditioning preventing us from realizing the joy, contentment, and freedom inherent to us.
Using a term from Charlie Munger, the mental model here is clear and meaningful: everything in existence is meant to thrive. Just as plants turn toward the sun and reach for the skies, humans are inclined to reclaim childhood's lost awe and wonder. Rather than fixing ourselves, we must remove obstacles hindering our intrinsic wholeness, contentment, and wisdom of heart.
Becoming whole means finding peace within yourself. Here are some practices that can help:
Understanding. Know that life includes happiness and sorrow. Both are normal and necessary. After all, how can we know one without the other?
Awareness. Notice whatever is present. When you eat, notice the smell, taste, and texture. When you walk, see how it feels to make contact with the ground.
Letting Go. Clinging is the source of sorrow. Practice letting go of grasping what you like and resisting what you dislike. I like to say, “Let go. Let go. Let go.”
Kindness. Treat yourself and others with love and respect. Imagine everyone as an innocent child or perhaps different states of you. I like to say, “There’s old me.” “There’s friendly me.” “There’s angry me.”
Quiet time. Spend time every day sitting still, allowing your breath to flow in and out. Resting your mind cultivates peace and tranquility.
Right Actions. Act in ways that are beneficial for you and others. This means not intentionally hurting anyone with your words or actions.
Acceptance. Understand that, ultimately, little is within our control. Accepting things as they are is the quickest path to peace.
The path to becoming who you are is not about self-improvement or becoming someone new but revealing who you've always been. Instead of trying to fix yourself, step back from the frantic world of self-improvement and step into self-discovery.
Cultivate the conditions for your true nature to emerge, just as you would nurture a seed into a blossoming flower. And remember, the path back to yourself requires trust, courage, and a commitment to removing that which no longer serves you.
Discover your true self,
Oh, and whenever you’re ready, I can help you transform chronic stress and worry into ongoing calm. Making you feel in control in 90 days. Schedule a free, 30-minute discovery call today.