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“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” – Frank A. Clark
The journey is worth it
In my growth journey, I have faced many obstacles that I had to overcome. Like most people, (at least initially) whenever I heard or read about personal growth, it seemed like it was all about the good and not the ugly, positive and not the negative, the rewards and not the sacrifice, and of course, not hindrances. The truth is, like any other valuable undertaking, personal growth has many hindrances. They must be conquered if we are to get to our destinies and live a significant life. Jim Rohn, speaker, and author of The Art of Exceptional Living refers to personal growth hindrances as weeds or the disease of attitude that must be faced with intentionality.
In today’s blog, I will present three habits that hinder growth, look at their effect, and how to deal with them.
Early last year, I came up with a list of habits that I referred to as The 7 deadly habits that will kill your growth. The goal was to use it as teaching material for one of my personal growth & leadership seminars. But on further review of the list, I recognized that I wasn’t ready to use it. Why? I realized that I wasn’t ready to admit that I dealt with those habits. Rather than beat myself down, I faced them and turned things around. The three habits I share today are the roots of the list of habits I wrote last year. My aim is not to point fingers or beat you down. Instead, by showing how I overcame each habit, I hope to create a path for you as well. Let’s get started.
1. The Comparison Trap
Of the three habits that hinder growth, comparison is the most subtle. None of us are born with a comparison gene. It is a habit we pick up and gets reinforced at an early age. Babies, before they can understand the rules of society, don’t care about what other babies are doing or look like. What they care about are their needs to be met. But then something changes when they start learning the reward systems set up by society. They start to see who gets complimented for their toys, dress, or looks, and soon they begin to copy. Soon, this behavior of copying and pasting gets wired in us. Eventually, it becomes difficult to break. And as adults, the habit of comparison is further perpetuated by social media.
Before I completely disbar that comparison has any benefits, I would like to say there is an important part it plays in our being. For example, when you see how someone live their lives and ends up in a horrible situation, you know how not to live your life. The opposite is equally true. When you see someone setting an example worth following it can move you to make improvements to your own life. But that’s not the angle I want to approach comparison from. There is a dangerous side of comparing that hinders our growth.
Comparing ourselves to others makes us set standards based on others. This hinders growth. First, when your standard is others, it limits you from becoming better than you were yesterday, which is how you develop excellence. Second, it prevents you from reaching greater heights and breaking your limitations. Every great athlete, the likes of Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner or Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter, understand one important concept; they don’t compete against everyone else, they compete against their last best self. Focusing on personal growth takes you to greater heights and breaks limitations. Third, comparing yourself to others kills creativity.
How do we overcome this habit? Understanding that you’re are a unique individual; with a unique set of strengths and challenges, with a distinctive background, and live a very different life than everyone else around you is important in combating comparison. Possessing this thought will help you focus on your strengths rather than other people’s strengths while remaining humble and respectful. It will also enable you to remain optimistic because you will know that there are opportunities in life that will require your unique set of strengths. Not setting your standards based on others, always aiming for greater heights, and remaining creative will also help you to avoid the second hindrance.
2. Complaining and murmuring
The story of the biblical character Moses transcends all cultures and religions. Whether you are a religious person or not, there is a great lesson we can learn from his journey. Moses was God’s messenger sent to liberate Israelites from captivity in Egypt. The Israelites had been in captivity for over 400 years and their prayers to be liberated were answered. The plan was for them, led by Moses, to go through the desert into their own land which was miles better than Egypt. But there was a dramatic change of events in the desert. On their way to freedom, they began complaining and murmuring, which led to them staying longer in the wilderness and an entire generation to dying without making it to Canaan (their new land). The story is longer and more dramatic than I can share here but there is a bevy of lessons we can learn from it about our second hindrance to growth, complaining and murmuring.
First, complaining and murmuring prevent us from valuing the process of growth. When we complain, we fail to focus on the internal things we can control such as our mindset and attitude. Instead, we focus on external circumstances over which we have no control over. Second, complaining and murmuring leads to blaming. The moment you start complaining is the moment you block your mind from finding solutions. When you can’t find solutions, then you fall into what my mentor Mr. Waiyaki calls the path of least resistance, which is blaming others for your predicament. Remember this, your brain can’t be positive and complain at the same time.
The way to never complain again in life is to check how you process and interpret what happens to you. Because, it’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you react that makes the difference. Holding the right perspective is key to not complaining and murmuring. The right perspective is focusing on what’s in your locus of control.
3. Pride (false-sense of importance)
Understanding that you can learn something from everyone and anyone who you come into contact with is like jet fuel to your growth. Unfortunately, pride, the state of putting on a false sense of self-importance, sabotages growth for many. Humility and teachability cultivate an environment for learning, which in turn fosters growth.
Pride in anyone’s life is like placing a polythene bag on your head, which slowly suffocates you; pride suffocates growth. In addition to suffocating growth, pride generates toxins that poison all relationships. Since relationships are the vehicle for growth, pride not only destroys present growth, it closes the door to future growth as well.
The most potent way to overcome pride is to practice humility daily. Every day, carry the mindset that everyone is important. Value everyone. Learn from them. Look for ways to make others shine. If you do this simple act of valuing others, there will be no room for pride. Exponential growth will be your reward.
Final thought: Comparing ourselves to others, complaining and murmuring, and being prideful are all matters of the soul. Their effect on growth and our battle to overcome them is a testament that the greatest wars are the ones we fight within. I assure you that correctly setting the internal thermostat of your attitude daily, will lead you to greater growth and victory over these hindrances.
Keep on Keeping on!
Today’s blog post is written by Samson Gichuki.