The Seven Stages of Personal Growth
Many of us want to grow. Some of us choose to make a commitment to personal transformation. And some choose to stay where there are, perhaps out of fear.
It’s not roses and sunshine all the way for those who stay on the path of spirituality. In yoga, for example, there are nine well-defined obstacles: sickness, dullness, doubt, lack of interest, fatigue, desire to enjoy in sensuality, self-deception, being stuck in place, and losing the qualities we already achieved.
However, it depends on how you perceive adversity.
The obstacles are good. They test us. If we’re strong enough, the obstacles push us towards constant growth.
On the way to becoming who we are, we face obstacles and we overcome them. We can identify seven stages on that journey. Not all of them are pleasant. In a strange way, that’s the beauty of it all. These are the seven stages:
1. The State of Unawareness
If you’re reading this, you’re probably past this phase. At least you’re near the end of it. When people are in this state of being, their lives are ruled by fear, mundane pleasure, and lack of personal fulfillment. They care about making money. When they make it, they care about making more. They want to meet more people, have more partners, and have better time. When they make a mistake, they blame someone else for it.
The most notable characteristic of this stage is lack of fulfillment. Whatever goal you achieve, it doesn’t give you lasting satisfaction. At one point or another, we start the spiritual awakening. We realize there’s more to life. We realize there’s more to us. That’s when we start getting out of the deep sleep.
2. Awareness of Your Old Habits
When you surpass the state of ignorance, you start feeling like you’ve wasted a lot of time on it. You become aware of the fact that your old habits were preventing you from growth. Working too hard, watching too many TV shows, reading shallow books, getting lured by distractions all the time… you’ll start highlighting all bad habits.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Do you know how you become a better person? – By recognizing your flaws first. You can overcome the bad habits that were distracting you from the journey of personal growth.
3. You Ignore “Logical” Advice
If you thought you could easily get on board, you were wrong. When you start exploring various disciplines and methods that lead you to spiritual growth, you become part of a community. Many other people are seekers, too. Having such a support system is great.
Your close ones, however, will not necessarily be part of it. You’ll be getting strange looks from friends and family members. Some of them will be trying to “bring you back on the right path.” If you really, really want to go to Tibet because that’s what your heart is telling you to do, they will tell you you’re crazy.
Even if you keep making career progress and you start making more money, they will still think you’re crazy. You’ll find yourself ignoring the “logical” advice they give you. If you’re ready to move forward, you’ll do it regardless of what other people think of you.
4. Making a Commitment
In this stage, you shift from knowing you have to make a change to doing. You start making the changes.
You’re probably going to alter your belief systems. You’ll realize that what you knew was not enough. During this stage, people start reading spiritual literature. They explore. In the meantime, they act.
This is more than just a stage. It’s a recurring pattern. You will experience doubt, dullness, sickness, and most other obstacles we mentioned at the beginning of this post. You may find yourself resisting your own will. You made a commitment to stay on this journey, but your body and mind will resist.
It’s a test. It will either push you away from the values and goals you set, or push you forward on the path. If you persist, you’ll come out stronger.
6. The Stage of Judgement
Although you promised to yourself you’ll become a better person, you’ll be judging. You’ll become allergic to anything that seems superficial to you. Have you seen those comments by people who critique yogis in bikinis and shorts? That’s the stage of judgement.
When your friends decide to go see a horror movie, you won’t join them. You’ll think that’s superficial. You’ll be judging them. This is not a good place to be in. However, it’s a stage of personal growth. It means you’re understanding what’s right and what’s wrong in your book. Still, you need to go forward to the next stage:
By this point, you’ve developed new habits and you started taking actions towards growth. You surpassed few obstacles and you’re aware of the fact that more of them will come. You’ve developed inner strength that keeps you going. You’ve been judgmental, but now you’re ready to get over that mindset. You’re ready for acceptance.
You’re not a new person. You’re just more authentic. Everyone else out there has flaws, just like you have. You learn to accept them for who they are. You’re not being pushy with your attempts to “enlighten” them.
You start accepting the good and bad things that happen. You realize that everything has a purpose. You start seeing the signs. You continue learning.
Now, you know: you’re ready for the big things to happen.
Personal growth is an important factor in everyone’s life. Even when we don’t realize it, there’s an inner calling begging us to get on that road. When we start following the journey, it’s not easy to stay on that path. If we do stay, however, we’re finally heading towards real personal satisfaction.
Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger.