After college I felt stuck. I didn’t really feel like I had a direction, but I knew that if I developed good habits, when I did find a direction I would be ready to take off. So I sold the small business I owned and went in search of answers. I took two years to explore as many perspectives around personal growth as I could. In these two years I attended over twenty multiple-day personal growth courses, seminars, and retreats. I explored everything that people sought transformation in, from meditation to systems thinking, from reiki to trainings led by MIT business school professors.
I spoke with people after each course, and nearly everyone I asked was excited about the possibility of their future. Yet over and over again, two months down the line, the vast majority of people I talked to admitted that they had largely returned to their old habits and patterns. I, of course, was no different. Over and over and over again I would just do the same damn thing as I had before. Why? Why was it so hard to change?
Not looking at my direct experience of life was why. Not feeling into what’s true for me was why. Expecting the courses to have some magical effect was why. Nothing changed because I wasn’t looking within for my answers. I didn’t know how or that that was something I could do. I kept all the information and tools at arms length in the world of concepts. Vulnerability was missing.
When books and courses don’t have a lasting impact on people’s lives, it’s usually for one main reason: the person taking in the material takes it in conceptually. They intellectually learn the material rather than experience it. Excitement does come from intellectually understanding the material, because knowing it conceptually lets you imagine how awesome your life could be if you applied the material. But it’s safe. There’s nothing at risk. In the short term, it’s a great risk to reward ratio because you don’t have to change and you get to feel awesome! Unfortunately, it doesn’t lead to any lasting change. If you’re addicted to personal growth material, you’re probably doing this.
We are perpetually in our heads trying to evaluate and understand ourselves. We are quite rarely present to what we’re actually feeling for any more than a moment. I made this course because almost every person I’ve coached has tried to address their blocks by looking outside themselves and it doesn’t work.
This is human nature, and normal because, as I mention in the Introduction, our culture teaches us to look outside ourselves for our answers. We try to fix a motivation issue with new organizational strategies. We try to address a lack of confidence by logically re-assuring ourselves or psyching ourselves up. With the latter we can get to a sense of hype and excitement in the moment. However, without exploring our wants and doubts, we don’t get to our deeper desires and the psyching-up lasts only till the next reasonable sounding doubt.
Ultimately, we’re stuck because we’re looking outside ourselves for the magical realization that would change everything; the book or seminar that would re-orient ourselves or show us the way; the idea that, when we got it would liberate us. Unfortunately, the real answers are within. Motivation comes from emotion. We work through our blocks by listening to and understanding what our emotions are signaling to us.
So feeling what you feel is the most important thing you can do in this entire course. Being conscious of your ongoing experience of life is the foundation for any real transformation. The main goal of the course is to help you know what you want and cultivate your ability to do it. Our feelings are what show us what’s meaningful and right to us (what we want), and our feelings either enable (motivate) or get in the way of us taking action. Being in touch with your felt experience will open up both knowing what you want and your ability to do it.