How to Massively Accelerate Your Personal Growth – the Smart Way

This newsletter was written by Steve Pavlina, sent on April 20, 2010. It’s re-published here for achival purposes, with permission.

Getting stuck is a huge problem with respect to personal growth.

It’s also incredibly common.

People don’t try to get stuck — but somehow it just happens.

No one sets out to get stuck for years in a job they don’t really like.

No one sets out to get stuck in a bad financial situation, where they feel like they’re missing out on some great life experiences because they don’t have enough money.

No one sets out to get themselves stuck in a disempowering relationship or social circle, surrounded by people who don’t really love and care about them.

No one sets out to get themselves stuck in a bad health situation, trapped in a body that feels sluggish and burdensome.

But even though you may not have set out to get stuck, it’s a safe bet that you’re currently stuck in some part of your life.

In at least one part of your life — career, finances, relationships, health, emotions, productivity, etc. — you know you aren’t getting what you want, but it seems overwhelming to figure out:

  1. How to clearly identify and define what you want
  2. How to actually make your desires real within a reasonable period of time


Unfortunately these kinds of problems usually don’t solve themselves. More often than not, they actually get worse.

An off-track career doesn’t suddenly get better. It acts like a slow sinking ship over a period of years.

A bad financial situation doesn’t magically fix itself. Debt grows from interest. Bills pile up. Inflation degrades spending power. Many people these days are financially worse off than their parents.

A disempowering social circle or relationship situation doesn’t suddenly become uplifting and supportive. Usually it drags you down further with each passing year.

Health problems tend to beget more health problems. If you’re feeling down, there’s a good chance you’ll feel worse next year.

If left unchecked, such problems can really begin to drain the life out of a person. You can recognize such people by the glazed-over, hypnotic look in their eyes. Their only escapes are forms of distraction — web surfing, TV, compulsive behavior, video games, etc. Deep down the dissatisfaction builds because they know their lives have gotten way off track. But how to fix it? — that’s the question!

Such problems can make you feel stressed, and if they go on long enough, they can leave you feeling both helpless and hopeless.

If you’re young enough — say in your early 20s — you may not be at that point yet. You’re probably still enthusiastic about your potential.

But over time, years of stagnation can really get to people. It takes a lot of energy to keep that fire of enthusiasm inside you burning if you don’t have much to show for it.

You can only go for so many years of dealing with boring jobs, weak finances, unsupportive relationships, and destructive health habits before it starts to gnaw at you. Eventually those things will begin to erode your self-esteem.

Sure there are people who claim to be able to rise above their problems, acting like they’re not affected. But personally I’ve never met one that I can vouch for, and I’ve met many of the “gurus” in this field. Behind the scenes, we’re all vulnerable to the effects of stagnation. Seriously now… isn’t it much better to actually get strong results as opposed to no results? Don’t you feel a lot better about yourself when you’re in a good flow with lots of positive results coming your way? Who can deny that?

You can only play those pretend-it’s-okay games with yourself for so long before your mind stops listening. Eventually you’ll find that some part of yourself is giving you eye-rolls when you talk about your next weight loss attempt, your latest get-rich-quick scheme, or your new dating strategy. It’s hard to be congruent with your enthusiasm when your memories are filled with a string of failed attempts.

Lots of people succumb to denial at this point. They act like they’re growing, when for all intents and purposes, they’re really stagnating.

How do you know if you’re really growing? Forget about your goals and plans for the moment, and just look back on the past 90 days. Do you see evidence that you’re significantly better off now vs. 90 days ago. What amazing results have stacked up during that time?

If you’re really growing, you should be able to name a number of significant breakthroughs that occurred during that time, and they should be objective and observable.

Some examples of specific results include:

  • Fulfilling work projects you completed (What did you create and contribute? What impact is it now having?)
  • A positive shift in your finances (Where are you now vs. 90 days ago? Did your income go up? Did your debt go down? Do you have more money or assets? Fewer liabilities? Did you make some intelligent investments?)
  • A positive change in your relationships (What evidence is there that you deepened your current relationships? Broke off an unhealthy relationship? Added empowering new friends to your social circle?)
  • A positive change in your health status (Did you lose fat? Did you gain strength, flexibility, or endurance? Did you adopt some positive new health habits?)

What does your recent past say about your actual path of growth? If there’s little or no evidence of positive change within the past 90 days, it’s safe to say you’re stuck. And if you can’t see any real measurable progress over the past year, then you’re REALLY stuck.

An Unfair Advantage

I’m not claiming to have superior intelligence to you.

But it’s a virtual certainty that I have superior experience when it comes to helping people achieve breakthroughs in their personal growth.

I don’t have a regular job. I have no boss telling me what to do.

Every year I spend the bulk of my time exploring personal growth. This includes thinking about it deeply, talking about it with others, writing about it, speaking about it, and applying what I learn.

Do you think that if you devoted several years of your life to the study of creating personal breakthroughs… that you might make some amazing distinctions most people miss completely?

Of course you would.

Not only would you acquire lots of practical tools, but you’d also begin to see grander patterns. In this area I have a decidedly unfair advantage.

Due to the popularity of my blog, I have people coming to me every single day, requesting help with various personal growth challenges.

Most people’s problems fall into one of four basic categories:

  • career problems
  • financial problems
  • relationship problems
  • health problems

There are other categories too like emotional problems and mental problems, but the four categories above probably cover about 95% of the issues people have.

I’ve had the privilege of being able to coach people in various ways for a number of years, and quite often I get to see the follow-up results.

I get to see which people actually succeed in creating breakthroughs in these areas of their lives and which people remain stuck.

We could talk about people who get partial results too, but that gets a lot more subtle and would take more than one article to explain. For now, just consider what you might learn if you were able to witness thousands of cases where people attempt to create major changes in their lives. Some succeed. Many fail.

Imagine what distinctions you could make by contrasting the successful breakthroughs vs. those who stayed stuck.

Surely you’d notice some patterns.

And not only would you notice those patterns, you’d have some pretty convincing evidence of their effectiveness. You wouldn’t have just read about it in a book — you’d have seen it play out in real people’s lives.

For example, you’d be able to watch a person go through the process of shifting from a job they hate to a new career they love. You’d see them become much happier. You’d see the positive ripples it created through other parts of their life — like making a lot more money, feeling more energetic, and attracting fantastic new relationship partners.

That is — by far — the part of my work I love most. It’s so amazing to see that beautiful, soulful spark return to someone’s eyes. It’s really great to see people smiling with their eyes again and not just those fake mouth-only smiles.

It’s not the sort of thing I can take credit for, but it’s wonderful to be part of the process — a catalyst, if you will — when it happens.

Before someone can reach that point, however, there are usually many obstacles to overcome. So often people get buried in situations that keep them stuck — usually for years.

This saddens me, which is why I’ve made it my personal mission to do something about it.

I’d love to walk down the street and see that spark of happiness in everyone’s eyes. But today what I see most often are those downtrodden looks of disconnection.

The four things that most prevent people from expressing the full force of their spirit are:

  • Lack of fulfilling work (not doing what they love, not contributing)
  • Financial scarcity (too much debt, not earning enough money, not creating enough value, not experiencing financial flow)
  • Lack of loving relationships (unsupportive, disempowering, or apathetic social circle; no one to love and be loved by)
  • Poor health (lack of energy and vitality, feeling tired, feeling sick)

These are the most common spark killers.

Symptoms vs. Causes

But here’s the deal — and it’s a BIG deal.

These problems are really just symptoms — important symptoms, mind you — but symptoms nonetheless.

The real issues go much deeper.

Most of the field of personal growth is focused on tactical solutions. They will treat the symptoms only. But they never identify and treat the root causes that give rise to those symptoms.

Consequently, even people who seem dedicated to the study of personal growth usually stagnate — for years.

Or they make very shaky gains. They move ahead a little… then backslide… then make progress in another area… then backslide. They never seem to be able to “lock on” to the promised nirvana of a new level of being. It always eludes them.

But some people succeed in a really big way. For starters, they successfully lock into a state of being that includes the following benefits:

  • Deeply fulfilling work that expresses their creativity and contributes to the world
  • A wonderful flow of financial abundance that makes it easy to afford whatever they wish to experience
  • Loving and supportive relationships with people who genuinely care about them
  • High levels of energy, vitality, and excitement — mentally, physically, and emotionally

Do you think that knowing the patterns that give rise to these results might serve you?

For years I’ve been seeing the same patterns play out over and over again. But here’s the thing — most people do NOT notice these patterns. That’s because the patterns are too subtle. They’re difficult to see when you’re so focused on your own life.

Even if you regularly hang out with a group of very conscious, growth-oriented people, most likely you won’t notice these patterns. You simply don’t have enough data for the patterns to become evident.

So year after year, these subtle patterns continue to operate in your life, but you don’t even notice them. They hold the solutions to all your personal and professional challenges, but you’re oblivious to them.

Avoiding the Growth-Killing Demons

So how do you discover — and begin to apply — effective patterns of growth?

I’ll share several pieces of advice to help you accomplish this… ways you can accelerate your personal growth tremendously.

Perhaps the best way to share these ideas is to say that you need to tackle — and defeat — three demons in your life. Those demons are:

  • Denial
  • Disconnection
  • Weakness

Let’s discuss each of these in turn.


First, admit the truth of your current situation. If you’re stuck or stagnating, don’t pretend that you’re making satisfying progress. Denial cannot help you grow.

It’s imperative that you start being honest with yourself. Look to the past 90 days, and see what sort of progress you’re REALLY making. Stop kidding yourself that things will somehow magically get better in the future. If you’re not seeing progress in your recent past, you won’t even be able to convince your own mind that your situation will improve. Your very neurons will turn against you — they learn from the past and will predict failure and stagnation for your future. That’s a vicious cycle you must break.

For advice on how to break this cycle, see the article The Past DOES Equal the Future. I’ll give you the short version for now.

The best way to overcome denial is to make changes to your daily habits that shift your momentum. This will automatically change the predictions your mind is making, and soon you’ll begin predicting fresh successes instead of stagnation.

Stagnation is actually quite predictable. If you keep doing the same things over and over again, and they haven’t done much for you in the past, it’s safe to say you won’t make much progress in the future.

So identifying and busting the daily habits that are producing stagnation is an essential part of personal growth. Ultimately, stagnation is caused by bad habits.


The second growth killer is disconnection. This is when you check out from some part of your life and lose sight of your passion, dreams, and desires. Disconnection leads to hopelessness.

If you want to keep growing, it’s your responsibility to stay plugged in to what’s going on in your life. And especially you must stay plugged in to your desires. What do you want to experience? What are your hopes and dreams? Don’t let them die. Think about your desires often. Feel them as real. Make connecting with your desires a central part of your life.

Disconnection is what gives people that glazed-over look in their eyes. When people are plugged in to their desires, their eyes are sparkling and full of life. Take a moment to go look at yourself in a mirror. Do you see that sparkle in your eyes? Does your image reflect happiness and fulfillment? Or is it reflecting apathy, dejection, disappointment, or regret? What happened to your spark?


Weakness is the third growth killer. Weakness can take the form of laziness, procrastination, and lack of discipline. Weakness consists of character flaws such as the inability to maintain your integrity in the face of external pressures… or the inability to follow through on your goals and plans.

The proven antidote to weakness is to deliberately train yourself to become stronger. Realize that weakness is not a permanent condition. Stop running from your fears as if they’re obstacles, and start seeing them as training hurdles.

You can train yourself to get up at 5am each morning and get an early start to your day. You can train yourself to read good books instead of doing idle web surfing. You can train yourself to eat organic fruits and vegetables instead of fast food. In additional to the powerful results such habits can produce in your life long-term, the very act of training yourself will give you more self-discipline across the board. It’s easier to be strong in some new area of your life when you regularly train yourself to get stronger in other areas.

Not actively training yourself for more strength of character is one of the worst personal growth mistakes you can ever make. Always be training yourself for greater performance in at least one area of your life! If you aren’t used to training, then start with something simple, like giving up soda or high fructose corn syrup. Once you’ve made it to 30 days, train to add another improvement, and keep going from there.

I’ve seen people have some incredible breakthroughs when they finally said to themselves, “This is beneath me! I know I’m capable of much better than this.” They got fed up with oversleeping, feeling tired, succumbing to laziness, losing hours out of each day to obsessive Internet and email checking. They recognized that their own weakness was the culprit, and they committed themselves to training up… one positive habit at a time. Don’t allow your current level of weakness to become a life sentence! You’re stronger than this and you know it!

Making the Shift

Making the shift to a new level of being is hard. Even when you know what to do — or think you do — it’s still very challenging.

Having seen lots of people make these shifts over a period of years, one thing is clear. People rarely succeed without help.

That’s been one of the most difficult lessons to accept: that trying to go it alone is — most of the time — a recipe for failure.

It’s easier to see why this is so if you think about the three demons mentioned previously.

Let’s take denial first. When you go it alone, it’s hard to see yourself objectively. It’s way too easy to allow falsehood and denial to creep into your self image. It’s much, much easier to begin seeing yourself more objectively when you have other people giving you honest feedback — sometimes brutally honest feedback. We all have blind spots, and we absolutely need other people to help shed light on those blind spots. We need other people to reveal truths about ourselves that we simply cannot see, even when we’re willing to look for them.

Now consider disconnection. When we disconnect from our desires, we simultaneously disconnect from the people who could help make those desires real. By reconnecting with people who inspire us, we rekindle our connection to our desires. Just by hanging around happy, conscious people who live inspired lives, we’re stirred into new levels of awakening. You can accelerate your growth tremendously simply by deliberately choosing to spend more time with the most inspired people you know. Such people remind us that we need to stay plugged in and connected in order to really live.

And finally, take a look at weakness. Without other people to hold us accountable and push us to grow stronger, we become weaker automatically. I’ve been fortunate to have people coaching and nudging me to succeed in ways I once thought impossible. Friends and mentors have coached me to speak on a stage, to increase my income by ten times, to pursue more fulfilling relationship styles, to lose weight and improve my health. Looking back, I realize I could not have done all those things on my own. I needed other people to hold me accountable and to steer me away from weakness. You’re in the same boat. You’ll become much stronger if you get help from someone who can coach you away from weakness and help you train up your strength.

So the key lesson here is that if we want to grow, then ultimately we must stop seeing our path of growth as a solely personal experience. In truth it’s a collective experience. We sink or swim together. As individuals, we too easily succumb to denial, disconnection, and weakness. But by working together, we can accelerate our growth — not only as individuals but also as a community.

Embracing Community

There is no practical way to work on your personal growth in isolation. You can’t simply cocoon yourself in your lair, go to work on yourself for several weeks, and expect to emerge stronger. That is a recipe for stagnation.

In order to grow, it’s essential to acknowledge that you need other people. You need people who can be totally honest with you, people who are willing to tell you the truth even when it seems like it may threaten your friendship. You need people to inspire you and remind you of your deepest desires, so you don’t lose sight of them. And you need people to coach you to become stronger and to steer you away from weakness.

I’m very fortunate to have a lifestyle which automatically brings such people into my life on a regular basis. I have many close friends who are willing to give me honest feedback about my decisions. I’m lucky to be able to personally connect with some very inspiring people who frequently stimulate new desires within me. And I’m grateful to have people in my life who coach me to be more focused and disciplined.

I’m keenly aware that my situation is not the norm, but I can’t help but imagine what an incredible world this would be if it was the norm.

This isn’t something that will happen automatically. It’s up to you to create this kind of reality by choice.

At our Conscious Growth Workshops, we help create an environment where all three of these benefits occur. We spend time talking about personal challenges and giving each other honest feedback. We help inspire each other to identify and connect with our deepest desires. And we coach each other to build more strength and courage and to shed character weaknesses. It’s no wonder that this creates some very powerful results for attendees. However, we also stress how important it is that people stay connected to each other after the workshop. The CGW experience is a powerful step, but the real key is shifting to a new pattern where seeking honest feedback, cultivating inspiration, and building strength and self-discipline become integrated, ongoing practices. The long-term, underlying patterns need to be shifted as well in order to overcome stagnation.

My intent here isn’t to plug CGW — that comes in the next section of the newsletter… hehehe. My intent here is to plug the idea of finding your tribe of growth-oriented people and staying connected with them over a long period of time. Going it alone is a recipe for failure. It’s only by coming together to help each other grow that we stand a chance of defeating the growth-killing demons and overcoming stagnation.

If you do nothing else but embrace the community aspect of personal growth, you’ll probably see major improvements in your results over time. It’s very hard to stagnate when you’re constantly seeing other people pushing themselves and having breakthrough experiences. Being exposed to such influences can really push you out of your comfort zone, helping you realize that you too deserve an amazing life filled with happiness, success, and abundance. Stagnation is beneath you!

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