The most fascinating theme in any movie is the transformation of the main character, who evolves from a lower state of awareness to a higher one. Although this theme is repeated with minor variations in one movie after another, people do not tire of it because it represents their own story.
The meaning of life may itself be entirely about personal growth. Enlightenment is the final vision, where you see everything in a whole new light, with the universe and your neighbors as part of a massive conspiracy of beauty, elegance, love, and wisdom.
Personal growth happens by default.
Life itself forces it to happen.
The more stimulating the environment, the more it challenges you to accelerate your personal growth.
Personal growth can be defined as the evolution of awareness, a journey from a narrow, dysfunction perspective to a broader, functional one. It is an expansion of perception.
The reason why it can be thought of as an evolutionary force is because it is the result of adaptation to a stressor. All problems are due to an error in perception; a challenge is posed by the environment for you to adapt or suffer the consequences of failure.
For example, a poor state of health is due to a physical challenge, a rocky relationship is due to an interaction challenge, and a scarcity of finances is due to an economic challenge.
The reason it is a challenge is because it threatens your sense of well-being, and failure to
respond in a more adaptive way is to experience the collapse of what you need.
In a nutshell, personal growth happens when your inner map of how the world works is incorrect. You discover that your perception is inaccurate because your experience is misaligned with your desire.
What is needed is more information, an upgrade of your inner map. New streets need to be drawn in, new paths need to be discovered.
Every problem is an evolutionary taunt.
For example, if you are being financially challenged, what is needed is a new model on how to earn more and manage your money better. A bill that you do not have the means to pay is a financial challenge.
Adaptation occurs when new information is learned. This information changes the structure of the challenge. The result of your mental upgrade about what works now
becomes your new model. Using the money example, new information may come in the form of learning how to make more money. This information is then available for you to respond to the world in a more functional way.
Life is constantly posing challenges like this and we are constantly learning how to adapt to these pressures. Each successfully resolved challenge is soon followed by another challenge at the next level. Each unsuccessfully resolved challenge results in your staying at your current level. It’s called “feeling stuck” or “in a rut.”
This is the process of personal growth.
The growth proceeds along two trajectories: vertical and horizontal.
Vertical growth is learning something new and the new knowledge then fashions a new reality. Our college years, with its academic challenges, is probably the time of the most accelerated personal growth. Similarly, starting a new business or raising a new family are all vertical growth experiences.
Horizontal growth is integrating this new information. You are adjusting to the changes stimulated by vertical growth.
Furthermore, this growth also advances on three levels: ego-centric, ethno-centric, and world-centric. Each is a developmental stage.
In the ego-centric stage, your focus is on improving your own personal experience. In the ethno-centric stage, your focus is on improving your group. This could be an ethnic group, a religious group, or a national group; in other words, any particular tribe that makes you feel that you are one of its members. In the world-centric stage, your focus is on improving things for everyone.
Each stage is not necessarily clearly delineated. The higher stage may incorporate some features of the lower stage. In addition, each stage is broken up into further developmental stages.
The more challenges you overcome, the more you evolve to inhabit a higher stage. In addition, each stage has sub-stages which have to be transcended.
Factoring in the idea of incarnation, most people may spend their whole life in only one sub-stage or may move through several sub-stages but not leave their main stage. Other people may evolve from one stage to another. A few, rare individuals move through all the stages. Those who hit the final sub-stage of the final stage are considered enlightened and do not need to stay on the karmic wheel.
These growth stages also apply to cultures and civilizations.
While growth happens by default; it can also be engineered, or artificially stimulated.
This process is called learning.
Throughout history, those who choose to be self-evolving, do it using two specific methods.
One is using the imagistic aspect of mind and the other is through the linguistic aspect of mind. One can, of course, use both aspects of mind. Usually, however, most people have a predominant and favorite method. It is similar to how most people make one hand more dominant than the other, while only a few are ambidextrous.
Using the imagistic method, or visual thinking, remarkable progress can be made.
Those with a scientific bent appear to favor this method. Kekule dropped off to sleep by a fireplace, had a dream about a snake swallowing its own tail, and developed the basis of all organic chemistry, the benzene ring. Einstein precipitated the biggest leap in Science since Newton by day dreaming about a train ride on a beam of light.
In terms of the Jungian model of the mind: this would incorporate intellect, intuition, feeling, and sensation. For example, Kekule had a dream, which includes intuition, emotion and a tactile sense. Upon awakening, he then used intellect to define the benzene ring.
This method of visual thinking is as powerful as the transition between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals. Using Roman numerals, for example, the mathematics needed to create String theory in Physics would have been impossible. Since, to date, String theory is neither empirical nor observable, it could not exist without mathematics. Considering that this may very well end up being a complete theory of everything, you will appreciate the value of the use of Arabic numerals.
Another method is the Socratic Method, which is about 2,300 years old.
The Socratic method is essentially asking and answering questions. Questions probe consciousness and stimulate a search for answers.
This method is not to be confused with the didactic teaching that is referred to as modern education.
The Socratic method was used during the era of Classical Greece and the Renaissance, two epochs that produced more highly intelligent people than has ever been known.
The reason these two methods are so powerful is because they disrupt “neuronal habituation” the phenomenon that with a constant signal, nerves and brain fall sleep.
Changing the stimulation causes the brain to start working in a new and unusual way.
Ironically, our current educational methods across the globe stimulate only a limited amount of personal growth because they result in the stabilization of signals, creating
neuronal habitation. Subjectively, people claim to fall asleep or drift into a day dream during a class session. They miss the lesson because the repeated signal created boredom and disassociation. It did not provoke them to move beyond passivity.
With these two methods, learning becomes interactive and stimulating, resulting in a quantum leap in personal growth.
You don’t have to wait for all the right conditions before you can experience vertical growth; you can invite it to happen through choosing immersion in new, stimulating, life-affirming information.