In a world that feels increasingly selfish, with so much pressure to add value, make a difference, and care about the problems of others and the environment – is it wrong to focus on yourself?
What is Self-Growth, Self-Mastery… or even Personal Growth for that matter?
Self, Self, Self… ish
In essence, what these terms imply is that there is deliberate and purposeful effort by an individual to improve the quality of their existence, through improving the qualities of self. They have adopted a growth mindset, at least in part, in taking control of their self development, versus unconsciously changing as an unavoidable function of just doing life.
Said another way, it’s about enabling you to reach your full potential, becoming everything that you are capable of becoming, and to experience your highest level of psychological development. Otherwise known as Self-Actualisation, as famously coined by renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow.
Sounds alluring. Everyone surely wants this, right? Well, there’s a catch. Self-Actualisation is only truly experienced in less than 1% of the adult population! What? Why?! Most people are operating at lower levels, as a function of not having their lower more essential needs met, and as such many of us have had our intellectual curiosity numbed.
You can read more on Maslow’s Humanistic psychology and characteristics of Self-Actualisers on Wikipedia. The most important part of his work, is to understand Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
This helps us understand why many around you may have little interest in Self-Growth and Self-Mastery. The idea sounds attractive, and of course they want to live their best life possible, but their needs to resolve deficiencies are overpowering their needs for true personal growth.
Once people feel they have a reasonable handle on the essentials and they are no longer all-consuming, then there often is a rising of intellectual and emotional curiosity to better understand oneself through discovering more about their mind, character and body. This in turn brings rise to a strengthening desire to optimise themselves and their experience.
The mistake, which for the most part is unavoidable, is the early myopic focus on just one area of life, where there is naïve hope that growth or improvement here is possible in isolation, and that it will have an outsized cascading effect on everything else. As humans, we seek efficiency. The silver bullet.
Or, we over emphasise vocational, academic and skills learning and success, assuming acquiring this knowledge and capability will create content and fill our deep psychological needs. By themselves, they rarely do. Why? Because there are underlying foundations of being part of the human species – foundations that have existed always and forever, and pre-date civilisation, industry and modernity – that must always be nurtured.
Yes, we have technology, culture, money, data, google, advanced communications and super-fast transport… but deep down, we are just an organism within nature, and nature governs by evolutionary priorities and pressures. We must be capable, obliging and advancing to avoid becoming irrelevant.
The Human Code
What are these foundational elements of our humanness? The human code that makes up our operating system, upon which we can install other desires and interests successfully? By the very nature of this question, the answer is not revolutionary, but often ignored:
We can’t (and we don’t) operate life on sheer willpower and constant executive function. We deploy habits and principles, that free up our finite daily mental capacity and energy towards activities that need creativity and concentration. Good and bad habits get hardwired, for doing and relating. The goal is overcrowd the bad with highly effective habits that strengthen our values.
The how behind our thoughts and feelings needs to be understood and directed carefully. Fear is part of the human condition, and is our ally to avoid complacency and dangers. It is pervasive, and drives the majority of thinking – if kept unchecked and unmanaged. Developing mental fortitude and learning from the wise that came before us can help focus the mind on solutions and optimism, versus problems and worry.
Every cell in our body needs exacting nutrients, sufficient energy, and minimal onslaught from outside offenders. Every organism on the planet has a species appropriate diet, and bad things happen when there is a sudden shift from optimal. Homo sapiens have evolved and thrived due to our access to dense nutrition, and not just because of calories. Human performance improves universally when we optimise our internal biochemistry.
To be awake and active is taxing and creates chemical exhausts – metabolic waste and damage within our brains, muscles, organs and all other tissues. Nature accepted the survival risk of sleeping, mental relaxation and physical rest in our design, as there must be a cleanse and restoration period in order to have renewed energy and vitality. Sleep and calmness, it turns out… is imperative to our survival, not an impediment.
Our physicality is an expression of our health, which in turn is an advertisement of our virility and usefulness out into the world. Attractiveness is simply that – an expression of health through the lens of our evolutionary pressures. Our physique effects our self-esteem too, as we can’t lie to ourselves either. Like the body of a tiger, wolf or cheetah, there is a physical blueprint for optimal human performance. Ignoring this truth will never end well in the long run.
Our bodies have been designed through time to perform tasks that support our survival, and our physical efforts are rewarded emotionally, psychologically and through physical adaptations. We are physical beings, and not just a brain for thinking with some superfluous limbs attached. In the absence of day-long movement and physical demands, we need to give our bodies the movement it craves through targeted and goal-specific exercise.
Can’t Do One Without The Other
These human foundations are interwoven and highly inter-dependant. For instance:
- Mindset cannot be optimised if you are stressed, overwhelmed, fatigued and chronically under slept
- Permanent Dietary changes cannot be committed to without simultaneously working on your psychology and relationship with food and body
- You cannot design, develop and define your best physique without an understanding and commitment to the right training dose, modality and intensity
- Your mental and emotional potential will be significantly limited if you are abusing your body with a diet that deprives essential nutrients and induces inflammation
The point is, If you want to optimise your existence, and in turn reach your full potential (Self-Actualise), then you must take an integrated and holistic approach to securing the human code – shoring up the core foundations to human life.
In Science We Validate
We need things to believe in. We need the what, why and how. And broadly speaking, we’ve shifted our blind faith from religion to science in modern times. With incredible energy and resource going into scientific study and innovation, the conclusions on both the human foundational priorities and the how to best serve these foundations are less than surprising.
Instead, all the sciences related to the human being, have by and large just offered our dominant left-brain the logic and detailed understanding behind the innate life wisdom that preceded our societies and for hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of years. Yes, science is throwing doubt to modern lifestyle patterns, but not of our evolutionary-consistent patterns…
As such, it would be reasonable to conclude that life, at its core, is pretty simple. Challenging, but pretty straight forward. We could condense hundreds of thousands of years of experience and brilliant minds into a short ‘how-to-do-life-well’ pamphlet.
However, the devil is in the detail. Furthermore, our intellectual curiosity wants to more deeply understand the why, as well as wanting to challenge the old with the promise of something new, faster, easier and more effective. If people don’t convincingly understand, they are unlikely to create long-standing change.
This really is the essence of the human condition. We wish to expand our consciousness, with an ever increasing accumulation of information – of ourselves, of our environment, and the purpose of it all. We attempt to scratch that itch through formal education. We take our naive young and attempt to condense and stack-rank the worlds information into a 12-20 year schooling track.
We’re Left Wanting More
With too many questions unanswered, we self-educate. Deliberately and unconsciously, through the use of the internet – a world of unlimited, overwhelming, polluted and conflicting information.
How does the average person, who has significant demands on their time and mental energy, comb through the worlds information in order to understand their true priorities, why they are priorities, and how to optimise those aspects of their life? In a word, difficultly!
Books, formal education, long-form media help – but the myopic nature of these materials, combined with the lack of sequence (or curriculum for want of a better word), and the onus on the individual to compare content, remove the less effective and/or wrong, and connect the dots, whilst not getting overwhelmed with the enormity of the task… makes this a lifelong full-time pursuit.
Life shouldn’t be this difficult to master.
In an ideal world, as part of the fabric of formal education, we should be offering our young an ‘instruction manual’ and guide on how to live their best life. That covers what the foundations of being human are, how to optimise them based on all that we’ve learnt, and then how to reach their full potential. An education in self-discovery and self-optimisation, and not just academic knowledge.
This education should be offered in a thoughtful way, where the pace and sequence is organic and non-stressful – where you have space and time to personally reflect and look inward, whilst maximising retention and feeling a strong desire to implement and test learned ideas.
AdapNation has attempted to do exactly that, with the #BeYourBest Self-Optimisation Journey. Whilst we’ve missed the boat on getting this comprehensive self-education when we were younger, there is no time like the present to solidify these human foundations now, and pave the way for Self-Actualising… for helping reach your full potential. To #BeYourBest, for you, and those you love. 💛
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