For most of my life I’ve been interested in what I used to call “self-improvement” or “personal development.” I believed that people were like Pokémon, creatures that, with enough experience and level-ups, would evolve into something totally new, something more powerful (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?) I was on a quest to achieve that ever-elusive destiny - my greatest potential.
I immersed myself in the self-help industry thinking that if I could just learn enough, I’d reach that final evolution. THEN I’d be happy. I read and listened to countless personal development books, went to conferences and seminars, and even got into the habit of watching Ted Talks while I did the dishes and brushed my teeth. I even went and got a degree in psychology, thinking that perhaps that would do the trick.
With all my studying, I had learned a lot of miscellaneous and interesting information. I knew, for example, the neuroscience of productivity and performance, how to raise my testosterone level by adjusting my posture, and that vulnerability was the heart of connection.
All these lessons marginally improved my life, but I still felt stuck and overwhelmed. I wasn’t looking for new tricks or hacks, I was seeking transformation. There were so many models, methods, and techniques for personal development, I had a hard time knowing which one to implement. I slowly cycled through new habits and behaviors, constantly replacing the old ones in the hopes that I’d eventually find the magic pill.
And then 2013 happened.
Ironically, it was the intense combination of coming out and breaking my neck that would lead me to finding the freedom I’d been searching for. With such new and complex circumstances, I was at a loss for where to turn to for help, so I turned to myself. I opened my phone and, with newly paralyzed thumbs, started journaling.
My mom used to pay me and my siblings small amounts of money to write in our journals on Sundays (she also bought a cute journal with sparkly gel pens to enhance the writing experience for her little gay son). I loved it and I wrote regularly from childhood to high school and through my mission. I probably have 10 journals full of entries.
The events of 2013 brought a renewed intensity to my writing and, honestly, it saved my life. It was through writing that I first asked the questions that would prove to be the seeds of meaningful paradigm shifts. You know, simple questions like, “What does it mean to have a human body?“ and “What is human worth and where did it come from?” and “Who am I and what are the essential properties that make me… me?”
Writing was the space where I wrestled with my conditioning, my thinking and beliefs, and worked to parse out what was me and what wasn’t. Little by little, this practice took me back to the same place: Myself. And it was there that I found everything I had been looking for: peace, empowerment, and revelation abounded.
I have discovered that personal transformation is not an additive process, but rather one of simplification, a stripping away of everything that isn’t us. Michelangelo is famously quoted as saying something similar about one of his sculptures, “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.” The implication of this idea is impactful and it is this: you inherently have all of the knowledge and wisdom to create a life of peace, power and freedom. You are equipped with everything you need.
So today, I still read the thoughts, ideas and wisdom of others because it can help me distinguish areas of unawareness in myself - but I no longer look to anyone but myself when it comes to matters of my own life. My hope is that you, too, will turn to yourself to find answers to the questions that only you have. There are so many ways to start listening to yourself - whether through writing and journaling, through art and meditation, or through working with a skilled coach. What matters is that you begin the practice of self-consultation.
As a personal transformation coach, I am not interested in giving advice or telling my clients what they need - that is not something I could ever know. My only job is to listen carefully for who they are committed to being and ask the questions that lead them back to themselves. After working together for a short while, it is not uncommon for them to say, “I didn’t know this kind of freedom would be available in this life.” But it is, and to everyone. And it’s miraculous to witness every single time.