There is no stopping place in this life–nor is there ever one for any person, no matter how far along one’s gone. – Meister Eckhart
In thinking about growing more effectively in our personal, relational, spiritual, and even vocational challenges, unconsciously we imagine a two-dimensional growth model. Like a typical wall chart with grids to draw our progress, it has a time line axis on the bottom and benchmarks on the side. We want our growth chart to show a rising line showing we’ve met some benchmarks and we’re moving on. For most of us that is what progress looks like.
In my own personal and professional growth I’ve noticed that the two-dimensional model fails me at times and can lead to a sense of failure when I have really been growing and progressing.
There are issues in most of our lives that can become impediments to our becoming the most effective we can be in playing the important games of our life. Past heart-wounds, rejections by significant people, shaming, personal failures, etc. can play havoc with our “inner game” in ways that reduce our self confidence and self worth.
Through some counseling, coaching or the support of friends we may have “worked through” that issue to the point we feel it’s complete and it’s out of the way forever – at least we hope so. By its design, a two-dimensional model implies twhen we’ve met a benchmark or a milestone and passed a point on the timeline then we are done with that one.
It implies that if “it” comes up again then we must have failed to do “it” right the first time. There is no capacity for the chart to allow for do-overs – loops are not allowed.
However, it is not unusual for some of those significant issues we thought we had completed, healed, to come back up at a later point in our growth. The two-dimensional model falls apart and I hear people say something like, “Why is this coming up again? I just fooled myself that the hard work I did before was any good.” I know that was my feeling when it happened to me the first few times.
Then, I realized the problem was my mental model of growth – it had only two dimensions. To shift to a three-dimensional model freed me to shift from being “fixed” to being in process. Imagine a spiral model of growth where the desired path is to move up to new levels from which life can be seen from a new perspective. The spiral may take me back over some of the same “points” (issues) that I have been over before.
The fact that I am back there again is not implied failure because I am now at a different level. There may be more work to do on an issue in the process of growing more whole and effective at several points in my life. That is not failure but the freedom to be in process.
At any point in time we can only deal with what comes up to us. We may hope that we’ve done it all and never want to go back over it again. But that is a fear-model that gives the issue a lot of power even after we’ve worked on it.
The three-dimensional model frees us to accept it may come up again and if so, that’s perfect because if it’s in the way of creating a fulfilling life I want to know it and have the opportunity to grow and heal some more.
It shifts us from feeling defeated to experiencing the adventure of our journey.