The Number One Self Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict

The Number One Self Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict

Not all that claims to be growth is real growth.

Much of what masquerades as growth is a narcissistic pursuit in a shrewd disguise.

What I’ve come to realize is that much of the time, when I think I’ve been growing, I haven’t really been growing. I’ve been trying to fix or improve myself.

The line between authentic growth on the one hand, and fake growth on the other, is an obscured landscape. Sometimes I think that I’m growing, and I really believe wholeheartedly that I am. Then I notice an undercurrent of duplicity, and when I dig deeper, I find that what was perpetrating as an authentic endeavor was really not. I wasn’t starting from a place of wholeness and expanding from there. I was trying to cure an invisible illness: my perceived inadequacy.

That inadequacy is a myth driven by the ego, and has nothing to do with real growth.

We’re already whole. Already complete. You don’t need to prove that to yourself by chasing hollow achievements. Real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is.

Real growth has nothing to do with…

  • Improvement (although you may inadvertently improve things, you don’t start from a place of trying to improve).
  • Solely ego-based pursuits.
  • Being more popular.
  • Adding things to your resume, or your list of accomplishments.
  • Inflating your self of entitlement.
  • “Shoulds.”
  • Making more money (though it might have something to do with creating more value).
  • Competition.

On the other hand, fake growth is all about…

  • A never-ending quest for [fleeting] fulfillment.
  • Chasing empty pursuits.
  • Doing new things for the “experience.”
  • Changing for the sake of changing.
  • Counting and measuring everything.
  • Temporarily boosting your self-esteem.
  • The future.

(On a side note: fake growth and “good ideas” seem to have a lot to do with each other.)

It’s a tricky business. You can think you’ve pulled all the weeds of in-authenticity and the next thing you know, you’re realizing you’re doing something for the sake of “growth” that doesn’t really matter. The prolificacy of fake growth often hides in hard-to-find corners of your mind. It often arrives in unassuming forms.

I’ve seen this happen too many time with myself.

  • I’m trying to create a new habit (like early rising) because it’s a “rite of passage” for personal growth. But I don’t really care about it.
  • I’m reading a book and I realize that I don’t give a shit about it. I bought it because I thought it would a good idea for me to learn about X topic.
  • I’m pushing myself to learn something that I’m not really passionate about — like a new language for instance — because it’s a socially prestigious pursuit.
  • I’m listening to music that I can’t stand to “expand my horizons.”
  • I’m pursuing a business opportunity because I think it’s a good idea, and I later realize I’m not really passionate about it.

And the list goes on.

All of this stuff sounds pretty ridiculous when it’s laid out there. And when you think about it in hindsight, it is. But it tends to be much trickier than that when you’re up close and in the trenches.

The prolificacy of comfort

The other problem I’ve found is that often you think you’re really growing, but you’re just lying to yourself. Some part of you is comfortable. You’ve developed a nice little pattern that cushions you and keeps you safe.

So you rebel against the pattern a little, and you take a little bit of risk. This makes you feel good and you tell yourself you’re growing.

But you know that real growth would be much more uncomfortable. It would kill the pattern, and in its place would be an expansion of possibility.

Then there’s the fake growth addict

You know that part of you that wants to always reach the “next level”? That’s the fake growth addict.

Real growth isn’t about reaching another level. It’s not about constantly seeking something outside yourself. Real growth is about internal transformation. It’s about the realization that you are already whole. You are already complete. You are already more powerful than you can dare to imagine.

Real growth is about embracing that power and doing it fearlessly.

Fake growth consists of constantly chasing another bullet point to put on your life resume. Another higher data point on a never ending graph. Another fake credential you can spew off to an unimportant stranger at an unimportant party. Another merit badge that you tell yourself will really make you feel “accomplished.” Then you can finally cash in on your growth and be satisfied.

But you never do get satisfied, do you? The number one sign of fake growth is: constinual seeking.

The hidden secret of real growth: it doesn’t matter that much to itself

The truth about real growth is that real growth doesn’t need validation. It doesn’t need for you to approve or disapprove. It doesn’t need a stamp of validation or a letter of recommendation. It doesn’t need to be sanctioned by a regulated list of socially approved goals.

And here’s something else… Real growth doesn’t care that YOU call it growth.

It has no ego. It has no internal or external validation system.

That’s because real growth is beyond growth.

Real growth is about…

  • Experiencing a greater intimacy with life and a deeper passion for it.
  • A new level of understanding; moving past a plateau.
  • Liberation, not confinement.
  • Fluidity, intuition, organicness, naturalness.
  • The present moment.
  • Starting from a place of wholeness.
  • Accepting the reality of the situation as-it-is.
  • Healing.
  • Not being overly positive (denial) or overly negative (nihilistic).
  • Real life, including all the warts, imperfections, blemishes, and scars.
  • Accepting the things you don’t like; and upon realizing that you want to change them, facing them head on.
  • Not simply swallowing a “think positive” placebo (denial).
  • Community. Growth does not happen in a vacuum. It is supported by those around you, and your growth has a positive impact on your immediate circle, your community, and the world.

Fake growth leads to tumors. Real growth often does not notice it’s there. It’s integrated. It gets out of the way of itself. It doesn’t try to count and measure how fast or slow it is growing.

Real growth accepts that sometimes it’s not necessary

Too much growth leads to suffocation, bursted bubbles, and overpopulation. Radical, never-ending growth is not sustainable.

Real growth knows that sometimes it’s time to stop growing. Sometimes it’s time to let go, to move on, and yes, to decline. Growth and decline are two sides of the same pole. Without one, the other can’t exist.

In the end, real growth knows that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not just about rising vertically, or expanding horizontally. Real growth knows that what goes up, must come down, and what expands, must contract.

True growth often leads to stillness. And sometimes the most formidable growth… is none at all.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Lisis November 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Beautiful, Jonathan! This is my favorite post of yours by far. I think the key about real growth is what you touched on at the end… it’s not all about you; it’s about community. I love the way you laid this out.



Charlie November 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Great post, Jonathan. It’s very similar to discussions of the idea of Doing Epic Shit. Too many get caught up Doing (Fake) Epic Shit, and too few honor the Real Epic Shit that they’re doing because they think it’s too small.

I worry that too many people get caught on the train of radical “growth” and never take the time to integrate their experiences, achievements, and failures. That’s not growing – it’s just moving.

But saying more would be me preaching to the choir, no? Keep rocking, my friend.


Senea October 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Your commentext hits dead on the nail from my own personal experiences! Perfect for the article!

Barb McMahon November 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Geez you’re good! “Experiencing a greater intimacy with life and a deeper passion for it.” – exactly what growth is, and what I want my life to be about.

Thanks for this, Jonathan. Tweeting it now…


jonathan February 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm

can someone clarify for me what real growth is? the description seems vague to me.

Andrew November 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

A very interesting read! Has me questioning which ‘growth’ I’m going through!

One point that stuck with me was about fake growth: doing things for the experience. Let’s use overseas travel as an example, from this would stem a new level of understanding, liberation and real life.

I’m really hearing what you say about it being a fine line..?


Craig | BloomVerse November 5, 2009 at 5:56 pm

“We’re already whole. Already complete.”

That could be a blog post in itself. Just that quote.

Great post, ultimately there is no growing to do. Only allowing the core of what we are to outshine the ego.


Annabel Candy November 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Nice little article here with lots to think about. I can certainly relate to reading books, listening to music etc that you really don’t care about because you think you ought to. It sounds as if you found out the hard way that you shoudn’t force yourself to do things that other people like.

I’ve done this with TV shows that everyone watches and then discusses. Feeling left out of the conversation I’ve watched them so I can join in, then discovered I still have nothing interesting to contribute to the discussion anyway. Much better to change the topic to something which you do feel passionate about or find some other misfits who don’t watch popular TV shows either and hang out with them:)

And as for personal growth. I really think that you can’t force it. It will come or, if you aren’t aware of the need for growth, it won’t.

And anyway, is there such a thing as too much growth? When do you start to become a know it all who’s totally sorted and that no one can relate to any more. It’s our foibles and quirks that make us interesting.

I’m trying to adopt a “if you don’t like that about me lump it” policy. As long as I like myself that’s the most important thing. I’m never going to the the Dalai Lama so why disappoint myself by trying to be. I’ve just got to aim to be the best me I can be about 90% of the time and not worry about the rest or the time or what other people think.

Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your life. Stop forcing it and enjoy:)


Bud Hennekes November 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Quite possibly the post of the year. Wow man. Really resonated with me.


tonybordonaro November 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

There have been times in my 57 years when I have felt …ah Ive reached contentment …Im there…not always financially …but sometimes….that ever present…. wanting to be more is my guiding light …not saying its a good thing..just saying…


steve November 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm

thank you for this, jonathan!

i’ve had a lot of similar thoughts to this lately. your terminology is interesting, though; i never thought to call it ‘growth’ to simply accept what is. and yet, coming out of a place of not accepting what is, i suppose it is a sort of growth, and like you point out, it’s probably the most important kind of growth.

still i feel like something is not connecting 100% here for me. Either the ideas aren’t fully formed and solidified in your own philosophy, and therefore it’s a little unclear when you try to share them– OR i’m not yet fully to the place where i can completely grasp them.



Clayton November 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm

This is a truly revolutionary post.

There have been times when I’ve noticed “fake growth” in my own life. It’s a very slippery thing and it always tricks you into thinking it is authentic. It is a constant battle to keep your ego in check and determine your motives behind each new project and goal.

Again, thank you for this excellent post


Jai Kai - SharingSuccess.TV November 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Jonathan, I loves how you summed up this post.

Sometimes stillness and letting go allows you just to be who you really are…your authentic self.

My motto is don’t try hard, try easy…grow and go with the flow.

A tree doesn’ t try to hard to grow fast… it just naturally organically grows.


Adventures of The Fearless | Jon November 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Good stuff Jonathan, Keep pouring out…


elizjen November 5, 2009 at 8:14 pm

+1! On everything. :)


tarraguna November 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I love this post, very insightful, well written and without any B.S.


Jennifer Louden November 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm

YES! A lovely, if scary, aspect of growing up is learning that self-improvement is something to be left behind. It’s hard to talk about this stage of development and you did an excellent job!


Fabian November 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Maybe we are lying to ourselves – but then, maybe noticing the difference between the two is an integral part of real growth and cannot be avoided so easily.
Many people will never think about the difference or pay attention to it. But if they do, they´ll probably do it in retrospective – as in hindsight you often get more clarity about what you did, and only then are able to draw your conclusions. Thus, fake growth may be a necessary evil to identify by us, so we can then correct our course, rest at heart and truly trust ourselves.


chavi bhargava November 5, 2009 at 9:44 pm

So many times we mistake the fake for the real and it is because we are not centered within and we seek false validation.

This brought to my mind many of the times that I have been after fake growth.

Thank you


Miche | Serenity Hacker November 5, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Hi Jonathan, I’ve been reading you for a long time now, since you had the other blog design, since before you were featured on zenhabits. I don’t remember how I found you (google somehow, I think, but I really don’t remember).

I have to say that this is now my favorite post by far. You’ve really captured something so true here, and you’ve done it really eloquently, in a way that’s easy to understand.

It’s inspired, deep yet simply put, and rings of truth. It’s one of those posts that I’ll remember for a long time, a real keeper. Thank you for writing and sharing it.



Zainab November 5, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Wow. This is a truly outstanding piece of writing. It’s so true on so many different levels that it’s amazing you actually managed to think it out and put it together. Thank you, Jonathan…. Really thought provoking.


DiscoveredJoys November 6, 2009 at 2:11 am

A very good piece Jonathan, and one that resonates strongly with me. When you are post kids, post career, like me, you have the advantage of being able to reflect on life’s lessons, rather than reacting to them. It is easier to see the subtle illusion of ‘growth’. When I was surrounded by the kids/career/bigger/better community of similar minded people it was easy to get swept along.

I’m still find that it is easy to slip into the ways of ‘false growth’. Much of the language in the media and the ideas of personal development have built in implications about the nature of growth. As an example, even one of your bullet points -‘ A new level of understanding; moving past a plateau’ – could be read to imply growth for the sake of itself if your brain is already primed to think bigger/better is good.

I’ve no easy solution for this, our language is structured around certain concepts and it is difficult to think in other ways without new ideas and new words. Something I am toying with is to describe your ‘real growth’ as ‘unfolding’. ‘Unfolding’ as in the petals of a flower. I hope such a word implies the natural expansion of what already exists, and also implies the final withering and dying.


Duff November 6, 2009 at 2:26 am

Is there an end to seeking?


Michael November 6, 2009 at 4:50 am

For me the litmus test for self development versus growth is to consider if my reason is internal or external. If I were to achieve this goal and no one knew would it still hold meaning to me, would I fundamentally feel different about myself. When we allow self developement to become tainted by the ego, we quickly becomes slaves to a new master.


Kent @ The Financial Philosopher November 6, 2009 at 6:54 am


I love this post, probably because it agrees with my strong-held belief that there is no such thing as “self-improvement.” The idea of “personal development” is almost completely a misguided effort.

The “self” is already “complete” as you say.

There is no such thing as self-improvement — there are only degrees of self-discovery. Something that is already in its highest form cannot be “improved.”

One’s only task to “improve,” therefore, is to discover one’s self and do a better job of acting from core values — as the authentic self.

Thanks, as always, for provoking thought. Keep up the good work…

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher


RickSmithAuthor November 6, 2009 at 7:11 am

Love this post. You nailed it. So much of our energy is spent trying to fix ourselves, and we never really do. Much of the focus of my new book (The Leap) is that you should rather try to find your way to a job that leverages your strengths and passions every day. I even created a free tool to help do that (at

you do grow by moving forward, successful or not. But grow toward a job that is meant for you!

Rick Smith
The Leap


Nathalie Lussier November 6, 2009 at 7:18 am

I’ve noticed myself getting caught up in this so many times too!

Lately I’ve been learning new forms of “real” growth, mainly by focusing on being in the moment. I used to think being in the moment was a little kooky, but then again, I’m a kooky kinda gal. I think I really didn’t understand how to actually do it. Now that I’ve experienced it, it’s totally transformed the way I live and work.

Love the distinctions you made in this post.


raisia Rojas November 6, 2009 at 9:54 am

this is like what Eckhart Tolle discussed in the Power of Now. makes sense. :) we’re enough, we just need to see that.


Patrice November 6, 2009 at 10:32 am

“Real growth is about embracing that power and doing it fearlessly.” This entire post is beautiful, especially how you reference resumes and adding bullet points to it. I use to feel this way at one point of time, especially with my education. After a Bachelor’s, I wanted to go back for my MBA. Not only did I do that, I thought I would grow even more by graduating with a 4.0 in the graduate program. Now, here I am, unemployed. Growth is certainly not about the achievements, but about accepting life for what it is. THANKS!!!


Amelia November 6, 2009 at 10:42 am

This is one of the truest things I’ve ever read on the internet.
It’s so easy to try to ‘grow’ and then beat yourself up because you haven’t ‘grown’ enough!
I’m going to print this out to remind myself not to do exactly that.
Thank you.


Ibrahim | November 6, 2009 at 10:54 am

Excellent point here. It’s important to realize the difference between accomplishing goals and the statistics that show “growth” or “development.”

If we aren’t working towards something of value, increased numbers and statistics don’t mean a thing.


Oleg Mokhov November 6, 2009 at 11:01 am

Hey Jonathan,

Real growth comes with a reason. One that makes sense and is important to you. Inauthentic growth is the chasing of status.

Take your example of early rising. For some, it’s some supposed “rite of passage” you mentioned. Inauthentic, since they don’t really care about it. It’s not important – they just think it’ll make them look better in front of others.

For me, I’m getting up earlier every day not to impress anyone or delude myself into some “ideal” version of myself. I simply love starting the day with the sun. Waking up to a sunrise feels great for me. I love it, and it energizes me. Hence, it’s important… and that’s why I do it.

Early rising becomes growth for me because of what you said: I’m already a complete whole, and starting the day with the sunrise expands and makes me even better. I’m not trying to fix something.

It’s the same thing with musicians. If you make music because you LOVE it, then you’ve already won. Creating tunes is “making it.” However, for others it becomes career accolades. They’ve only “made it” if they’re recognized by others via awards, sales, status, etc.

So accept and enjoy who you are. Grow by expanding what is already important to you, not trying to “fix” something that might not need fixing anyway – live for yourself, not for impressing others.

Great thought-provoking article as always Jonathan,


Pawan July 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi Oleg,

Your comment complements an already well written post. I think as long as we have an internal “Why” for an action and we don’t feel the need to justify it to anyone else including our ego, that action is pure and authentic.

Your example of waking up early really resonates with me because in my mind waking up late is a crime and I feel guilty if I sleep past 9:00 AM. So my intention for waking up early has been not to enjoy the morning sun but to avoid the guilt that follows waking up late.

Also, lately I have been pushing myself to “grow professionally. I feel very comfortable with my current job. In my self growth dictionary since comfort is synonym for sin, instead of feeling grateful for what I have my mind is rejecting it, and in masquerade of self growth is seeking something bigger and better.

So that leaves me with the dilemma whether to stay in my current job (pays well, comfortable but not much in terms of engagement) or to quit it only to start something else in which I will eventually get better and comfortable and will find myself back to where I am right now.

I think what is required is a change of attitude (real growth, internal) and not change in job (fake growth, external). I need to change the why for seeking professional growth. Instead of thinking that as long as I am not growing I am not good enough, I should be grateful for where I am in life. I also know that I am capable of being more productive and contribute more . I am thankful for my God given abilities and should politely ask God to provide me with opportunities where I can make better use of them.

That’s my point of view. Will love to know what you guys have to say about this.


Rebecca November 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Wow. Best. Post. Ever. Thank you for putting words to this phenomenon. It couldn’t have come at a better time.


Nate November 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Right on. This post reminds me much of what is articulated in Dan Millman’s book, ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior.’ (I love spreading the word about books I love and this is one of those. Read it if you haven’t). And also, as stated above, a lot of the teachings that Eckhart Tolle preaches resonate through this post.

Some may think it’s new age mumbo-jumbo, but both of these people capture the essence of growth and enlightenment and so do you Jonathan. As you say, ‘we are already whole.’ Any deviation from this is purely ego-driven. Striving for money, fame, new skills that don’t resonate with you, etc. are all ego based activities that lead us away from our true wholeness, which lies in the present moment not some ‘future’ point.


bretthimself November 6, 2009 at 3:08 pm

It took me awhile to process this post. At first, I was thinking, “Damn, this guy’s an idiot. What the hell is real growth supposed to be if just about everything is ‘fake growth’?” But then I realized the beauty of it all when the puzzle piece (your post) finally clicked into my reality: “fake growth”, as you put it, is egoic growth, and “real growth” is allowing your core self come out in a blaze of glory and passion. That’s what life is all about, and I think that’s what people lose when they go through all this productivity garbage – the focus is on how efficient they are rather than how much enjoyment there is in the task.

Your comment on “counting and measuring everything” as a form of fake growth hit me kind of hard since I record my goals on a whiteboard mounted on my bedroom wall. They’re all quantifiable. However, I don’t think it’s fake growth as long as we don’t have goals for goals’ sake and DO THINGS FOR OUR PASSION. If we recognize that our goals are in place for a reason, whether it’s increased freedom or enjoyment from life, better living, and so on. For example, I have a goal to read 250 pages per week. Is it because it’s a “good idea” to read more so I’ll be enlightened? No. It’s because I love reading good books and by scheduling reading time for myself, I ensure I get satisfaction and enjoyment out of life. Same thing for having a quota on blog posts per week: I do it because I love writing and my writing skills can always get better.

Just the sheer fact that your post produced so much thought in me makes it a winner. Excellent job, Jonathan.


Evan November 6, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for this. One way I have of putting something similar is that: health is a kind of self-forgetfulness.

One quibble: I’m not sure that we kill the patterns, I think that we understand, include and transcend them. But this might be just small minded carping.

thanks for a really great post.


Nathan Hangen November 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

For years I tried to set goals for things that I thought I wanted but really didn’t. Oh how that cost me. Now that I’ve learned to identify what really makes me happy, most of it has nothing to do with the goals I’ve let go. I like this, thanks for the reminder.


Nea | Self Improvement Saga November 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm

This is my first time visiting your site and I absolutely loved the post. I couldn’t agree with you more about the differences between real growth and what the ego leads us to seek as growth. Great work!


Tomas Stonkus November 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

There are always going to be people that lie to themselves. Most people know that they lie to themselves. Although, I do agree with the concept of fake growth and what you are trying to convey through it.

Yet, I am not sure how much of it is necessary. Labels do not mean much by themselves. People are savvy enough to see through BS and through fake growth.

Human beings are great at detecting in congruences in others. That is why I do not think that fake growth is a mistake. It is not. People who are interested in actual self-development will not make that mistake.

People who are interested in self development and growth for various other reasons will make that “mistake”. Yet, we all learn from mistakes. A mistake is just a hidden opportunity. Let people make their mistakes, it is not up to us judge them.

It is up to each individual person to decide what growth means to them and if they feel like they are growing from whatever they are doing, let them be. Judgment will not help them grow.

Interesting article, yet, I do not agree with the message as each of us is our own individual selves and nobody should tell us what growth really means.



Alex Hudish November 7, 2009 at 1:12 am

So great I found this article BEFORE going over my head with fake growth. Well done, sir.


Just Be November 7, 2009 at 1:45 am

Resembles many things that one can learn from Buddhism:


Justin- November 7, 2009 at 4:55 am

What a great way to look at things. This article made me realize that I need to sit down and make a list of what things I need to stop pursuing and what things I’m passionate about because of who I am.
I love that line
“Real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is.”
thats an easy thing to forget.


Ian | Quantum Learning November 7, 2009 at 10:40 am

The previous comments already said it .. great post! I especially like it because you managed to get the point across without preaching. Perhaps that’s because you reveal your own vulnerability in the pursuit of growth .. and how often it’s not really about growth at all.

‘Healing’ is on your list of real growth. I was pondering this over the last days and wondering if it’s really growth. Maybe I’m just being picky (not for the first time!) but I see healing as about the past, about moving on from previous painful experiences. I don’t deny that it may be important to heal before growth can take place – but is it, in itself, real growth? The reason I’m picking this up is because I see many people getting stuck in the past and spending vast amounts of energy (and money) healing the past and turning to ‘healers’ to help them – rather than focusing on the present and the future, which is where, I beleive, real growth happens.

Would love to hear you thoughts on this.



Daniel November 7, 2009 at 11:49 am

I think after being blogging for nearly 2 years (for me), I’ve kinda didn’t really revealed much about myself to anyone. I didn’t want to make it like a sounding cymbals and adding to the noise in the self-development and growth arena.

This being a post that’s personal to you (as you’ve mentioned in Twitter :-) ) and that you mentioned that Growth is about healing and accepting things as it is., I’ve decided to write out from the heart a rather important and personal post, by revealing an undiluted version of my story in my blog — it had been years in the making.

Thanks again Jon for creating an awesome article. :)


Sharalyn Hartwell, National Gen Y Examiner November 8, 2009 at 1:32 am

So many great comments, there isn’t much more I can say that hasn’t already been said. But, I will say this: Jonathan, this is fantastic and certainly makes you think. I’ve never been one to get swept up in the tides of self-help book revolutions/fads or one to really discuss the changes I see in my life; however, I can still see phases of my life where I wasn’t really growing, it was all pretty superficial. Then, upon reflection, it seems that my periods of greatest “real” growth occurred when I wasn’t seeking it, when I wasn’t really trying, often without even realizing. All of your thoughts and bullet points really make you see those patterns. Thank you.


flowergirl November 8, 2009 at 7:18 am

A wonderful analysis. True. Most of the times, we try to cheat ourselves or rather cheat ourselves. At the end of the day, before we go to bed, we look ourselves in the mirror, with no make ups. The bare skin on our face. We know what we look like. That’s reality. But still when the morning dawns, we get back to put on our false coatings and walk on our streets as beauty peagents. We are cheating ourselves in many ways as you rightly said, just to satisfy our ego.


Bytta November 8, 2009 at 10:40 pm

This excellent post has resonated strongly with my situation and it has answered one question I’ve been asking for a while.
I am a survivor of sexual abuses in my childhood and teenage years. Therapy sessions have helped me to heal, untangle some issues and be kinder to myself. For me, that’s an improvement.

However, there is one question that bothers me… that is “How have those events improved myself and my life?”
For a while i’ve been annoyed with the saying “everything happens for a reason.” I believe that this doesn’t apply to my past abuses. There’s nothing good has come out of it and i don’t believe i have become a “better” person because of it. I used to have this thought that past abuse will inspire me to help others with similar issues. But how could i help others if i have not helped myself?

Now i realise that it was just my desperate effort to put those events in the context of my life through an “overly positive” perspective which, of course, ended up in self-denial.
We live in a super-achieving society and I’ve been swimming in the stream of achievements. While it’s neither good or bad in itself, it’s easy to get carried away.

Your post has made me think that i don’t have to be a “better” person (or worse, for that matter) because of that. It does not set the theme of my life and it does not set the direction of my future.

As you said, it is part of me and I’m learning to accept the situation as-it-is. Embracing abusive past is not easy and i think it will take a while for me to be fully there. However, i am at peace knowing that i’m moving in the right direction.

Many thanks, Jonathan.


Markus Mindaugas November 9, 2009 at 1:52 am

“Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise.” – Marcus Aurelius

As you have illustrated, real growth is beautiful


Marc and Angel Hack Life November 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Well stated.

Reminds me of my favorite novel, Siddhartha.


Magnus November 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I am new to your blog and haven’t read you before, but i really enjoyed this one. Thanks!

What I was wondering is how or when is the best way to achieve real growth according to you? We have this blog about long term travelling and we have come to the conclusion that going away for a longer period of time, uprooting oneself from the every day musts is an ideal way of creating just growth. Real growth i believe.

Coming back from a long journey you have turned into your new self without really thinking about it. You have spent a lot of time living in the now and away from the everyday stress. A lot of people have grown and are unwilling to go back to the their old lifestyle once they have found their new self and a new kind of freedom.

It would be amazing to hear your opinion on this. Thanks



Thomas November 9, 2009 at 5:13 pm

This is awesome. I think it’s easy for someone who just starts reading about personal development to get swept up and lose perspective. It’s good to know that there are grounded people offering advice from such a broad view.


Dave Hatton November 9, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Just… Wow! Very well written.


Ralco November 10, 2009 at 11:05 am

Your best article to date. This is one of the best things I’ve read on any personal development blog in a long time. Bravo!


David November 11, 2009 at 1:07 am

Jonathan, this is really good! I am stunned.

You put into words a lot of the things I’m struggling with right at this moment.

That line between fake and real is so subtle. You really have to listen to hear that little voice that says “no, this isn’t really what you want, it’s just an empty goal, you are bigger than this”. And listening to it and embracing to what it means – to be infinite – as you write about, is really, really scary.


Srinivas Rao November 11, 2009 at 8:03 am

I’ve been following your blog on and off for the last several months and I realize now I should have done it earlier. But later is better than never. I downloaded your ebook and I’m working my way through it and think you have got some really amazing insights and I’m reworking my entire strategy of my blog and my blogging efforts. I’m glad to have your work as a resource. This article really hits something that I haven’t thought about. I’ve been focused on internal change in order to see external gains, rather than to truly experience what you describe as real growth.


Florin @ Infinite Journey November 11, 2009 at 10:52 am

“We’re already whole. Already complete. You don’t need to prove that to yourself by chasing hollow achievements. Real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is.”

yeah dude, you’re right there. we see only the past everywhere we go, look at or think. everything is perfect in every moment.all we have to do is our best because we appreciate what we are and everything around us. cheers to you.

“But you know that real growth would be much more uncomfortable. It would kill the pattern, and in its place would be an expansion of possibility.”

sometimes it takes a lot of time to break a pattern, weeks even months and sometimes it happens in an instant. don’t know why, it happens by its self.

“Fake growth consists of constantly chasing another bullet point to put on your life resume. Another higher data point on a never ending graph.”

you’re right here jonathan, one thing keeps flashing in my mind, the fact that we love doing that and unless we are conscious of it we keep going on and on to the end.

“Experiencing a greater intimacy with life and a deeper passion for it.”
I really love this one :-)

real growth is context not content.

wish you and everyone peace and love


Travis November 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm

The best line of this is: “Real growth is about internal transformation.”

I couldn’t agree more with that.

What’s interesting about goals is that very often people realize that what they currently posses (within their being) is the opposite of their goals. Which might be why they haven’t made any progress towards that goal. And so sometimes having the goal is the problem, as they are fine as they are. Usually this is when the goals are not their own, and are someone’s intruded reality (such as their parent’s goals for them, expectations from others, etc.)

Positive thinking doesn’t always work. Negative thoughts just keep looping around in our heads sometimes. While acceptance of those thoughts is a good first step, the next step is to find out the message or those thoughts are signaling to the person’s system. Thoughts, feelings, emotions are just signals from one aspect of your self to another aspect of your self. And until you truly listen to them, and hear their message (which is much deeper than the surface thought/feeling) they will forever repeat themselves. No amount of positive thinking will work. Thoughts and feelings will continue to repeat themselves until they serve their purpose and cease to be, just like everything else in this world.

I would urge anyone and everyone to explore their thoughts intimately, take a look at them, examine them, find out what they are telling you, write them down, take a look at them, and then take a look at them again.

What is their message?



Srinivas Rao November 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

@Travis: Great insights. Following what are thoughts are really telling us can be a tough thing to do. We are so conditioned to seek safety and often following everything our thoughts tell us goes completely against that.


Laura Lee Bloor November 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

Beautiful post. I’d echo again that yes, it’s very easy to think that you’re growing only to discover that it’s fake growth. Each new discovery is a lesson learned though.


Erin November 12, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I think this is one of your best posts ever, and you have many great ones.

I think our real personal growth blossoms when we stop thinking about ourselves and reach out to others.


Florin November 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

thoughts are stupid, I can’t control them. I really feel bad for the ego. It’s so stupid that if when I get up in the morning and I ask myself what’s my name it can’t remember. :lol:
really guys, try asking yourself what’s your name in when you wake up or ask for someone to wake you while you’re sleeping. You’re gonna say :”Aaahhhh…. let’s see…” :lol:


Christian November 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Stillness rocks. It is rarely achieved. It is the highest goal. Peace of mind is the highest value.


Aaron Guzman November 16, 2009 at 4:49 am


Thank you for this post. Truly inspiring and moving. I love the bold point on community – creating support from those around me and giving of myself to those around me.

I also really love the last sentence speaking of stillness. I am whole and complete. I will practice reminding myself of this and saying this to myself. I hope others who read this really get that they too are whole and complete. :)

Thank you.


Robert November 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Stellar post. I’ve succumbed to being a fake growth many times…these topics you bring up here are really key. They are above the constant and often time over analyzed thoughts on improvement. We all need to get better at times, but more often than not, we just need to experience life.


Tamsin@nudgeme November 17, 2009 at 1:39 am

Loved this post – for whatever reason it really resonated with me this morning. Working in the field of self-development and life coaching, I often find myself getting irritated with what I describe as the ‘woo woo’ that can get regurgitated in this world. Your post is just such a refreshing change from that, and just cuts through the bs. I especially identify with your point that ‘real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is rather than chasing hollow achievements’. As you say, it’s about internal transformation – and definitely not about all the ‘shoulds’ that can cause people to live any life but their own.

There’s something in all of this about being comfortable in one’s own skin – yet always retaining that ability to be curious.

Really excellent post, enjoyed.

All the best



Mark D November 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Jonathan, this article made my heart pound while reading it. Seriously. How do you do that? I can’t even figure out how to do it.

Anyway, there is most definitely a line there between believing that you are moving toward growth and actually just flopping around barfing out the same old crap to yourself about moving in the right direction. It seems as though you’ve found where that line has been drawn for yourself.

Also, I would like you right now, to copyright the word you either (a) purposefully hid or (b) inadvertently made up in the post: constinual. It combines constant and continual into a word that just drives the point home in my opinion. I am not kidding here.


Randall Paul Pipes November 19, 2009 at 10:41 am


Nice work on the article! Your absolutely right when you said that there is a difference between fake growth and real growth. The key it to know that you already are everything that you need to be and expand and grow into that. Once you realize that your quest for life transformation has been completely self centered and like you said a quest to “Fix yourself” then the real transformation can begin to take place once to discover the underground programs that are really running the show. Thanks for the Great Article!

Randall Paul Pipes

Randall Paul Pipes is a life coach, trainer, author and speaker who specializes in helping people discover and develop life purpose. Visit his website at


Rashad November 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I’m kind of iffy about this.

I like the idea of completeness. For example, if I am trying to be less gossipy and more sincere, it would be healthier to see it as allowing my sincerity to show through rather than to “change” myself into a sincere person. The sincerity is already there (I’m complete!); I agree there. But to achieve that end, I had to actively acknowledge the improvement I wanted to make and develop the habit of watching what I say and what I dwell on when thinking about people and myself.

Anyways, the issue I take is with “doing things for the experience”, which you call fake. I understand that seeing oneself as incomplete, seeking one experience after another to achieve perfection, is false. But there is little other explanation for the simply curious mind than that I’m doing it “for the experience.” And the rewards have been great.

I think the key to where I don’t follow your post is that passion can be developed. Knowledge and familiarity can be generate interest in a field that otherwise seemed dull.

To your music example, I trudged through a music history book, taking notes, making questions out of it, and quizzing myself until I knew it. It was pretty boring but the result was that I had a context to listen to music. For whatever reason, knowing that a piece is by a composer who I know something about makes it that much more enjoyable for me to listen to it. Checking out the next artist from the music library, going to concerts, operas- many doors have been opened and the original venture into music history, just to fill a gap in my ignorance, has certainly paid off. I’d like to say that my motivation was more legitimate or “passionate”, but it wasn’t more than “I don’t know anything about music, I should learn.” I am now excited at the thought of picking up a more thorough or specific book on music or its history- that excitement/passion was not there before.


Joe November 26, 2009 at 12:41 pm

So honest and true what a great article!

With some great pointers!

Honesty and truth is what is needed for self growth/development right?

Take a look a this website, it may of be some help to you;

Joe :)


Joe February 8, 2011 at 1:08 am

This is my new website/blog!

Angela Johnson November 28, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I love your style. I just came across your blog and wow, you are right on with your posts. Thank you for being clear and direct – I love that style. I really love how you talk about the fake growth keeps someone looking for more. I’ve always believed that and you articulated this topic in a profound way. Thank you for giving me something very real to ponder.


Annaly December 2, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Just wanted to say your article really has me thinking about fake growth. I hadn’t heard the term before, but I have kicked around the concept of ‘good enough is good enough’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


David December 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I wanted to write about growth myself, and this here is a very solid guide. I wonder if you could describe a time when you were in ‘fake growth’ and compare it to the real growth experiences you’ve had: that would be really interesting!


Shannon December 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for your writing, it’s inspiring. Particularly your points about real and false actualization. Thanks.


Rob December 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Hit the nail right on the head with this post.

This is something I like to think I’m aware of, but I still found myself in the exact same situation you described in the very first couple fo paragraphs.

Thank you.


Tom December 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Hey Jonathan,

are you ok with this? Because it seems someone copied your article, edited a few lines, and claims it is his.


Ralph December 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Growth in my life is usually followed by evidence of that growth. Its more than just a good feeling or a positive mindset. It is really about the results.

When I think that I am really growing I think about when I was a kid. When I was young and I felt I grew taller, or if I thought I could jump higher than I did the previous day, I would always test my feeling. I’ve taken that mentality so that my personal development is focused on results not just what I think or feel.

Great post!


Tim December 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Jonathan, Very good post! I just started reading your site and subscribed. I had some ouch moments with this post on growth.

Here Here!



Nancy Marshall December 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm

The word for this article is “beautiful” and is one of the few that has really touched home with inner questions that I have had but never realized anyone else had, never mind put into such eloquency.
Thank you. (I almost want to say “I love you”. ps – are you single? (lol here but really this was nice.)


Robin Bastien March 5, 2010 at 1:06 am

Solid post Jonathan. After reading a few of your articles, I re-realized my interest in self-development and Buddhism and the ‘live in the moment’ mindset. I now realize there are distractions that will pull one away from enlightenment, and though the person feels like they are growing mentally, they may not be. You got yourself another subscriber. Cheers, and thanks


sharir March 24, 2010 at 7:41 am

so so true for me what you say-i identify completely with what you write here. i found myself de-compressing when i went through this post. i am the fake growth addict you talk about and by putting this mirror in front of me the addict’s voice was forced to shut up for a moment..thank you for that:)


Grace April 28, 2010 at 1:24 am

This is the most honest account of real growth I have read. For a long time, I have felt like I never measure up to definitions of growth that seem to relate to getting, giving and doing more stuff.


hermes handbags July 8, 2010 at 1:44 am

The word for this article is “beautiful” and is one of the few that has really touched home with inner questions that I have had but never realized anyone else had, never mind put into such eloquency.
Thank you. (I almost want to say “I love you”. ps – are you single? (lol here but really this was nice.)


Greg Hartle February 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for helping me grow. Outstanding!


Drusillah February 20, 2011 at 6:38 am


I have both “positive” and “negative” comments for the article.

I very much was impressed with the first part. I have never seen such a topic in an article before, good for you. :) I probably am a fake growth addict.

But then I didn’t see anything concrete about what real growth is. I read the article and still didn’t understand the meaning of real growth. To me it’s very abstract, liberation and whatnot. You gave concrete examples to prove the fake growth point, but abstract terms for the real growth.

I would appreciate if it was more concrete, so one can really benefit from this article and change. Realization is one thing, but knowing how to change is another.

– Drusillah


reneebecket January 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm

The answer to your question about concreteness in real growth is simply put: “Be Yourself”. There nothing more real than this, and I believe this article explains how to recognize the intent of your life is most important. You need to internalize your experience while revealing your true essence. And that takes deep introspection, rather than seeking outside distractions disguised as “real growth”, here the addiction has to do with seeking approval from the outer world, as opposed to digging deeper into your own existence, which is “real growth” personified, the real you, in other words. Of course, to grasp this, you have to know the difference between truth and reality. In my opinion, seeking truth can lead to the illusion of growth, while dealing with reality, in all its nitty-gritty imperfections, and the consequences of reality, can lead to real growth.


KarinthaMarshall May 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

This was my major dissapointment with the article, also.  At the same time, I’m seeing that that’s sort of the point he’s making:  that real growth isn’t measurable or explainable.  For us to be able to explain growth or measure it would mean we have some parameter on it, that we’ve fit it into our current personal framework for life.  If it fits in our framework, it’s not expnding the framework.  If it’s not expanding our framework, it’s not growth. It’s kind of a catch-22, no?  Because if you do live a life that pushes you to experience what you don’t know, then you’re feeding your ego.  But you can’t get a greater understanding of life without different experiences, can you?  I don’t think so.  There’s only so much I can learn from the same experience. 
Very interesting concepts to discuss, I’ve wondered about them often and am glad I found a place where these type of things are discussed.

DulmaTara June 14, 2011 at 1:47 am

I really love this post! It resonates with me and my experiences. And the denial disguised as positivity thing is so true. Sounds like you’ve been there, too. :)

I found your blog a few hours ago. Lately, I’ve been going through some ideas in my head with the interest of sharing with others but you’ve taken all the good ones! ;) Gracias for the blog, and go you. And your wonderful life.


momo88 August 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

This is beautiful. Through reading this I am coming to terms with my entire experience in 2011 (symptoms from graduating college last year and feeling “inadequate”). I took a truly concerted effort to better myself out of, simply, a need for approval, because I was convinced I needed to change somehow.

Thank you for spreading the beauty.




planetnaveen August 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

Excellent. I would like to add few words of mine too.

I feel everyone has a unique passion within them. The real growth would be discovering their true passion and make it their life.


momo88 August 21, 2011 at 3:09 am

@planetnaveen I definitely agree!!!


CalliStoudt October 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

We need to start embracing ourselves as we would embrace a new baby into our lives. Parents look at their babies and see God’s perfection. Babies come in different shapes and sizes, but it’s easy for us all to recognize that each little bundle is infinitely wonderful and valuable. We are all somebody’s baby, therefore, we are all significant and lovable. It’s time to start living with that identity of ourselves.


reneebecket January 15, 2012 at 12:14 am

The answer to this question about concreteness in real growth is simply put: “Be Yourself”. There is nothing more real than this, and I believe this article explains how to recognize the intent of your life is most important.

You need to internalize your experience while revealing your true essence. And that takes deep introspection, rather than seeking outside distractions disguised as “real growth”, here the addiction has to do with seeking approval from the outer world, as opposed to digging deeper into your own existence, which is “real growth” personified, the real you in other words.

Of course, to grasp this, you have to know the difference between truth and reality. In my opinion, seeking truth can lead to the illusion of growth, while dealing with reality, in all its nitty-gritty imperfections, and the consequences of reality, can lead to real growth.



reneebecket January 15, 2012 at 12:16 am

The answer to this question about concreteness in real growth is simply put: “Be Yourself”. There is nothing more real than this, and I believe this article explains how to recognize that the intent of your life is most important.

You need to internalize your experience while revealing your true essence. And that takes deep introspection, rather than seeking outside distractions disguised as “real growth”, here the addiction has to do with seeking approval from the outer world, as opposed to digging deeper into your own existence, which is “real growth” personified, the real you in other words.

Of course, to grasp this, you have to know the difference between truth and reality. In my opinion, seeking truth can lead to the illusion of growth, while dealing with reality, in all its nitty-gritty imperfections, and the consequences of reality, can lead to real growth.



revilotheknight October 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Wow! Another person saying that we should accept mediocrity by not seeking continual self-improvement. Tell that to someone who is a drug addict, or is addicted to computer games, or has an excessive gambling problem, or is extremely overweight – do you really want to delude them into thinking that they are perfectly fine just the way they are, even though there is clearly something wrong with their lifestyle?

csteinfeld March 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

This article was the most inspiring I have read for  long time. It confirms my recent intuition of “letting things flow” even though I am not currently exactly on a “growth” path, in the given–and mistaken– sense of the term.  Thank you so much, your blog is a gem.


jessica4stein March 29, 2012 at 3:18 am

Excuse me you’re just reinterpreting Buddhism.  Good job anyway.


EkaJoti April 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm

@jessica4stein Jessica, I see Johanthan reintepreting (or revitalizing) all true limitation-shattering traditions, Buddhadharma being one of many. Include Sufism, Raja Yoga, Christian mysticism, Taoism, etc.

EkaJoti April 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Jessica, I see Johanthan reintepreting (or revitalizing) all true limitation-shattering traditions, Buddhadharma being one of many. Include Sufism, Raja Yoga, Christian mysticism, Taoism, etc.


izmaelarkin May 8, 2012 at 2:00 am

I guess this make me wonder how do I get to real growth? It seems to me it starts with truly living out a life based on my authentic character. If I am living in any manner that is not authentic to who I am, then I am living a life based on others expectations.
I think that sometimes, it can be very difficult to identify if I am truly being authentic or not. I think it is one of those things that I have to constantly sit and reflect on… Of course too much sitting and reflecting can drive a man insane. But it is a question that needs to be looked at on a regular basis: Am I being authentic? 


Lori July 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

This was one of the first blog posts I read when I first discovered illuminated mind. It’s interesting I should rediscover it today after realizing part of the reason I’ve been so miserable with my hiking this year is because I turned it into fake growth. Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan! I’m so glad your new site didn’t lose the old posts. They have such a powerful message.


revilotheknight October 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Seems to me this whole blog post is an excuse to accept mediocrity. You should always seek to improve yourself in every aspect of your life whether that would be socially, academically, financially, etc. There are clear standards and benchmarks of perfection which we should all strive toward, it is better to more wealthy, have more friends, be more intellectually active, then in just accepting your life as it is.

This whole blog post seems to promote laziness and stagnation, which I for one will not conform to.

Every day provides a new opportunity to do things differently, to strive toward bettering yourself in all aspects of your life, accepting your model of ‘real growth’ would mean to stop bothering with self-improvement. You’re fat? You’re stupid and can’t read? You have no friends? You spend most of your time on the internet doing nothing productive? You an extremely bad diet which is killing you? Not to worry! Just accept your current situation, don’t strive to grow, don’t strive to change, you’re great as you are now. This is simply foolish and extremely lazy.

The great figures and minds of the past weren’t satisfied with living a stagnate life they knew that there existed a real benchmark of perfection which everyone should strive towards – you don’t have to be prefect – but you can at least try to reach perfection.

This is an excuse to stop trying, and to be satisfied with mediocrity, it’s a shame that people are fooled into accepting this idealogy.


revilotheknight October 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I feel sorry for the people in the comment section who have conformed to this view, as it means they have giving up their dream of being better then they are now, and to try and delude themselves into believing that personal growth shouldn’t be sought after, as we are perfectly with the way we are now, this seems to be a very lazy approach to life, one in which no successful person subscribes to, as much of their success has come from seeing the need to constantly improve and striving towards achieving that personal growth to improve their lives.


sean December 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm

dude, i totally agree. I thought I was the only one thinking this way. WTF are all these people saying? … ‘sometimes the most formidable growth … is none at all?’

How do you ever expect to achieve anything? Do you not have goals and dreams? I am clearly not understanding these people…

Muzni Muzammil December 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hei Jonathan,
This is a very nice post, its worth reading for me.


Sufian Chaudhary March 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

Seriously man, this post kicks ass!

I don’t say this often but I totally and utterly agreed with the part about feeling some kind of fake need to “try new things” or to try and be something more positive and cultured towards a particular aspect in Life, when really we just don’t give a shit about it. Bang! A whole segment of things I realized that I really just don’t need to be doing because all it’s doing is fueling fake growth.

Loving it.


Tara Nolan March 15, 2013 at 1:50 am

This was the most eloquent post I have read on this topic EVER! I am a transformational coach and a gestalt practicing coach and the words you use to describe my world views are simply beautiful. Thank you Jonathan. Tara


S.priya April 2, 2013 at 6:07 am

Hi.. Just found your website ..its amazing..


Robin Kalinich June 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you! What a profound post, just when I needed it.


Jo Casey June 26, 2013 at 12:37 am

This really resonated with me. There’s a phrase my yoga teacher says to me a lot – ‘breathe into life – don’t force it’
The feeling I have when I’m trying to ‘force’ growth is very different to when I’m breathing into it. When I let go of the need to get ‘better’, or to get something like meditation ‘right’ that’s when it all opens up and starts to happen.


Christian Cevallos June 27, 2013 at 9:36 am

Sometimes you have to let go of everything in life to truly be free. Do what you like and what you were meant to do on Earth. Really great read. The challenge here is letting go and accepting your reality and be happy with it. :)


Christian Cevallos June 27, 2013 at 9:48 am

As for the guy revilotheknight saying that this post is supporting mediocrity and laziness, I think he’s missing the point. He’s not saying to not be satisfied and do nothing, on the contrary what johnathan is saying is to be happy with your life and share it with the world! See the world how you want to see it and not through the lens of another. Pursue and perfect that which is already perfect inside you. You are at your best when you are doing what you love and will give it your all. When you do this without any fears or regret that’s when you have reached a level of personal growth that you wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.


Christian Cevallos June 27, 2013 at 9:59 am

Revilotheknight brought up a point about obesity, gambling, and addiction. Anything in excess, especially things that harm your body, is not good. How can you achieve personal growth if you’re dead? Come on man think about it, you have to take care of your body, that’s a given. Those people are just ignorant and don’t know the harm they are doing to their bodies… This article in no way supports that kind of behavior.


Christian Cevallos June 27, 2013 at 10:12 am

As for the post karinthamarshall made that we need variety to experience new things, that is fine do those things. He’s not telling us to avoid it, on the contrary if you’re doing it from an internal desire then do it and don’t hold back! The problem is doing those things for the sake of doing them for ego or to please someone else. You will find that it’s not as fulfilling or enlightening as when you do it from a good place. And if you haven’t found that place then stop trying and just start living the life you want to live. It will come to you when you least expect it.


Bee July 7, 2013 at 8:12 am

Hi. I just discovered your site. Enjoy reading your thoughts.

If you don’t mind… could you explain the last point you made on “Stop Growing”?

I do not agree that they are both on the same side. But I agree that without one the other side cannot exist. What I think your point is that we should stop the pursuit of our “goal” because it is related to our ego. So… please clarify.

Thanks and keep writing.


Marta July 11, 2013 at 4:29 am

Hi Jonathan, I’m not quite sure why it made me cry
Thank you for all your powerful words


Gail July 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

Thank you. That was most excellent. You’ve laid it out perfectly.


Jenna July 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I am left grateful and inspired. Thank you


Janice Stringer August 29, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hi Jonathan,
expansion and contraction is what pops into my mind…


Yazminh September 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

Awesome post! Newbie here, but I can TOTALLY relate to this and am so glad to find someone who understands how I feel about this disconnect to society’s expectations, and yet FINE just the way I am and with the values I have.

I particularly love this simple summary:

“We’re already whole. Already complete. You don’t need to prove that to yourself by chasing hollow achievements. Real growth has nothing to do with fixing anything. It’s about expanding what already is.”

Thanks. My kids all have inherited my artistic temperament. It is great to hear a logical, resounding vote honoring the individual, expressive Self.


TLC429 October 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

Wow. Sorry I don’t have many words at this time but I think “WOW!!!” is sufficient when you’re thoroughly blown away, feel like you took some good medicine, plus you’re at work and you don’t want your boss to catch you on the internet reading about how to become independent of your job… u know.

Thanks for this man. Thanks for taking the time.


Budo7777 October 8, 2013 at 1:49 am

You know that part of you that wants to always reach the “next level”? That’s the fake growth addict.

Some where there is a group of people who are being held for money ,ransom, political statements whatever. And very close by are a team of Special Forces Soldiers, guys who have never had to perform an “extraction” before(as it is called.) And they know that doing their best, feeling whole, and not caring about the outcome as long as they did their best……is not going to cut it! In the Vietnam war we were held to a stand still against a supposedly less trained, out manned and stupider enemy. They held us off anyway. Why? Because they knew that simply doing their best would bring about the death of themselves and their family. They had to win! We didn’t! Show me the guy who doesn’t get pumped up when he watches Denzel in Man on Fire.” Or Jean Reno i the move “The Professional” or watching the movie called “Patton” which was so real even his superiors said he was not playing Patton, George C. Scott was Patton. Patton said second place was for losers. The whole world likes a winner. No one ever remembers who finishes second.”

And the truth be told, we may not be here on the Internet if not for this one incredibly brave yet intolerant man who could not even imagine what coming home to his country telling them they lost would be like. (And as naive as Americans might have been back then, he may have been one of the few who knew that if they did not win, there would be no home to come back to.)

Albert Einstein was a peace loving vegetarian. When he was convinced that if he did not release the secrets of the A- bomb soon, the Germans were working on it and it might mean the end of America. Einstein was smart enough to realize that while we may be whole, we may be enough just the way we are, we may also be very dead, and then the only whole we will be are the holes shot through our bodies by people that didn’t like us, and did not know why? Most people only change when it “is’ life or death. Why? And you don’t need a mentor or a coach or a big brother figure. You haven’t figured out yet that there is no such thing as a self made man…OR woman!

On the other hand, the cemeteries of America are filled with heart attack and stroke victims who never knew when enough was enough. tragically how many young men are walking around slurring their words because they thought being an MMA or boxing star would be their way out. Way out of what? I’d like to end this by saying that the tragedy of life is that what is true for me today, may not be true or applicable for you tomorrow. And paying the price to be a winner today may be worth it, but in 5 years it may not. The tragedy is that youth truly is wasted on the young, who because they have never taken a real bad beating from the Gods of fate think they are wise, and then when they find out that what worked in the Navy at 19 , makes one look like a shallow fool to your girlfriend and people around you at 21! We do not understand that what our boss is applauding us for at 25 is the reason we are getting fired from another boss at 45. Someone seems to keep changing the rules. Do they come from the inside or the oustside? Does God make them up as he goes along, or is already pre-ordained in some holy book? Why do some of us just wake up one day, one day!…and say…OMG…there is just too many things to do to reach the train station of success. It isn’t worth it. But now at 40 we do not know what other train to catch. We never made a contingency plan. Then another guy tells us , he only succeeded BECAUSE he threw all his eggs in one basket and never had a back-up plan! I myself have had months at a time where I got out of bed and I had a job to go to…but I didn’t know where I was really supposed to go. Now that I have reached 50, I know even less than at 45! Does it get harder ass we get older? And why is our body doing all these weird things in the middle of the night, and not doing the things we want it to do in the early part of the night? No one, not even dad ever spoke to us about this road. No one ever gave us an answer if we had a strange question….like what do we do if what suddenly re-discovered what we want to do with our life requires the body of a 25 year old, but we are now 52? And to our horror, we found that the more self help books(it seems that way anyway) we read, have only left us with more questions at middle age and beyond, not less! Stop the world, I want to get off. I want my money back! Sound familiar?


Val Senan December 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Very in depth article. Love the details. My experience for real growth is in acceptance. I was stuck in a place where I was internally fighting and always trying to be in control. But after awhile I realized that there’s nothing I can do to change things and thus I made a conscious decision to let it be. It felt so liberating after that and I’ve never looked back since. :)


Sue @ When Did It Get So Complicated December 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

This is a GREAT post. I think we make our lives more complicated with pursuits of “fake growth”. This is why we, as a society, are generally pretty stressed out. We do it to ourselves. I wish more people would think like this post suggests. If a pursuit doesn’t make us inherently happy or if it requires excessive counting, measuring, tracking, etc… it is probably not sustainable.

I wish we would apply this “fake growth” principle to our economy as well. It seems many people pursue money just for the competition of it. How much do we really need to be happy and content?

Let’s un-complicate our lives so that we can find true health, wealth and happiness.


Jason May 15, 2015 at 9:27 am

Well said Sue. Let’s use the KISS principle ;) (Keep It Simple Stupid!)

Monica January 9, 2014 at 9:54 am

Yes true growth doesnot care! We cannot ignore our ego-driven desires, meanwhile we learn that we are not just our ego:-)


vishal February 13, 2014 at 3:08 am

Came at the right time when i needed this answer.

Thanks a lot.


Liz February 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm


I started a search for “inspirational” but authentic blogs and came across yours – I just have to say Oh My GOD! You’re writing is fantastic. I love your directness, your lack of pretentiousness and the feeling that you are speaking from this amazingly authentic place that does away with bullshit. This is the most refreshing stuff I’ve read in a very long time and a welcome addition to all the “inspirational” crap on the web (and in books) that leaves me feeling depressed, inadequate, and longing for something more helpful. Your blog and your backpack have me hooked. I’ll be back for a lot more.



Seth February 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Jonathan – this kicks ass – period.
This is the type of stuff that makes the internet great. Thank you so much for these words. “Doing things for the ‘experience'” really isn’t growth. Brilliant.
These words hit me like a ton of bricks and are very much related to what I’m going through in my life.



Meiji February 25, 2014 at 8:02 am

This was really a brilliant post, this phrase really moved me:

“The number one sign of fake growth is: constinual seeking.”

Thank you!


Desiree February 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Great post! I specially agree with the meaning of “fake growth” It’s really easy to get lost and think that we are following something that we need or want when really is something that our job / society is demanding


Jackie March 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm

love, love, love this article. Ego growth seems to be the growth that is attached to outcomes, attached to a vision we have of our more mature, enlightened selves–an image created by our own ego itself, or the collective ego. Real growth comes from the internal shifts that catch us off guard, the ones that we couldn’t plan or imagine. These are the shifts that happen when we surrender inwards, trust that we are on a path and often happen when we are not expecting them at all.


Lindsay Henwood March 31, 2014 at 8:59 am


This is a great article and something I have been trying to write about for a while. I just released one blog on living in the city and essentially how a haughty attitude (the coffee shop guys don’t understand my smiles) and appearing “busy” is the only way to go. Vancouver, BC, is a popular place for “growth” and many claim to be doing it through yoga, meditation classes, and going for a hike on the weekends. However, I don’t see the transformation, it only seems to be fun to say for them. Anyways, I just wanted to say you nailed it on the head. Any time I write a blog post similar to this one, I get interesting feedback from my friends, as though I shouldn’t write posts like this one. How did you get to that tipping point where you turned from someone just making a powerful and society-critiquing statement to someone who people see are making a good point? Thanks so much for reading,

Lindsay Henwood


Catherine Chisnall April 17, 2014 at 2:56 am

A meaningful article, really enjoyed it :)


Zack April 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Jonathan-Great article man, and great insights.

However, I would have to argue that fake growth can give you an increased drive in life to become the best you can be, and eventually make you a deeper and more intricate person. Fake growth can lead to real growth. For example, “doing something for the experience” will give you a new perspective on life, that you can use to be more empathetic with the world. If I travel across South America for a year “for the experience”, my hope is to gain a new perspective about life, how people live, and then use some of these perspectives to aid my real growth. If you never have this “fake growth”, then you aren’t striving to achieve new goals or experiences, and basically you’re just sitting on the couch in the present being one with yourself (which isn’t a bad thing). However, why not seek out experiences and strive to accomplish the next goal on your list? Learn that new language. Travel abroad. Take your job to the next level. Being hungry for life is what allows you to expand your horizons.
I love what you’re saying. It’s important to not be overly obsessed with chasing a fleeting goal after goal. You have to be content with yourself and know that you’re enough. But why not do both? It’s incredibly beneficial to accomplish these goals and use them to increase your intimacy with life, your understanding of the world, and your contentment with just being yourself.

Just like you said, it’s important to find that right balance in life, and having a healthy dose of “fake growth” and “real growth”compliment each other nicely. Always be hungry for ways you can expand yourself, but also be content with yourself and know that you’re enough. Win win.


Katie April 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I LOVE this article. The only concept that I didn’t understand or am sure I agree with is the last paragraph that talks about how “real growth accepts that sometimes it’s not necessary.” I’ve always thought that if you’re not growing you’re dying. Can someone please explain to me or elaborate on why it’s sometimes good to not grow and that we even need to decline sometimes?


Edy May 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

Awesome! I’ve spent so much of my life trying to ‘fix’ myself because I’ve always been told by my family I’m not good enough to be like other people. Now I know that is not the case and what I’ve been doing all along will only cause more stress and anxiety.


Yvonne May 30, 2014 at 7:46 am

I LOVE this article … exactly what I need to hear!

I’ve been spending my whole life doing stuff to grow to become ‘somebody’ when all along I just need to be ME and trust that ‘me’ IS good enough.

Thanks for the new perspective :)


Chandler June 10, 2014 at 5:37 am

I think this is awesome because it’s so easy to fall into the rut of going through the motions, especially when it may be the right motions. But if your heart isn’t in it, then you won’t reap the benefits. Taking the step to seek out personal growth is hard, and if you have the self discipline to deliberately seek out growth then you must also have the self discipline to maintain the focus required to get out of it what you want. John Maxwell says that the first step to growth is “intentionality”. I believe that, and this post is a great reminder.



Katharina Hoehendinger June 12, 2014 at 6:16 am

What a great post, thanks a lot for that, Jonathan. Right to the point and rang more than one bell with me. Simply loving it.


Valerie July 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

Excellent post!!! Loved it!


Derek (aka Giz) September 18, 2014 at 4:55 am

Wow! This is DEEP! And so profound, as it is what I have been doing since my recent job “change.”
Feel like I’ve been faking growth, just to better position myself, and trying to impress, attract, solicit approval & a form of validation from others. (some who I don’t even like or really care about impressing!)
You’re making me think man! I’m gonna read it again throughout the day today & look for times / examples of faking growth. (then also be aware of whet can instead be real growth. P.S. I know I love trail running! :)
Thanks for the insight! Peace, Giz


Frederick December 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Awesome as always. :) Thank you Jonathan for this awesome post!


Marilyn December 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I’ve been tripping over myself – now it’s time to get over myself! Great post!!


Saad Asad January 30, 2015 at 1:37 am

I guess I am somewhat in the middle. This article has been really eye opening for me since there is a part of me that always considered growth to be something that has to be constantly desired and not something that is already there. Although I do resonate with a lot of factors that you have written to depict real growth.

I guess my major take away from this article is that I need to know that it’s not always necessarily bad to say no to growth.


Adults High School February 7, 2015 at 3:27 am

Wonderful post,i really love to see this,such an interesting post,Thanks for sharing.


Conner Black February 19, 2015 at 8:34 am

I think fake growth is extremely beneficial if you’re unsure about what you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s trial and error,but in the end it helps us realize our true purpose. Most of the time you need fake growth for real growth. So go for it, do what you think makes you happy until you know it doesn’t.


Jason May 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

It’s similar to having a ‘To-Do’ list. We all have one, don’t we. How much of it is meaningful thought? A lot of it is there to make us feel good (buy this, clean that, fix this, make that) and like we’re achieving something in life, but how much of it is leading to true growth of our potential?

I think equally as important is the ‘Not-To-Do’ list. What are things in our lives that are not deserving of our energy, and which may in fact be limiting our potential? Let’s take time to list these things out and limit our focus on them.

Great article Jon!


Holden seguso June 3, 2015 at 10:39 am

Good post Jonathan. If only I could reach that next plateau of understanding I believe I would cease to exist in this world yet become one with everything.


Calvin Agor August 3, 2015 at 8:24 am

This is liberating. I can feel fresh air sweeping within my heart and soul. Thank you for this. Thank you.


Colin January 10, 2016 at 4:00 am

As a recovering self-help addict myself, I’m glad you pointed out that community is such an important part of Real Growth. I found I often overlooked it in my searching-for-the-next-level-days. You did mention a part about being comfortable, however, no bullet point about Real Growth living in the world of being uncomfortable, which is certainly a huge part of it.


Robert January 23, 2016 at 8:53 pm

But couldn’t “fake growth” serve as practice sometimes? Like I feel the need to finish a few little meaningless projects just so I can get comfortable with finishing things, so I can finally finish my big projects.


Shreyas Jahagirdar August 6, 2016 at 7:58 am

Wow!! Such wise words!! ‘My perceived inadequacy’. . . I learnt about the ‘rise and fall’ the hard way. Had a burnout and was unble to do simple stuff and for me it was the most difficult time because my ego was not under my control. Ego loves the ‘doing’ or growth and to do nothing and relax feels so negative.
Embrace the highs and lows in life, appreciate the positive aspects of you and if you have any weakness, try to find the source thats causing it, rather than fighting it.
Remove the ego and you will find stillness.

One question to the author – which events, situations or people made you what you are today? Would love to hear about how you found your true authentic self.


Justin August 29, 2016 at 3:32 am

Find a copy of the book Iron and look for the part about the white, red, and black knights. This homework assignment is for the men.

Find a copy of the book Drowning Ophelia. This assignment is for the women.

If you are in between genders, try both I guess. There could be kernels in each one that would appeal to your more fluid nature.

They are books about myths and societal inauthenticities firmly rooted at the level of gender assumptions

If you truly want to understand how we tick, these two books will take you there and also teach you about yourself.

Self mastery is better than mastery over anything external.


Justin August 29, 2016 at 3:32 am

Stupid autocorrect….. the first book is called Iron John. Not just Iron… lol. Author is Robert Bly.


Brigid October 16, 2016 at 9:05 am

I love when the written word bypasses my mental self and goes directly to my soul self. The human challenge forever to uncover the truth of who we are. The constant struggle to become more rather than allowing oneself to simply be. We make it so complex! However, isn’t this the human journey? A slow and often painful unfolding of the unending joy that exists within our hearts! And yes, as you so richly observe the gift found within the moments of silence, when the external environment dissolves into the background and the inner realm takes front and center bathing in the healing light of unconditional love. Thank you for feeding my soul!


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