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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189 Comments on "The Number One Self Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict"

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Dave Hatton
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Just… Wow! Very well written.

Ralco
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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!

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[…] Thumbscrews – Know Your Procrastinating and Time Wasting WeaknessesFavorites This Week:The Number One Self-Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict over at Illuminated MindThe Little Rules of Action over at Zen Habits7 Reasons To Enjoy Life More […]

David
Guest

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
Guest
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… Read more »
Florin @ Infinite Journey
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Florin @ Infinite Journey
“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… Read more »
Travis
Guest
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… Read more »
Srinivas Rao
Guest

@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
Guest

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.

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[…] his article, The Number One Self-Development Mistake, And the Fake Growth Addict, I saw much of myself in both the positive AND negative pictures he was working to […]

Erin
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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
Guest

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
Guest

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

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[…] All personal growth is good. Not always, according to Illuminated Mind. Be on the look out for fake growth. […]

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[…] of you reading this are on a journey of growth.  I thought this article about the number one self development mistake was an interesting look at the process we are all going […]

Aaron Guzman
Guest

Powerful.

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
Guest

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
Guest
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… Read more »
Mark D
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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… Read more »
Randall Paul Pipes
Guest
Jonathan 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… Read more »
Rashad
Guest
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… Read more »
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[…] #The Difference between Fake Growth and Authentic Growth really hit home for me. […]

Joe
Guest

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;

http://www.neverstopstudying.com

Joe :)

Joe
Guest

This is my new website/blog!

Angela Johnson
Guest

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
Guest

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
Guest

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
Guest

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

Rob
Guest

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
Guest

Hey Jonathan,

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

http://www.310andrewfashion.com/2009/12/07/are-you-really-growing-or-in-denial/

Ralph
Guest

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!

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[…] The Number One Self-Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict | Illuminated Mind signal signal "Much of what masquerades as growth is a narcissistic pursuit in a shrewd disguise." […]

Tim
Guest

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

Here Here!

Tim

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[…] to Jonathon Mead for opening my eyes on […]

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[…] The Number One Self Development Mistake and the Fake Growth Addict at IlluminatedMind […]

Nancy Marshall
Guest

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.)

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[…] Jonathan Mead – The Number One Self-Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict […]

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[…] The number one self development mistake and the fake growth addict […]

Robin Bastien
Guest

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
Guest

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
Guest

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.

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[…] The Number One Self Development Mistake, And The Fake Growth Addict […]

hermes handbags
Guest

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.)

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[…] at a high rate back then.” Of course, Jonathan would say that that kind of growth is actually fake growth, not real […]

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[…] The number one self development mistake and the fake growth addict […]

Greg Hartle
Guest

Thanks for helping me grow. Outstanding!

Drusillah
Guest
Hi, 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,… Read more »
reneebecket
Guest
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… Read more »
KarinthaMarshall
Guest
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… Read more »
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[…] mindset that I have grown for the sake of growth.  I recently ran across a blog that discnsses such growth and compares it to “real” growth.  I’d like to share […]

DulmaTara
Guest

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.

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