To every new member of BROJO, I ask a question...
“What are you currently working on in your self-development?”
For most people, there is some problem they're facing, and the answer is the thing that they currently feel the most pain about...
“I want to meet a partner.”
“I’m working on my social skills.”
“I want to get a [better] job or make a career change.”
“I want to build my self-esteem and self confidence.”
"I want to stop getting bullied at work."
These are the things that get their attention, and that's fair enough, because that’s what pain is all about- getting your attention and motivating change.
But sometimes, I get a different answer.
Once in awhile- quite rarely- I'll encounter someone who is past that point, and who is not driven by pain. Their life isn't perfect, but these people are in a fundamentally different place in their heads.
They are driven by desire to grow.
These people answer my question differently.
“I want to be able to maximize my motivation.”
“I want to be fearless.”
"I want to be a better husband and father."
"I want to be the best at [ something they love ]."
"I want to create my dream life."
“I want to do something for the world."
What's the difference?
I think of these two groups as "fixers" and "growers."
Fixers are driven by pain that they want to escape.
Growers are pulled by a desire to be more, to achieve more, and live life to the fullest.
Fixers see themselves as injured, and are looking for a doctor to help them resolve their problems so they can be pain-free again.
Growers see themselves as healthy, and are looking for a coach to help them achieve their "best self" as completely and quickly as possible.
On the surface, it looks like a progression...
I used to think that people simply progress in life from being Fixers to becoming Growers. Fixers have big life problems, while Growers have sorted their life problems out. Once you've sorted your problems out, the pain is gone, and you're free to focus your energy and attention on your future interests.
It makes sense, right?
But, 8 years of coaching has taught me that this distinction is incomplete.
The major difference.. is a difference in mindset.
Fixers & growers think differently
Here's the thing...
Life will always have problems.
Fixers tend to see their problems as an unpassable barrier. They imagine that those problems must be solved before they can do anything else worthwhile...
Especially personal growth.
Growers aren't problem-free, but they see those same life problems as a natural part of life, and not as a barrier to growth. Big problems might slow them down a bit, distract them and redirect some of their energy and attention, but they will never stop growing.
That mindset distinction is everything.
Fixers give almost all of their attention to the immediate problem in front of them. Everything else fades into the background, until this problem is sorted out.
Growers give the lion's share of their attention to progressing towards where they want to be in life, and they sort out crucial challenges along the way. Problems happen, and they may slow them down, but a grower never stops heading towards their goals.
Victims - a third mindset - give most of their attention to the past. They focus on things that can't be changed, that they feel pain and regret over and over again. Often they blame others, or "life." But they rarely take ownership of the problems, or make changes- which is why the problems keep happening again and again.
A spectrum of mindsets
These mindsets are not absolutes.
I've described Fixers, Growers, and Victims as distinctly as I can, but in practice, these are more like archetypes.
Most of us are somewhere on the spectrum between these two archetypes, and don't fit neatly into any one category. We can even be in different places in different areas of our lives - a Grower in career, a Fixer in our health and fitness, and a Victim in our love life.
I see these types of splits all the time.
Why growers ultimately win
If you want to "win" at life, and create happiness and fulfillment long-term, cultivate a Growth mindset.
Here are the key differences I've seen.
Growers play by different rules
Growers are playing the same game of life as everyone else- but they're playing it by different rules. They're playing an "infinite" game.
Growers know that this problem won't be the last problem- so it doesn't make sense to spend their whole life solving one problem after another. That's far too expensive, and they're in this for the long run... their whole life.
It's much more efficient to to solve the whole category of problems so that the problem is effectively gone forever.
Choose your battles
Some problems aren't really problems at all. They're just distractions. Time-wasters. Growers recognize these, and basically just let them go.
Even when a problem is legitimate, Growers are picky where they will invest their time and attention because...
The battles matter, but not as much as the war.
Growers see this, and let go of problems that aren't important to their future goals.
They know that winning the war is what matters, and not every battle is worth the time and cost involved, even if you are sure you can win it. Sometimes, you'll come out ahead by just avoiding- or even forfeiting- battles.
Then you can invest that time and energy somewhere better,
Keep the eyes on the prize
Not every relationship is worth fighting for. Not every job is worth keeping. Not every argument is worth winning.
If there is something in your life that is diverting your energy and attention from your big life goals, and you becoming your best self... than maybe that thing needs to be changed, or just let go.
A grower is willing to let go of things that aren't in the best interests of their future. That includes radical changes, like a career change, moving to a new country, changing a significant relationship, or becoming vegan.
If life's not progressing in an area that matters- growers will take radical action to get that ball rolling again.
Become stronger than your problems
But wait... we don't control the world around us, so how can we make problems go away forever?
It's easy... you just become stronger than them. The problems will still happen, but they won't be problems anymore.
The stronger you are, the lighter the load is.
Growers invest in themselves first because they know that the surest way to victory is to become greater than they problems they face.
This is why we call it personal growth and self-development, rather than life-repair.
Work your weaknesses
Fixers tend to focus on using their strengths to overcome immediate problems. That's fine, but it will only help you today... those same problems will be back tomorrow.
Growers focus more attention on their weaknesses. This makes them much stronger and more balanced overall- and this balance tends to prevent those problems that kept recurring.
Let's look at an example.
Let's suppose you're strong at empathy, but weak at confrontations. Because of this, you tend to avoid conflict and seek to understand others. But once in awhile, when that doesn't work, the whole situation falls over.
If you "work your weakness" and develop your confrontations skills then your social skills become more balanced- with both empathy and confrontations skills ready to make your relationships healthier.
The same is true if the opposite situation were the case- strong at confrontations, but weak at empathy.
If you look at the problem areas of your life closely - especially those where problems keep recurring- you'll be able to spot these imbalances.
A weakness is a vulnerability that your strengths can't always compensate for.
Better every day
Success each day is not about winning battles, it's about making progress towards the finish line. Each day you become stronger, or learn something new, or change course to try a different approach, is a win.
Growers understand that even if you've pulled your shoulder, you still go to the gym, every day. You just focus your attention on other parts of your body more.
Never stop growing. Period.
Life is not the enemy
It's easy to see your life problems as big inconveniences that are derailing you from your life goals- but every challenge is an opportunity for growth.
Fixers see their problems like a sink full of dirty dishes that have to be washed before they can cook dinner. Growers see those same dishes and think "Yes! 20 minutes more to listen to my self-development podcasts."
Growers see their world like a gym. Their problems are a stack of weights- a perfectly-designed tool to help them grow stronger, and to transform themselves into who they want to be.
That tiny shift in perspective make a huge difference to how you see your world.
Don't waste time competing with others
It's tempting to see others as a gauge to measure your progress by- but that has limitations. When you're at the "bottom of the pack" you'll feel inadequate and unmotivated, because everyone is better than you.
When you're at the "top of the pack" you'll feel superior, and unmotivated, because you've already beat everyone- and that was your motivation, to be "the best."
it's far better to use a mirror instead.
No matter where you are, your goal is simply to improve every day, more and more, forever.
The only true competitor in an infinite game, is yourself.
- Simon Sinek
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Finite and Infinite Games ( Book ) - James P. Carse