It has been nothing short of remarkable to witness the transformational changes in my friends as they have been embracing self discovery and personal growth. A few friends proactively embarked on their journey due to a feeling of discontent or because life through them a curveball. Others were drawn in as they witnessed their friends showing up with more confidence, more energy and passion. No matter the on-ramp, these friends made a commitment to positive changes.
Not surprisingly, their circle of close friends also shifted and began to mirror the qualities and values that support mutual growth. Conversations went deeper which resulted in stronger bonds of trust and connection. It is proof positive that the energy we put out into the world comes back to us.
Elevate your energy, your goals, your curiosity and you soon discover you are drawing “like kinds” onto your path. It’s the law of attraction. It’s also the hot tip that James Clear offers in his book Atomic Habits: surround yourself with the kind of people who possess the attributes and traits you wish to cultivate.
This transformation and the resulting positive shift in family relationships and friendships is a natural progression in the personal growth experience. This had been – and continues to be — my own experience. It is also what fuels my daily practices of self-awareness and personal growth.
I remember being very immersed in Pema Chodrun’s teachings years ago, and two things really stuck with me. The first is that when we commit to doing our personal development work, we make it easier for others to pursue their own. The second is that when you begin to show up differently with family and friends, it will take a while for them to accept those changes; if and when they do, they have the potential to evolve as well.
About two years ago, I wrote about how excited I was that so many of my teachers, authors, mentors and resources were intersecting into the developing space of contemplative neuroscience. Awareness, mindfulness, meditation were becoming integrated into neuroscience, mental health, therapy and personal growth.
Today I am excitedly observing the positive impacts of individual personal development spreading out into communities through the stories my friends are sharing with me. Individually these friends have done a lot of personal growth work; collectively they are making a huge contribution to others as a direct result of their own inner work.
It does not surprise me at all that my friends are change agents. All along they were committed to being helpful, supportive, contributing members of their families, workplaces and communities. The personal growth work that they have done in recent years has served to make them much more skillful, empathetic and magnetic to others. And the others that are seeking them out for guidance are those that are equally committed to positive change.
Perhaps that is the most noteworthy difference — People can sense the groundedness in my friends and they hunger for that peace, calm and authenticity.
Collectively we have experienced several years of uncertainty, disruption, confusion and major challenges. There is a growing interest and need for support, tools and resources to help cope with it all. It is no wonder that the negative stigma once associated with mental health and therapy is rapidly shifting — and the demand for mental health services, counseling and therapy is on the rise.
This is precisely where Pema Chodrun’s two part wisdom is really rising to the surface. With so many people in struggle right now, those who are further along on their personal growth journey are beginning to stand out in the crowd.
Pema’s wisdom coincides with the research of Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Dan Siegel. We need relational scaffolding in our families and our communities — now more than ever. This respectful, empathic and non-judgmental scaffolding has been in decline for decades. Unfortunately social media has amplified the disconnection and created more roadblocks to embracing our differences and discovering our shared humanity. As Brené Brown shares with us — it is hard to hate someone close up. Face to face, heart to heart, shared experience conversations are the ones we truly need — these are the ones that build relational scaffolding. Dr. Perry also calls this relational and emotional webbing — and it is an informal and integral part of the mental health support so urgently needed right now.
Several of my friends are business and life coaches. Their businesses are thriving because people are clamoring for better tools and life skills to help them navigate their own intersections of personal life and work life. Because my friends have done so much of their own inner work, they have a sixth sense about behavioral patterns and past traumas that might be unconsciously causing some of the problems. But it is not just their awareness of these potential roadblocks, it is the ease they possess with hearing uncomfortable stories, their tenderness when vulnerabilities are shared, their non-judgment and deep empathy for all that another person is navigating. Major breakthroughs are occurring with their clients because my friends are paving the way, lighting the path and leading by example.
Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead certification program is built on this premise — Do the brave work, have the hard conversations, lead with whole hearts (aka shared humanity). In his compelling new book, The Four Pivots, Dr. Shawn Ginwright draws a very connected line to our own inner work and the relationship it has to transcending and transforming our collective systemic problems.
As Pema Chodrun says, we have to know ourselves well before we can truly begin to know others. It is our own inner work that expands our capacity to be fully present with others and to be able to listen to understand. We shed our old behaviors, beliefs and armor that prevented us from being better listeners — and we have more bandwidth to not let our own experiences distract us from learning from another’s different experience.
This is another noteworthy observation — those who know themselves well often are more comfortable with paradox, they are able to be with tension of opposing ideas and experiences and find the common thread.
It is not only my friends who are professionals in coaching and counseling, it is also those who do compromise the community scaffolding that Dr. Perry and Dr. Seigel espouse. People just like me who are practicing self awareness and personal development in a committed way. My book club friends, my longtime friends and some new acquaintances support each other on our journey. We share our favorite resources including books and podcasts and we have a lot of long, deep conversations. We learn so much from each other’s stories and we expand our capacity and curiosity as a result of the diversity of other’s trials and tribulations.
We support each other with breaking old habits, are growing more comfortable with holding each other accountable to our desired goals and the new habits, patterns and responses that will get us there. We often remind each other of how far we have come on our journey. We encourage, we listen, we hold space and withhold judgment.
As my friend Diane Brandt would say “the blessings go both ways” in these relationships. It is true that even a seasoned personal growth student will learn something new when they are supporting another person in their healing and growth. This is the “mirror” work that Dr. Shawn Ginwright emphasizes in his book, The Four Pivots.
Over the past year or so, I have witnessed that as my friends are showing up quite differently in life through their own personal growth journey, they are also attracting new people into their friendships and community endeavors. They delight in sharing with me the deeper, richer and even more challenging conversations they have with both old friends and new. My friends are sharing their personal experiences of mindfulness and awareness with others. They are offering all kinds of resources and wisdom to those who express an interest in their own personal development.
As I reflect on where we all started on our journey and where we are today, I am filled with a renewed sense of hope and optimism for the future. My friends and I represent a thin slice of what is happening all over the globe as people are realizing that change is most definitely in order. For every single one of us who commits to cultivating more self awareness and doing our own work with a growth mindset, we are planting seeds of positive change in the hearts and minds of others. I am seeing this in action, in a microcosm of my circle of friends and family. Small actions, done consistently over time compound in the most transformational ways. We all can make a meaningful difference.