Growth Is Slow

I have written previously about my involvement in the handful of Facebook communities geared toward men who want to be better. Better husbands, better fathers, better in business, better in life. I have also talked about how a few of these groups (specifically Ryan Michler’s Order of Man and Larry Hagner’s Good Dad Project) have really been a great support for me personally. What I have found was not what I expected to find. My expectations were that I would find some guys talking about cars and steaks and sex and football. You know, because we are told those subjects represent the outer limits or the extent to which men are supposed to be able to use their single track minds. To my shame and eventually my great delight, my expectations were shredded immediately. What I have found are vibrant communities of guys discussing tactics to be better husbands and better fathers. I’ve found thousands of men who have a driving desire to be these amazing beasts of familial leadership and provision and nurturing. Thousands of guys just like me who crave depth of purpose and who are willing to put in work for self-development. Dad, man, if you aren’t a part of these communities, get over there and join up while I drop this hot paragraph break.

One of the things I have noticed through many of the interactions in these communities is that we are conditioned to view personal growth in short burst intervals instead of long, slow development. We all seem to be looking for that next book or that next podcast that will turn some switch in our brains and suddenly everything will fall in line. In marriage, we want that one thing that will automatically make our relationship this vibrant, passionate, marriage full of love and respect. In parenting, we want that one trick that will convince our children to be obedient. In fitness, we want that one exercise that will get us “ripped” in 2 weeks. In business, we want the one tactic that will turn on the money faucet and provide that job we love. It seems we are all looking for that Oprah lightbulb “Aha” moment. What we seek is the one great life hack.

And yet, for most of us, that moment never comes. We read a thousand books and listen to a thousand podcasts and we still feel the same. Life still continues to work us over. Our marriages are still difficult. Parenting is still hard. Our health and fitness goals stifle. Our businesses struggle. We get even more discouraged and we become disillusioned with a long list of programs that “just didn’t work for me”. We get stuck in the quicksand of self-doubt; broken men who give up on the hope of ever being healthy, happy, or fulfilled.

Brother, we have been suckered. The cold hard reality of personal development is that, for the vast majority of us, progress comes at a monumentally slow pace. There is no hack for manhood. Growth in specific areas and personal disciplines is a long, slow, crawl. It is not a sprint. The will to better yourself is not a lightning strike moment of change. It is a daily, minute by minute, hour by hour, struggle requiring commitment and recommitment over and over and over again. The “Aha” moment fallacy is particularly destructive to a great many of us because it is not the difficulty of the road of personal development that breaks us. We can handle the workload. We have not found this road to be too hard. We have found it to be too long. We’ve been tricked into the expectation of being able to feel immediate results. But, personal growth is a lot like your kids’ growing up. You can’t see your kids grow. In fact, most of the time, being a parent feels like they are never going to grow up! However, with day after day of the right nutrition and sleep, one day you turn around and your kid is going to Kindergarten…getting behind the wheel…going to friggin college. Expecting your toddler to suddenly have this lightning bolt epiphany and start dropping Calculus on you is absurd. But, this is exactly the kind of thing we’ve come to expect out of our own personal development.

I have to remember to take the long view. When frustration gets after me and I feel stuck, I have to be equipped for patience. I need the reminder that I’ll be better a year from now and I’ll be a lot better 10 years from now. I have to celebrate small victories and let the defeats motivate me, not control me. This is a long, slow, crawl. It is not easy but it is worth it. Keep at it. You were great today. You can be great again tomorrow.