At first, discovering this world of “personal growth”–of books, workshops, and like-minded individuals who are interested in evolving who they are is a fascinating world, one full of people brave enough to wave the flag of “I was wronged and I will not just go shut up about it.” It feels powerful, heady–like finally bursting free after a lifetime of trying to remain contained in a small space.

But people become disillusioned with it. It starts to feel like another rabbit hole to disappear into.

Here are the symptoms of what I’ll call “ personal growth fatigue ”:

  • You hear about yet another e-course or workshop or book that’s “so amazing!” and you think to yourself, “You know, I don’t think my inner child needs any more healing this year.”
  • You don’t even notice, much less click on, all of the e-course ads lining the right side of a popular blogger’s website.
  • A new book by the person who used to be your favorite author fails to entice you.
  • The phrases “follow your dreams,” “on this journey,” “be your authentic self,” and “step out of your comfort zone” make you flinch.
  • You’re buying books or signing up for e-courses, but you’re not finishing them.

Ebb & Flow

To be fair, there is a natural ebb and flow to all of life, and there’s an ebb and flow to “working on yourself” as well.

This is good (so you can stop berating yourself).

It’s good to dive into something painful and step away from your “comfort zone,” and then step back towards what is familiar, as you inch towards self-realization.

Two steps forward, one step back. Or, more realistically, for most humans? One millimeter forward, one millimeter back.

What’s Really Happening

But there’s a reason why “personal growth fatigue” actually sets in–there’s an actual cause.

The cause is this: most personal growth experiences stop at acknowledgement, exploration, and owning of pain.

They don’t combine the acknowledgment, exploration, and owning of pain with radical responsibility and integrity.

If all you’re doing is perpetually looking out for where you were wounded, and how your wound is showing up in your life, and why you’re triggered around your wound, and owning that you feel the pain around that wound, and recognizing where the wound originally came from, and thinking about how to avoid the circumstances that cause that wound to be triggered…

…well, it’s all good work to do. It’s an important first step, but who wants to live there, all of the time? Certainly not me. Probably not you.

At a certain point, if you don’t move beyond the exploration and into making real, pro-active changes (I call this “practicing courage”) then the day will come when personal growth doesn’t work.

Radical Responsibility & Integrity

We all experience deep emotional pain. How we differ is in what we choose to do with it.

What we choose to do with our pain says everything about the quality of life that we’re living. If you’re trying to avoid your pain (we call that “fear” around these parts), life gets pretty intolerable. If you’re deciding to really work with and through the pain (we call that “courage” around these parts), life gets better.

So what can you do with pain?

In addition to not making it wrong or bad, and breathing with it, and BEing with it, we can choose to take radical responsibility for our lives–by keeping the focus on ourselves, practicing radical responsibility and…seeing how we (usually unconsciously) choose our pain.

For example:

  • In any conflict, instead of making someone else wrong, you can acknowledge the choices that you made in that relationship that contributed to the discord.
  • Next time you’re angry because someone else isn’t accountable, you ask yourself why you’re choosing judgment and making “having control” a priority in life.
  • You can stop recycling pain–rehashing old conversations in your head, remembering how badly you messed up or recounting how badly they messed up, and not gossiping with an inventory of someone else’s failings when talking to friends.
  • You can stop visualizing future pain–imagining what you’re going to say to that person next time they do XYZ, cringing when you anticipate how awful ABC situation is going to be, or getting spun out with anxiety over destruction of the planet or foreign policy.
  • You can choose to set up boundaries that provide room to grow and expand, rather than boundaries that constrict or create rigid conditions.

There’s far more that can be done with pain than simply feeling it and exploring it and talking about it.

If you’re experiencing some “ personal growth fatigue ,” just admit it. Take a break from trying to have “transformational experiences” for awhile.

Stepping back from the land of personal growth might be the most transformational experience, of all.