An Open Letter to Every Person Out There Going it Alone
Right before Jessica, a University science professor, plopped down $10,000 on a personal development course, her friend asked – why don’t you just read a book and do it on your own? In fact, several friends asked her that. When retelling the story to me, she laughed at the thought of it. With a swift glance to the stack of books by the bedside, it was clear what those books represent – a good read, great ideas, and little to no action. The book holds the perspective of the author – just one, maybe two other people, but that’s nothing compared to the power of a dynamic group led by a coach.
When I was in my twenties I was super “emo”. You know, fully identified with my emotional self. Pre-yoga, pre-meditation, there was no space between my emotional body and myself. I was one gigantic expression of hormone shifts. Oy. As this younger version of myself, whenever I would be heartbroken by the dissatisfaction or pain of life, I would end up wandering the aisles of a bookstore (remember those?) desperately hoping that the book to solve all my problems would call me over. And it would! I’d find just the right title that spoke directly to my wounds. Skimming the back cover, I found that the author understood me in a way that resonated so deeply I’d sigh, “yessssss”! I trusted that this new way of looking at my problem would dissolve the suffering and confusion as soon as I could get through the chapters. It would be great! I’d be empowered with cutting edge insights and liberated from the bonds of my ignorance. This time I’d really see some results!
Shift from individual growth work to group growth
And maybe this was true. Maybe there was a levity simply in the hope of new perspectives and my life did shift ever so slightly towards a happier existence. But when the inspiration of those books wore off, I was left with the same old habits. I would lose motivation, “forget” to do the thing the book taught, or maybe feel just good enough to skip the last couple chapters and label myself “healed” – proclaiming that, “Everyone should read this book! It’s so amazing!”
Of course, it was amazing. In no small part because it was not the way that I think. But what if I could get more than just the latest idea packaged between two well-edited book covers? What if I could get more than just the one perspective? What if I could add a multitude of insightful perspectives, a person to hold me accountable, a coach to highlight my blind spots and a philosophy towards growth that weeds out self-sabotage, resistance, and all the other ways we disqualify ourselves from the work? A program that didn’t last a few weeks or months, but over a year’s worth of attention? Long enough for my new habits, new way of thinking, newfound self-confidence, courage, vulnerability, you-name-it – to become automatic?
Jessica was about to find out “what if”. And I can tell you – what you gain from more minds and time on the job isn’t just connection – it is deep transformation. You can experience this too.
What we know from habit change science is that for lasting change to take root, we need to change who we think we are. We have to start believing different things about ourselves. If you have always thought of yourself as a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of person — someone who values independence over collaboration — I invite you to explore something different. That kind of isolation can hinder our growth and prevent us from taking big leaps forward that happen easier with the help of a supportive community. It might have worked well for our parents and grandparents to be rugged individuals, but with a little investigation, you might be able to see the pitfalls of “going it alone”.