Being committed to growth means that you are willing to question yourself and others; to think philosophically and critically, rather than just react to events; and to go by reason rather than just by sheer ‘instinct.’
A person committed to his or her intellectual growth will routinely introspect; asking questions like, ‘Why did I do that? What motivated me?’ Or, ‘What am I feeling about this? How are these feelings affecting me?’ Then there’s the type of person who would never ask himself such questions. In fact, he is indignant at the very notion he might do so. ‘That’s a waste of time!’ he’ll claim. Or, ‘That’s nothing but psychobabble,’ ignoring the fact that ‘psychobabble’ refers to silly, impractical ideas—not to introspection itself. Yet, to such a person, introspection is silly and impractical. This conclusion is based on never having tried it for any significant period of time.
All too often, a person who is committed to growth finds him- or herself romantically involved with, or married to, someone who is not. They might be compatible in every other respect, but this particular incompatibility can all but doom the marriage.
Some claim that being committed to internal, personal growth is a ‘woman thing.’ It may be true that more women have this attitude (or express it) more than men, but many men do have it. And, more importantly, men can have it. Nothing in the metaphysical status of men prevents it. Sometimes men can even have better ideas about handling one’s inner world than a typical woman. For example, many women assume that knowledge is gained through intuition and feelings, while many men will tend to assume that knowledge is gained through logic, reason and action. Though many women are, at least, willing to look inward and introspect, some may lack an appreciation for logic, reason and action.
Men cannot hide behind ‘masculinity’ as an excuse not to introspect any more than women can use ‘femininity’ as an excuse not to exercise a commitment to reason, logic and facts. Introspection means examining your feelings and applying reason and logic to them. Introspection is not something to be done for its own sake. It’s a method for achieving the larger goal of being committed to growth. In other words: ‘I am committed to evolving and growing and learning throughout my entire life. Sometimes I will introspect to enhance this process.’ Introspection is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Some people claim that to ‘evolve’ is to never hold any firm principles. This isn’t true. To evolve implies that you do hold some firm principles, and you expand your application of them over time. For example, ‘Reason is the most important tool of knowledge and survival. Objectivity and facts are more important than rushing to emotional conclusions.’ This is a firm principle with enormous implications for all of your lifetime. You evolve by applying this principle over your lifetime. Another example of a firm principle is, ‘My life is my own. Nobody is entitled to make decisions about what’s good for me except for myself. In return, I have to accept responsibility. If I don’t like the results of my decisions I will question and examine them, and make changes. I won’t put the blame on others.’ This firm principle has huge implications for all of one’s life.
No firm principle should be held blindly. You don’t arbitrarily and randomly accept a principle—in a ‘Thou shalt’ or ‘Thou shalt not’ fashion—and then apply it for the rest of your life without question. You adopt a principle because it makes logical sense to you, and it conforms to your experience and understanding of objective reality. The more mature and experienced you are, the more rational and reality-oriented your principles have the capability of being, if you choose logical ones and allow them to take hold in your life. Many people fall into a trap with respect to principles. They either hold onto them blindly, without question—in the process subverting the rational functioning of their minds; or, they give up on principles altogether and just go from day to day without any firm grasp of how to operate in life. The first approach is typically known as religion. The second approach is best referred to as ‘subjectivist.’ Neither works, but these two are the approaches you generally find most people attempting to apply. The good news is that you can reject both of them in favor of adhering firmly to principles, but only in a context of objectivity and an understanding of why you’re doing so.
Being committed to lifelong personal growth is the most important commitment one can make. Without it, there will be no success or happiness in your personal or career relationships. In other words: This commitment works. Why does it work? It makes you a more reflective person. It makes you a critical thinker about your life and yourself. Critical thinking not only makes you a more interesting, enlightened and evolved person. It also makes you more effective. Critical thinkers find and correct their errors. They become competent at what they do—not just their jobs or careers, but at the business of living.
Being committed to growth means you are a critical thinker about yourself. The world is full of people who think critically about science, other people, world events, and technological matters. Certainly, it’s enormously valuable to think critically and have an understanding about these things. But only if you’re committed to personal growth will you have a relationship with your thinking, reasoning and feeling mind. You won’t know enough about what’s going on around you if you don’t know enough about yourself—and have an intellectual, psychological relationship with yourself.
Being committed to growth means you will have the most productive and fulfilling life possible. Without this commitment, your life and your relationships will be filled with frustration and disappointment. With this commitment, you’re most likely to find the right people with whom to associate. Like tends to attract like. People who are committed to growth want to find their own kind. It can be a struggle, at times. But if you know what you’re looking for, if you’re able and willing to identify it quickly, and if you refuse to settle for the absence of something so important—your life will be as rich as it can possibly be.