Personal development is all about growth. Is all about getting over your limits, overcoming crisis and reaching the next level in your life. But sometimes, being so immersed in managing the trip, we lose contact with the scenery. We’re so busy setting goals, applying that productivity technique, igniting that new networking opportunity, that we can’t really say if we did it.
Ever had that feeling? The feeling that says: I don’t know if I really did it? I don’t know if I reached the next level? Well, I had this, many times. There were periods in my life when all I did was working and never assessing. Growing but never acknowledging the growth. Running but never looking if I crossed some finish line. How to tell if I actually reached the next level in my life?
The New You
Personal development is a race in which you compete against yourself. You can’t really see your competitor. In sports (or in other direct competitions) victory is a matter of making the other one lose. Whenever he lose, you win, is that simple. Well, in personal development is not that simple. Your competitor can’t lose, simply because the competitor is another part of you. And you can only win.
This is why knowing if you really reached the next level is quite a delicate question.
First of all, because you can’t always put your fingers on the next level. You don’t always know what it looks like. You feel the need for change, you feel the urge to grow, but don’t have quite a clear image of what does this mean. So you substitute it with a goal. You set a specific goal and expect that once you reached it, you’ll graduate to a next level. Goal setting is the most widely used substitute for next level reaching. But goals are always external, goals are things you project outside you. While the next level is something you experience with all your being, inside.
Once you get out of the normal goal setting metrics, you don’t really have many clues to tell you if you really did it. Of course, you reached your goals, but your goals are not you. You reached a certain milestone in your life, but your own being is not measurable by milestones, you are a continuous human entity.
For some time, I tried to apply a simple mathematical rule to this. I tried to assess my growth in terms of numbers, or money. If I had a significant surge in my revenue, well, that should make for quite a spectacular next level, isn’t it? The problem was I didn’t always felt like I reached the next level. Of course, there was a measurable growth in my finances, but this metric seemed way too small for the big picture.
I tried to apply other metrics, all based on some sort of numbers, with no significant success. It took me a lot of time to realize that the next level is a specific concept in personal development and it needs a specific approach. You can’t use mathematics for that, nor money. Goal setting is ok, milestone checking is ok, but reaching the next level is not a question of goals or metrics. Because you can reach your goals only to see if you need much more., or you can assess a certain milestone only to get ready for the next one.
After a while I realized that the next level is something that cannot be defined. But rather lived. And here’s how I began to live it.
Your Past Self
The first thing which gave me something really solid to work with was a time projection. Specifically, how was my past self compared with my current self.
There are several techniques for time projection, and there is one that I used in my one to one coaching with very good results. Here is how it works: you first identify how was your life one year ago in terms of relationships, wealth, physical shape, etc. Then you assess how your life was five years ago, using the same criteria. And finally you do this for a 10 years back period. After you’re done, you do the same thing by projecting your expectations one, 5 and 10 years ahead. You imagine how your life would be in 1 year, in 5 years and in 10 years.
The results for this are amazing. I recommend using this whenever you feel depressed or blocked. You really understand that your life is way better than it was 10 years ago. And it gives you a lot of trust for what your life could be 10 years from now.
But this exercise is pretty much related to the milestone criteria. It’s useful to assess some progress and to give you some hope and courage, but it’s not telling you if you really reached the next level. So, I started to compare myself just with my current past, without a specific time frame. Most of the time I’m thinking at how I was yesterday. Sometimes I think at how I was last week, or even several months back.
And I know I reached the next level whenever I feel the past self is extremely distant that I can even laugh at it. It happens to me to think at some stuff I done yesterday and start laughing. I also think at my behavior during specific events in the last months (like my trips to New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan, for instance) and look at the past Dragos with kindness, but with a distance. I know that Dragos but parts of him are in the past. And only in the past. I recognize him but some of the stuff he’s doing really makes me laugh.
And then I know I reached a certain next level. Whenever my past self from yesterday is feeling weeks ago, or whenever my past self from a few months is feeling like years ago, I do know I’m living the next level.
This time projection technique is always working. The downside is the the time projection only it gives you just a little bit of clarity, it doesn’t certify that you really graduated. Because you can have those feelings of distance by a variety reasons, not always by reaching the next level. You can, for instance, be in a very specific challenge, which forces you to rapidly change yourself, or you can be in the middle of a deeper transformative experience. It’s good as a first trigger, but I needed something more. So, I started to look at other ways to assess my next level graduation.
Goal Setting Is Obsolete
Surprisingly enough, another good technique to assess your next level is your new goal setting capacity. If you’re having a little bit of difficulty in setting new goals, then you should ask yourself if you’re not reaching a certain next level. I know I do this all the time when my goal setting seems to be a little slower.
Don’t take it as I don’t like to set goals, on the contrary, I love it. But there are certain periods in which goal setting is a little bit different. Those are fruition periods, times in which you are not striving, but flowing. Setting a goal means stretching and getting out of the comfort, at least in the beginning. But once you achieved that goal, you reached a certain level. Well, that’s the next level.
I know I told you that goal setting is not a metric for calculating your next level awareness, and I still think so. Here I’m not using goal achieving like an indicator of your next level, but mainly your position towards goals, your feeling about them, your capacity to function without external scaffolds. You can reach a next level while you’re still working to achieve some older goals, that’s perfectly ok. What makes you reach the next level is the capacity of working in a better, more fulfilling way that is commending you to keep a distance from any new goals.
For instance, 6-7 months ago I set a goal to become a professional personal development blogger. This goal is made from several smaller goals, like a certain posting speed, a certain promotion activity daily and so on. I already wrote about my first 6 months of blogging, read that if you need more technical details. I’m still doing this smaller goals, I’m still paying attention to my posting speed and to my promotion activities. But I feel like I’m already there. I’m not stretching to do this, I’m more like flowing.
I don’t need to establish new goals here. Or at least I’m not setting them right now, I’m still pondering, assessing, searching for a path. I can establish them later. For now, I’m busy being.
Being At Home
And since we’re talking about being, there is another specific feeling or vibration which is for me a clear indicator that I’m reaching the next level: feeling at home. There is an unspeakable feeling of familiarity, of knowing you belong there, of being at ease. It’s like reaching an old house of yours.
This familiarity feeling was long time mistaken for a comfort feeling. And so I made the mistake of not staying too much there, looking for something more challenging. I was wrong. This familiarity feeling is a nurturing one. Is one of the indicators that your trip has reached a certain path that is good for you. I feel the need to stay more and more in this feeling, it’s refreshing and relaxing, not in the laziness way of relaxing.
I experienced this feeling several times in my life. As I told you, it’s not directly related to a certain goal or to a certain milestone, it’s more like a convergent result of several areas which are upgraded at the same time. I felt this when I started my business. Although I was pretty busy managing it and doing all the leg work, I always felt extremely familiar in that position. It was something that was good for me, an extension of my being, not a role playing.
I feel the same thing now, after almost a year since I sold my company and decided to become a personal development blogger. I do work all day and learn a lot, but none of the goals I reach nor the milestones I cross is giving me this being at home feeling. It’s something from the inside. It’s a feeling of alignment, for all Law Of Attraction fans out there.
Feeling familiar in your own skin is the best place to go in a new adventure. Setting goals and reaching milestones is so much easier if you’re doing it from a self-respect and self-trust position.
These are my reaching next level indicators: watching my past self from a distance, being in the flow (rather than striving for goals) and feeling familiar.
Do you have “next level” experiences? Do you know when you reached a certain level in your life? How do you assess that? Can you put them on the same level with goals and milestones? Would love to hear your comments on this.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.