Reaching Next Level

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.

19 thoughts on “Reaching Next Level”

  1. Pingback: I Can Be Better?
  2. @Secara: Bogdan, nice to have you back here 🙂 I loved the way you said it: “plans are worthless, but planning is essential”. It’s the activity that matter most of the time, the thing that we’re doing that, not the “that”. As for the goal setting I totally agree, it’s very useful for maintaining focus but life is much more than your focus. Thanks for your nice words 🙂

  3. @Daphne first of all welcome here and thank you for commenting. What you said remind me of one of the metaphors used in “The Secret”: the lights of a cars are going only 100 meters ahead, but you can go with 100 meters ahead all the way to California. Life is unfolding ahead of us if we trust our path 🙂

  4. @Stephen: Goals are scaffolds for a building, once you got the building up you don’t need them anymore. I know the feeling of being excited and with all energies activated, it’s a wonderful feeling 🙂

  5. @Jonathan: you said better than me this time: “We all need to realize that successful is not something we do, it is something we become.” Totally with you in this one 🙂

  6. @BunnygotBlog thanks for sharing your story here and I’m 100% with Bogdan Secara: everything happens for a reason, and this is as GOOD reason. I admire you for getting through this challenge 🙂

  7. @Celes December ’08 is really distant for me too 🙂 I’m glad you find value here and thank you for your nice words 🙂

  8. “Natura non facit saltum” (in Latin: “Nature makes no leaps”).

    Nice article: sounds to me as a self imposed evolution (feeling “fine” in your own skin, yet consciously and continuously changing) 🙂

    As for goal setting, I think a XX century general said something like “plans are worthless, but planning is essential” – if this works in winning battles, why not would do the same for us? Actually, the more I think about this, the more I am convinced that goal setting is just a tool for freeing up the mind of all the noise coming from all that non-sense, daily worrying.

    Hey Bunny – thanks for sharing: I guess we all went through trying to change someone else, and beating ourselves up for failing or even for our own emotions. You’re right – everything happens for a reason – a GOOD reason.



  9. Hi Dragos,

    This is a great post. You’re right that growth is easier to define in hindsight. When I read my journals, I know I was a different person all those years ago. Yet now I still can’t see where I’m headed. I just tell myself that a week from now I will be a better person than I am today. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

    Daphne @ Joyful Days’s last blog post..8 Lessons from the Lindy Hop

  10. I know exactly what you mean about the next level but I have had a hard time defining what that means. This article helps a great deal.

    “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.”

    I love this! Right now I don’t feel like I’m “home”, but I definitely feel like I’ve jumped to the next level highway and am on my way. These metaphors are great!

    “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.”

    Exactly, I think you’ve got it. I never consider the goals being “home” but I definitely get excited about achieving them. To me they help me know I’m on the right road and I’m not lost and going in the wrong direction. When it all converges and comes together, you intuitively know you have arrived home.

    Thanks for sharing all this. This was a wonderful article. 🙂

    Stephen – Rat Race Trap’s last blog post..Freedom From Compromise and Control

  11. Without knowing what we expect from the next level of personal development, how will we recognize it when we get there? Dragos, your “feeling of coming home” analogy helps answer this question in a tangible way. Thank you for distinguishing between goals, mile markers, and actual personal growth. Those who never understand the difference can find that “goal success” does not deliver the sense of satisfaction they were expecting. We all need to realize that successful is not something we do, it is something we become. Great post!

  12. Dragos,
    This is magnificently well worded.
    Each of us has gone through the process of being rejected or rejecting someone.There is a grieving time whether you receive the pain of rejection or feel a bit guilty that you can not return the feelings someone may have for you.
    This is a totally female perception of it but I think men go through the same emotions.Some men and women have just learned how to handle it better.
    It is a part of live a procedure that is learned through experience.
    I have had little experience in the relationship field.This has been a concern with a few friends of mine but I would not have changed a thing.I made a decision to enter a relationship convinced I could change could change someone.That was my ego and immaturity at 25.Most females learn this in their late teens.It took me a year of beating myself up for
    getting involved with an impressive co-worker who had a whole building nicknamed his ” personal playground”.
    The thing is I held this against him instead of seeing my own actions.I wasn’t into him as much as I was what he could do for my career.The more interested he was in setting down the more I worked.
    I am telling you this because there is always two sides to everything.I was pretty arrogant and egotistical.Very career oriented -period!
    In business I wasn’t going to settle getting past up for promotions because of my age and lack of experience or gender.I spent two and a half years traveling with out the feeling of my home being a home.It was a place to prepare for the following week for work.There was no time for romance and the distractions that come from
    The thing is this guy had a significant part in me changing myself for the better.
    How I see myself in a relationship and what I need from a relationship.Then putting my career goals in perspective.More realistic – humanized instead of robotic.” I can do anything better then any man attitude”.
    Believing everything happens for a reason is healthy. You have to learn to let go when things change-accept when things go wrong so you can appreciate them when they go right.Remember sometimes good things fall apart so better things fall together.
    Geez, I am pretty long winded today:)

    Bunnygotblog’s last blog post..Life With Mother

  13. Hey Dragos! What an amazing post. I love your writing; your posts clearly add value even in the very saturated personal development market today. I was just feeling in the past few months how the ‘me’ who just started my blog in Dec ’08 feels ‘distant’ – it made me realize I’m in a different place; a different state now. I’m retweeting this!

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Net’s last blog post..Goal Achievement: Introduction


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