Linda: To become clear about the nature and strength of our motivation to grow and develop, ask yourself the following questions, and respond to them as honestly as you are able. This exercise can be down either alone or with a partner.
- Do you feel a desire to do deep inner work? If so, what reasons are motivating you? (Be as specific and personal as possible)
- If so, does this desire come from a sense of duty, obligation, or fear, and to what degree is it motivated from within?
- What do you perceive as the benefits for your life in taking on the challenge of personal growth work? (Be as specific as you can.)
- On a scale of 0-10, 0=not at all, 10 = my life depends upon it, how urgent does this work feel to you at this point in your life?
- Name those who you think will probably not understand or appreciate your interest in doing it. If one of these people were to ask you “Why in the world are you dredging up all of this stuff? You’re not a bad person. Why can’t you just leave well enough alone?” How would you respond?
- Name the people in your life whom you feel will support you in doing this work?
Here are some of the answers to the question “Why bother?” that we have heard from students in our courses:
- I want to feel successful in my relationships. I find myself constantly judging others, and it’s damaging my relationships.
- I don’t have good self-esteem and I can see that this is how I can lift up my sense of being a worthwhile human being.
- I am artistic and I want the most inspiration I can find to fuel my creativity.
- When I let my fear and laziness dominate me, I lose self-respect.
- I want to surround myself with people on a growth path because they are powerful and happy. If I don’t do this work, I can’t enter that club.
- By being unforgiving, I am carrying resentment and grudges that make me heavy. I want to travel light.
- I can see so clearly how much energy it takes to carry this heavy bag of secrets around, I’d rather have that energy freed up for more creative tasks than carrying baggage.
- When I do the work, I feel hopeful; when I don’t do the work, I slip into depression.
- I want deep intimacy in my life and I can see that I must be intimate with myself first.
- I am longing for the freedom that only comes with becoming my highest, most evolved self.
- I know that I self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, and I want to be free of addictions.
- I want to feel that I am a person of integrity.
- When I look around me to see who is living their life with passion and purpose, it is always those who are actively involved with moving down their own growth path. I want to be like them.
- I want to sleep well at night and enjoy peace of mind during the day, and I know that personal growth work is a direct path to get that peace.
- I want to feel effective, and that I am accomplishing my life goals. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel that I wasted my time here on earth.
This is just a small sampling of what some people are coming up with when they live in this important question. It is of utmost importance that each and every one of us deeply examines this question until we get a handle on what has the greatest meaning for us. We need the clarity of our answer to hold on to when resistance rears its head, as it surely will. It may come from outside of ourselves in the form of push back from our closest relationships who are threatened by our changes. And it will come from inside because everyone’s conditioned habits are strong. There will be a strong tendency to revert to old attitudes and behaviors.
When we see how strong our resistance is of doing our work, we have the opportunity to strengthen the connection to our own personal “Why Bother?” Change is threatening. The messages have been active since we were children that we wouldn’t be loved and accepted unless we were a certain way. There aren’t very many communities on earth any longer where people are left on the mountaintop to die if they are too deviant from their community. In these primitive societies, it is literally a life and death sanction where some community members actually don’t survive when they violate allegiance and obedience to the code of their tribe.
But even in these times, some part of us is aware of the threat of what we may have to give up if we change. Important people may leave or disapprove of us if we don’t conform to strict rules. We can’t just decide that it’s worthwhile and just do it. It’s not a matter of forcing ourselves through it. When we see how delicate and frightening the work is, we can respect the process.
There are no guarantees that when we bring to the surface some of the material that needs healing that it’s going to benefit us right away. When we start doing this work in earnest, we’re going to rattle a lot of the cages of those around us. They may bring out their influence to get us to change back. Even when we trust that ultimately, the changes are going to have a tremendous positive impact on us, the process that we’re engaged in can be challenging.
By observing our fear and resistance without judgment by saying “There’s that old fear again”, without the heavy judgments like, “Aren’t you ever going to feel powerful, aren’t you ever going to get rid of this neediness, are you going to be insecure all your life?” Embracing the fear and resistance instead of wanting to get rid of it, is the work of cultivating the warm heart of compassion. To fully embrace all parts of ourselves requires an orientation that there isn’t anything that’s so hideous and awful that we can’t open to it.
It is a labor of love to retrieve the parts of us that have been missing can be a really fascinating and joyous experience. And because it is such a rewarding experience, one worth working diligently to achieve, we are challenged to be at stake in the process. It is only by holding fast to our own personal answer to the question of “Why Bother”, that we will have the staying power to remain involved in the process until we establish ourselves in our newly evolved self, enjoying all the benefits that our well-earned wholeness brings with it.