you are a statue, not a mountain-climber


There's a really entrenched idea in the self-development community about what self-development actually is. People tend to imagine it as a struggle and a journey, like pushing a boulder up a hill. The idea is this: at the top of the hill, there's an ideal version of you. He's confident, smart, fit, industrious and charismatic. He has lots of money, he's great with girls and he's changing the world. And you? You're at the bottom of the hill, looking up at this ideal guy who's not you. And to 'get to' him, to 'become' him, you have to climb that hill.

It seems to make sense. There are attributes you want to improve on, qualities and skills you don't have.  For example, I want to be better at taking action on shit like uni assignments, which I often procrastinate on. Over time, I can change myself and eventually, if I stick at it, I'll reach this ideal at the top of the hill.

There a problem with this mindset though. It puts the ideal version of you outside yourself. You feel totally alienated from this guy. You're just a messed up failure and the hill is tall and steep and he seems so illusory and unreachable. And that's the dumb part about thinking this way. If you're in the habit of desperately chasing some future state or future self, you'll never feel good enough right now. And if you want to live a worthwhile life, let alone be good with girls, you need to be okay with yourself in the present. You can't spend your life running and never reaching the finish line.

So here's a different view. Imagine a statue, a perfectly chiseled marble figure. It's gorgeous, sleek and polished. It's a work of art. Now imagine it at an earlier time, encased within the rougher slab of marble it emerged from. It was always in the marble, even before it was chiseled and sculpted and the unwanted stone was cut away. In a way, it was always there, simply undiscovered. 

What if you thought about self- development as a process of uncovering who you already are, instead of a process of striving for some distant external self? Imagine that you're already the guy you want to be. Sure, you have rough stone that needs chipping away at: you need to work on yourself, improve the things you care about. But you do this with the knowledge that you're already the guy you want to be. You're just uncovering him. You're changing habits and learning new skills and practising confidence. All these things aren't like climbing a hill to a distant Perfect You. They're a process of uncovering what's already there.

Because the fact is, you're good enough just as you are. Yes, there lots you can improve. But if you start thinking of yourself like a sculpture emerging from its stone, I think you'll really benefit. I know I have.

The difference is that you identify yourself with your ideal self, and the change comes in a process of unveiling, of getting rid of non-ideal shit and sculpting the contours of a statue that's already there waiting to be fully revealed. And you are that statue.

The mountain-climbing mindset is the literal opposite. It tends to focus on trying to add things on to yourself, gaining all these different attributes and habits and changing yourself. It's kind of intimidating.

Stop alienating yourself from the guy you want to be, the attractive, happy, confident guy. You are him. All you need to do is chisel away.

- Conor