A famous psychologist once articulated that there is a difference between knowing about and knowing as. Knowing about something comes through abstract knowledge, and while that can be useful, it doesn't create wisdom.
Knowing as, or learning through experience, teaches you something that a textbook simply cannot. And while I've spent the last six years in graduate school earning my degree in clinical psychology, I know that much of my learning is just getting started.
As a depth-oriented coach and licensed therapist, one of the things I value most is practicing what I preach, embodying my principles, and encouraging my clients to practice that same degree of authenticity.
And while that road is certainly more challenging than living a mediocre and incongruent life, it's also far more rewarding. Which is why I challenged myself to meditate every single day this year--the most challenging year of my graduate education.
And let me tell you, it has been difficult.
I had to travel around the country doing interviews. I had to wait almost three months to discover where I would match for my internship (similar to a medical residency). And then had to pack my bags and move across the country. Oh yeah, and I'm also getting married next month.
It's been overwhelming, which is why my meditation experience has been so unique.
In years prior, meditation was a place for me to unwind. To feel grounded. And build a sense of connection with myself and the universe.
My experience has been different over these 200 days. As my psyche has experienced significant strain and uncomfortable emotions associated with so many major life changes, meditation has reflected these experiences rather than alleviating them.
More often than not meditation felt like a chore--an obligation that I needed to do rather than something I was motivated to achieve. And that goes to show that personal development is similar to professional growth, in it occasionally requires perseverance despite uncomfortable circumstances and lackluster motivation.
You won't always have an ideal amount of motivation to achieve your personal and professional goals. And in those challenging moments, the choice becomes clear: Do you want to stay true to your values and goals or do you want to take the easy way out?
Choosing to do what's uncomfortable and worthwhile builds your determination. It increases your willpower ability to overcome difficult circumstances. And it helps you build the self-trust you need to continue living a successful life.
Without that self-knowledge, you won't be able to move past the setbacks that inevitably occur on the road to progress. Because--and this is another thing that these 200 days have shown me--setbacks are part of growth.
After taking three steps forward, you will, at some point, take four backwards. And that's when you must confront your shortcomings and maintain your beneficial practices in spite of the discomfort that arises. Because if you make the mistake of giving up those practices when things become difficult, then you won't level up--you'll be stuck on the same floor.
This process is discussed in certain spiritual traditions. In these traditions, they call this experience of setbacks during and resulting from growth "tapas" or the "heat of purifying fire."
Tapas is not only a natural part of growth, but also required for you to continue maturing. The heat of purification requires the burning of that which no longer serves you. And while it is uncomfortable to feel as if you're moving backwards, you must have the self-trust and determination to recognize that you are still progressing.
Part of the wisdom that comes from experience is that things progress isn't linear--your situation will improve, you are just required to pass the test first. And the test is this: when life becomes challenging, will you regress to your previous behavior or maintain your new practices?
Growth requires you to change your patterns and then experience the friction it creates. Without experiencing that discomfort and the perseverance it demands, you cannot continue progressing.
So rather than knowing about this process of change, start challenging yourself to learn through experience. Push through the discomfort that new habits create and know that those practices will bring the growth you desire.
That's what the wisdom of knowing as is all about.