“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
So you wish to be a stronger version of yourself? Guess what? You must embark on an adventure! “No,” you might be saying. “I’m not interested in an adventure. I’d simply like to be a bit wiser, or healthier, or productive, or resilient, or creative, or happier, or perhaps more enlightened. Can’t I just read a book?”
Nope. Sorry. An adventure it must be. That’s precisely what is required to be stronger. But don’t be intimidated by that word “adventure.” Every life-changing adventure actually follows a structure that includes some hard truths.
If you understand these truths now, you may be a bit more sure-footed on your journey toward self-improvement.
5 Hard Truths You Must Accept To Be Stronger
1) You must face a major challenge in order to grow.
The challenge may be desirable, exciting, and of your own design, such as moving across the country to begin a new job, OR starting a family. But most of the time, life’s challenges begin when (get ready…) your life falls apart in some way.
There, I said it. Now before you think, “Heck, no! That’s NOT the adventure I’m seeking!” please consider that your life has probably fallen apart, or drastically changed in some way many times already. While we can often choose our own life challenges, it is typically the case that the most growth happens when the unexpected occurs.
Think of the boy wizard, Harry Potter. His world changed—seemingly for the better—when he studied at the Hogwarts School. But he was also being pursued by an evil nemesis intent on destroying him. Most of us would choose only mild challenges to help us grow.
Baby steps, anyone? But such challenges do NOT carry the fire power needed for us to truly transform and be stronger.
2) You must lose your way to find your stronger self.
Do you hate wandering with no clear sense of direction? Does it make your skin crawl to not know what is lurking around the bend? Do you abhor uncertainty?
Then welcome to the next phase of true personal growth to be stronger. You must – and I mean must – feel lost and confused at least for a while. Sometimes, a long while. Did you get that? You MUST.
When you are lost and no clear answers are forthcoming, you are forced to rely on three things: your inner resolve to persevere, whatever wits you still have left, and guidance from others.
This is actually a magical phase where, since you have NO idea exactly where you will end up or how you will get there, you are at the mercy of the gods. But once you get your own overthinking mind out of the way, the gods, the universe, nature, and unexpected wizards, may cross your path and assist you.
If you allow your mind to be as a calm lake, you will detect the ripple of a single fallen leaf. That leaf represents inner wisdom or outer guidance. But if you overthink, your mind-splashing will never let you detect that all-important leaf and ripple on the lake of your mind.
3) You must let go of old beliefs and habits that no longer serve you.
In 1914, during a World War I battle in Belgium, British and German soldiers who had been shooting at one another across a muddy field spontaneously called a Christmas truce. Enemy soldiers walked across the field, shook hands, offered gifts of tobacco, newspapers, or cake, and even began a soccer match.
For a few days, soldiers on both sides let go of their belief that they must fight one another. So there was peace. Sadly, they soon went back to their respective trenches and resumed shooting.
Trust me on this: on your adventure, you will begin to question the validity of one or more of your long-held beliefs. If you let go of some of those, you will begin to be stronger. Some examples of beliefs that usually don’t hold up over time:
- If I am a good person, then really bad things won’t happen to me…
- If I am fair to others, they will be fair to me…
- If I can’t get what I want, then my life will have no meaning…
- I always know what is in my best interest…
- Others must change in order for me to be happy…
- I attract everything that comes my way…
- I am in control of my destiny…
- I have no control over my destiny…
There is a simple test of your beliefs. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” If the answer is “no” or “I’m not so sure”, chances are, you need to re-work some of your philosophies.
4) You will lose some people who are close to you.
Don’t despair about this. Sometimes, we simply grow apart from old friends, no harm intended.
But in order to be stronger, you will rattle the cages of some folks who will NOT like the new you. They may not want you to move away, change careers, change your religion, or develop new interests.
If you break family or cultural traditions, you will not receive applause or standing ovations from the people who still adhere to those traditions. Some people need you to be exactly the way you have always been. This is so they can remain exactly the way they have always been.
By strengthening yourself, YOU may be the rug that gets pulled out from under them, forcing them on their own adventure they do not want – but probably desperately need.
Crucial insight: If your self-improvement hurts someone else’s feelings or disrupts their vision of their life, keep in mind that perhaps they need to learn from this. And your actions may help them grow.
5) You must give back in some way.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley
Your personal transformation to be stronger will be meaningless unless you use your newfound strength to help others. True personal evolution is inner growth that extends outward to others. You must become the wizard that others meet up with on their own personal adventure.
In giving back, you will continue to face new challenges and obstacles that will allow you to grow even further. It is a never-ending cycle. If you do NOT give back and assist others, your attempts to evolve will cause you to devolve. And that will create more unnecessary pain in your life.
But the good news is that pain can be the springboard to real growth. In that way, every loss can yield a gain; every mistake can bring forth an insight; and every hurt can eventually heal you and become a healing balm for others.
Now go have an adventure!