After leaving Nebaj and traveling to Xela (Shay-luh), I couldn’t wait to drop my bags and walk.  There was no direction or order to where I wanted to go, only to delight to see familiar sights.  I wanted to pass through the same market I used to buy food.  I wanted to meander down the sidewalks toward Central Park.  I wanted to analyze the storefronts of all the shops and observe if my favorites were still in business.

Again, the purpose wasn’t to explore a new city, rather to re-visit all of the places that used to be a part of my daily routine.  Several hours had passed, and the afternoon elicited one of those moments when you tell yourself, ‘Things are different but eerily the same’.  What I concluded is much deeper than some changes were made.

The realization hit – there’s a much more profound story being told.  It’s a story of personal development.  It’s understanding where this community of individuals is from a development stage, why they’re there, and whether or not they intend to make and changes and experience growth.  But, this isn’t just the story of a city in Guatemala, it’s the tale of each of our lives.  While your circumstances are different than the person next to you, the stages at which you grow are eerily the same.

So, I spent some time reflecting on this concept.  I thought about various years of my life, how I felt then versus how I feel now.  I tried to pinpoint the tipping points that sent me to the next level of growth.  I worked to identify and understand what it takes to experience the full spectrum of positive personal development.

In experiencing the full continuum, you must move from stability to growth, and from growth to change.  Some of you will experience all three in your lifetime, and others will find yourselves rooted in the comforts of stability or nervous at the thought of growth.  Even fewer is the number of you who will be game-changers; who will find yourselves amidst excitement of having made a difference in your lives and the lives of those around you.


DSCF1255Stage 1:  Comfort In Stability

The first place I walked was through the market.  Streets lined with vendors selling produce, clothing, health supplies, and even fireworks in celebration of the New Year.  A bit more lively than a non-holiday week, yet the sights and sounds were the same as two years prior.  On the prowl for some fruits and vegetables for dinner, I migrated to the same locations where I once bought my weekly groceries.

Low and behold, the same vendors sat in the same locations.  Selling the same goods for roughly the same price.  She didn’t remember my face as I grabbed a handful of red tomatoes trying to see if I could still accurately estimate una libra (one pound).  My face didn’t resonate with her, nor did I ask, but I remembered her face as if I had never left.  She still sat in a kneeling position, stoic-faced, and monotone in voice.  It had been more than two years, and here she sat, and not a thing had changed since I last saw her.

But, I understand her circumstances.  She lives in a country where personal growth and development is only achieved by less than 1% of its people.  In understanding that, she had at least found a stable job – a means of living – a means of surviving.  For her, there was comfort in knowing she could go to the market each morning, set out her tomatoes, onions, and peppers, and make enough money to put food on the table.  It wasn’t much, but it was reliable, and more importantly it was stable

You and I are blessed with opportunity.  Opportunity is our way of disrupting stability and creating something great.  But, it’s easy to like stability.  It’s far less stressful to do the absolute bare minimum and know that when you wake up tomorrow morning life will be good.

Comfort creeps in, and the longer you find yourself wallowing on easy street, the more difficult it becomes to shake things up and make yourself vulnerable.  We’d prefer not to minimize our comfort level, because as soon as we do so, our growth pattern becomes uncertain.  And this is where a large number of people put a halt to their personal growth.  Although, in order to achieve growth, you must surpass the uncertain.

Stage 2:  Uncertainty in Growth

Growth doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a process in which the growth happens over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes years.  Putting yourself out there isn’t enough.  You must devote time, energy, and passion into the area in which you want to experience growth.  Not just a little of each, but a lot, a helluva lot.  And when you think you’ve given enough, go ahead and give a little more.

It’s damned hard work, and I truly believe this is the exact reason a large number of people will develop complacency and comfort in being in a stable environment.  I’m just as impatient as the person next to me, and it’s difficult when the results aren’t always immediately at my fingertips.  But I can promise with a faith, commitment, and patience to change, that change will occur.

Have you been trying for some period of time to make a change – to grow an area of your life beyond being comfortable?  Are you being held back?  Answer this question honestly.  Do you find yourself asking the question, ‘What will happen if I don’t reach my goal?’  This fear of failure screams your uncertainty and will be the driving force of living a life of complacency.  Instead, ask yourself, ‘What happens when I reach my goal?’  This question will help to eliminate your doubts and will also be the catalyst for your personal growth.  Most importantly, it will build the framework and foundation for the behaviors to drive a lifestyle of change-making!

Stage 3:  Excitement in Change

In finishing up the afternoon walk, I passed by the storefront of a gentleman I got to know when living in Xela.  Like many others, he was still there running his business.  Always wanting to provide a better life for his family, he was driven for something far more than complacency.  Years of hard work, saving, and sacrifice, he finally obtained a work VISA to enter the United States.

He didn’t know what he would be doing, nor how long he would be living in the US.  He was uncertain when he would see his wife or two kids again.  Was he scared?  Maybe a little.  Did it keep him from being a ‘game-changer’ for his family?  Not at all.

More than anything, he was excited.  He couldn’t wait to arrive in ‘the greatest country on earth’.  Why?  Because it would provide him the opportunity to open a number of doors for his family.  A door of hope for a life so few in Guatemala experience.  A door of possibility knowing that the cycle of poverty could be broken.  And a door of excitement understanding that the changes coming to his life will be far better than the life of complacency of the storeowner next to him.

How Do You Make it Real in Your Life?

When you woke up this morning did you ask yourself, “What am I going to do today to make a difference?”

Chances are the majority of you didn’t.

Having not asked this question is being comfortable with the life you currently lead.

Do you want to get into better physical shape but can’t find the motivation to get to a gym?  Change what you’ve always been doing and you will change the course of your life.

Are you looking for the promotion at work after five years, but it has yet to come?  Perhaps clocking in at 9:00 and punching out at 5:00 isn’t the kind of work ethic your boss is looking for.  Do more than what is required, and to be quite honest, make shit happen.  Then see what happens.

Is the relationship with your significant other or family falling apart?  Do you have a relationship built on faith?  Have you given time and energy to make sure you are building into their lives?  Instead of just showing up, be present in each and every moment.

So, when will the change happen?

Tomorrow, when you wake up and tell yourself, “Today, I am going to make a difference.”


(Author’s Note:  The featured photo is a view from a second story balcony overlooking the market that I walked through everyday.  The same market where I returned to find many of the vendors in the exact location as when I left two years prior.)


5 Comments on “Chapter 5: Three Stages of Personal Development

  1. Pingback: Paying it Forward | Building United

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  5. Pingback: The Difference Between Regret and Disappointment – Embracing Adversity

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