Reaching beyond yourself is not just about resisting anger — it’s about knowing yourself and reaching beyond your limits, beyond your ego, beyond your default settings.
It’s about resisting the urge to assert yourself and prove that you are right.
For example, if you have a tendency to gossip then every moment that you resist this urge is an example of reaching beyond yourself. Every moment that you resist your mind’s rationalizations — i.e. the gossip is true, you have a ‘right’ to gossip, it’s no ‘big deal’, etc. — is a moment of growth.
But you can reach even further.
You can replace the gossip with a kind word about that person. Even when you don’t want to. This is true growth. And every moment like this should be celebrated, you have reached beyond yourself.
The same is true if you’re in a relationship. Every moment that you resist the urge to assert yourself, to be right, or to ‘punish’ your partner is a moment of growth.
Every moment that you reach beyond yourself and actually say a kind word in the moment of anger, is reaching beyond yourself.
In this way, we have opportunities for growth all the time. Every interaction is a test, an opportunity to overcome our ego and be better, act kinder. It’s hard as hell, but it’s true.
And this is the beauty. Growth doesn’t only manifest in times of extreme change — like travel or grief — but also in the day to day moments of our life.
These moments for growth happen all the time, we’re just too scared, or unaware, or ego-driven or ambivalent to take advantage of them.
We often just let them pass us, instead of seizing them as opportunities for deep growth.
So now that we know how to reach beyond ourselves and grow, how can we improve our ability to identify and take advantage of these moments of growth?
This is where deliberate practice comes in.
Deliberate practice is a technique used to achieve optimal performance. It was popularized by K. Anders Ericsson, who showed that what makes someone great, or an expert, is not talent, but rather expert-level practice — deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice involves gaining new skills and expertise by focusing on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. It requires taking baby steps and continuously repeating them until they become second nature. And it relies on lots and lots of practice.
Just like personal growth.
What if we could view every interaction with someone as practice?
As an opportunity to refine our capacity for kindness and compassion. As a way to perfect this skill of reaching beyond ourselves.
The key word here is deliberate — it’s about being deliberate in our thoughts and actions, about the way we move through and interact with this world and others.
Like I wrote, every interaction is an opportunity for growth. So I started applying deliberate practice to these interactions.
It’s simple, this is how:
Every Interaction is an Opportunity to Grow:
This is a game changer. I’ve started to view every interaction as a ‘test’ — an opportunity to either reach beyond myself, or not — and it makes a difference. Just try it.
Be Ready for the Test:
Before I enter a difficult interaction, i.e. a conversation I know may lead to anger, I tell myself to ‘Be ready for the test”. It’s not magic, but it does help me view this interaction as an opportunity.
During difficult situations (with a partner, colleagues, etc.) I tell myself to breathe before speaking. To take my time, to pause. Again, very far from magic, but it helps.
After difficult interactions I assess how ‘well’ I did. Was I as kind as I could have been? Did I help the other person feel seen and understood?
This stuff is hard as hell. Most of the time I fail miserably. Most of the time I curse this ‘reaching beyond yourself’ sh*t and wallow in self righteousness. But sometimes I don’t. And when I manage to ‘reach beyond myself’ — I celebrate this victory. And it feels good, and it gives me the confidence to try even harder next time.
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