Learn and Grow

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: sød ven, “State of Mind”

“May you, every day, connect with the brilliancy of your own spirit. And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”

Catherine Jane Lotter

You’re Already Enough

It can be easy to over-focus on constant, never ending improvements, new goals, the next step, and all the things you have yet to achieve.

But the truth is that you have already grown so much, learned so much, and done so much. Sometimes it can be more empowering to slow down and respect the enormous amount of work you already have done rather than pushing yourself.

So often, personal growth can feel like chasing some idealized version of yourself. It can feel discouraging rather than inspiring, especially if you feel like you’re never quite good enough. In contrast, radical self-acceptance is the highest form of growth because from this place of self-awareness and self-love we can truly be the very best of who we are.

The love, happiness and success we seek through our efforts to “change” can sometimes be elusive. But so often, they miraculously show up on their own when you stop working so hard to change yourself, and instead focus on how strong, amazing, and accomplished you already are.

This type of self discovery process is often achieved not by charging ahead into the next level of your personal evolution, but rather by digging in to who you already are.

On this Episode: Learn and Grow…

We all want to learn how to work on ourselves, grow and learn, and become the very best version of who we are. Sometimes, the true path of personal growth is not forcing yourself to change into some new iteration of yourself, but rather to discover and embrace the strengths and virtues you already have.

For the last several years, on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’ve done experiential growth activities with my listeners in order to help them reflect on past years and set goals for their future aspirations. 

There’s a time and place for that type of forward focus and personal challenge. If you are here seeking a goal setting experience, I invite you to check out last year’s Ten-Year Plan podcast and activity.

There are times when it’s more helpful to rest and reflect, and embrace our strengths, life lessons, and accomplishments rather than charging forward into new goals and aspirations.

If this is a time for reflection and acceptance for you, this episode of the podcast will walk you through an activity designed to help you do exactly that. By the end of our time together today, I hope you have:

I have created a set of journaling prompts / exercises to help you not just follow along with the personal growth activities I describe in this episode, but to dig in!

Download the workbook that goes with this podcast (below) then scroll down to the bottom of this post to listen and follow along. Or you can listen to Learn and Grow on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen to your podcasts.

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Episode Highlights: Learn and Grow

Learning From Your Old Self

It can be easy to over-focus on the things we haven’t done, or the mistakes we’ve made, or the times that we have struggled with disappointment. But a door to powerful personal growth and self-development opens when we shift into what the hardest times we’ve faced reveal about our character, our values, what we’re capable of, and what’s truly most important.

When we have the courage to face the hard parts of life from a place of compassion and radical acceptance rather than anger, we have the opportunity to receive the hidden gifts they have to offer.

Unlock Your Strengths

It’s often said that “character is revealed through adversity.” But in my experience, character is often formed through adversity. You don’t know who you really are until you’ve experienced disappointment or hardship. Only then can you fully be aware of how strong you truly are, and what you’re capable of.

Those are often moments that lead us to greater self-love, self-acceptance, and self-esteem too. It’s often the personal qualities that we don’t love the most about ourselves that are the most useful to us when times are hard. Recognizing and embracing these aspects of your “shadow self” can help you appreciate yourself in a whole new way. (For more on this topic, I invite you to check out the “Shadow Work” episode of the podcast.)

Sometimes personal growth happens when you challenge yourself to think, feel, or do things differently. But sometimes the most important growth occurs when you realize that you don’t have to change or do anything in order to be good enough, strong, accomplished, and worthy of love and respect. You’re already there. Your life lessons and strengths are yours to keep.

The “personal growth work” is not one of creation and effort. It’s of discovery and acceptance.

Thanks for joining me today. I sincerely hope that these ideas and activities support you on your journey of growth.

With gratitude for the gift of YOU…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Learn and Grow

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: sød ven, “State of Mind”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. 

[Intro Song: State of Mind by sød ven]

That song is called State of Mind. The artist is sød ven. I think that’s how you pronounce it. I always get a little self-conscious with Scandinavian pronunciation. I hope I didn’t butcher that but beautiful song. I think a message that we all need to hear right now on the cusp of a new year and the aftermath of a very difficult year. Even though we can’t control so many things in our lives and the world around us, we can control our state of mind. 

That is what we are doing today on this episode of the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. As you may know, if you are a regular listener of mine, for the last several years, I’ve tried to do something for you that is more like an experiential kind of interactive podcast on the cusp of a new year. We have certainly gone exploring into New Year, new you kinds of podcasts around setting goals. I think last year we did an activity to help you like create a 10-year plan. 

There is a time and place for aspirations and goals and resolutions and all that jazz. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like this year is not the year for that kind of energy. So if you would like a goal-setting podcast, if you would like a life coach to tell you about all the different things you should think about changing in your life—there are—I’m sure your Instagram feed is full with all kinds of gurus who would like to help you with exactly that. But that is not actually what we are going to be doing together. 

Today on this podcast we are going to be doing exactly the opposite. The theme, I think for the current moment, is not changing, growing, goals, achievements. Right now, I think we would all do very well and wisely to focus on radical acceptance. To put our time and energy and attention to embracing and appreciating and cultivating the amazing people that we already are. Being appreciative and grateful for all the amazing and wonderful things that you do, that you have done, and really digging into “What am I really happy about around the way my life is in the here and now? What are some things that I have done and learned and grown and discovered and evolved through that I can hold onto no matter what happens? These are mine to keep no matter what the circumstances of my life are. No matter what the world around me decides to participate in or not. This is me.”

That is where I think we should be putting our energy right now and that is what is in store for you on this episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. If this is your first time listening and you’re wondering what the hell you have just stumbled into, I am your host Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. I’m a licensed psychologist. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. I am a board-certified life coach. But above all else, I am a fellow traveler. I am a human just like you also on a quest to create love, happiness, and success in the version that makes sense for me. 

One of the things that I’ve discovered about myself over the last couple of years is it is actually incredibly meaningful and satisfying and personally important to me to be part of your journey, to feel that I am some small, tiny bit that is a helpful force in your life. Thank you for being here and for allowing me to have this time with you. I do this podcast, I do a lot of writing on our blog, growingself.com, and I’ve also had the great privilege to be partnered with amazing therapists, and coaches, and clinicians on my team. Some of who I look to as being role models for me. I get to learn and grow from the people that I’m around all the time, which I so appreciate. 

Some people I have the privilege of mentoring, but just between you and me, I think I learn more from them than they’ve learned for me. Don’t tell them I said that but we are all on a path of growth. Today, that is what I would like to do with you is have the opportunity to talk about what happened this year in our lives through the lens of learning and growing, making meaning, and finding opportunities that always exist for us in even the most challenging times. Today is going to be one of our more experiential podcasts because that’s kind of what we do at the end of December every year. 

If you would like to, you are welcome to listen along to this podcast and I am going to actually be asking you some reflection questions during our time together today. You may use this as you wish. If you would like to listen to this and think about it while you’re running around, cleaning your house, and doing your stuff that is just fine. If you would like to sit at a table and listen to this podcast with your little notebook and stop me and answer the questions as I pose them to you, that is also just fine. If you would like to have a little printable activity slash workbook dealio, I have prepared one for you. You can cruise on over to growingself.com/learn-and-grow

From that page on our website, you’ll be able to download the printed version, essentially of this podcast, that I’ve organized for you into a series of journal prompts. You don’t have to do them all. You don’t have to do them all at one time. You don’t have to do them at all because I think that is the main takeaway for me from this year. I hope something that you embrace, too, is that it is all okay in its imperfect, messy form, that whatever you need this to be. It’s actually 100% perfect and I trust your judgment around what that should be. It is here for you if you would like to do it, if not, it’s also okay. We’re just going to accept and embrace all of it. 

With that intention, with that spirit in mind. I would like to share something with you that I have learned through the years, both in my role as a therapist, and couples counselor, and life coach. But I think also personally, in walking alongside other therapists and coaches who are on their own personal and professional path, is I think that this industry that I’m sort of grudgingly a part of, the personal growth, self-improvement, industry, whatever. It is an industry in some ways that is built on this sort of unspoken idea that there is something that needs to change about you. 

There are so many gurus running around like “My five-step program will teach you the way, the truth, and the light so that you can be, freed from whatever XYZ problem that you have, and be happier, and better, and more highly evolved human.” Again, there’s a time and place for aspiration and for self-improvement. Can we all grow and evolve and be reflective around maybe things that we need to work on? 

Yes, I think that is part of being a responsible, mature human. I think that this basic concept that there’s something that needs to be changed is in itself, in many ways, a fallacy. Because what I have learned over and over and over again through the years is that the truest most authentic growth that anyone ever attains is not so much in changing something as it is doing the work of uncovering, and owning, and embracing the who and what and how that we already actually are. It is through this radical acceptance, and acknowledgment, and appreciation of ourselves and our true being that any ultimate change is paradoxically, even possible. 

We can’t even change anything unless we’re first really understanding what it is that needs to be changed if it needs to be changed. Also, understanding ourselves in a very compassionate and empathetic way. So there’s that piece. But the thing that is more interesting and cooler for me to see and to help my clients do is to really begin to uncover these things about themselves that are true, that are theirs to keep, that are probably not ever going to change, and that are actually gifts. They have been gifts this whole time. 

But over the course of our lifetime, we’ve begun programmed to believe that these things about ourselves that are true aren’t quite enough. They’re not good enough. They’re not the way you should be. Other people do it better. Whatever it is from the way we feel, the way we think that we would communicate with other people. There’s like this sort of persistent anxiety or self-esteem or even shame that can come up because of that. When in reality, what I have seen over and over and over again and would bet you a cookie is also true for you, is that when you really understand the things that are true about you, that we can begin to understand and view them as strengths, as things to be proud of, even to build on and continue to cultivate, as opposed to trying to change or be different. 

That’s not even it. What is also true is that the circumstances in our lives that we find the most challenging: when we experience disappointment, when we experience loss, when things don’t work out for us the way that we would have liked them to, when people don’t cooperate with our plans, when the world doesn’t cooperate with our plans. There are so many kinds of circumstances that we’re confronted with that at the moment it feels like a wall. It feels like a mountain, an urge, an adversary of some kind. It is through these life experiences that we come to understand ourselves, our strengths, and our values that much more clearly. 

There is a beautiful writer, I’ve mentioned this quote I think in previous podcasts, but it’s worth reading it to you again. This is in the context of an absolutely beautiful piece of writing. It was a woman named Jane Catherine Lotter, who was a writer by trade, and she wrote herself an obituary. You can Google it, Jane Catherine Lotter obituary. 

It’s a beautiful love letter to her family and all of the people that have impacted her over the course of her life. There was one line that already stood out to me, it was a portion of this where she wrote a message to her children. It says, “May you every day connect with the brilliancy of your own spirit. And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles. They are the path.”

They are the path. This is actually the path. I’d like us all to just sit with this idea for a second that the plans that get thwarted, the disappointments we have, the losses we face, the moments when we doubt, the fears we have, the times we even doubt ourselves, these are not obstacles that need to be gone around or under or over or through. They are not things that need to be even changed. This is the experience of being a human being on this plane of existence. It is the way that we experience these obstacles.

That is the path. This is what it feels like to be a human and to be alive. These obstacles, these moments that feel like the hardest challenges are in fact, the greatest teachers. They teach us so many things. They teach us what is important to us. They teach us about our strengths. They teach us about our courage, our values, our motivation, the things that keep us going when we feel that we can’t even go on. They teach us how to hope. Because when the thing that we thought we wanted gets taken away, there’s another thing behind it. If we allow ourselves to be open to it, it is often not even what we thought we wanted but what we really truly needed and the life experience that was put in our path to help us grow and evolve. 

Not in the sense of changing, but being forged in this crucible that feels hard but is actually strengthening and building ourselves and making us more of what we already are. That is what I would like to offer to you at the end of this difficult year and the beginning of a new year, which I don’t think any of us know yet whether or not it’s even reasonable to have hope or not, and that it’s going to be better than the last. I know we all do. The idea of getting too attached to any particular outcome at this point doesn’t seem terribly wise. 

Instead of focusing so much on the future, let’s focus on the here and now, and on the past and the miracle that is you and your life. For example, and this is a place where you can pause me and do some writing if you’d like some time to think more about this. I wonder what it would be like for you to allow yourself to write a list of things that you have done. Not what you need to do, not what you want to do. It doesn’t even need to be amazing stuff but to write out what have you actually done. 

If you are a late or early to middle-aged adult, you have gotten through some level of school, you have survived childhood, you’ve had friendships, you’ve probably had relationships, you’ve probably had jobs, and you’ve probably done a number of things along the way. I would like for you to write down what those milestones were for you in your life. What have you done already to get to where you are today? Feel free to pause me if you would like some time to write.

Another thing I would invite you to consider is what you have learned about what your strengths really are. When were the moments that things felt hard for you, and what did you draw upon inside of yourself or from your relationships that gave you the motivation, and courage, and hope, and strength to keep going? What personal qualities do you have that are uniquely yours that may not always be approved of or enjoyed by everyone else, but are actually strengths of yours? 

Personally, I can be blunt in relationships, upset people sometimes because of that. There are certain applications like me sitting here today talking to you, that are really strengths. The strength is honesty. Another thing that I’ve learned about myself is that there’s a strength around mercy. Giving people a second chance, being disappointed, and being able to see the good in people anyway, and having empathy for them. That is something that is important to me and that I feel proud of and that I tried to embrace and do every day but I wouldn’t know that about myself if I hadn’t been hurt by other people. 

Sometimes it’s even because of those experiences that we understand our capacity for love, for the fact that we’re in pain. When we lose people, it’s evidence of the strength of our love, and the depth of our attachment, and a sign of how much we care, which is a beautiful thing even though it’s not always comfortable. 

I would like for you to now make a list of what your strengths are and how you learned that they were strengths of yours. My guess is, it wasn’t during the easy times of your life that those strengths became clear. It was during the hard times. Those are worth noting too, as you go through your list.

When you’re done with that, I would also like for you to consider even just this past year, so you know, I’m recording this at the end of 2020, which was a hard year. I would like for you to reflect back and think about some of the personal characteristics or qualities that maybe you haven’t always loved about yourself or maybe that you’ve gotten crap for, for other people. Hold them in your mind. Now, I would like for you to think about how over the course of this past year, at least one of them, was a really valuable asset to you. Without this characteristic or quality or belief or value, it would have been harder for you to get through it than it was. 

As you reflect on what this is and even write it down, I would really like you to think about feeling grateful and appreciative of this part of yourself. That is maybe not always the easiest thing to accept but in certain applications is really not just a strength, but an advantage. 

Also, as you think about this past year, and the ups and downs and the ebbs and flows and the anxieties, for many people isolation, for many people loss, I would like for you to reflect upon what are some things that you learned about yourself over this last year? Not despite what you went through, but because of it. 

Personally, I don’t know if many of you know this, I know some of you do. I lost my mother to coronavirus in May of this year, and it was terrible. Fortunately, by some miraculous circumstance, I had the great honor of visiting with a couple of my colleagues to record a podcast on the topic of grief, believe it or not, several weeks before my mom died that that serendipitously aired the day after she passed away. 

It reinforced my belief that there are miracles and that there are forces that sometimes move to assist us that we’re not always even aware of. That was one thing that I learned about not just myself, but I think the universe over the course of this last year is that even when we go through hard things when we look around, there’s sort of a guiding hand there for us to support us and help us along the way. 

Another thing that I learned about myself because of the hardships is that, like I think many of us can, my capacity to do difficult things and to keep going even when I’m not fully okay. That was something that I appreciated about myself. There have been times in the past that I probably, similarly to you, would beat myself up about certain aspects of my character. I can be fairly not hard-headed, but compartmentalize things. I can just set stuff aside and just keep doing what I need to do. It can be easy for me to criticize myself for that but I really appreciated my ability to do that over the course of this past year because of what happened with my mom and many other circumstances in my life. 

That’s something that I may have felt previously was like a character flaw. But over the course of this past year, I began to really appreciate myself in a new way. My guess is that there are many things in your life that, similarly to mine, you have had revealed to you about what you are capable of, things that you’ve learned about yourself or your belief system, or why things are the way they are. How you make sense of the world. Those are worth keeping. 

Other things that you may have learned, not despite of the obstacles but because of them, are the things that are most important to you. It’s during times I think of loss and even hardship when we’re not able to do everything in the world that we would like to do or want to do, that it becomes much clearer around what is most important. It’s oftentimes our dark feelings that guide us to that. The things that you have felt saddest about over the course of this year or angriest about, or that you’ve missed the most, or that have been the biggest disappointments. 

When you really lean into those moments, and embrace them and understand them, your deep, most deeply held values will be revealed to you because it’s because of those values that you felt as bad as you did. While I’m not happy that you may have felt any of those things, I think it’s always to our benefit to have clarity around who we are, what is important to us, what we believe. Because it points us in the direction of where we want to put our energy and time and care and attention and love going forward. 

This is particularly true if you have grappled with regret over this past year. I think that regret is one of the worst emotions any of us can experience. I know it’s been the hardest for me, close second runner-up is probably guilt and not irrational guilt. But the guilt you feel when you’re like, “Oh man, I made a mistake.” and regret is that “I made a mistake, and I can’t fix it; it’s over.” 

That regret is the hardest thing to deal with. Regret, when we let it in, can be the most valuable teacher because it can show us the way of how we want to live every day going forward so that we can live lives in service of our values, and to listen to the things that we regret so that we’re very careful to avoid that feeling again in the future. When you live a values-based life where you’re prioritizing the things that are most important to the best of your ability, it is protective against any regret in your future, and you deserve that. 

I know I’m not the first person in the world to say this but it is so true that it is through our “mistakes” or “missteps” or “disappointments” even, again, I’m very skeptical of the word failures because I don’t truly believe that there is any such thing. But it’s through these moments that not only is our character revealed, it is actually formed. You get to develop as a person and growing your strength mand growing your confidence in yourself, and your ability to do hard things, and trust yourself, and feel empathy for others, and connect with your values because of these experiences. 

Last idea: these are yours to keep. You have already done this. You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to make a new list for this coming year. You don’t have to try to do anything. You have already done this. It is yours forever and no one can ever take it away from you. You have already arrived. 

You don’t have to do anything else except notice what you already are, what you already know, what you already feel, what you can already do. Because it’s beautiful and it’s huge and it’s true. It’s always there for you no matter what else happens, no matter what weird curve of balls or disappointments life throws at you, and it will, is that you have all of these tools, and resources, and strengths, and qualities to see your way through it all the time. 

With that in mind, I know that this is a very different New Year’s activity that we’re doing together because it’s not about building and developing and what’s the next new thing that I haven’t done yet that I need to. It’s really, really sinking into the magnificent miracle that you already are, and just stopping long enough to honor, and respect, and notice, and appreciate all that actually is. 

You have achieved so much. You have grown so enormously. Just the fact that you’re giving yourself a gift of listening to these words and reminding yourself of what you already know what is already true is just another statement about how amazing you are. 

If you would like to, and I hope you take the time to give yourself the gift of really sinking into these ideas, please go to growingself.com/learn-and-grow to download the whole little workbook activity thing that I’ve created for you. It will give you a number of journal prompts that invite you to write about the things that have been true in your life. About all the things you’ve done, the obstacles you’ve encountered, how they have illuminated your strengths, and all of the amazing qualities that you already possess that maybe you don’t give yourself enough credit for. 

I hope that sometime over the holiday, you give yourself the time and space to do that, and let’s celebrate the amazing reality that is already you. With that spirit, I wish you have a very, very happy new year. ‘Till next time.

[Outro Song: Stay by Moushumi]

Episode Highlights

  • Radical Acceptance
    • There is a time and place for aspiration and self-improvement. 
    • Equally important is embracing and cultivating the amazing people that we already are.
    • There’s a notion that we need to change, but first, we need to understand what needs changing, if at all.
    • When you understand the things that are true about you, you can start seeing them as strengths. 
  • Obstacles are Paths
    • Obstacles in our path are not obstacles: they are the path. 
    • They teach us and show us our strengths. 
  • Uncover Your Strengths
    • You may have qualities that other people do not think of positively.
    • However, seen in a different light, you can still consider these as strengths. 
    • You have already gone through so much. Thus, you have already possess the tools and qualities to see your way through. 

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Therapy Questions, Answered.

Our expert therapists have generously created an entire library of articles, activities, and podcasts to support you on your journey of growth. Please visit our “Happiness Collections” to browse our content collections, and take advantage of all the free resources we have for you. Or, if you’d like to educate yourself about the process and logistics of therapy, please help yourself to our “therapy questions” knowledge base below. It’s all for you!

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