Growth for growth's sake doesn't work


It's easy for me to do things because I feel like I should. But then I have no basis deciding what's worth doing. I now try to keep a larger direction in mind, and try to act on what I intrinsically want to do.

I’m addicted to personal growth. I’m addicted to making myself think that I’m growing.

It’s easy to make myself think I'm growing when I don’t have a clear direction — when I don’t know why I’m doing something. But lacking clear direction makes it hard to actually grow.

By default I do what I imagine the perfect version of myself would do: Try Harder.

This doesn’t work.

I’ve journaled daily for ~6 years, but recently it became stale, useless, and aversive. I forgot why I was journaling. I did it because it seemed like a thing that other great people do, and like what the best version of myself is supposed to do.

I get value out of things when I know what larger direction I want to head in, when I know why I'm taking action, and when I'm intrinsically motivated. That's also when I actually enjoy the things I do.

When I journal for growth itself, it’s exciting at first because I’m growing! But then I lose sight of why I’m doing it. I go through the motions. I’m still journaling, but it doesn’t help me go in the direction I intended to. All I do is “become the kind of person who sticks to his habits”. Which means: “become the kind of person who blindly sticks to his habits even when they’re not worth it”.

I recently got into a knot where I surrounded myself with these stale habits. Instead of being excited about learning and growing, I was coercing myself through the thought that I should be growing more. I got nothing out of meditating, studying anki flashcards, and using more productivity software. (Don’t knock anki for this, anki is amazing).

Then I decided to drop everything. I did exactly what I felt like doing.

So I binge-watched YouTube and ate whatever I wanted to.

I felt like shit.

It let me realize why I have some of these systems in place, instead of blindly keeping them going.

I’m only adding systems back in when all of me wants to, rather than because I should be more like the perfect version of myself.

That’s what went wrong. I was coercing myself to keep up habits and they became stale because they were no longer serving a purpose for me. But without clarity on the direction I wanted to head in, there was no way to decide “this isn’t worth it anymore”. That decision was always wrong because my imagined perfect self never gives up.

So part of me feels I should revise this blog post even more and make it better, but I also value heading in the direction of saying what I think in public more than I value being right about it (at the moment).

Become a person who says things, then figure out what to say. Become a person who does things, then figure out what to do.

(Side note: This post likely won’t be useful to you, and you should only see this as an example of one person figuring out how his strange mind works for himself. Instead of this suggesting that you should do what I did, it should tell you that you should also try to figure it out for yourself).

Do ambitious projects, don't try to grow, try to do something well.


  1. moving towards scaling as a goal as a function of scaling as a whole