Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself, Personal Growth is Tough

Big change takes big time and big energy.

Jason R. Waller
Mind Cafe
Published in
5 min readJul 17, 2020


Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

The neurological process of learning is like carving a new path in our brains. Actually, it’s almost literally like carving a new path in our brains. Neural pathways in the brain become more efficient and “worn in” with more use, making them easier to access.

When we think about habits and beliefs, this is an important concept. The easier paths to take are the paths that we’re most used to taking. For me, having a beer at the end of the day was a very well-worn path. It was a natural and easy decision. Doing 25 pushups instead — not at all a well-worn path.

This article isn’t about how or why to create these new neural pathways. No, the message here is more about compassion and patience. Making big changes is hard. Too often we go into personal growth hopeful for a quick result, but that’s just not the case.

One study suggests that it takes an average of 66 days to make a new habit automatic, with some habits taking more than 250 days. So stop being so hard on yourself, already.

It’s Like a Trail in the Woods

When I was in high school, I spent a summer working for the US Forest Service. It was awesome, but it was also hard work. One of my main jobs was building out hiking trails in the forest. There are essentially four stages of putting in a trail:

  1. Planning, deciding where and how to put the trail
  2. Cutting, digging out the trail and clearing the path
  3. Operating, opening it up and letting wear and tear take over
  4. Maintaining, repairing damage and removing new obstacles

If your mind were the forest, this is exactly how your neural pathways would be made, too. Let’s take this analogy to explore the four stages of personal growth, with a healthy dose of realism, practicality, and patience in each.

1. Planning for the Trail You Want

The first step in personal growth is deciding on what we actually want to change. Sounds simple enough, but what often gets in my way are the “shoulds” and “ought-tos” I’ve been socialized into…



Jason R. Waller
Mind Cafe

Executive coach to CEOs and leaders. Partner at Speaker, combat veteran, ex-consultant. Top writer in Leadership.