Updated: Aug 28, 2020
This is an image of a man being dismembered.
Historically, dismemberment was practiced as a form of capital punishment for criminals. But today, this is something many men who've hopped on the self-improvement bandwagon are unintentionally doing to themselves—metaphorically speaking, of course.
When we try to progress down multiple self-development paths at the same time, we may see some progress early on, but a few weeks or months down the road, the results can often look like a lot of confusion, stagnation, frustration, overwhelm, and even regression.
It’s like trying to lose weight, gain muscle, run faster, get stronger and detox all at the same time. Overworked and exhausted, we may hit a point where we start asking ourselves, “I’m working so hard. Where the hell are all the results!?”
It can feel like being tied to multiple horses running in opposite directions tearing us apart. And that’s when we find ourselves at the dreaded self-improvement plateau. A place I have found myself far too many times before.
As a coach working with men and women for over a decade now, I can say with confidence that one of the greatest setbacks in my client's progress happens when they are working with multiple coaches at the same time.
Now keep in mind, there are times when working with multiple coaches is a good thing—even a great thing—like a professional fighter’s training camp. But when it comes to working with multiple coaches who may not even be aware of one another, it can lead to massive setbacks.
For example, I worked with one couple for several months, teaching them how to rekindle their sexual attraction for each other after many years of marriage. After several weeks of noticing that they were not progressing the same way my clients normally do, I asked them what else they were doing on a regular basis. Something was happening outside of our sessions that was stunting their growth.
Innocently, they told me that right after their weekly sessions with me, they were working with another coach to help them with their business. No big deal, right?
They understood that the practices I was guiding them through were designed to shift them out of their habitual ways of relating and into a new way of relating that felt nourishing, rewarding, and sexually vibrant again. But they were oblivious to the fact that by doing a session with a business coach immediately after was completely sabotaging their progress.
As a result, they would go from feeling like passionate lovers during our sessions to going right back to feeling like dispassionate business partners in the next—butting-heads on work related items and fighting about which direction their business should go next.
At no fault of the business coach, the progress they were trying to make on their relationship was being sabotaged, by not giving themselves the chance to integrate what they had learned in our sessions.
Imagine someone running 5 miles on a treadmill, and then pounding a six-pack, Philly cheesesteak and an ice cream sandwich the second they get home.
Their relationship continued to suffer as a result. And because their relationship was suffering, it didn’t matter what business advice they were getting, they were simply unable to trust each other enough to effectively collaborate on taking their business to the next level. No matter what business coaching they got, they just didn’t know how to get back to feeling like they were on the “same team.”
This problem happens all too often. This is just one example of many. The teachers and coaches you work with may be offering good information—they may be offering great information—but when we attempt to apply different systems, different methodologies, and different styles all at the same time, we will often find ourselves confused and conflicted, stifled in our progress, and in a constant cycle of taking three steps forward and two steps back. We aren’t doing ourselves, our loved ones, or our mission any favors. We are overloaded in practices, overwhelmed with new ideas, and unskillful in their practical applications.
What one method says is the problem, the other says is the solution. It isn't so much a matter of which method is right or wrong. It's a matter of understanding that if we are serious about making progress along any path, then we should dedicate ourselves to progressing down that path, undistracted, at least for a time period long enough to actually make considerable progress before adding more.
You can hit the gym and exclusively train heavy for several months—eat an enormous amount of calories, hit low reps, heavy weights, long rest periods—and you will see massive gains in size and strength within a fairly short period of time.
In the next several months, you could focus specifically on shredding—hit cardio hard, switch to lighter weights, higher reps, reduce your calorie intake proportionally—and you will see considerable results in weight loss and muscle tone within that period of time.
You can cycle between these two approaches for a year, and you will produce far greater results than the guy who is trying to accomplish all of the above at the same time. This is why professional bodybuilders go through specific size building phases and shredding phases separately. Their goal is to become as massive and shredded as possible. But they understand to attempt both at the same time isn’t going to get them the results they need to win.
So, as men interested in self-development, what can we learn from this?
1. Know your objective.
You must understand your objective, and find those methods and teachers that will guide you swiftly from point A to point Z. What is your objective? If you know it, great. If you don’t know it, then become clear that your first objective is to find out. Ask your trusted friends, colleagues, and community members to help you identify your bullseye. Once you are clear on your current objective, you can begin allocating your time, attention and resources accordingly—with confidence.
2. If you’re going to mix, mix intelligently.
There are teachers and methods that are synergistic. For example, at Tribe, our teachings and practices are unified by a single set of mutually agreed upon principles: the pursuit of life purpose, the realization of true freedom, and the selfless service of living as love. While all of our founders have different areas of expertise, different practices, and come from different walks of life, our primary objective remains unchanged. This makes the curriculum synergistic and allows us to continue to progress in the same direction, as we explore these three unified areas of personal development. This being said, if you choose to work with any of us one-on-one for a period of time, I still recommend working with only one coach at a time.
3. Trust your path, teacher or coach completely, unless they give you a good reason not to.
We all have our own stubborn opinions on things—it’s what makes us men after all. And it’s often our opinions on things that are the primary obstacles in personal growth. When working with my sexual yoga teachers, I threw out everything I thought I knew about sex, men, women, relationship, spirituality, etc. I had to in order to become highly teachable. I emptied my mind and allowed it to be filled with these new ideas—without critique. I absorbed the teachings fully. I gave myself permission to embody them fully. And after years of that process, at a certain point, it came time for me to reflect and decide for myself what was actually “my truth” in it all. Many of the teachings I retained, some I discarded completely, and others have gone on to evolve into something completely brand new. But if I showed up on Day 1, unwilling to let go of my own beliefs and let someone else show me the way, I never would’ve made the changes in my life that mattered most. When working with a teacher, coach, or tradition, opt in fully. Let them take you out of your comfort zone. Let them show you an entirely different way of looking at life and relationship. Give yourself to them fully. And if you do not trust them to play that role, then do not work with them. If they lose that trust, then stop working with them. Otherwise, continue down the path. Try it on so fully that you’ve forgotten who you used to be, and are now a product of that which attracted you to them in the first place.
4. Immerse yourself fully before you move on.
It’s OK to move on from our coaches, teachers, and even our traditions sometimes. The problem is, I find most men struggle to commit to anything long enough to actually reap the fruits of the practice. I was once very much this way myself. And I wish someone had taught me this a long time ago. Devote yourself fully to understanding what the method is: Why was it created? What purpose does it serve? Who has taught it before? Who continues to teach it now? Who is the best in the world at it now? Seek out others who have also walked a similar path who inspire you—men who intimidate you, men who challenge you, men who aren’t afraid to love you. Immerse yourself in practice and the teachings. Transform the teachings from thoughts into actions. Live and breathe their distinctions. And your transformation is guaranteed.
Spend some time today getting clear. Where are you going? What is your objective? What is most important to you today—working, spending time with loved ones, prioritizing your health? Once you're clear, begin searching for allies, resources, and mentors who will help clarify your vision, accelerate your growth, and bring you one step closer to accomplishing everything you must before you die.