Not all growth methods are the same, and why less structure has its own advantages.
This might be tough for the younger crowd (myself included) but picture this happening in a pre-Google Maps age. Sometime around 2003: You’re going to a new friend’s house, but you’ve never been there before. You could either go onto Mapquest and print off a set of directions, or you ask for the address and handle the navigation yourself. Comparing the two methods there are obvious advantages, and a clear winner (or is there?)
Directions: This method is simple and efficient. Point A to point B with no fluff in between. You accomplish your goal of getting to your friends house with little hassle.
Address and Navigation: You’re winging it, you know what the end goal looks like but you’re not exactly sure how to get there. You may get lost, you may take a wrong turn.
Clearly, you want the directions right? (Okay you can stop pretending to be stuck in 2003 again.) It’s obvious. You get the information you want in the most efficient way possible.
But that’s not the whole story.
Have you ever gotten lost while looking for something? How did it turn out? Sometimes good, sometimes bad. If you accidentally drive into a bad neighbourhood while looking for that cute brunch place, bad move. But you learned not to take that road again. On the other side of it, maybe you’re looking for a friend’s house and accidentally stumble upon a cute little brunch place. Either way you learned something extra you wouldn’t have if you had just followed the directions. Either way, it’s a happy accident, as Bob Ross calls it.
In the same way, personal growth, self improvement, productivity hacking, life hacking, whatever you want to call it, follows the same pattern. You can read books or articles to get you the exact information you want or you can define some sort of success and go about it your own way. This method takes longer. It has to. You don’t know exactly how to get where you’re headed. It takes longer, but you get more information. You learn more about yourself because you’re making wrong turns along the way.
This isn’t a bad thing. It takes a little longer, you don’t have the same vocabulary as those who follow the steps, but what you do have is the fundamental knowledge of why a certain technique works because you have experienced building it yourself.
This isn’t to say that all the personal growth articles out there are wrong or flawed in any way. They’re helpful, I have taken a lot of great advice from them. They get you what you want in an efficient set of steps. I’m an F-type (feeling type from the Myers-Briggs personality types) which means I prefer to figure things out based on more of an intuitive process, and while this doesn’t always jive with the sets of directions that tend to be geared towards T-types (thinking types), it works for me.
If you find that following a set of directions to get to a specific goal doesn’t feel as natural to you, try navigating your own way to it. You’ll learn something along the way.