The Gifts of a Non-Linear Path

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

A client recently came in for counseling and during our session, she hit a wall of frustration and exclaimed, “Why am I here again? I thought I had solved this problem already!” It was a beautiful question that many of us can relate to: why do we keep circling back to the same issues?

One common misconception about personal growth is that the journey should be linear. We identify our problem, work on it, solve it, and move on. However, the reality is that growth and expansion are often non-linear, with many steps forward and back.

While this might not sound ideal, it’s actually good news… and here are a few reasons why:

First, lasting change requires rewiring our brains with new habits and ways of thinking. Repetition is crucial for this rewiring process, and taking two steps forward and one step back allows us to go over our learning again and again. Our brains are wired to see things in a linear way, but this desire for clarity can sometimes lead us to overlook the importance of repetition. The messy and frustrating feeling of repetition is necessary for us to learn and grow in a lasting way.

Secondly, each layer of the onion is exactly that – a layer. We might think we have solved a problem, only for it to crop up again in a different context. For example, if we work on setting boundaries in friendships, we might later find ourselves struggling with boundaries as a parent. But each time we revisit an issue, we are in a slightly different place on our life’s path, and this makes the moment of growth unique.

Lastly, expanded perception can make all the difference. When we are trying to solve a problem, we tend to see it from one angle. As we get more entrenched in that single perspective, we can become stuck. When life brings us back to that struggle, it can be an opportunity to see it from a different perspective, which can widen our horizon and give us a clearer view of the issue as a whole. This can help us move through the struggle with greater ease the next time around.

The gifts of a non-linear path are many. Each time we revisit an issue, we have the opportunity to learn and grow in a new way. This, in turn, makes us better at learning and growing in general. So, the next time you find yourself circling back to an old struggle, embrace the messiness and remember it is leading you to good things.