RYAN ALTMAN

🎆 The 4 Aims of Personal Transformation: A Blueprint for Your Best Year Yet

I hope you’ve had a lovely holiday season, and an awesome start to your new year.

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, then you care a lot about your personal development, and have likely started making plans or goals for 2024.

To help you out with this, I want to share with you a framework for understanding your motivations and the ways you can create positive transformation in your new year.

The model I’m sharing is a synthesis of the ancient Vedic framework of purusharthras woven together with Ken Wilber’s ideas on Integral Theory.

Now, if that sounds confusing and you don’t know who Ken Wilber is, or what Vedic framework I’m talking about–don’t worry–I’m going to break it down in a short, simple to understand way.

I’m combining these ideas, because as models they both overlap each other and add significant value to human life.

I’d like to think that’s the case, because both models touch on truths important to being human.

By the end of the email, you’ll know the aims to pursue in order to attain fulfillment and wholeness in your life, and the work you need to do to get there.

I’ll break each form of transformation down into two parts:

  • The aim: what we want to pursue in life
  • The work: what we need to do to get there

After that, you can live this year (or any year) with precise clarity and intention.

Let’s get into it, or should I say, UP into it!

Here’s 4 ways you can achieve personal transformation in your new year

1. Achieve goals

This is the most obvious and basic form of transformation that we can pursue in life.

In the Vedic system, achieving goals and attaining material security is called artha in Sanskrit.

Artha is the pursuit of material wealth, status, and security.

Starting a family, getting a better job, making more money, and remodeling your home are all good examples.

Some goals may be intellectual, like reading more books or learning a skill, or related to health, like losing weight.

In any case, we seek to attain some status, object or relationship in the world that we don’t presently have.

The work: Grow up

In order to accomplish our goals, we need to grow up.

We need to be ready to take on the responsibilities that each goal entails and, in the process, become mature human beings.

We move from a child to an adult, or, for example, from an entry level worker to a higher level manager, and in the process we grow into the responsibility of our bigger roles.

Before we can accomplish our goals, we need to acquire the cognitive, psychological and emotional maturity to pursue them and achieve them.

Without this maturity, we aren’t able to face the challenges, setbacks or resistance that inevitably arise when trying to attain what we’ve set out to achieve.

A lot of people set goals, but very few people have the maturity and discipline necessary to attain them.

2. Experience enjoyment

Enjoyment isn’t a goal to pursue, but a feeling to achieve.

The pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment is called kama in Sanskrit.

Life isn’t only about attaining things, it’s about enjoying pleasurable experiences too.

A soothing massage, delicious meal, rocking live music, a fun game, cheering on your favorite team, seeing a beautiful sunset, having sex… we do these things because they bring us a sense of enjoyment and pleasure.

Enjoyment is a real need we have.

Without it, our life would be dry and feel incomplete.

Every year, it’s important to carve our time and energy for the things that bring you enjoyment in life.

The work: Clean up

As we pursue pleasure and enjoyment, we must avoid the sticky residue of attachment.

Enjoying pleasure is fine, but being attached to pleasure is not.

Attachments fragment us, and dissipate our energy wastefully.

Addictions, distractions, avoidance, quick dopamine hits of all kinds… these things can become sticky very quickly.

Our style of attachment is defined in large part by the experiences we had growing up, and to tackle unhealthy attachments, it’s often necessary to confront unprocessed wounding and trauma.

If we want to enjoy the pleasurable things in life, we have to do the dirty work of cleaning up our sticky attachments first, and make sure they don’t form again.

Otherwise, what brings us enjoyment one moment, will become a source of suffering the next.

3. Transcend ignorance

The deepest pursuit of human life is transcending ignorance.

In Sanskrit, liberation from ignorance is called moksha.

Ignorance is the source of all suffering, and by transcending ignorance we transcend all forms of limitation.

Why is this?

Because our true nature is limitless, whole, universal, and divine.

As long as we’re trapped in the concept of being a limited human being, we’ll always feel incomplete.

Self-knowledge is the ignorance dispelling understanding and experience that we’re already total, complete and whole.

By transcending ignorance, we realize our interconnected and whole Self-nature.

Transcendence is the timeless aim of our human journey through time.

The work: Wake up

As babies we’re all born ignorant. We don’t know anything about ourselves or the world.

In the same way we learn walking, talking, and writing, we have to learn about who we are.

Most of what we learn from the world is only relatively true, and conditions us into identification with the body and mind.

It’s through spiritual practice and association with wise teachers that we acquire knowledge about our true nature.

In order to attain the deepest form of freedom and transcend ignorance, we must cultivate a practice that awakens us to the transcendent nature of our true Self.

4. Be yourself

This is the one I’m focusing most on this year.

We were all put on this planet for one very important reason: to be ourselves.

That’s it really.

Everything else is secondary.

The process of being and honoring ourselves is called dharma in Sanskrit.

Honoring ourselves, means honoring others, the world and the divinity which created and sustains us.

Each one of us came here to be ourselves, a unique spark of creative, divine energy, and in the process, provide something of value to the world.

Striving to be yourself in this crazy world is one of the most important pursuits of human life, every moment and every year of your life.

The work: Show up

While the work for the first three aims was inner work, this final aim requires us to do outer work.

You can’t be yourself unless you show up for yourself and others.

Showing up means being yourself, following your dharma, fulfilling your purpose and honoring your unique life path.

We may become wildly wealthy, successful, and famous, and have exotic pleasurable experiences at our finger tips, but if we’ve done all that by disregarding who we truly are, then everything will feel empty.

We have to show up for ourselves, for others and for the world.

We have to embody who we truly are, pursue our purpose, and serve the world that serves us.

Even if it means going against the grain, or doing uncomfortable things that society says are ‘wrong’.

Without the work of showing up, we’ll never be able to attain the satisfaction of being who we truly are.

I hope you found the framework of the four aims and the work they require helpful.

These aims can help you plan your year, or your life, and help you set about doing the work required.

To quickly summarize the four aims of personal transformation are:

  1. Achieve goals (artha) – Grow up

  2. Experience enjoyment (kama) – Clean up

  3. Transcend ignorance (moksha) – Wake up

  4. Be yourself (dharma) – Show Up

We need to integrate and harmonize all four of these aims, and make sure that we’re doing the inner and outer work necessary to achieve them.

Otherwise, we’ll never experience the wholeness we seek.

Which transformations are most important for you this year? What work do you need to do most on yourself? Consider which transformations are most important for you, and use them to help plan your work over the year accordingly.

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