Want To Be A Better Person? Be A Spiritual Generalist.

Yesterday I talked about a system of fitness called CrossFit, to help make the point of General Work Preparedness (GWP). In a nutshell, you take a generalist’s view of what it takes to be successful at work, rather than a specialist’s, by not just focusing on improving your working skills, but by becoming a better all-around person (more details here).

Well, to be perfectly transparent, I’m a CrossFit addict now. I live and breathe all I can of it, because I find it more exciting than wearing a hand-buzzer at a networking convention. I’m subscribed to their journal, I frequent the message boards, and I work out (mostly) along with CrossFit’s 3-on-1-off schedule. It’s the bees knees, baby.

I read something on the CrossFit message board the other day that struck me as having great value, and not just in fitness terms. Damien Del Russo (one of the thousands of community members) wrote, on a thread about losing weight:

Keep in mind that CrossFit is not meant to be a weight loss plan. That is one of the effects of being fit, but not the point of the [program].

Because CrossFit is about creating a "broad, general, and inclusive fitness" (a hallmark tenet of CrossFit), it doesn’t focus on one particular result, but on the ability to get better across the board: speed, strength, agility, coordination, etc.

When you train this way, and follow balanced nutritional guidelines, your body finds its natural and optimal balance. If fat needs to come off of you, it will. If you need more muscle, it’ll grow. If your heart needs to be more fit, it gets stronger and more efficient. So, you train for inclusive fitness, and that’s exactly what you get.

Now, the "crossover" part…

It’s easy to get specialized when it comes to spirituality and personal development, and start compartmentalizing our goals, such as:

  • "I want to work on my anger."
  • "I want to be more patient."
  • "I need to learn how to forgive myself."
  • "I need to be better at managing stress."

And so, we launch ourselves into programs and initiatives to try to develop those aspects of ourselves. We read books and take classes to learn how to communicate from the heart, do mantras to help us become more compassionate or relaxed, do service projects to learn selflessness, and so on.And in the quest for the solitary examples of what we think will make us better at certain things, we lose sight of what we can do to make us better equipped to handle the multitudes of situations that come our way each day. We strive for compassion, for example, because we think that’s an element of being a better person. What about working on becoming a better person all-around?

Train for connection, end up compassionate

In all the spiritual paths I’ve learned about, the fundamental teaching is connection. The more you can connect to your inner self, the better off you are. The more you can connect to your fellow human being, the better off you are. The more connected you are to the natural world, to the spiritual world, to your thoughts, emotions, and body, the better off you are.Is that it, then?

Of course not; it’s way too simplistic (and wrong) to imply that one focus will do it all for you. In CrossFit, we run, because running builds one kind of endurance. But we also lift heavy weights, and do bodyweight exercises, and gymnastics, and on and on. Multiple points of focus to train your whole body. And the cool thing is, when you’re a better deadlifter, you’re a better runner. And jumper, and rower, and cyclist, and anything else you need to do.

In your spiritual/personal life, you’re also going to need to focus on a multitude of topics in order to best develop the whole of who you are. The better you are, for example, at tapping into your spiritual connection, the better you’ll be at all kinds of other personal skills.

The trick is to kick your spiritual couch-potato tendencies, and get going.

And how, pray tell, do you do this?

Well, in the words of Michael Valentine Smith (Robert Heinlein’s protagonist in Stranger In A Strange Land), "I am only an egg." I wouldn’t endeavor to be more inclusive, than say, Buddha, Lao Tzu, or any of the world’s Prophets.

Because even if you’re "spiritual, but not religious," you have to admit that the experience of thousands of years of spiritual practice and personal development can’t just be tossed aside because it doesn’t fit your paradigms.

Am I saying that you should adopt a formal religion? Heavens, no. I mean, go ahead if you want to; I’m not against them if your intentions are clean and your discernment strong. What I am saying, though, is that success leaves clues. There are teachings available from the spiritual and religious doctrines of the world that, when practiced with a certain degree of self-responsibility and awareness, can yield immense benefits in your personal development, and help you build a "broad, general, and inclusive spirit" — path or no path.

And if you don’t have a "path" already?

Then start simple: Get to know yourself. Spend time inside (your heart, not indoors). Connect; with yourself, with others, and with whatever sense of "Oneness" you perceive and/or believe in. Live responsibly. Act sincerely. Extend a hand graciously, and receive one just as amiably. Love. Love some more. Forgive. Be grateful. From there, follow your heart.

Is there more?

Of course there is. Keep watching this space!


  1. says

    Adam, I think I would fit your title of Spiritual Generalist. I have studied a little bit of many religions and even been a member of a number of different churches in those religions. I don’t call myself religious because I feel that the title is too limiting for my beliefs. I recently decided that my belief system was eclectic. (Not sure that I spelled the word right. I always have trouble with that word.) I practice many spiritual truths in my life and in my blog writings.

    I am a big fan of Slade Roberson’s. I came here after your latest comment on his blog Spiritual Blogging. I will return to read more.