Introduction to The Growth Spiral (Free) Mini-Course
Let's talk change. Braving uncertainty requires a higher vantage point and in this episode, Candice introduces you to a helpful visual model she developed over the course of her many years working as a life coach. The Growth Spiral is a theoretical model detailing the six stages of change. It is a tool of self-awareness that supports us as let go of what no longer serves us and risk a reach into the great unknown. If you're facing a transition in your life (be it big or small), this episode and its accompanying download is made for you.

BONUS DOWNLOAD | This episode includes FREE access to an online E-Course designed to help you to embody the six stages of change, contextualize emotional highs and lows, and traverse transition with grace and acceptance. Get unstuck faster!
0:35 - My First Tattoo (story)
4:21 - Finding Grace through Change
6:13 - Beware of Magical Thinking
9:33 - Vertical Development
11:45 - The Model's Origin
15:27 - What Is The Growth Spiral?
17:32 - Fears: My Top 3 List
22:38 - Access to the Free E-Course

#7 | The Growth Spiral

Hello. Welcome back to The Deeper Pulse. This is Candice Schutter.

I'm so grateful to be here with you today. It took last week off to decompress, and I'm feeling back to my old self again.

So it's time to pick up where we left off.

In our last full episode, we explored the second key of courageous self-expression - humility. And when I last spoke to you, I promised you a very special gift. So let's get right to it.

I got my first tattoo when I was 25. I visited a small tattoo parlor on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. I don't recall the name of it, only that it was run entirely by women. My tattoo artist offered me a lollipop, and then she stamped the drawing I brought with me right where I'd asked her to roughly an inch beneath my navel.

Years later, while walking on a beach on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, a stranger passed by me; offered me a one word greeting and a smile.

"Muerte," he said, pointing toward my bare belly before continuing along his way.

In Spanish, muerte means death. Cimi is the Mayan symbol for death, and he had seen her there burned into my flesh.

To the Mayan, Cimi is considered good luck. She's a symbol of inner strength, peace and harmony. The catalyst of transformation and a reminder to surrender to the force of life and its perpetual cycles of death and rebirth.

I chose to place Cimi at my gut because braving change and learning to walk in the world with fresh new skin... it feels like the story of my life.

Change can feel tender to the touch. I suppose that's why the pain of the needle burning into my flesh was so fitting. It was the most delicious sort of discomfort; scalding in the same way that letting go often is.

A few days after Cimi became a part of me, I asked a friend to shave my head. My carefully tended locks had always been a place for me to hide. As she swept the clippers over my right ear I watched my overprocess curls dropping to the floor. And I urged her to keep going, even as I wept.

The very next morning, I woke at 7:04 AM... the exact time of my birth. I hopped out of bed and ran straight to the mirror. The sight of my bare head made me immediately nauseous, so I crawled back under the covers steeping in regret.

Eventually I had no choice; I had to get on with the day. So I got up, took a shower, dried my bare head, and put on more eyeliner and lip gloss than usual before heading off to work.

It took some time, but eventually I found the courage to walk tall in my newly branded flesh and my gender defiant beauty.

These rituals were important. It felt as though they were reflecting something; making metaphoric meaning out of the changes that I was facing in my life. It was during that time that I learned how to consciously shed my skin for the very first time. And I've done it countless times since.

To me, change is holy ground, and as painful as it may be, surrendering to small deaths brings me back to life. Sometimes through benign inspirations like bold new haircuts and other times through devastating losses that are outside of my control. Changes that I would have never wished for that leave me kicking and screaming before knocking me to my knees.

There is no well-worn path for us to find when it comes to the changes we face. We must bush whack our way through new terrain each and every time. That said, there are some subterranean commonalities to the challenges we face.

Underneath the drama exists a natural flow of life, and we can learn to face cycles of change with our eyes wide open and our hearts worn tenderly at our sleeves.

This episode, and the mini course that it will point you toward, is all about change and the pragmatics of braving it.

In Episode 8, we're going to dive into the third key of courageous self-expression - vulnerability; but before we can go there and discuss all-the-feels, we must come to terms with impermanence and the sometimes painful reality that embracing change means making peace with loss in our lives over and over and over again.

Learning to live graciously with change does not equate with always feeling brave and willing and ready. On the contrary, it's about moving forward despite fear, reluctance and hesitation.

I'm not suggesting that we live to shake things up. Of course not. Sometimes it is unwise to break with convention or the status quo. Security is important... and let's face it, the freedom to be vulnerable is a privilege unafforded to a great many.

Sometimes we need security and predictability in order to function; quite literally. So if anything that I shared defies your sense of rhythm, then please I invite you to ignore it. If you're not genuinely moved or equipped to make a change in your life, or if the thought of doing so sends you into a sweat-palm panic... relax and rest, please, dear one. And know that the next episode may speak directly to your heart.

But let's just say for the sake of this episode, and for the sake of argument, that you for the most part have access to the internal resources you need to move your life forward. And let's say that you are hoping to make a change in some area of your life... where you feel afraid but ready, unsure but capable, ill-equipped but deeply inspired. If so, I have a tool for you. One that might make the path ahead, feel a tad less scary and a whole hell of a lot more manageable.

There are two types of change: the changes we choose for ourselves and the changes that happen to us. In my experience, the latter can come in like a sandblaster at times, especially when we fail to make a choice for ourselves. Life will eventually sweep in and say, "that's enough hesitation out of you off you go." Sometimes it does this with a gentle nudge forward and other times with a walloping punch to the gut that sends us careening over the edge.

But let me be clear about something from the get go. I am not here to say that every change we face is somehow meant or purposeful. Nor would I argue that the changes we face are all about us. As much as it pains me to admit it. I once believed that all of this was true. But since then I found the courage to lean into the mystery and question the whole everything-happens-for-a-reason argument. I guess in some ways I just see it as another way to avoid being vulnerable. Not to mention it has become the siren call of the privileged. Another way for those who've been afforded security to feel less guilty and cling to predictability in the light of overwhelming helplessness in hope that some sort of divine justice will take care of it all.

I'm not here to judge. I mean, I get it. It makes us feel safe inside the mystery, imagining all of our disappointments as destiny. And perhaps on some level, there's some truth to it. But let us not forget those who face challenges that strip them of safety, dignity, and faith. We must honor them by bowing to their pain and helping them with the realities they face, versus trying to make meaning out of unnecessary suffering.

Now this is a reminder to me more than anyone. I regularly catch myself attempting to sidestep vulnerability and accountability. I try to turn mystery into magic in order to stomach it.

So while I don't happen to believe that all of life's traumas are in some way intended, I have come to trust in a benevolent force of life. A force that I refuse to describe or name. One that pushes me ever onward, regardless of what tragedies befall me.

I believe that this force of change, when yielded to, is a force that flows unceasingly above and below the drama, moving us in the direction of new depths and vertical heights.

I struggle with the question of goodness. Because when it comes to our desires, who's to say what is good? This force might defy our desires in terms of circumstance, because ultimately it is leading us toward the meaning we genuinely seek.

But let's not get tied up in philosophical knots. I try really hard not to spend my energy making sense of what happens to me. I choose to place my focus instead on what I have control over, which is what happens through me.

This subtle yet significant shift in focus is how I've learned to brave change and the unexpected detours of life. And it has helped me not to fixate on the details so much; to see change as that which points me towards greater new expression. I consider it a loving force because, like a wise parent, it supports me by pointing me toward my potential; making me a more capable expression of myself.

Scholar and researcher, Ken Wilber, identifies two developmental trajectories that we must tend to in order to grow in our consciousness. And both of them require us to brave change.

The first is horizontal growth. Horizontal growth is essentially our ability to make ourselves whole over time. It is impacted by the environments we inhabit and the choices we make daily in terms of how we care for our bodies, navigate relationships, and mature emotionally. It is the ever unfolding path of self-awareness where we learn, or fail to learn, self-regulation and resilience. Horizontal growth is, most simply put, the horizontal arc of our lives. The process of waking up to ourselves as we age and mature. How we treat ourselves and navigate our horizontal growth has a direct impact on our longevity and breadth of life.

And yet of equal importance is our vertical development; our ability to make meaning out of life; to expand our awareness outside of ourselves and extend our sense of purpose toward service, community, and belonging. It is the psychospiritual progression from egocentrism (me and mine) toward a more pluralistic and world centric worldview. It is the domain of connection, both interpersonally and spiritually. How we navigate our vertical development has a direct impact on the depth and meaning we experience, as well as our sense of purpose in this life.

These two developmental journeys are most functional when they work in tandem with one another. A singular focus on horizontal growth can look a little bit like narcissism, or it can lead to superficial fixations that lead us toward addiction, materialism, or dysfunctional relationship patterns.

Centering all of our efforts on vertical development alone can untether us from the realities of everyday life. We must also tend to the breadth of life, to the full spectrum of our humanity if we hope to grow in our uniqueness and impact the world around us in tangible ways.

The Growth Spiral is a theoretical model detailing six stages of change. It is a tool that I have designed to help us traverse our horizontal growth while also tending to the vertical dimension. Before I say more about the model, I want to tell you its brief origin story.

It was 2003, and (surprise!) I was on the move again. I'd just left Newport Beach, California, where I lived for only a year. No longer able to support myself teaching classes and doing freelance editorial work, I'd packed all of my belongings into my Mitsubishi hatchback and stopped in Boulder, Colorado to attend a teacher training before heading to Atlanta to live in my sister's guestroom

Little did I know that this pit stop was going to change my trajectory entirely. I would make a hard left and head to the Pacific Northwest for the first time where I would end up living for the next 16 years.

It was a Friday morning, the last day of a week long training. My mentor, Carlos, is standing in front of a whiteboard. I'm struggling to focus on his words. I'm feeling dizzy with exhaustion and overwhelmed by new information. Just as I'm fighting hard to digest his final lesson, he asks if anyone has any questions.

I feel like a child, sitting there cross-legged on the floor staring up at him. At the time I didn't really understand the de-stabilizing power of parental projection. I looked up to him, quite literally. I raised my hand high in the air. I don't remember what exactly my question was. It was something about feeling like I'd learned so much... only to realize, I didn't know much of anything at all.

Carlos nodded and was silent for a moment. Then he turned to the board and erased everything else he had written. With his marker, he began tracing a path. It crawled from the bottom of the board winding upward in a series of loops until it reached the top where it ended with an arrow. The implication being that the spiral he had drawn was meant to carry on indefinitely.

He chose one of the loops in the middle and pointed to the top of it. Then tapped his pen toward its bottom. Inviting me to note that each time the path wound downward, it created momentum for the next rise high.

And then he said to me, " You may feel as though you're moving backward, but you're just gaining momentum for what comes next."

Something about this very simple illustration made immediate and perfect sense to me. So I nodded my understanding, and he turned back to the board, erased the visual, and continued to answer a variety of unrelated questions.

I would study with Carlos for another five years. There was never again I mentioned this spiral. But for some reason, it stayed with me. Perhaps it's because I'd been a psych major in college, and it in some way illustrated some of the things I learned like the Dunning Kruger effect. How we as humans, the less we know, the more we tend to overestimate our knowledge about a given topic. And how humbled we become when we gain new understanding; essentially learning that... the more we know, the more we know we don't know.

I assumed this was what Carlos was trying to get at. I was only in my second year of teaching and the training had just reminded me how much I still had left to learn.

And yet, when I began coaching and mentoring myself, I kept coming back to this visual. And I soon began to realize that the spiral revealed something more; something more useful than I had originally realized. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, I was able to begin mapping critical patterns I was seeing in my work. As a coach, most of the people I serve are in transition. They might be on the precipice of a change. Or perhaps they are recovering from having just made a big move in their life. Some of them are even surviving a tragic loss that has leveled their confidence and led them to question everything that came before.

Despite the endlessly variant storylines, I began to see a cyclical pattern of movement that illustrated vertical development through a predictable series of stages. Stages that my clients, and I myself, seemed to be passing through again and again.

It is this ever evolving model that I'd like to share with you. Of course, I very much wanted to roll it out to you on a podcast. But it's sort of hard to do. It's best described through visuals, images and illustrations. So rather than trying to express it through words, I decided to just launch it as a mini course. It's my first online course, since 2014... and before you decide to press the stop button, this is not a sales pitch. You should know that The Growth Spiral is entirely free. And not the kind of 'free' where you have to navigate a bait-and-switch at the end of it all.

The truth is I'm not trying to sell you anything. I'm just coming out of a two year coaching sabbatical, and in the coming months, I plan to move from business to service model. I'm not sure what it looks like yet, and so for now, I'm just giving up the goods for free. And mostly I think The Growth Spiral's kinda cool, and I just really want you to have it.

So I sat down and created a mini course which consists of a series of videos and writing prompts designed with the hope of helping you brave transitions with more grace, ease, and understanding.

I'm not promising you the moon, sun and stars. I'm simply offering you a very well-developed tool of self-awareness that has helped me and my clients to make sense of the many challenges we face. I encourage you to check it out and use it only if it serves you. Trust your interpretation of the material and hold it all lightly. Because regardless of how and if it speaks to you, whatever it reveals is just right.

Self-awareness is everything. The more awareness we bring to ourselves and to the world around us, the more power we have to create changes that matter, be they personal, communal, or global.

When it comes to braving change, or even heeding the impulse that invites us to click on a free download and do the inner work, we tend to avoid it. It might feel like our fear is standing between us and the changes we seek, but we can learn to make peace with it.

And I'll go first. I'm going to name my fear.

Over and over again, I avoid change or next level expression for the same three reasons:

One. I'm afraid of what I might lose. Resources, reputation, relationships. I'm afraid to move forward because I'm afraid of what it might cost me.

Reason number two. I'm afraid that my expression doesn't matter, or that it will in some way fail. And in this case, the joke's sort of on me, because when it comes to expression I believe that it exists for the sake of itself.

But because I suffer from imposter syndrome, I often attach my expression to some end or outcome that feels impossible and that keeps me from risking exposure and taking action.

And reason number three. I avoid change because I cannot see where it is I am headed. I hesitate because uncertainty... because I'm unclear where exactly my expression might lead me. Even when staying put is uncomfortable, at least I know what to expect. So I rest back and I wait and meanwhile, the ache inside of me grows.

Even as I know all of this, I have to navigate these fears on the daily. Sadly, I don't have a quick bypass for them. But what I have learned is that awareness is 80% of the journey. Finding a safe space where we can name our fears... it somehow neutralizes them. It doesn't make them go away, but it helps us to differentiate from them and restore a sense of agency in our lives. I don't know how it works exactly, I just know that it does. I've seen it again and again with clients; and I've lived it.

And so I offer you The Growth Spiral with self-awareness in mind. It is designed to help you contextualize your emotional highs and lows, traverse difficulties with grace and acceptance, and get unstuck faster.

It is a tool that I share with all of my clients, and it usually comes up in the first session. I stand up, walk over to a whiteboard or yellow pad and lay it all out with a single line. Looping pain and pleasure together, death and rebirth... rising us through a mixture of highs and lows that only make sense when we zoom out together.

Often when we think about change we imagine it to be a binary decision. Is it this, or is it that? Is it you, or is it me? And perhaps the most insidious and soul crushing of questions... should I, or shouldn't I?

Well, let me pause here and say 'should' is a word that can disconnect us from our inner knowing. Thus, I recommend using it sparingly. Said another way, when you 'should' all over yourself, you're often left with a mess to clean up.

We must learn to hold our desire to love and our desire for more with equanimity. The bravest and most loving thing we can do is to allow for the full expression of ourselves in our lives. We set an example for those we care for when we embrace joyous and courageous self regard. People learn and are inspired by us based not on the advice we give, but on the way they see us walking in the world.

As women many of us have been conditioned to believe that it is impolite to impose ourselves upon the world. So we sit back and watch the brave expressions of others wondering when it will be our turn. When will we be ready and confident. But waiting to feel ready, or invited, only keeps us stuck. We must claim our right to joyous self-expression. To growth, to rebirth. We must take our cues from Mama Nature herself and move ever onward.

Change isn't for the faint of heart, but you wouldn't be here unless you were bold and brave and willing. I for one do not expect life to suddenly be gentle with me. But does that mean that I need to armor up and avoid the ride? Of course not. I must be brave enough to imagine and move toward the life that I can see on the distant horizon. The life that I know is possible.

Trust me, I've done the work. The fastest way to get free is to be willing to burn off well-worn identities and attachments to ideas of how you think it should go.

Your life is a catalyzing opportunity, allowing for the emergence of a more expansive you. So I invite you to embrace change, and catch a ride on The Growth Spiral. To gain free access to the mini course, go to

Trust your yearnings and learn to surrender to change one stage at a time.

Thank you for trusting me with your attention and your time. As always, I love you big, and I hope to see you in another episode soon. Be well and continue to move toward what moves you.

Bye for now.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter