The Practice of Groundedness – Stulberg

Title: The Practice of Groundedness

Author: Stulberg, Brad

Genre: Practical Nonfiction

Category: Fundamentals, Habits, Work Philosophy, Values, Organization


In the past, I have let myself get overwhelmed and paralyzed, in a sense, regarding habits and projects. Analysis Paralysis or the Paradox of Choice. I never had the vocabulary to describe and articulate these frenetic feelings I have had around work until I read The Practice of Groundedness. I always felt an urgency and a need to construct the perfect plan and then execute that plan. Inevitably these routines concluded with both an exasperation due to never being perfect and ultimately a track record of shallow results. Through the lens of values and a sustainable approach to growth, Stulberg presents a way to view the philosophy and failures of the “chronically behind” and rushed approach to growth. Stulberg’s perspective and the language which he uses to illustrate that perspective are refreshing and timely. A welcome lesson and mindshift in these times of hyper connectivity and ever present burnout.

Important Points:

Heroic Individualism

Why do we feel so burnt out? Stulberg begins his book by describing the culture that exists today; a culture that springs from hyper connectivity, hustle culture, and a reinforced lifestyle of “always being on”. Some of these qualities are decidedly western but Stulberg argues that they are magnified by the technology that is ever present in our lives. Today’s culture has lead to a population of people that are exhausted, worried, and pursued by a background level of anxiety reminding them that they could be doing more at every spare moment. Stulberg defines this state and climate as Heroic Individualism; “…an ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both yourself and others, paired with limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success. Stulberg goes on to say that culture perpetuates this state by relentlessly saying “…you need to be better, feel better, think more positively, have more, and ‘optimize’ your life – only to offer shallow and superficial solutions that, at best, leave you wanting.”

Principles of Groundedness

Stulberg’s antidote to the pitfalls of Heroic Individualism is Groundedness. He describes Groundedness as “…an unwavering internal strength and self confidence that sustains you through ups and downs. It is a deep reservoir of integrity and fortitude, of wholeness, out of which lasting performance, well-being, and fulfillment emerge.” Contrasting with modern culture, Groundedness is an approach to life that springs from your innermost values and focuses on creating a meaningful life in the present moment. Rather than living with insatiable striving and ambition, Groundedness instead turns the focus to actions that are conducive to sustainable growth and fulfillment in the here and now. It combats the unfocused and frenetic lifestyle that characterizes modern culture and replaces it with a simpler way forward. Rather than a life of infinite opportunities that paralyzes you with ever better choices leaving you with a history of half baked results, etc – a life centered around Groundedness allows you to focus on what’s actually important; “Groundedness does not eliminate ambition, it situates and stabilizes these qualities, so that your striving and ambition become less frenetic and more focused, sustainable and fulfilling; less about achieving something out in front of you and more about living in alignment with your innermost values, pursuing your interests, and expressing your authentic self in the here and now, and in a manner you can be proud of.”

Where the Heroic Individualism path is characterized by a life of divided attention, urgency, and ultimately an ever growing to do list without any change to the time we are allocated; a Grounded life revolves around a bedrock of principles that continue to sustain the Grounded life; “…happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and sustainable performance arise when you concentrate on being present in the process of living instead of obsessing over outcomes, and above all when you’re finally Grounded wherever you are.”

Principles of Groundedness

  • Acceptance: Accept where you are to get where you want to go 
  • Presence: Be present so you can own your attention and energy
  • Patience: Be patient and you’ll get there faster
  • Vulnerability: Embrace Vulnerability to develop genuine strength and confidence
  • Deep Community: Build Deep Community
  • Movement: Move your body to ground your mind

Living a Grounded Life

The principles of a Grounded Life aren’t meant to be merely thought of, Stulberg reminds us that “You don’t become what you think. You become what you do. Living a grounded life starts with a mindset shift, but it continues as an ongoing practice.” Where I think this advice is most relevant is in regards to taking action and overcoming the “analysis paralysis” or other such impediment to action. When action is halted and you are so focused on your plan or your thoughts, dissonance follows. Dissonance is the discomfort that accompanies inconsistencies between your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and your actions. I think this hesitancy to action and ultimately the dissonance that follows stems from the Heroic Individualism and it’s emphasis on the outcome as the “only arbiter of success.” When you are so focused on the outcome, you limit your actions – whether to protect yourself from failure or to give yourself a way out if something better comes along. Ultimately you protect your ego. Stulberg’s approach to Groundedness emphasizes that living with Groundedness is an ongoing practice, one that revolves around the Being-Doing Cycle and practicing actions that revolve around principles. In response to the “analysis paralysis” and hesitation to action, the Being-Doing cycle reminds us that “…your inner way of being influences what you do, but what you do also influences your inner way of being.” When we are experiencing dissonance, it is likely that our Being-Doing is out of alignment. Moving forward and taking action will in turn give you the mood to keep going, or as Stulberg reminds us, “Mood follows Action”. 

Moving forward with this new practice, one of the final thoughts Stulberg concludes with is to choose simplicity over complexity. In an age of high tech gadgets and pervasive attention to productivity, it is easy to allow yourself to get overwhelmed and spread thin across multiple to do lists, calendars, and projects. Stulberg simplifies the evolution here by describing it as: Simple to Complex to Simple. I have found this as a great synthesis to describe the productivity and self development evolution in my life. Early on in your development journey, you focus on certain habits and routines. Eventually you could grow to add the technology (wearables, electronic calendars, hacks, etc) to give you that extra edge in your development. This is where the complexity comes in and ultimately, perhaps, where we get off the path. When we are so hooked on tracking our habits or productivity for the sake of productivity, we get lost in the complexity. We choose productivity rather than productive activity. This is the bedrock of Heroic Individualism. Practicing Groundedness helps us pull ourselves through this complexity, returning to simplicity again, with new eyes; “…We often make things more complex than they need to be as a way to avoid the reality that what really matters for behavior change is consistently showing up and doing the work. Not dreaming about it. Not thinking about it. Not talking about it. Doing it”


“Life satisfaction is largely a by-product of transitioning from being a seeker, or someone who wants a certain lifestyle, to a practitioner, or someone who lives that lifestyle.”

“Do not worry about achieving a specific result. Focus on being where you are and applying the principles of Groundedness to the best of your ability right now. If you concentrate on the process the results you are hoping for tend to take care of themselves.”

“Bring intentionality to everything you do, keep coming back to the principles of Groundedness and your actions for living them out.”

“Do not compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to prior versions of yourself and judge yourself based on the effort you are exerting in the present moment.”

“Practice means approaching an endeavor deliberately, with care, and with intention to continually grow. It requires paying close attention to feedback you receive – both internal and from external sources you trust – and adjust accordingly.”

“When an activity becomes a practice, it shifts from something that you are doing at a point in time to an ongoing practice of becoming.”

Similar Books/Further Reading:

Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Cares

The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage by Kelly McGonigal

Fatherly by Seth Simons

Previous Commonplace Book Entries

The Brain That Changes Itself by Doidge

End of Night by Bogard

Being Wrong by Schulz

Mindset by Dweck

Mastermind by Konnikova

New to the site? Start here at my Latest Post or learn more about my site at the About section. Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: