3 keys to Move from the Shallow to Deeper Living

This is part of a new series that I am doing which is based on the theme of living a life of contrast.  The central question is: Can what seems to be distinct opposites be lived out together.  If it can, then what is the most appropriate situation to do so?  What is the best balance to strike in order for us to experience growth and maturity?

In this article, I would like to explore the question of living a shallow vs deep life.  Let’s start with defining both words.  Shallow as defined by dictionary.com is of little depth or not exhibiting, requiring or capable of serious thought.  On the other hand, deep is defined as extending far down from the top or surface or profound or penetrating in awareness or understanding. The difference is the distance from the surface.

I think that there are some scenarios where the shallow end is a good thing and in fact a smart thing to do.  For example, if you can’t swim, it is best to stick to the shallow end of the water or if you are like me with a phobia of Jaws, just stay out of the water all together😊 Another scenario is if you want to be a jack of all trade, then knowing a little or surface level of various topics is a useful talent to possess.

What about the deep then?  This pandemic has made all of us self-declared experts on virus or more specifically COVID-19.  Ok, maybe pretend experts and I can remember what my Standard 5 teacher who just happened to be named Mrs. Lam saying “Empty vessels makes the most noise.” In another words, the less we know the more the more “noise” we have to make to cover up what we truly don’t know.

Experts or people who have spend their entire lives in one subject matter, going deep is what they do, and they are passionate about it.  They are the risk takers who will take the plunge to innovate and to create something new or disruptive.  World changers are not shallow people, they are willing to take the risk to go deep because there is where the treasure is to be found.  The treasure may even seemed to be “failure” but no failure is every wasted.  We learn more from our failings than successes.  In fact, no one succeeds without failing countless times.  Not going deep is far riskier than just staying on the shallow end.

The key question is “Are you a risk taker?”

Questions along the line:

  •  “What risk are you taking?” 
  • “Are you doing it afraid?”
  • What are you sacrificing to go deeper?  There is always a trade-off, some sort of sacrifice that has to be made.

To go deeper into anything whether its in competencies, skills, relationships requires 3 keys:

  1. Risk taking.
  2. Sacrifice to go deeper.
  3. Do it afraid!

Risk Taking

Yes, it is risky to go deeper.  You are exploring the unknown.  You are learning an area that is new to you.  You are taking a risk.  Risk of failure, rejection, shame, criticism and the list goes on.  However, no matter the risk, the rewards regardless of the outcome will be depth in knowledge, experience, maturity, resilience and lessons on what to do and what not to do.  These learnings are transferable in that you can then apply in different situations and you never know when the learnings will come in handy.

Anything that requires us to get out of our comfort zone is a risk.  But staying in our comfort zone or the shallow is a risk as well.  The risk are aging without maturity, no real skills or competencies that is transferable to other areas, limited mindset and small-world-view.  The biggest risk is living your life in your own defined prison space which gets smaller with each step that you do not take a risk in.


Sacrifices must be made in order for you aim for the most important instead of the now.  Sacrifices are required because we have a finite time.  We have 24 hours day, no more and no less.  What we do and achieve during those 24 days is determined with how much you are willing to sacrifice.  Sacrificing sleep, going out with friends, time with family, comfort, and the list goes on.  We have all sacrificed something along the way.  Our careers are demanding on our time which will naturally take away time from other pursuits or interest.  That’s a sacrifice.

We sacrifice instant gratification for something most important.  Parents sacrifice their own comfort so that a child can experience something better.  Sacrifice is an outflow of love.  Whether it is in relationships or with decisions that we made, it comes out of the fact that we love someone or something more than. 

People who are passionate about a certain area will sacrifice a great amount to achieve a dream.  People who love deeply will sacrifice deeply for those that they love.  In fact, when it stems from the heart, it does not seem like a sacrifice at all.  It is just love.

The question is “Is there something that you are passionate about that you are willing to sacrifice the shallow for the deep?”

Do it Afraid!

Joyce Meyer wrote a book called “Do it Afraid!” and I thought that is a great title.  That’s life isn’t it.  Fear is inevitable but what we do with that fear is a decision.  Anything new, whether it is as small as learning how to plant a vegetable, there is a tinge of fear, what if it doesn’t grow?

The first time of doing anything, we are doing it afraid.  The bigger the dream, the deeper the challenge the deeper the fear.  To do it afraid, simply means to acknowledge the fear but not letting the fear stop you from doing it anyway.

Once we have taken the first, the fear slowly goes away with each step that we take.  The more you do it afraid, the less you will be afraid until a point where you are no longer of the action.  Until of course the next challenge or the next level of depth that you want to get into.

Are there any benefits for shallowness?  I would say that there are situations where it is useful especially in the following:

  1. You can have lots of knowledge about various topics.  Great conversation starter and a conversationalist especially for parties or getting to know people.
  2. Quiz or trivial pursuit nights could be fun if you know a variety of information from sports to history.
  3. You have tried and experienced a variety of things because you like to pursue many interest. 

When is it suitable to exercise some “shallow” or on the “surface level” living?

  1. Travelling or exploring is a great example of being a place for just a short period of time.  You get to experience a little of what the culture of the country that you are living in but not the true depth of living in that country.
  2. Reading a variety of book from fiction to non-fiction of various genre.  You can gain a broad cross section of knowledge and ideas.
  3. Learn specific skills to complete a specific task.  For example, learning enough on how to change a bulb.  You don’t need to know all the intricate details of how electricity flows into the house or the complexities of how the bulb was made. You know enough to complete the task of changing the light bulb.

Hence, yes, we all live a combination of shallow and deep lives.  The balance is to know which areas we should be going deep into in order to build solid foundation and what areas are just like the icing on the cake.

Some questions to think about:

  1. What areas of life do you want to go deeper into?  Relationships or skills that would benefit if you did go deeper into.
  2. What areas of your life would be enriched if you did have depth in knowledge or experience or connections?
  3. What risk are you willing to take to go deeper into because not doing so will be more detrimental to you?
  4. What do you want to do but have stopped short because you were afraid?  What areas are you willing to do it afraid?

Let’s remember, going deep is never easy and it not a one time or occasionally action.  It requires clear intentions, consistent action, risk taking, sacrifices and above all else, to do it afraid.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you have learned at least one thing that you are able to apply into your everyday life.  Let’s be purposeful in our journey to live out the best version of you and of your life.  As always, please subscribe, follow, like and share this blog with your friends.  Take care and step into the everyday with purpose. 

You can also check out lisalamcoach podcast here.

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