There’s nothing quite like a four-year-old asking you big, universal questions to make you stop and reconsider your perspective on the world.
My son is a little bit philosophical. When I tuck him in at night, he often wants to talk about heaven and death and why people treat each other the way that they do.
One of his chief concerns is growing up. I remember being concerned about it at his age too.
I was sure that growing up was probably the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. (To some extent, I still do. Too many adults grow out of the natural curiosity and wonderment all children seem to possess.)
A few weeks ago, as I was lying next to him and talking about his day, he turned to me and asked me this question:
“How do we grow bigger?”
Now, I took an anatomy and physiology course in college when I was attempting to become a physical education teacher and football coach, so technically speaking I should be able to lucidly explain to a small child the basics of human growth, but let me tell you something:
That A&P course is why I quit physical education and became an English major instead.
So when he asked, I had to really stop and think.
I don’t recall exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of explaining how his body grows each day little by little because of all the food he eats and running around he does. It just happens as a natural, daily process.
And the more thought about it, the more I realized how true that is for growth of all kinds.
Growth is slow. In many cases, it’s unnoticeable.
You get to the end of a semester, and suddenly you learned an incredible amount of information about a subject. You didn’t realize it along the way, but at the end you can look back and quantify your new knowledge.
But even though it may be slow and imperceptible, growth is not guaranteed. People grow physically, mentally, and emotionally at different rates.
And once we’re adults and “fully grown,” maintaining or managing growth becomes a matter of work.
From here, we can go in two directions.
We can trend in a positive direction, like choosing to exercise to grow muscle mass, for instance.
Or we can trend in a negative direction and allow muscles to atrophy by not exercising them.
The key is that at this point in life, growth requires awareness.
It’s not the same as it is for my little guy, who doesn’t have to pay attention to what’s happening to him. For him, it just happens.
In a professional sense, that is especially true. Growth has to become a choice. (Unless you’re born a rich white male, in which case you can seemingly fail upwards an unlimited amount of times—all the way to the presidency, in fact.)
For the rest of us, being aware of growth and striving towards it is necessary to achieve new limits.
Specifically, there are three things growth needs to be for it to be effective. Here they are.
Growth doesn’t just happen. If you want to increase your skills, grow your business, or grow from a personal standpoint, you have to be intentional about your growth. That means making a plan and establishing a routine.
If you want to become a better marketer, you can’t run one Facebook ad campaign a year. You have to write consistently, read content written by pros in the industry, and continually try new techniques and strategies.
Likewise, if you want to become a more empathetic person, you can’t sit at home and watch reruns of Naked and Afraid every night. You have to get outside your home, do some volunteer work, and extend yourself.
Growth looks different for everyone.
What’s right for one person isn’t going to be right for another. What you often see from business development or marketing professionals is this one-size-fits-all approach to advice.
But a lot of times, that “growth hacking” expert is giving out tips that can only be implemented correctly by a small subset of the audience (See: companies big enough to pay what’s necessary or who have a large enough staff to not wither from increased demand).
You may not need 100 leads a month. You may only need two. Decide for yourself what growth and success looks like, because your definition is the only one that matters.
Growth doesn’t have to happen. We’ve established that.
But that doesn’t mean you have to believe that. In fact, accepting apathy shouldn’t be an option. We are made for bigger things than to allow our muscles to atrophy or to give up when a business deal falls through.
This isn’t easy. It’s not always entirely doable, given how debilitating depression can be for much of the population—recent statistics indicate that diagnoses of depression have gone up among all age groups, in all genders, in recent years. (And if you are depressed and need help, the National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine may be a good place to begin.)
So this isn’t a statement meant to wipe away the complexities of mental health. But I do believe that the ability to shift your mindset is a powerful way to enforce change and create improvement.
The only way you achieve growth is if you make it mandatory for yourself. But you’ve got to put in the work to make it happen.
If you’ve achieved personal or professional growth milestones lately, I’d love to celebrate them with you. Hit me up on Twitter to let me know what they are! 🎉🎉🎉
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Featured Image: Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash