Friday Night Musing- What Is Growth ?
May 22, 2021
I have written a lot about personal growth. But this evening, I find myself thinking about growth. What is growth? How does one know one is growing? How does one experience growth? Is it something tangible?
Contemplating these questions, I realize I have not come across any definition for this from any of the books I have read so far…Growth is always described as a matter of fact, as if you know what it is.
In a material sense growth, I can say I am growing if I get a promotion or buy a house. There is something that moves me from position A to Position B, and in the conventional viewpoint of society, if position B is seen to be more aspirational, more challenging to attain, I see that as growth.
But there is another crucial facet of growth. Personal growth? How do I know I am growing personally? What are the markers for this?
Definition Of Growth
Let me first start with my definition for growth.
Growth is when I learn something I did not know about, and I put that learning to some positive action.
In some ways, growth is a process of learning something new and converting that knowledge into some tangible action.
So how do I know I am growing? This is where it becomes fascinating for me.
I know that I am growing as a person only when I am Intentional and mindful about whatever I learn, and I then intentionally and purposefully put that learning to some use/action.
When I know that I am growing, I experience growth. It moves from being a mere process into a potentially life-changing experience.
Let me illustrate with an example.
- I read a book on Leadership principles. While I have a broad idea about leadership, I learn something new and I get a fresh perspective that sharpens my understanding.
- I recognize this new perspective as a learning because I am mindful and intentional.
- I then assimilate this learning and synthesize this new perspective with the knowledge I already have. And I then put it to work in my next coaching or mentoring conversation.
- I have now grown as a person. Also, because I have tracked this process – I know what I learned, How I gained a new perspective and put it to action- I experience growth. I know what my Point A was without this new learning; I know what my Point B is with this new learning- The shift from Point A to point B is the growth I experience.
Now onto the next question- What is the process of learning. I read a book, learn something new. How else do I learn anything new?
We All Learn In One Of Two Ways
The first is where you intentionally seek out some knowledge you know you don’t have. It is intentional learning where you know what you are seeking, and you acquire it.
And there is another type of learning- That is non-intentional to start with.
You have some goal- You want to achieve something.
To achieve the outcome, you put some effort, some action.
When you put in the effort,
- If you achieve what you set out to achieve- you experience success.
- However, If you don’t achieve what you set out to achieve- you experience failure.
If you gloat in the glory of success or if you wallow in the dejection of failure, there is no learning.
But if you are intentional and purposeful about learning, you figure out something powerful.
- When you succeed, you figure out which of your actions helped you achieve the outcome. You learn that the actions you took are the right actions. You put that learning and knowledge ( what steps will get me the results) to use to get a similar outcome the next time- you have grown.
- When you fail, you look at it as something that did not work. You then try to figure out why the action did not get the desired outcome- you ask people, read books, contemplate, and eventually learn why that action did not work. You put that learning to work the next time by tweaking your actions- You experience growth. It does not matter if the next time you take action, the results are successful or not.
- Particularly in failure, the process of learning from the failure to do something different is the growth. Failure forces us to look for answers because of the emotional pain. That is why failure can be a significant growth accelerator.
Let me now capture this process of learning and growth through a personal example.
My Real Life Experience
Many years ago, I had a team member who was disengaged and demotivated. It was because of the way I was operating with him. I wanted to figure out if I could do something about it. So, I got myself a book on Coaching by John Maxwell. The book was full of solid wisdom and I learned that the essence of leadership is all about creating value consistently for people you lead.
After reading that book, I realized I was not doing some things right. I was dealing with my teammates in a self-centered way. While others were overlooking my operating style, this one team member was struggling. By synthesizing the learning from the book, I knew what I was doing wrong and what different actions I needed to take to inspire and motivate this person. I put this learning to work by changing my operating style- I had grown as an individual, as a professional because I had moved from Point A to Point B. I was a better version of myself.