Becoming better at shaping your own life so that you truly enjoy it.
This is how I define personal growth — an intrinsic good.
While most ideas around personal growth revolve around the How — the habits and practices — a deep understanding of how human and personal growth connects to lived reality is often lacking.
But it matters. A lot.
So here are four ways to hopefully help you carve out a deeper understanding of your own journey.
⏳ Delayed Realization
Growth sometimes only becomes obvious in hindsight.
Every so often, we go through phases of felt stagnation — often triggered by the end of a relationship, the loss of a job or a deeply felt lethargy and lack of orientation.
Sometimes, we only understand years later how the emotional and spiritual chaos back then actually helped us let go of emotional baggage, define new values, develop new interests or understand more about who we are when no one’s looking.
Periods of realization of our personal growth can be temporally decoupled from the period of growth itself.2
🏹 Setbacks Are Launchpads
Growth often follows adversity.
Things can go to shit. That’s just a fundamental feature of life which sometimes decides to throw us back to a level we never thought we would need to play at. Whether it’s health-related, economical or social — setbacks are real and they can happen to anyone.
However, exactly this adversity can become a bow that bends and pulls back the arrow of personal development just to launch it with ever more energy.
The volatility of life sometimes forces us to take a step back — but when we are able to accept this and don’t expect reality to be different, we can use it to gain new perspectives and take two steps forward as a result.
🐛 Shifting Definitions
Our own definition of what growth means will change over time.
Existential crises often happen not as a result of losing what we were after, but of waking up to the fact that this thing feels no longer meaningful. Whether it’s material, an ideal or a life situation — re-calibrating what matters to us and what doesn’t can be hard, disorienting and painful.
And yet, updating our inner compass, adapting our belief system and forming new values are essential parts of a life well lived. As the outer world changes, so does our inner world.
The vast emptiness that sometimes follows the destruction of our own desires, goals and self-perception can become a breeding ground for an upgraded definition of how we want to go about life and what makes it worth struggling for.
⛓ Suffering Freedom
Humans are the only living beings that are not confined by upper limits.
We only have a lower boundary: death. The space of potential improvement is never fully exhausted. There’s always an area in our life where progress is possible, an aspect of ourselves we could improve. With infinite imagination of perfection comes infinite dissatisfaction with reality.
A striving for more helps us grow as humans and persons — but can also make it hard to enjoy what is. What fuels our growth fuels our discontentment.
“We are not suffering our bondage, we are suffering our freedom.”
Maybe one the biggest of life’s challenges is to anchor the striving for learning and growth to the thriving in the here and now.