I’m a big believer in personal growth and embracing life’s journey, but I wasn’t always. In fact, I thought it was kind of nonsensical because it seemed sort of hippie dippy. It felt like something I couldn’t measure or see concrete benefits from. I considered myself a lifelong learner, which to me was entirely different. It was developing functional skills and extending capability. For a time, I was on a tear collecting certifications and completing programs like a mad woman. I loved it! Then the first cracks in my bubble started to appear…
As part of a Leadership Development Program, I was working with a coach, I’ll call him Josh. He changed the direction of my career and brought me to the insight that would help me find my purpose. Ironically a lot of that happened long after I was done formally working with him.
While debriefing my personal assessments he started to guide the discussion towards those long held beliefs about self-improvement and my happiness. Basically, challenging me to think with intention (which I loved and hated at the same time). My reaction is what is key and I’ll say, it wasn’t positive. Deep down the implications of his observation rang so true that they struck a nerve. I remember vividly that the insights were accurate and very scary because it meant a lot of what I had been doing before then was wrong. Josh was very excited. I was not.
I had zero time for wrong. I was progressing in my career; working towards another Masters; achieving goals. I was confident – some would even say sassy. I couldn’t backtrack. Instead I chose to bury the insight and did nothing with it. (Talk about a hindsight moment.)
What I didn’t grasp then is that while expanding your abilities may be useful or necessary, you can choose not to. The opportunity will dissipate and the consequences will be what they are. When you opt not to internalize an insight, more than likely, it’s going to continue coming up until you do. This is that ‘why does this keep happening to me?’ sensation.
Flash forward many years, and I have an epiphany: My work is not gratifying. I’m unhappy. Yes, I’m making money and I have lots of cute shoes, but it feels hollow with no meaning coming from how I spend my days. Josh’s words are still rattling around and I finally bring them back out to the light of day.
“Crap! These are still entirely true. I should have course corrected way back then. What do I do? This is an even bigger Do Over now and I have even less time for that.” For me it was a gut-wrenching decision – stay or go? It felt like admitting defeat and a lifetime of bad decisions.
Maple was the deep end of the pool. I knew I wasn’t fully prepared for it, but I dove in anyway. Which some of my friends call Bold and others call Crazy. I think it’s probably both.
My rationale was: one ill informed decision shouldn’t beget more bad decisions. I have the gift of choice. I can make changes and experience was saying staying was an even worse option. Then I realized, this is being a lifelong learner. Yes, becoming skilled at something is self-improvement, but so is internalizing insights and adapting your life. It’s all personal growth. So are dance lessons, meditation, therapy to resolve old wounds, making amends, or prioritizing self-care.
When a tree starts to grow, you can see the changes – it sprouts roots, gets taller, grows main branches. Eventually it matures to its normal height but it still grows. It strengthens its trunk, fills in its branch structure; sprouts new leaves and seeds each season. Some of it you notice and some you don’t. But it’s always growing to keep healthy and (presumably) happy.
Now I understand that growth is not something that ends when you graduate or when you have mastery of something. Growth is continuous. It takes many forms and it’s not necessarily about improvement; it’s about enrichment. It comes from building our skills and experiences and evolving perspectives. We have the opportunity every day to consider our lives and decide what happens next and which direction we go. When we make those choices, its growth.
Yup, I leapt and things changed. A lot.
I need new skills. I need people with skills I’ll never have. I discovered growth can be uncomfortable: physically, financially, emotionally and logically. I’m humbled. Even with all of that, honestly, I am happier now. The work has meaning. There is a lesson there too, and I’m trying to internalize it now (and not years later). Not all personal growth is life altering but ideally, it should be life enhancing. Today, however the opportunity comes, be brave and give yourself the chance to grow.
Remember, we’re here, rooting for you so Maple on!
We are growing Maple! Give us a hand with a Share, Like, Re-Tweet or Pin. Follow us @MeetMaple.