The Key to Growth and Why It Is So Important

As the queen of comfort zones, it’s somewhat ironic that I am writing an article on how to achieve personal growth and development. I’ve spent the majority of my formative years terrified of growth, stifled in my fear of new experiences and bolstered by the belief that I don’t need to actively engage in the process of development. Rather, I believed the transition into a confident adult; a competent employee; an excellent girlfriend; a people-person with a knack for making big groups of people laugh at parties – would occur naturally, without having to do anything at all. So as opposed to actively engaging in the process of growth, I merely sat by often observing my life as if it were a particularly bland film. It’s not that I disliked my life, and in fact there were many fantastic aspects of it. But ultimately change always scared me, and I grew comfortable in my predictable existence, rarely stepping out of my comfort zone or actively seeking novel moments. Despite having an excellent relationship, great friends and family, and not the worst job in the world, I couldn’t understand why I became stagnant in my life, always accompanied by a pervasive sense of hollowness and lack of fulfilment. It wasn’t until I started doing things that terrified me when I realised how to truly develop as a person.

This aversion to change is extremely common, and arguably most people have an apprehension to new experiences. It’s part of our survival mechanism – we need to be able to predict what is coming next, and any sense of uncertainty can invoke feelings of anxiety and trepidation. However, it’s crucial that we recognise the importance that new experiences and going beyond our comfort zone have on our personal development. They key to progress and reaching significant levels of happiness lies in new experiences and disregarding our fears of what might happen when we engage in incongruous behaviours that are at odds with the norm. True growth can only transpire throughout uncomfortable experiences. Take the example of hypertrophy – building muscle (possibly the most repetitive activity but I promise it’s applicable). It is only when the muscle is exposed to increased load (in other words, something different to what it is accustomed to) that it can be damaged, repaired and subsequently grow.

We need to understand this process and how it is applicable to our life generally. we can’t sit around expecting improvements in all aspects of our health without knuckling down and doing the work. What many of us don’t realise is that as time passes, growth is not necessarily an inevitability even if it appears as though on the outside we are changing. If we engage in the same behaviours, resort to the same coping mechanisms, eat the same food, talk to the same people, and work in the same job – it doesn’t matter how much time passes or how many wrinkles form on our face, we will probably still be the same person. Until we actively seek out new experiences and mindfully engage in the process of change, then we cannot expect inner growth (or even superficial development) to occur.

How this works on a practical level is important to understand. Arguably, inner development requires a change in various behaviours and habits that you have acquired over the years on a daily basis. In other words, it’s not simply about booking a 5 month Europe trip (although this is certainly apart of it), but rather it involves the acute awareness of your daily responses, habits and behaviours that you have accumulated over the years, and recognising where you can adapt to become the person you ultimately want to be. For example, waking up earlier so you can squeeze in time for a workout or meditation; saying yes to the coffee with your boss even though it makes you squirm with awkwardness; going for a swim at the beach after work instead of racing home to stuff yourself with snacks; or reading a book for 20 minutes instead of scrolling on your phone. In isolation, all of these habits and behaviours may not seem detrimental to you and may appear to have minimal effect on your overall growth. However, what determines our progress is every decision we make on a daily basis. After-all, our life is the result of the accumulation of tiny habits and decisions. If we keep making the same decisions even on a basic level, then we can’t expect change to occur.

So why is growth so important? For me, growth is key to a satisfying life. Stagnancy or regression are the antithesis of a prosperous life in which we fulfil our potential and experience the very best that this world has to offer. If we aren’t growing or developing into better, kinder, more knowledgeable people then we become susceptible to feeling devoid of purpose and meaning. Progress is the key to making ourselves fulfilled, and the world overall, a better place to live. As they say, if you aren’t growing then you’re dying. Whilst it doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom, I think actively seeking progress through goal setting and adopting behaviours that will lead to the realisation of such goals, is integral to a meaningful existence.

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