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The Pain of Personal Growth


15Mar 2011

I am in the midst of a season of personal growth, and I really don’t like it (the present experience, at least).

I react (I was going to say “hate” but that seems too strong) to speakers or writers who say, “Growth is natural.  You don’t see a tree ‘trying’ to grow, do you?  You just need to have the right conditions, and growth naturally occurs.”

While this is partially true, and I can agree with the point (to a degree), I would respond:  “Death is natural, too.  You don’t have to try to decline in health — it just happens.”

So, my point is:  there are some stages in life where growth, even rapid growth, is natural and happens easily.  Infants & young children grow at an incredibly rapid pace, so do most complex organisms (animals, plants, even some businesses) in their early developing stages — you have to work hard to make them not grow.

But there are other stages in life (including mine currently), where growth takes effort, discipline and even hard work.   You don’t have to be old, necessarily.  When young people are learning to play a musical instrument or are learning complex sports skills (e.g. dribbling a soccer ball), they must practice.  And depending on their skill level and the level they are trying to reach, it can take a lot of practice as well as other disciplined practices (conditioning, weight lifting, eating well).

My current major  personal growth area is professionally — trying to move to a new level with regards to my speaking skills, interviews with the media, marketing, and writing.  And it is taking a fair amount of work, and a long time (from my perspective, at least.)

I am fortunate to have a coach, Rob, who is taking me through the process and leading the way.  He is giving me a vision of where I am trying to head, and helping outline the skills and abilities I need to develop to get there.  He provides structure and accountability, as well as corrective feedback.   He is honest and doesn’t cut me a lot of slack  (read:  he isn’t mean, but he is not always nice.)

I often don’t like the process — I get tired of the discipline, the  practice and the correction. But I also value it — knowing (believing?) that the process is necessary to reach my goals of improving my skills.  It is an act of faith, essentially, that the investment of time & energy will pay off  in increased impact in others’ lives.

A friend of mine, John Ortberg, has written: “There are few things sadder than stagnation.” (Fortunately, as I often tell people who ask me about my work — I am never bored!)  What sustains my efforts?  I don’t think I am “driven” like  I used to be.  Rather, I think it is a deeper sense of stewardship of the training, experiences, and opportunities before me.  As John further states:  “A chance of a lifetime is not something to take lightly”.

What opportunities are before you?  What avenues could possibly be a path for you, if you investigated and pursued it?  In what area of your life would you like to grow?  Take a step.  Find a resource (a book, a person, a training course) and learn.  But be realistic, personal growth does sometimes require some pain.

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