‘You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Personal growth is not something that comes easily. It’s a process, and it can be a challenging one, at that. If we’re lucky, personal growth comes from an organic shift in our life’s tasks such as graduating from grad school and nailing that degree on the wall, or moving to a new city to start our career.
In this respect, growth is fostered by accomplishment as part of a new stage in life.
However, growth isn’t always so simple, or so pleasant.
Because growth is a process, it can be painful. It forces us to see and face the very nature of where we are and who we are. Building healthy habits, taking a risk, stretching ourselves outside of our emotional comfort zone, or breaking an unwanted habit are all choices that foster growth.
And these are fostered by fear and discomfort as part of outgrowing a stage in life.
It’s easy to embrace growth when it’s handed to us as part of success or accomplishment.
But, embracing growth as part of pain?
Not so much.
More often than not, the greatest growth emerges when we become aware of what we’ve outgrown and in taking the leap to conquer that growth.
…Otherwise, we stay stuck.
The problem with staying stuck is that it feels good. Fear of the unknown is what triggers us into a loop, preventing the very growth we want — or need — while comfort molds into complacency, keeping us stuck in that loop.
In order to master personal growth, we can’t keep looping back to where we are in life, or we’ll never get to where we want to be.
Even growth from accomplishment is stressful and brings discomfort and a fear of the unknown with it. Anyone who’s been up against endless nights studying for exams, writing a proposal, taking the plunge in a new relationship, or searching for ways to stand out from the crowd in a job interview has experienced this.
But, growth from fear and discomfort are what can trigger us into action — into facing what scares us and into moving past our discomfort.
Self-awareness is what emerges from conquering fear and discomfort.
Here are three points to remember when conquering growth:
Master Your Discomfort. Too much comfort can lead to boredom, self-sabotage or distress. The fact is, if you’re too comfortable in your daily life, then you’re avoiding growth by choosing complacency. There should be moments of uncertainty, moments of regret, and moments of rethinking things — these are what trigger discomfort and fear which can be catalysts for emotional growth.
Or, at the very least these moments can be used as triggers for self-awareness.
Mastering our discomfort is about getting in touch with our feelings, our emotions, our habits and examining where we are. This can’t be accomplished unless we’ve reached a place of acceptance with our starting point.
When you’re comfortable, you become complacent; When you’re growing, you’re moving out of your emotional comfort zone.
Master Your Flow. Flow is reached when you’ve been feeling comfortably uncomfortable in growth. It is reached when you’ve made peace with the unknown, are consistent in finding your niche with your emotional growth, and are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, but not so-much-so that you’ve scared yourself back into complacency.
For example, when we exercise, we find our flow that helps us get the max payout from our workout. Yet, if our flow is entirely caught up in mastering our physical body, we become unaligned — a proverbial house of cards. Finding our flow needs to include getting comfortable being uncomfortable emotionally, mentally and physically, so that we can target these areas needed for growth.
When growth is not part of an organic shift, it is experienced from a cognizant shift and through deliberate action. In other words, what doesn’t happen naturally for growth, we need to take into our own hands in order to grow.
Master Your Growth. Mastering our growth is a process. We need to be aligned physically, mentally and emotionally. By avoiding awareness, or trying to run from discomfort, we’re also running from growth.
Long-term growth requires constantly pushing ourselves past our comfort zones, past complacency, and into the unknown — to continue challenging ourselves.
Give yourself permission to stumble; here is where character is built and humility is learned.
Give yourself permission to recognize your limitations.
Most importantly, give yourself permission to continue trying. Mastery requires practice.
Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2006). Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research & practice. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle: Selected papers. New York: International Universities Press.
Snyder, M., & Cantor, N. (1998). Understanding personality and social behavior: A functionalist strategy. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (p. 635–679). McGraw-Hill.
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L.G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9, 455–471.
Previously published on medium
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