I was reflecting this week on why it can be so hard to grow, both for businesses and for individuals.
Fundamentally, growth means change: that you do things differently in the future than you have in the past.
But the difficult thing is this: the things you did in the past probably worked quite well. They got you to where you are. You’re comfortable with them. Your experience has been with these proven habits, techniques, and ideas.
Growth means accepting that circumstances have changed, that your assumptions must now be different. It means having the humility to look critically at your past successes or failures. It requires that you take off the limiting viewpoints of your past experience and look with a fresh perspective at where you should go next.
It also means saying goodbye to a set of ideas and practices that have served you well. Trade -offs are never easy, and growth means trading the uncertainty of the future for the certainty of the present.
And, in the long term, growth means that you have to continue doing this again and again. That the new ideas you are about to adopt will need to be things you let go of down the line as well. You will not be able to settle into your final perspective: you’ll need to keep undergoing the difficult process of thinking critically, making a difficult decision, and pushing forward against uncertainty.
The consolation is this:
Growth is necessary. It’s hard, and uncomfortable. But stagnation has a certain outcome that is worse–the guarantee that the rest of the world will pass you by.
Growth removes your limits. While the uncertainty of the future seems daunting–will I be able to figure out how to succeed with a new set of assumptions??–it is completely unbounded. When you open yourself to change, there is no limit to where you can grow, if you keep moving, a little at a time.
Growth is exciting. Here’s the thing: how many wonderful things would you have missed if you never opened yourself up to a new idea or experience?
A quick story to illustrate: my son is 21 months old. He’s been eating solid foods for over a year, and he has a few favorites that he never turns down. But, frequently, we’re offering him something he’s never had before. This past weekend, for the 5th time, I offered him a bite of an ice cream that I was having–and he, again, refused.
We see ourselves in our kids. So I wonder: how many times have I refused an amazing experience because I was afraid to try something new? How rich a life might I miss if I refuse to grow and change?
So open yourself to the changes: you might be amazed at what you were missing.