Signs you are growing
Emma's Notes #45
Many of us grow up thinking that progress is natural. And that makes sense. You are born, when you start walking people cheer for you. Your caregivers encourage you to talk. Then later, when you are in school you are plunged into a river that seems to only lead one way - to a degree.
But then what? What happens when the education system has brought you to (in good cases) or barfed you onto (in bad cases) the shore? Or when you decided this river is not for you and you got out midway?
Learning is natural. We are social beings that are designed to adapt to our surroundings in order to survive. That adapting is called learning. However, that might not be in the direction you want to learn. Let’s discern these two ideas:
Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge.
Growth is the process of learning in the direction you want.
Much of my work is explaining the first, so people can do the second.*
Growth itself is intentional. Learning how to direct your learning into growth requires work. But that’s not all that needs to be done. You also need to learn how to recognize growth.
In the majority of our lives, there is no teacher to give you a mark. There is no test to check whether you master something, but then how do you know you are growing?
Here are some of the things to keep your eyes on:
You feel like past accomplishments are not such a big deal anymore.
Once you might have been very afraid to give a presentation for 50 people. Now you think that is nothing. 50 people? Pfff. It takes at least 500 people to get you sweating. Or at least today it does ;-).
You feel bored doing things that challenged you at first.
When you are growing you will get bored doing things that you used to find challenging. This is because repeated practice gives an opportunity for automatization. You no longer need your attention to do things that required focus earlier. Boredom might look like feeling uninspired, restless, anxious, stuck or tired.
When you look at your work from a while back, you disagree.
Yesterday my roommates and I were talking about my TEDx talk. They asked how I felt about the talk I gave when I was 18. I answered that I disagree with younger Emma on many things. And I feel happy about that. It means that I changed opinions, dared to question myself, and gained new knowledge.
You change social circles.
An ending relationship is not a failed relationship. It just means that you, the other person, or both of you changed. If you notice a shift in your social circles, it might be a sign that you are growing.
You feel lost.
I love Dabrowski’s theory on positive disintegration. In short, his theory is that to progress psychologically, you need to fall apart to come back together in a better way. These few sentences in no way do justice to Dabrowski’s highly nuanced theory. However, the main idea helps me to remember: growth does not necessarily have to feel good. Moreover, it often does not. We are conditioned to think growth feels good because getting a good grade in school feels good. But remember, that was education, you are growing now - a different thing.
What are signs of growth for you? Would love to hear.