The Nature of Growth
Growth, evolution, transformation — these words are easily thrown around today. Yet do we mean the same thing when we say those words?
What is growth anyway? And how do we distinguish between skills acquisition and growth?
The metaphor that I have found most compelling is as follows.
Skills acquisition is adding more things to your bucket. Growth is changing the shape of your bucket.
Growth is shifting perspective. Growth is seeing the world with new eyes. Growth is seeing more.
Growth is progressive awareness of what we are controlled by, and subsequently being able to control what we are controlled by.
This awareness and subsequent control expand in layers and become more and more subtle.
We move from being controlled by our impulses as a toddler, to conforming to social rules as an adolescent. Here, we stop being subject to our impulses. We become rule oriented. We say ‘’this is how it is done, and this is how it must be done.”
Then at some point we realise that different groups have different rules. And that some of them are more successful than others. So, we learn to pick the best rule, the best practice. We stop being subject to the rules we may have learnt from our upbringing, our education, or our vocation. We choose the best amongst all available for the sake of the outcome we are after. We become outcome oriented.
At some point further still, we may realise that the best is not always the best. That it is contextual. So, we learn to adapt our best practices to serve the context. We stop being subject to the best practice. We become contextually oriented.
Then, at some point much further, we may realise that how we adapt to the context, is subjective. That how we are, plays a role in how we adapt. We start seeing the nuances of our personality play out. As we become aware of this, we stop being subject to our personality. We start sensing the systems of inter-connection and our place in that inter-connected web. Here we become systemically oriented.
So as our awareness expands, we move from orienting from social-rule to best-practice to contextual-adaptation to systemic-adaptation.
That is the nature of growth. It is like climbing a ladder. Each step essential to the next.
Some of us will spend more time in one orientation over another, depending on how and when our aha moment arrives.
So, what have been your aha moments? What can you now control, that you used to be controlled by? How has the shape of your bucket changed over the years?
Sources: Susan Cook-Greuter, Ken Wilber, William Torbert, Robert Kegan