Measuring your personal growth
I sat with a client this week and had a thoughtful discussion on noticing our own growth. This particular client is a man in his early twenties who graduated from college almost two years ago. He works in a corporate job and spends about 80-90 hours a week in the office due to his industry’s busy season. Today we reflected on his growth over the past two years, and he could not recall much advancement. I reminded him of his success in graduating, turning an internship into a paid job, interviewing for and getting promoted at a different company, moving to various apartments (each one better than the previous), and making more friends. He was stunned to realize all of this had happened! He could not see these milestones through the tedium of daily life.
This got me thinking, too.
How do I recognize if I’ve grown?
I read my old emails, journals, and letters and occasionally think I’m in the same spot I was in right after college. What a disconcerting, depressing thought. Have I really stayed in the same place, or worse, backtracked more than a decade later? Can it possibly be that I’m thinking the same thoughts? As I’m in my own tunnel, I see very minimal development. I experience the daily grind and often can’t perceive growth because it’s so minute. Yet, when I lean in and examine my life from a bigger point of view, I see improved relationships, clarity for the choices I’ve made, longer durations of happiness.
When I confront myself now in relation to ten years ago, I see a woman who knows who she is. A decade ago, I was in a friendship that kept me stifled and I compared myself to this “superior” friend thinking I was less attractive, less funny, less likable. My physical strength was not nearly what it is today — and I am much more confident with the way I look and feel. I was considering so many careers, dating someone who rarely opened up, listening to any “guru” who had a magic wand to help me know myself. Forget trusting myself, I hardly listened to myself! I felt the daily grind of a corporate life with little joy. There were happy times, for sure, but my general life felt flat.
So a decade later, how do I know I’ve grown?
I’m reminded each time I look in the mirror and see a gray hair!
I can’t believe these strange rascals have started to sprout from my scalp. On the other hand, I run faster, lift heavier weights, write more, cook better, think more clearly, love deeper, am a thousand times less judgmental, am more compassionate to other people’s situations and feeling, and have come to realize that we’re all doing the best we can. Where I haven’t grown is that I can still be punitive, I still have set views on how certain things in my life “should” be, and am still overly sensitive.
I notice my growth with the way I think and feel.
I trust my heart now as much as my head.
Oh, back then, I hardly used my heart. I considered it a vessel of anatomy and physiology. Now, I think of my heart as a life-force and connector to people, ideas, and feelings. There are still too many days when I under-value myself and settle for Plan B, or let things slide. I’m still remarkably hard on myself, and get feedback that I’m being way too self-critical.
However I’ve just realized that growth also comes from taking risks and stretching myself.
My decision to move from my home base is a huge marker of growth. I see that I now speak up for myself and value myself more prominently than I did a decade ago. It even happened today! My therapist suggested something to me and I revealed that I’ll have to consider it first, before making a final decision. In the past I would have agreed to please him because he’s “wiser” than me. What BS! Of course he’s wise and so am I! I’m wise and curious and know myself much better than anyone else knows me. I see so many of my unique and special qualities — and this in and of itself is growth. I can finally recognize myself. Small victories like this show me growth.
So, how do you notice your own growth?