I sat with a client this week and had a thoughtful discussion on noticing our own personal growth progress.
This 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 because of his industry’s busy season.
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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 one), and making more friends.
He was stunned to realize all of this had happened!
He could not see these milestones of personal growth progress through the tedium of daily life.
This got me thinking, too.
How do I recognize the progress made in my personal growth?
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, and 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, and less likable.
My physical strength was not nearly what it is today—and I am much more confident with how I look and feel.
I considered many careers, dated someone who rarely opened up, and listened to any “guru” with 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, but my general life felt flat.
So a decade later, how do I know I’ve grown?
I’m reminded each time I see a gray hair in the mirror!
I can’t believe these strange rascals have sprouted from my scalp.
On the other hand, I run faster, lift heavier weights, write more, and cook better.
I think more clearly, love deeper, am a thousand times less judgmental, am more compassionate about other people’s situations and feelings, and realize that we’re all doing our best.
Where I haven’t grown is that I can still be punitive, have set views on how certain things in my life “should” be, and am still overly sensitive.
I notice my personal growth progress most in my thinking and feeling.
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 undervalue myself, settle for Plan B, or let things slide.
I’m still remarkably hard on myself, and I get feedback that I’m too self-critical.
However, I’ve just realized that personal growth progress comes from taking risks and stretching myself.
My decision to move from my home base is a huge growth marker.
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’d have to consider it before making a final decision.
In the past, I would have agreed to please him because he’s “wiser” than me.
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 is growth.
I can finally recognize myself.
Minor victories like this show me growth.
So, how do you notice your own growth?
Let us know in the comment section below.