“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” -Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke the author of the Famous 1968 book Space Odyssey (later on turned into film in 2001), summarizes the infinite possibility of human growth in his quote. Growth as a person comes not when we are comfortable, but when we are put in places away from our normalcy. Evolution has it that creatures, big or small have adapted to their environments as a means of survival. The same is true with us human beings, whether the evolution to survive comes physically or in a mental/emotional sense. Situations transform us, mold us, and train us to be stronger. Do we learn when we stay in status-quo? Maybe yes. though the potential of growth is limited.
So what does a person have to do in order to grow? In my opinion, growth can be summarized generally in four simple steps:
1. Deciding that you want to grow as a person.
This decision is for you alone to make. No one can decide the choice of growing for you. In fact, it is impossible for another person to even do your growing for you. The desire to grow must come from one’s innermost being. Without that desire your motivations are non existent. And it is with motivations that our actions carry conviction.
2. Making a brave decision to step out of your comfort zone.
The comfort zone is what it is. It’s comfortable. It’s where we want to reside in because it’s easy, familiar and we can have everything in control. But the comfort zone isn’t where we find growth. You don’t grow from something you’re familiar with. For instance, you’re good at cooking. But you’re not good at baking. You’ve already learned to cook every dish on the planet yet you’ve never tried baking. The moment you try to learn to bake, experiment, fail, succeed, you grow. You gained a skill point. Or for example, you like to sing but never danced. The moment you take that dance class, you grow. The point is, trying something out of the ordinary can already be a source of growth. And it’s only a matter of time before you take leaps and bounds in improvement. But it’s that first step of getting out of the comfort zone that has to be taken.
3. Learning from every experience whether big or small.
There are times when we disregard small moments. Learning moments that could teach a lifetime of lessons. Take every challenge, every conflict every resolution and treat it like a post project analysis. What went wrong? What went right? What could I have done better? Or simply, what lesson can I learn from all this? We learn from taking the time to analyze these things. Whether big or small, any moment can become a learning experience. It makes us wiser.
4. Don’t regret, only look forward.
Regrets breed negative feelings. But looking forward keeps our eyes on the horizon. Just like the olden day travelers, constantly looking at the horizon for signs of life and land. Once your ships have sailed, commit to the decision and move forward.
In the Disney movie “Hercules”; Herc, after seeing he didn't fit into society, made a decision. He wanted to know who he was, he wanted to be different. That's why he went on that journey to the temple of Zeus. Here, he ventured to find himself. If you remember those scenes, he went through hills, forests even having to make bridges where there were none. Life is like that in many ways. My favorite part was the song being played out during this journey to find himself, Michael Bolton’s Go The Distance.
“Down unknown roads to embrace my fate.”
Deciding you want to grow as a person takes a sense of maturity. It comes when you realize that there’s so much out there in the world, so much knowledge, people, experiences. It’s when you see the picture that your own little world is limited, and you get that feeling that makes you want to say “I want to be a better person.” For whatever our circumstances in life, there’s nobody else that can make us grow but ourselves. Opportunities are laid out in front of us to take but it’s the fear of leaving our comfort zone that holds us back. Comfort zone includes being at home, being near to friends, a simple work routine or a laid back lifestyle. Making a brave decision to step out of it is already a sign of growth. This could include little steps like having more responsibility, leaving town, leaving friends behind to venture in the unknown. Only you can gauge how much unknown you’re willing to get into. A warning however is try not to do much more than you are capable of handling as you may find yourself suddenly too overwhelmed and may cause you to panic and return back into your comfort zone, and traumatized by the experience. Like for example, taking on a managerial role without learning the technical aspects of the company you’re working for. Or asking for more workload when you can’t even handle you’re current one. There is a saying “Don’t bite more than you can chew”. Always be reasonable in terms of taking on more challenges. This becomes a process of learning. Learning from every experience whether big or small is where growth gets stamped in our system. If you don’t learn from your mistakes or try to analyze the factors contributing to the success of a certain thing how else then will you learn? Be a person who introspects and internalizes the teachings that life offers you. So we make mistakes along the way, so what? We only live one life and if we don’t make mistakes we will never learn. However, if you make the same mistake twice, that my friends is not learning, it’s called stupidity. So don’t be afraid to make them.. once! Don’t regret, your decisions if they made you happy. Because you made them at a point where you felt that would've made you happy or better. Just continue to look forward into life positively. Sometimes the decisions we make now make no sense looking forward but someday when you’re looking back, you’ll find that they were for a purpose.
Steve Jobs said this as well in his speech at the Harvard Commencement Exercises in 2005. Here’s a link to that:
I believe each one of us has the capability to grow, and that growth is infinite. It’s just a matter of taking that brave first step out of the comfort zone and into the realm of infinite possibilities. And that I think is a human Space Odyssey in itself, an adventure into the unknown space into growth and success.
My question is, are you satisfied by being comfortable? Or are you willing to take that big leap to find a whole new you?