141: The secret to personal growth

141: The secret to personal growth

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Sometimes I write podcast episodes and blog posts that are as much for me as they are for anyone else. This is one of those. I’ve been reminded again about personal growth, the nature of life, and the secret to moving forward in it.

Ready for the big secret? Here it is. If you want to move through life and grow as a person you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and be willing to walk through change.

Seems easy enough to write it down.

In practice, it gets all flubbed up.

Personal growth isn’t always about the end goal

Many of us have an end goal—a place we want to end up—whether that’s where we want to be this weekend, by the end of this year, or five years from now. And we often think of reaching that goal as having moved forward in our personal growth. But really, the moving forward is what’s happening all the time. It’s the moving from the millions of point As to point Bs, and those moves aren’t always fluid or easy.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, right?

And that life is made up of millions of little opportunities to feel uncomfortable as you work on personal growth.

Now, being uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in pain or in a place you don’t want to be. Being uncomfortable can sometimes just mean that things are out of balance.

Human beings are creatures of comfort. The vast majority of us are most comfortable when our normal remains as our normal. When things change, we’re pulled out of what we know and what we’re used to, so we feel out of balance and there is discomfort as we adjust. Adjusting is uncomfortable.

Being tossed out of our normal doesn’t have to be a big life change. It can be something simple. It can even be a whole bunch of simple things all tied together in a nice package. Being out of our normal doesn’t even have to be a bad thing. Good stress is still stress. Exciting things can still toss our life off balance.

I bring this up because I’m uncomfortable right now. It’s partially because we’re in a huge season of change in our house: the oldest graduates this year, the youngest is headed to his first job interview, etc. But it’s other stuff that has to do with personal growth, too. I told a friend the other day, “I feel like my life right now is filled with things I don’t know how to do or don’t know how to fix.” And it felt weird to say that because a vast majority of the things I’d put in that list of “don’t know how to do” are good, exciting things.

Like learning to drive a manual.

Like learning to drive a motorcycle.

The answer to my discomfort is to get on the other side of my discomfort. Being on the other side of learning to successfully drive a manual requires the same thing as it did to get to the other side of, for instance, buying the farm we now live on.

Personal growth is on the other side of discomfort.

What you want is on the other side of your discomfort.

And you know how you get to the other side? You go through it.

Life is filled with these moments. The odd thing is that keeping the balance between comfort and discomfort kind of sums up the entire journey through life. If you back up and take a wide view of your life so far, you will see it’s been filled with these moments of comfort and discomfort, stability and change, same and different. And through all those things, you’ve grown as a person. You’ve leveled up. You’ve learned something new. You’ve moved ahead.

Some of us reach a certain point in our life and, whether we want to admit it or not, we really want to just coast.

But if you coast, do you know what happens?

You stop growing. You stop moving forward. You stagnate.

And that’s a waste of the gift of life.

I don’t know what’s making you uncomfortable right now. I don’t know what you don’t know or what you’re trying to fix or what wonderful thing has entered your life to give you stress. If you’re a human being alive right now, you can probably make a big ol’ list. But life is really a series of moving from places of comfort to places of discomfort and back to comfort. Repeat, and repeat.

So when you’re deciding whether to start that business or you’re sitting in the manual car wondering how to start on a hill or you’re wondering how to stop the rats from killing your chicks or you’re waiting on the duckling shipment that’s been delayed again or you’re watching your family schedule go bonkers because someone’s work hours changed or you’ve figured out you need to move from the house you’re in, remember: what you want is on the other side of the discomfort. The imbalance. The change.

Your choice is to sit on this side… or move through what’s in front of you.

The choice is sometimes difficult, but it’s your choice to make.

Amy Dingmann, 4-30-21

Monarch butterfly on a flower, with the words "Personal Growth: the secret to moving forward" written above it.

Resources:

My new book! Make Friends with a Dog: 18 Tips to Live a Good Life

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