When you reflect on the year past, it's easy to focus on your accomplishments and what happened. What might be interesting to think about are the activities you stopped doing and what didn't happen.
This past year, I no longer:
- Watch the Oscars, the NBA or go to movies
- Play basketball
- Spend time with certain friends and acquaintances
- Go to casinos or play cards
At first it was puzzling to me why I've suddenly lost interest in activities that used to engage me for hours until I began observing my young son.
I see that day by day, he is growing. And with that growth, he outgrows his clothes, the food he eats and even certain behaviors.
This is normal, expected and makes complete sense.
However, as we get older and especially after we've been working for a while, growing stops being the norm. We fall into a routine and do the same activities over and over again. We watch the same type of shows. See the same group of friends.
Think back to your past year. How much of it was similar to the year before?
If everything around you remains constant, it is a clear sign that you're not growing. And in the words of American journalist, Gail Sheehy,
Now, we all grow in different ways. Just because I outgrew basketball doesn't mean basketball is a bad thing. It just means that for me and in the direction I'm growing, basketball just don't fit any more. It's like size 3 shoes, middle school and partying until 6am. There is nothing wrong with these things, I just outgrew them.
Growth, if you think back to your adolescent years, is not always easy or fun. Unfortunately, this still holds true even in adulthood.
When I hear everyone talk about the Oscars or the big game, I feel like I missed out. When I see people playing basketball in the park, I want to jump in. In these moments of guilt, I find it helpful to remember my reasons for stopping these activities and the exciting things that have filled its place (like my son).
One of the hardest things to accept is that if you continue to grow, you will outgrow people close to you - your friends, your family maybe even your spouse.
The only way for you to authentically stay close to these people is to:
- Shrink when you are with them,
- Help them grow with you or
- Fully accept who they are and understand their influence on you.
By shrinking, I refer to behaving in a way that you no longer find resourceful. Unfortunately, as you get older, you'll find fewer people who continue to grow and you'll find that you are shrinking more often to fit in. The danger of situationally shrinking is that it will stunt your own growth especially if you need to do it often. Find ways to balance this and refuel your own energy by seeking out and spending time with people who value growth.
Another way to maintain your relationships while still growing is to proactively help those around you to grow. You can do this at work or at home. The drawback is change only happens when the other person wants to change not when you want them to change. If they're not open to growing, they are entitled to that decision. Don't let your good intentions fall short and definitely resist becoming a snob.
A third way to stay with the great people you love even if you're growing at various rates is to fully accept them for who they are while keeping in mind the consequences of growing at different rates.
When you outgrow someone else, your interests begin to differ and your individual outlook and philosophy on life and views on how to live it begins to change. Since life strategies influence behavior, you may find that you'll gravitate towards different and sometimes opposing activities. Most of your fringe or weak relationships end here because you and the other person won't be willing to put in the effort to keep the relationship.
In your stronger relationships, compromise tends to happen. You may shrink or the other person may grow or both. Typically, if the compromise is one-sided for too long, that could strain and eventually end the relationship. Now if both sides stop to grow, the relationship might stay intact but other areas in your life might begin to suffer. No one said life would be easy.
Look at your life - have you been growing, shrinking or staying the same?
If you're growing but feeling guilty because you're leaving things you once treasured behind, don't feel bad about it. It's part of living a fulfilled life and a natural consequence of growth.
If you're not growing, what are you going to do about it?
Photo by Steven Depolo
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.