This is an ideal time to revisit our modern attachments to the concept of growth.
Growth is a universally popular idea, with almost religious meaning for some. Growth is endlessly marketable, offering hope and a path of progress.
‘Up and to the right’ is the trajectory that underpins modern economic life and is the context for much of our professional work. We congratulate ourselves when we point to evidence of such growth.
As individuals, we are obviously vulnerable and limited yet are receptive to stories of our infinite potential. At the organisational or societal level, we can structure ourselves to achieve extraordinary things but run up against the limitations of our environment and of our capabilities to supply or produce.
This brings us to the question of sustainability. And ultimately to ask to what end are we pursuing growth?
Is growth motivated by attempting to fit in, to impress, to dance to another’s tune, to outperform, to control or to dominate?
Is growth arising from an understanding of values, from building on known strengths, or aligning to the servicing of the expressed needs of others?
Life stretches us, often unexpectedly. A mix of self-selected and unwelcome challenges allow us to find new levels of resourcefulness and adaptability.
But we don’t always thrive when stretched. We can be traumatised, rattled and diminished.
It is perhaps in this context that growth has most meaning and leads to my preferred definition: growth expands our capability to handle what arises.
We’re not always motivated for growth. We may lack confidence or belief. We may be exhausted. We may feel unsupported or question the benefits of moving away from a position of comfort.
But we are more likely to make progress when we tap into the intrinsic motivation of expanding our capability for caring for others and broadening our contribution beyond our own selfish whims.
Coaching is highly relevant to the pursuit of growth. We coach for performance, for improvement and for development. Working with a coach can be described as having a partner in growth.
However, coaching work is limited unless it also opens to questions of sustainability and alignment. This requires courage, in coming to terms with uncertainty and discomfort. The process of growing requires us to open to what emerges, no matter how unexpected or non-ideal.
Developing our capability to handle what arises benefits us and benefits others. That is growth worth pursuing.
This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.