Last week we talked about potential, and how you can only reach it if you’re willing to grow. If you have dreams, goals, or aspirations, you need to grow to achieve them. But if you’re like most people, you have one or more mistaken beliefs about growth. These create a gap that keeps you from growing and reaching your potential. Take a look at the following eight misconceptions about growth that may be holding you back from being as intentional as you need to be.
1. The Assumption Gap—“I Assume That I Will Automatically Grow”
When we are children, our bodies grow automatically. A year goes by, and we become taller, stronger, more capable of doing new things and facing new challenges. I think many people carry into adulthood a subconscious belief that mental, spiritual, and emotional growth follows a similar pattern. The problem is that we don’t improve by simply living. We have to be intentional about it. No one improves by accident. Personal growth doesn’t just happen on its own. And once you’re done with your formal education, you must take complete ownership of the growth process, because nobody else will do it for you.
2. The Knowledge Gap—“I Don’t Know How to Grow”
When I became aware of my need to grow, I asked everyone around me if they had a plan for growth. I was hoping that somebody had figured this out and I could simply learn from him. Not one person said yes. Nobody in my world had a plan for growing and improving. I didn’t know how to grow, and neither did they. Fortunately, a way to grow was presented to me, and I jumped at the chance to do it. Don’t let lack of knowledge keep you from growth. Resources are out there, if you take the time to look for them.
3. The Timing Gap—“It’s Not the Right Time to Begin”
American politician Frank Clark said, “What great accomplishments we’d have in the world if everybody had done what they intended to do.” Most people don’t act as quickly as they should on things. They find themselves subject to the Law of Diminishing Intent, which says, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.”
The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. If you’re not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t, you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentionally, you can keep growing and keep asking “What’s next?”
4. The Mistake Gap—“I’m Afraid of Making Mistakes”
Growing can be a messy business. It means admitting you don’t have the answers. It requires making mistakes. It can make you look foolish. Most people don’t enjoy that. But that is the price of admission if you want to improve.
If you want to grow, you need to get over any fear you may have of making mistakes. As author and professor Warren Bennis asserts, “A mistake is simply another way of doing things.” To become intentional about growing, expect to make mistakes every day, and welcome them as a sign that you are moving in the right direction.
5. The Perfection Gap—“I Have to Find the Best Way Before I Start”
Similar to the Mistake Gap is the Perfection Gap, the desire to find the “best” way to get started in a growth plan. When we’re presented with the idea of a growth plan, we often go looking for the best way. But that has it backward. You have to get started if you want to find the best way. It’s similar to driving on an unfamiliar road at night. Ideally, you’d like to be able to see your whole route before you begin. But you see it progressively. As you move forward, a little more of the road is revealed to you. If you want to see more of the way, then get moving.
6. The Inspiration Gap—“I Don’t Feel Like Doing It”
When it was suggested that I needed to be intentional about growing, I had thousands of reasons not to do it. I didn’t have the time, the money, the experience, and so on. I had only one reason to do it: I hoped it would make a difference. That certainly didn’t feel inspirational. But I started. To my astonishment, after a year of dedicated growth, my reason for putting in the work changed from getting started to staying with it, because it did make a difference. After that, I didn’t want to miss a single day!
You may not feel inspired to aggressively pursue a growth plan if you haven’t started yet. If that’s the case, please trust me when I say that the reasons to keep growing far outweigh the reasons to start growing. And you only discover the reasons to stay with growth if you stick with it long enough to start reaping the benefits. So make a commitment to yourself to start and stick with it for at least twelve months. If you do, you will fall in love with the process, and you will be able to look back at the end of that year and see how far you’ve come.
7. The Comparison Gap—“Others Are Better Than I Am”
The first ten years that I was intentionally pursuing personal growth, I was always behind trying to catch up. I sought a lot of outside input, which meant I was spending time with people much farther ahead of me in growth. I often felt like I was in over my head and trying to swim. Despite that, I was encouraged. Why? Because I discovered that great people were willing to share their ideas. And I was learning so much. You can learn only if others are ahead of you. I had to get over the comparison gap. I had to learn to become comfortable with being out of my comfort zone. It was a difficult transition, but it was well worth it.
8. The Expectation Gap—“I Thought it Would Be Easier Than This”
I don’t know any successful person who thinks growth comes quickly and climbing to the top is easy. It just doesn’t happen. People create their own luck. How? Here’s the formula:
+ Action (doing something about it)
It all starts with preparation. Unfortunately, that takes time. But here’s the best news. As Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” If you want to reach your goals and fulfill your potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change your life.
Adapted from The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (October, 2012)
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