In this last month, as we all have been quarantined, I wanted to encourage you to take advantage of this time that we have at home and find some time for your own growth. This is what I have been focusing on this last month, being intentional about my personal & professional growth.
I had someone tell me, “don’t let any good crisis go to waste,” and I have to agree with that. Going through a crisis as difficult as it is for all of us, you can be better on the other side of this pandemic. You can use this time to remain positive and ask yourselves, how do I want to be changed for the better when this is all over. What areas of my personal or professional life need to be transformed, what skills do I need to improve on, how can I have a more significant impact on my family, my community, my team and company. You can just think about it or you can be intentional about your change, your growth & your potential.
Growing to reach your potential doesn’t happen automatically. Unlike your physical growth from the time you were born until you’re a young adult, you are in a constant state of growing physically, which is entirely out of your control. Unfortunately, your personal and professional growth doesn’t work the same way. You have to be intentional and disciplined about it.
Developing those disciplines and being intentional about your growth is not easy. Too often, we make excuses why we haven’t grown or why we haven’t done anything to better ourselves, or to develop ourselves.
There are “8 Growth Gaps” that I see some of my clients fall into when I ask what their growth plan for themselves is or for their companies. If you’re like most people, you have one or more mistaken beliefs about your growth. These beliefs create a gap that keeps you from growing and reaching your highest 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.
The Assumption Gap – “I Assume That I Will Grow Automatically.” Are you taking full responsibility for your growth? After completing College, instead of taking charge of my growth, I just worked hard for others. I am competitive and hardworking, but what I found is those I worked for had no interest in my growth. I thought that just by working in my field of choice I would grow. Then after years of working, this question kept tugging on me. That was, “Is this my purpose, is this what I’m supposed to do the rest of my life? Was I growing in my potential that I was called to do?” I didn’t want to be that professional whose potential was left untapped. For many people, they stop growing after they leave college, thinking that being in the workforce they are going to grow automatically. You don’t improve or grow by merely living. You have to be intentional about your growth. No one improves by accident. Personal growth doesn’t just happen on its own. You must take complete ownership of the growth process because nobody else will do it for you.
The Knowledge Gap – “ I Don’t Know How To Grow.” For so many people, I hear this all the time from them. The same was for me as well. When I was asked by a mentor of mine, “What is your growth plan?” I didn’t know what to say. I talked about how busy I was and all the things I was doing at work. Then he looked at me and said, “you don’t have a growth plan, do you?” I asked all those around me if they had a growth plan hoping to find some idea of what to do, and no one had one. Fortunately, my mentor took me under his wing and helped me develop my growth plan. Part of that growth plan was aligning that plan to my purpose. This was long before Simon Sinek’s “Start with your Why” but very much in sync with that concept. Growing in the area of my purpose made a vast difference in being dedicated and disciplined in my growth. I knew now what I was to grow towards. Don’t let lack of knowledge keep you from growth. Define your purpose and align your growth plan with that purpose.
The Timing Gap – “It’s Not the Right Time to Begin.” It’s that small voice inside your head that says, “it’s not the right time to start.” How many times have you said that to yourself? As a business advisor and coach, I hear this all the time as an excuse. That’s been my excuse, “I’ll just think about this later,”and later became months, and months became years. Don’t let this be you. There is not a better time than now during this pandemic to start, when else can you take some time to begin to grow than now intentionally.
The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it. I’m fortunate to have John Maxwell as my mentor today, and something that he has said to me is, “you don’t go into an opportunity, but rather you grow into opportunities.” Be like Nike…..Just Do it – now.
The Mistake Gap – “I’m Afraid of Making Mistakes.” For the longest time, this gap was paralyzing for me. Being that Type-A personality, that perfectionist in all that I went after, there was a fear of making a mistake, fear of failing. What would people think of me? I think this has to do with my upbringing, always wanting to seek approval from my dad. That is another story for another day. Growing can be a little messy. It’s admitting I don’t have all the answers. Failing and making mistakes are all a part of success. I need to fail forward by learning from those mistakes and failures; that’s where actual growth comes from. Expect to make mistakes in your growth journey, welcome them as a sign you are moving in the right direction.
The Perfection Gap – “I Have to Find the Best Way Before I Start.” Too often, we want to map everything out and have all the questions answered before we start our growth plan. But we have it backward, we have to just start the process. Being a design professional and developer for over 30 years, I wanted to get to the end result, building the project that I was working on. But first, I needed to grade the site, then lay the foundations, then start building the walls & roof, then I started seeing progress. It’s the same with our growth; you need to start the process before you can begin to see your progress. Don’t get caught up with wanting all the answers. Don’t let the perfectionist in you stand between you and your growth of who you can truly be.
The Inspiration Gap – “I Don’t Feel Like Doing It.” There are times that I just don’t feel like taking the next steps towards my growth. I’m not always inspired to take that next step up. I have to remind myself now and then, and start doing something, if it’s reading a single chapter from a book, listening to a podcast or watching a video on an area of growth that I’m working on. I need to take a step every day toward my goal. Sometimes it feels like I’m crawling. All that matters is that I move and not wait for feelings of inspiration before doing it. Trust me when I say that the reasons to keep growing far outweigh the reasons to start growing. If you do, you will fall in love with the process, and you will be able to look back at the end of the month & later that year and see how far you’ve come in your growth.
The Comparison Gap – “Others Are Better Than I Am.” As someone who is very competitive and a recovering perfectionist, I always wanted to be the very best, which at times truly limited my growth. It was only then that I realized that if I was the best in the room, I was in the wrong room. I needed to surround myself with people that were better, smarter, and more experienced than I was if I was indeed going to grow. I had to stop comparing and get over this gap. The only person I needed to compare myself to is my former self. I had to get out of my comfort zone and stretch myself to learn from others that have taken this growth journey ahead of me.
The Expectation Gap – “I Thought it Would Be Easier Than This.” As you start this journey of growth and look at whom you can ultimately become, that better version of who you are today, it won’t be that easy. Life will get in the way, just as this COVID-19 pandemic has gotten in the way of all our lives. But it’s in times like now that we will be stretched, that will transform us into becoming better. We have to conquer this time and ourselves and leave behind those self-limiting beliefs that we have. We have to step outside of our comfort zone. It’s not easy, but we have to continue to move forward, going outside of our comfort zone and grow.
It’s been more than 25 years of living intentionally, pursuing my passion, living my life purpose, and growing each day. I’ve changed my thoughts, my words, my actions. And I’m continually doing something every day to live my growth plan.
Are you not going to start your growth journey because it’s a difficult time? I hope you won’t. When we attempt to do something that we have never done before, it takes courage. We generate that courage from the support of others in our life. We need the external help of those around us. Don’t be afraid to ask for support during your growth journey.
Which of these gaps is limiting your growth today? Now that you are aware, what strategies will you do, starting today to bridge the gap?
As you start your growth journey, ask yourself not, “How long will it take” but rather ask yourself, “How far can I go?”
For me, I will keep on growing as a husband, father, mentor, coach, and business leader, honing my skill to encourage, equip, mentor, inspire, and lead others. To impact people’s lives for as long as I have breath in my lungs.
You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.
Arthur M. May AIA Assoc. President
If you want more information on intentional growth, I highly recommend John Maxwell’s book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.