How to cope with endless growth

Mindfully on the way to a destination which does not exist

(This post is a bit of a break from the first, more information-driven, posts. Bear with me as I share something of my current reality and personal thoughts. Growth and becoming are a journey. By sharing a part of my journey, I hope to provide you with the reassurance that you are not alone in yours, and perhaps also some food for thought.)

As a child we are told not to “grow up too quickly” or to “wish away” our lives as we yearn for adulthood. As parents, we easily get caught up in the idea of “one day” – I can’t wait until she can walk… I can’t wait until she can swim … I can’t wait until I can have a proper conversation with her … This deep seated sense of waiting for something is the cause of lost moments. It is the reason why we are told to “live in the moment”.

I recently discovered that I was losing moments in this way. I never realised it. Sometimes it just takes someone commenting from the outside for you to notice a perspective which, in hindsight, seems obvious. But let me explain how I managed to get myself into the type of mindset that caused this “loss of moments,” or, perpetual sense of “waiting”.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had two of the most loving, inspiring and intelligent parents in the world (and of course, I’m not at all biased)! Without being put under any pressure, I was encouraged and a very specific belief was trained into me: Your potential has no limit. This message about potential is dear to me and it is the reason why I have devoted much of my life and research to Positive Psychology. It is not the message itself which led me to my realisation about losing time, it was the way in which I pursued my “potential”.

You see, this path I am on, which is dedicated to potential development and personal growth, has driven me to become. I enjoy learning, reading, researching, changing, reflecting, making adjustments and more changing – to keep working towards growth. And it has been good! I can say without a doubt that I have grown! But it took an outsider to point out to me that through valuing growth so much, I have overlooked the value I already have, where I am right now. I have, in a way, tied my own worth – how I believe others view me and how I view myself – to the fact that I have not yet reached my destination … But my destination (goal) is growth and, as such, does not actually have a destination! Growth is a continuous process, not a destination. If I think of how others look at me and how I see myself, I never feel quite good enough because I haven’t achieved this unreachable “goal” or destination that I have subconsciously set for myself. This is how I have been living, subconsciously. It has been the driving force that has kept me working, striving and passionate. However, I now realise that this driving force has a dark side and that it has blinded me to that which I have already attained and my value as a person in the present moment.

I am learning that optimal functioning, which is what I study, isn’t always about change; sometimes, it’s about being. I need to learn to just be.

In this process of (ironic) growth, I further realised the connection between all of this and mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be fully and non-judgmentally aware of the present moment. In other words, to be aware of the moment, along with your thoughts and feelings within that moment. Mindfully inhabiting the moment, however, is something more. It means taking up your rightful space in the world, in that moment, with all you are and all you have to offer, owning it fully. This takes mindfulness from being in the moment, to BEING in the moment. I have learnt that “better days” and optimal functioning are not only to be found in the future, they are part of the present as well. The value of living mindfully consists of not only one part, but two: An awareness of the value of this particular moment in time, and, my value as a person, here and now, along with everything I have already experienced and achieved.

This realisation leads me to believe that what I am in need of, is a level of comfort with the duality of life and living: On the one hand there is striving, growth and becoming, and on the other hand, there is being. As simple as it sounds, it’s turning out to be the challenge I currently (and gladly) face.

6 thoughts on “How to cope with endless growth”

  1. This This This! I love it!

    This (being fully present in a moment) is something I’ve find myself doing often. This post has helped me find new appreciation for these moments.

    I’m no professional, but here’s my “two cents”: BEING in the moment should not only be reserved for seemingly grand activities – I often enjoy a meal more than I usually would when I choose to BE in the moment while preparing it. How do I BE in the moment? By reminding myself that I’m nourishing my body, by trying (which isn’t easy) to focus my thoughts on the ingredients, health benefits and the good deed I’m doing for my body by feeding it. You can be in the moment with everything and anything – taking a bath, eating, driving – you’d be amazed at how much appreciation you’ll start to have for the most mundane tasks.

    After reading this post, I remembered something I once heard someone say; “I look forward to the memories of right now” and it got me thinking; when I look back, I want to be able to say, ‘I lived in that moment, I was present!

  2. Wow, I’m really bowled out by these insights you share! Yes, we run the race of life and, yes, we want to get to certain milestones. However, every athlete needs to stop, rest and catch her breath. And, the stopping can and should be regarded to be as important as the running, because we cannot run if we don’t stop to rest, to determine how far we got, to plan how we’ll proceed, and to appreciate where we are (what we’ve already achieved). From a religious point of view I believe God is always with us in every moment (even when we are not aware of Him!); therefore, every moment of being is a gift that we should cherish – and fortunately God is also in our past and will definitely be in our future. Being mindful of where we are, is as important as to know where we come from and where we plan to go. Marianne, you are so right that we sometimes forget to appreciate and value the ‘now moments’!
    Thanks for a very special blog!

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