Personal Growth is a Choice

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What does it mean to grow? In the usual frame of reference, we might see “growth” as someone who gets taller or bigger. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes not. A man who gains 25 pounds worth of cheeseburgers, shakes, and fries might grow larger, but that’s not necessarily a positive.

Then again, a woman in pregnancy might grow significantly bigger, and we see that as a good thing. And gardeners around our country (there are more than 44 million households growing something) will often ask one another, “How’s your garden growing?” However, that’s not precisely what they mean.


Growth Needs Purpose

Planting a garden implies purpose. Many people plant vegetable gardens. In various cases, they nurture those gardens to help them eat healthier and, in some cases, to save money on groceries. If their passion is for flowers, they plant and nurture the flowers for the eventual beauty, joy, and tranquility they bring. Some plant flowers to attract bees and butterflies. That, too, is a purposeful goal.

Presumably, the woman who has decided to have a baby has done so because she sees a growing family as a good thing. There is love, intention, and great nurturing in the process of bringing another being into the world.

However, growth without purpose is often not growth at all. How often have we heard the expression, “He had so much potential?” It is a statement of failed opportunity.

I have known gifted athletes who never trained and exceptionally bright individuals who never studied and settled for mediocre careers.

In gardening, every seed, be it a Zinnia or Zucchini, is only as good as what is done with its potential. In either case, flower or fruit, it is up to us to nurture that seed as an active process. Things grow, but for them to reach their true potential, there is a bond we make with the soil, ourselves, and life itself to help that growth process reach its potential. We are purposeful in our intention.


Action Changes Things

It is a sad but true commentary on modern life, that we encourage aspiration without work, results without effort and purpose without expectation of paying the price.

These actions, much like planting a garden without nurturing, or worse, the equivalent of stealing the fruits of another’s labors, is no growth at all, but guaranteed imitation.

I have known, unfortunately, people who have gone bankrupt not because of a tragic business failure or catastrophic medical bills, but because they convinced themselves they needed a luxury vehicle they could not afford, or they purchased furnishings or lavish vacations they did not need, or even worse, who blamed their failures on everyone else around them but themselves.

Growth and “appearance” are two different things. Driving an unaffordable status symbol or having a living room filled with exorbitantly priced expensive antiques or luxurious modern furnishings, or blaming everyone because they failed to be more successful in life, are the same things as throwing seeds on the ground and expecting a garden, or going to the local supermarket buying tomatoes and gluing them onto a pathetic vine!

Far better to struggle with the ground, to overcome a lack of knowledge about planting, or to pledge to plant better and wiser for next year than to give in to negativity and bitterness. Ultimately, growth requires a certain amount of humility. We may fail at times, we may perceive our neighbors are much more successful than we are, or we may feel we will never achieve our goals, but we continue to work at it.

Our gardens need only be a reflection of ourselves. The beauty of our gardens, whether raising a beautiful child, a gorgeous garden, or overcoming all odds to achieve business, academic or athletic success, is the beauty of seeing barren ground as a place of growth and having the courage to endure the harshest climates. You are capable of so much more than you can even imagine. Always remember that the struggle is part of the journey and personal growth is a choice.



For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.