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Two Types Of Growth

Adam Coutts


I came up with a theory many years ago that there are two main ways for us to make significant-impact positive growth in our lives.

One way to make a big impact on our life for the better is instantaneous, emotional, intense, and invokes making a courageous and bold big change.  Examples of this would include to decide to take our life in a completely different direction (to go back to school to get a graduate degree, to quit a job and become a yoga teacher), to go and ask someone for something (a cute stranger for their number, one’s boss for a raise), to make a big public declaration (“I am going to quit this addiction from here on”, “You can count on me from now on to do XYZ”, etc), to make an apology or ask for one, to try something new for the first time, or to make a phone call or send an email with important content (“I’ve never told you how much I love you”, “I quit”, “let’s start a organization together”).

The other way to make a big positive impact on one’s life is less dramatic and less emotional, and takes more time.  It is slow, steady, regular time put in moving towards a goal – hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  There is simply no way to accomplish certain goals, for example to get good at a musical instrument or a sport, without years of steady, persistent long-term effort.

Having the second/steady type of movement without any of the first/sudden type of movement is called being a bored, asleep person, a cog in the machine.  But, having a lot of the first/sudden type of movement without any of the second/steady type is called being mercurial and unreliable, making big plans without achieving much.  In order to achieve positive growth, it is ideal to combine the two, big sudden breakthroughs with steady regular effort.  It’s like steadily cruising down the freeway, and, every once in a while, slamming your car into passing gear to make a quick, bold move around a car in your way.

I have noticed that sometimes, when people think that they would be happier if they had a certain type of growth, I suspect that their life would actually improve the most with the other type.  For example, some people who are already working long hours and feel like they just need to work harder might actually be best served by making some big changes.  And some people who are constantly seeking for big breakthroughs would be happiest if they settled down and put in some hours.

(On a different subject, thinking about this two part model - I have heard it said that a successful startup company often needs to transition, once it reaches a certain number of employees, from a CEO who is better at the first/sudden/risk-taking type of leadership (an entrepreneur) into one who is better at the second/steady/grind-it-out type of leadership (a steward.))

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