I Am Learning; But Am I Growing?
An avid believer in learning and growing, I learned about personal growth the hard way. One day someone very close to me said, “You are always talking about growth, but I don’t see you growing.” I thought I was. I knew I was. After all if I am learning, I am growing, right? Was there a difference between learning and growing? Yes.
Learning results in new knowledge.
Growing results in change.
Learning Is Acquiring Knowledge
That conversation made me think long and hard about my personal growth, and challenge myself with:
- I need to grow, not just learn.
- How will I know I am growing? Can it be measured?
I have made some progress since that time. I want to briefly share with you what I have learned.
I love to read books to help me grow. I have not always enjoyed reading. But in 2008, I read a book that changed my life: Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. Up to that point, I believed that if I were reading, that meant I was growing. It does not.
I also love to write. But I have not always loved writing. A few years ago, I found something that also impacted my life and my organization (while reading), and decided to write about it, namely: leadership. But I also learned writing does not mean growing. I love going to conferences to learn new things. And when I go, I take a lot of notes. I learn a lot. But attending conferences also does not mean growth.
I absolutely love learning from others. Finding people to mentor me in different areas that they excel in is something I have come to really appreciate. But having a mentor also does not imply growth. I love to reflect on previous failures and successes to learn from them. But I’ve learned that reflection does not equal growth. I love to write down and file away principles and quotes I hear, statements that possess truths. I have been doing that for 6 years, and I have a 600 page Word document to prove it. But recording valuable principles is not growth either.
Growth is Applying Knowledge
All these things I have listed are simply means of acquiring knowledge. Growth is applying knowledge. Growth is about change: changing our habits of thinking, changing how we manage our emotions, and changing how we handle life.
So many times, I feel so elated when I learn something new. I feel like I am a new person. It is like sitting in church and hearing a great sermon. You feel enthused, inspired, and encouraged to live out the meaning of your faith. But all too often for most of us, nothing happens. We don’t apply what we’ve learned in order to make an actual change. Growing spiritually takes a daily commitment to work out how we would apply spiritual truths in our lives. As much as we would love the change to happen right after we hear the beautiful sermon, it rarely happens then. It is the same with learning and growth.
I know people who are avid readers or prolific writers, but have glaring areas of their lives that need growth and maturity that they quite simply fail to address. The fact of the matter is that as human beings, we are mostly blind to our shortfalls. We don’t want to acknowledge that we have them, and we most certainly don’t want others to tell us that we do. Growth requires extreme forms of humility and self-reflection. It requires that we invite people to be very open with us. We may prefer to ignore them, but growth means change. And change means that we have to acknowledge that we may be doing something in a suboptimal way. If we really want to grow, we must change even when it is hard—or painful.
I seek personal growth daily. If I am going to be a better leader than I am today, I must grow. I must change, not just learn. If I am going to take my people to better places, and make more of an impact on my world than I am today, I must be intentionally dedicated to constantly growing—constantly changing. As a leader in your own right, will you join me to go beyond learning to growing?
To get you started, I invite you to download my free eBook, Challenge to Change, if you have not done so already. I wish you all the best on your journey of growth, friend.
Question: What is one way you ensure that you are growing, and not just learning? (I will be the first to answer this in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your response as well.)
For Further Reading: