Two terms that frequently surface in the realm of personal development are ‘change’ and ‘growth’. While it’s tempting to use change and growth interchangeably, they are, in fact, distinct concepts.
Understanding change vs growth can help you make more informed decisions about your personal development journey.
What is Change?
Change Often Means a Turn-Around
When you talk about changing your life, you might mean going back to college, moving to a new city (or country), or starting a family.
Change Can Be A One-Off Event
Some changes happen abruptly, such as losing a job. While the aftermath might affect the days, weeks, and months to come, the change itself is relatively immediate and self-contained.
Change Can Be Externally Imposed
Not all changes are ones you choose. In fact, many might come from the outside. Some of these will be negative changes (eg. the death of a relative), some might seem like negative changes but later become positive ones (eg. becoming a father).
Either way, knowing how to manage change is important for making the best of these times.
What is Growth?
Growth Takes Time
While a change can happen overnight (whether it’s a paradigm shift in the way you think or an external change like becoming a mother/father), growth always takes time. You can’t become an expert in a day, or completely shed all your old bad habits in a week.
Growth Is An Incremental Process
When you’re growing, you’re moving steadily in one direction. This could mean gradually becoming a better person; consistently working towards a promotion or career shift; or getting a degree or other qualification.
Growth Needs Motivation
While changes can come from the outside, growth always comes from within you. Other people might support, help, and encourage you – but ultimately, you have to want to grow. It takes energy and effort on a long-term basis … which means you need to keep up your motivation.
Do You Need Change or Growth?
At some times in our lives, we may need to face up to big, radical changes. These can sometimes be painful to endure or even to contemplate … but on the other side lies a better life.
Other times, we’re pretty much on track – we just need to keep going onward, rather than getting complacent. This is when growth is called for. It can be a big mistake to assume that whenever things aren’t perfect, you need to change … sometimes, you just need to keep on in the same direction.
So which situation are you in and how can you figure out whether you need change or growth? For me, the best way to distinguish between the two is to consider whether the situation you’re in could get better if you applied some thought and effort. If you feel that there’s no realistic hope for it ever improving, it might be time for a radical change. This is especially so if your current actions are making the situation worse.
Change and Growth Examples
Here’s an example that might have come up for you in the past (or which might arise in the future): you’re considering leaving your current job.
CHANGE might be required if:
- You got the first job you could find out of college, and you’ve never felt passionate about it
- Your health (mental or physical) is suffering because of your job
- You’ve found a passion that, if only you’d known about it years ago, you’d have followed as a career.
GROWTH might be required if:
- You know the work your company does is important, but your role is getting boring
- You’re finding it hard to get on with your colleagues
- You’d like to step up to the next level, within the same company
You can look at other situations in a similar way. Think about your finances: do you need to make radical changes (like cutting up your credit cards?) or do you simply need to grow (by learning more about financial topics, and by slowly increasing how much you save each month?)
Or what about your relationship with your partner: if you’re having problems, is this because change is needed (such as a separation, or a complete turn-around in how you relate to one another) or do you need to grow (by gradually seeking to become more patient, loving and understanding)?
Conclusion: Change vs Growth
Whether it’s your finances, career, or relationships, the dilemma of change vs growth is a universal one. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Sometimes you need fundamental change, other times you simply need to grow in certain aspects. Reflect on your life to understand where you have made significant changes and where you have experienced steady and incremental growth.