“The days are long, but the years are short” – Gretchen Rubin.
There are different points throughout the year that cause me to pause and wonder and evaluate where I am and where I want to be. The start of a new year is one such point, and my birthday is another. I also feel this questioning arise around the middle of the year when we all start to feel how quickly the year has moved from day-one to month-seven. The biggest question that arises for me (and is also the source of the self-doubt that causes me to pause and evaluate so routinely) is whether I am growing.
Growth is subjective because whether you are moving closer to your true self, or further away, is dependent on your values and direction. Happily eating a burger may be a milestone for someone who is learning food-freedom, alternatively it might be counter-productive to another who is trying to enter a body-building competition. Everyone is at a different stage of their life, trying to learn a different lesson, all the time. So, being able to evaluate your growth relies on your awareness of what priorities you have in your life.
The reason I feel the itch to evaluate my growth so routinely is a result of the question: “Am I good (doing, being, or achieving) enough?” While this question can be harmful when not recognized or harmful when it’s answered with self-doubt instead of self-love, it is a question that we all feel. The amount of information that we can absorb (intentionally, or unintentionally) through media helps suggest that the answer may be “no” unconsciously. But being aware of this question can provide a reminder and opportunity to us to pause and realign with our values and purpose – and this can only ever be a good thing.
There is no rule book for how or when to pause and evaluate your growth. Whether you are inclined to write out your values, current goals, routine activities, and habits, or you prefer to sip tea and watch the sky as you pause to think, each person’s way will be unique (I do it differently every time!). The key is to use the time intentionally. Life gets busy, the year moves quickly, whether it’s five minutes or an hour, taking a moment to pause and check whether you are moving in the direction truest to yourself helps you make intentional decisions so to avoid getting swept out into the currents of life. The nagging question of “am I enough?” can be the perfect cue that we need time to realign with what matters to us and tune out the noise of everyone else’s direction and growth.
It can be overwhelming trying to evaluate growth. We may find that we only have a small list of career achievements or didn’t succeed in that project we were so passionate about. Reflecting will include acknowledging the setbacks and hurts we’ve experienced throughout the year, but these cannot be avoided as they are a way that we can measure our growth. Another way – and the way I prefer to simplify the idea of ‘growth’ – is to spend my attention on the decisions I have made (or didn’t make) and the decisions I make routinely. How these change (or don’t change) can be a huge indicator of how we may be growing or stagnating.
First, you need to know what your values are. If you don’t, google a list of values on the internet and see what stands out to you. Pick 3-5 that you feel are your top values above all-others, and if you’re struggling to decide, think back over past decisions you have made as they will always reveal what is truly important to you. (For example, if you had an important networking event and a family dinner on the same night, which one did you pick and how did you feel about your decision? If you picked family and felt no regret, that would suggest family is a higher priority to you than work).
Second, brainstorm (in whatever method you prefer) habits and actions (a.k.a. decisions) that you have engaged in over the last year – do they align with your values, or take you away from them? Continue to ask yourself this question regarding any decisions that occur to you – did you lose any habits, have you decided to stop using a certain word, have you changed your schedule to fit in a new activity? Our actions are direct results of decisions we made and kept. If you look back over how you spent your time over the last month, do the actions and decisions that made up that time align with your values?
If the answer is yes, and you can see the changes and growth in your decisions that are moving you in the direction that is important to you, then you have provided yourself with a positive example of your own growth. If the answer is no, then that doesn’t mean you have failed, it may not even mean you have to change anything. It is up to you to evaluate what is important to you, but by taking the time to pause you can make the decision intentionally and course-correct if you need to.
The reality is there will be a combination of “yes”s and “no”s in our growth. We can’t grow in all directions at once, so taking the time to pause can help us decide what actions are most important to us and work on one at a time.
It’s important to reflect on our own growth with only ourselves in mind. Our growth isn’t about comparing ourselves to others or about degrading ourselves for the ways we may have missed the mark. It’s a way to celebrate ourselves and to course-correct if we need. Everyone’s values and journeys are different, so trying to compare to others is only going to set us up for failure and turn us away from our own direction.
The beauty of growth is it often happens without us even realizing it. Positive decisions can become routine so that we forget a year ago we made different ones. We also make a lot of decisions unconsciously that can be positive and move us towards our values. When questions come up through-out the year regarding your own growth and achievements, instead of letting the self-doubt creep in, take the time to be intentional and see all the incredible ways you (and your decisions) have grown.
Thanks for reading! Make sure to leave a comment and let me know what point stood out to you the most.
I look forward to seeing you here again!
Ashley Beeby, Heavy Vehicle Diesel Mechanic & Writer