One eminent need of us humans is to grow. Whether it is physically, intellectually, financially or socially, growth is what most of us, if not all of us, desire. We follow a continuous growth path from the moment we are conceived. We constantly put demands on ourselves to learn and increase our capabilities. As we grow we choose a career path and allow ourselves to get immersed in our routines. This is the time we can ask ourselves these crucial five questions to know if we are still growing.
1. Am I practicing/ learning anything new?
We believe, when you read something or attend a classroom training, you acquire conceptual knowledge on the subject. Learning happens only when you practice it. And when you practice it long and hard enough you will embody it. Embodying a new skill is crucial for mastering it. For instance, I can gain conceptual knowledge about cooking by reading a recipe book but to master it I need to implement it by physically practicing it over and over again.
Learning is an important part of growing because finally we are where we are in life because of what we have learned so far! So take a moment and think what are you practicing in life right now.
2. Am I focused or do I waver?
My father always told me “If you don’t focus on one goal long enough, you will not get anywhere”. I find that so true in a lot of areas of life. Focus and consistency is the key to a lot of unlocked doors. When a new idea strikes you, do you lose focus on the one already on your plate and get all excited about the prospects the new thought shows you? Because if you do leave unfinished projects and ideas that have not been tested long enough, you are depriving yourself the opportunity to know if the time, energy and intellect you have spent till then was worthy enough!
Every time you begin to lose focus on the current project on hand, here’s what you can do; ask yourself the question “For the sake of what?” This little question can help you realign yourself with your cares and commitments in life and help you stay focused and consistent in your efforts to grow.
3. Have I created leaders?
This one is a no-brainer and yet not practiced enough! Among other definitions of a leader, this one holds true in the current context – A leader is someone who has a following. A lot of Corporates come to us with their needs for training and coaching and one common need in about 90% of them is “Creating new leaders”. Lending your subordinates a free hand and trusting them will work a long way in you creating new leaders. Trust here is important both ways. It does not happen overnight. It’s a slow but a sure process that leads you to your growth.
When you are working your way to create new leaders, it is equally important to practice new skills so that when there is someone ready to fill in your shoes, you are ready to jump up the ladder and shoulder larger responsibilities in your organization.
4. Am I open to feedback?
I know a Senior Manager at an IT organization and one of our coachees, who used to go about saying “I want your opinion about me, hit me with what you think about me”. The moment he said this, his eyes would go rigid and fixed, his shoulders tensed up, his stance would be like an animal ready to pounce. With this body comportment, all feedback that he ever received was what he wanted to hear- good ones and most times superficial ones, no one dared to tell him what they really thought about him! Being open is an embodied skill. It takes more than just saying it to be open to feedback.
Constructive feedback can help us grow; it can help us look at things differently. It can help us see things we did not know existed. Finally, it is totally on your discretion to use it or to trash it.
5. Have I put myself on the mat?
This one, I feel takes the cake. ‘Putting yourself on the mat’ is simply stated ‘Challenging yourself’. The moment you challenge yourself and work towards it with consistency you are carving your growth path! I heard a powerful idiom that has stuck on to me, “Your yesterday’s success story is only an ego boost today”. Unless you keep re-generating yourself again and again, unless you keep putting yourself on the mat again and again, unless you keep challenging yourself again and again you will not grow.
Go on, place yourself on the mat and feel the adrenaline rush to surge forward in life!
Sheeja Shaju, Leadership Coach, Institute for Generative Leadership, India