Chris Wilkinson column: Growth really is that important for happier aging

Can growth really make us happy?

By Chris Wilkinson

Let me tell you about this guy. He used to have low self-esteem. Lack of confidence. Unsure of himself. Needy. He was small-minded. Had the scarcity mindset. Defensive. Self-righteous. Miserable a bunch of the time. Unhappy overall. In the wrong relationships. Not reading much. Poor leadership skills. Allowing outside forces to shape his life, just kind of blowing with the wind and not using his wings to direct his flight. According to him, he felt like wasted potential. Unfulfilled. Depressed.

But wow have things turned around! Change is so possible! Now he’s a mature adult. Self-aware. Reflective. A developing leader. Loves to learn. Exploring more. Loves to connect with people. Finds joy in helping others. Enjoys discussions about the deeper meaning in life. Wants to be around other leaders. Wants to make the world a better place.

That almost sounds like two different people, right? So, what changed for him?

He started to learn. To learn about himself first. Seeking self-awareness and taking free online personality tests. Getting more comfortable with who he is. Learning to like himself. Minimizing comparison to others. Reading more. Finding out and seeking what gives him joy. Listening to more podcasts of people he respects and finds interesting. Worked with a coach. And he noticed he naturally gravitated to and found more people who were on the same journey. There’s a name for this journey: growth.

Can growth really make us happy? Yes. Research has shown that we are much happier when we are learning and growing. Research also shows that we’re at our best when challenges are difficult, and we persist, and break through.

Anthony Robbins lists six human needs. The need for certainty, variety (yes, those two things are different), significance, love and belonging, contribution, and growth. It’s the last two — contribution and growth — that directly feed our spirit. Without those two being expressed, we are at significant risk of misery, unhappiness, and unfulfillment. Even depression.

And yet here’s one great paradox in life — potent growth comes from personal pain. The greatest and most valuable growth you will ever experience will come from personal pain. Think of the best life lessons you’ve ever learned. And what preceded the gift? I’m guessing painful life experience.

Being vulnerable and courageous means being open to experiencing personal pain so that you can learn. And grow. And get better. And when you do that, you feel more fulfilled. Much stronger and more resilient. And that is fuel for your spirit! Contentment with your life.

So, if you’re feeling stuck, unfulfilled, stale, unhappy — get into growth mode. Learn something. Read a book. Or if that gives you a block because it seems like too much too soon, just get on YouTube and search personal growth. Listen to a few videos. Find some speakers online that you connect with. Find a new podcast. Spend 10 minutes daily listening to something that sparks a light inside you. Something that gives you a feeling you have not had enough of lately. Seek. Grow. Feel joy. We could all use more of that right now, couldn’t we.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

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