Like me, you may work in the personal growth and development industry. It’s our job to help people grow. Even if you haven’t taken this on as a job, you probably have loved ones around you who you want to help grow. Maybe you’re helping yourself along a journey of development, maybe others are helping you too.

Whatever the dynamic, whether you are giving or receiving the help, there’s an important yet simple formula for successful growth. Let’s explore it in a practical example…

I recently ran a resilience workshop for women who have experienced abuse. If you haven’t been around survivors of abuse, know that they can carry a lot of trauma and pain. They can feel incredibly helpless, angry and insecure as a result of their experiences.

Saying supportive things

Imagine if I spent the whole of that workshop only saying supportive things like:

  • I understand your pain, everything’s going to be OK
  • The past has been so hard, tell me what happened
  • I’m sorry for your pain, I’m here for you
  • It’s OK if you can’t find a way forward right now
  • Be patient with yourself

What would be the outcome of this type of approach? The participants would probably feel understood and cared for, which is great. Then they would leave the session. What would happen next? Would they grow? If so, how and by how much?

Making challenging statements

What if I spent the whole workshop only making challenging statements like:

  • It’s possible to find an optimistic viewpoint on your abuse
  • There are things to be grateful for right now
  • We must set goals and have hope for a bright future
  • It’s time to draw a line under your past experiences
  • You have to put in the work to move forward

How would they react to this type of workshop? Maybe a little inspired and motivated, but also overwhelmed? Could they feel as if their pain was not being understood or worse, it was being ignored or belittled? How much would they grow with this approach?

Neither of these approaches alone provide the best environment for growth.

The formula for successful growth

The formula for successful growth is a balance of support and challenge.
Support is defined as ‘bear all or part of the weight of; hold up’. If all we did is support people by bearing their weight, not only would this be a lot for us to handle, but it would prevent them from building their own strength. We have to lift our own weights in the gym of life.
Challenge can be defined as ‘a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities’. How exhausting would it be if we were continuously tested without respite? If we continuously pushed ourselves to lift the next heaviest weight in the gym without a break?

Too much challenge with little support, risks us buckling under the pressure and giving up. Too much support with only slight challenge, leads to complacency and little or no forward movement.

Applying this to your personal growth

If helping people to grow is your job, you’ll be the source of both support and challenge for your clients. In our personal lives however, we might not get both support and challenge from the same person. In such cases we must seek it out. If you feel overly pressured to grow and progress by certain people in your life, make sure you also spend time with people who willingly help you bear some of the weight. If you are surrounded by support, get out of your comfort zone by seeking communities and people who will push you to grow.

This also applies to how you treat yourself. Sometimes we can allow ourselves an evening under the duvet eating ice cream. But tomorrow, we have to get on with those job applications and hit the gym.

Let’s push ourselves and each other forward, but don’t forget to hold hands along the way.

About the author: To find out more about Pinky Jangra, click here.


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