Bridging the Gap between Growth and Achievement
What is Growth?
While completing my undergraduate studies, I took an impressionable market economics class that described the human experience as the pursuit of social, intellectual and aesthetic growth.
This seems fairly straightforward.
The challenge is permitting yourself to grow socially, intellectually and aesthetically, beyond the limits of your inherent system of beliefs; thereby challenging the beliefs inherent to the society/societies within which you find yourself.
This definition of human growth is one of those universal principles that translates across all cultures and societies.
What is Human Achievement?
Human achievement is nuanced in that it is socially and culturally informed.
How a society defines achievement is easily measured by examining children’s literature. Children’s literature also provides a strong purview into what society values in human relationships. Each of us fit into different buckets respective to how we define achievement:
For some, achievement is the voice in their heads comparing their progress to that of their peers, and putting a value judgment on personal ambitions and goals in relation to the ambitions and goals of those in their circle.
For others, with experience and time, human achievement becomes self-determined. Crafting a definition that aligns with their individual values and beliefs.
For the remaining few, it’s easy to mould their ambitions to the prescribed definitions of human achievement as defined by their communities, social groups and societal structures.
Why build a bridge between growth and achievement if society has it all figured out for me?
I liken achievement to a pair of shoes.
Have you ever gone into a store and found a pair of shoes that is one size fits all? (I mean even if you have… I hope you realize that it was a scam. I would be highly skeptical of a shoe designed to comfortably fit every foot that currently walks this earth).
Let’s consider your shoe size an achievement.
We each have our own shoe size (sometimes each foot has its own size).
As we grow the size of our shoes change. Each of us acquiring a different pair of shoes to accommodate where we are at that stage in our development. At some point, we reach the closest thing to a steady state and our shoe size remains relatively stable. Even then, depending on what we are looking to accomplish, there might still be some deviation in the shoe size we deem as the best fit.
Just like the changes in our shoe sizes, our growth is fundamentally personal. Just like the different sizes of shoes we wear, our achievements are personal, too.
We have little control over most of the ways we grow, but we must acknowledge our growth and adjust as it takes place. While it might be easier to allow others to define achievement for us, it’s hard to ignore the dissatisfaction that seeps in when the external view of achievement misaligns with our own unstated barometer of what we value as an achievement for our lives.
Why is it difficult to build a bridge between growth and achievement?
For two reasons: No one is like the other and we are free to be ourselves.
Many of us realize that the magnetism of self-identity is stronger than the influence of social conformity.
Some of us lose sight of the freedom to be ourselves in the race to meet societal expectations. In all the ways that might translate, whether that be your parents, extended family members, teachers or peers, that someone in your circle demanding that you bend.
Others ignore that inner freedom and pretend as though it does not exist. They suppress the freedom to be who they are and try to extinguish it. All to say, it’s always there, shining a light on the road not taken. The road that misaligns with what others expect of you.
So what do I do with this information?
Don’t compromise your growth for achievement by society’s standards.
Your growth has a funny way of showing you the definition of achievement by your own standards. You don’t need other people to validate your journey. Only you can bridge the gap and determine the merit and value of your personal sense of fulfillment from your personal achievements.