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How Are You Planning to Grow in 2011?

December 30, 2010

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, is famously quoted as saying, “When you’re green you’re growing. When you’re ripe you rot.” The gist of his message being that if you are not actively pursuing growth, then, well, you are probably on the way out. Of life.  There’s no such thing as passively cruising along in neutral.

At this time of year, most of us are in wild agreement with Mr. Kroc, as we tear off a clean sheet of paper to set fresh goals for the New Year.

These goals usually fall into the same few categories: a career or financial goal (make more money/get more done); a health-related goal (lose more weight); a family/relational goal (set those special date nights with the honey); or a spiritual goal (I’m going to spend 20 minutes a day in prayer and quiet contemplation. Really, I am!)

Nothing wrong with these. But as everyone in the free world gears up for resolution mode, I wonder what would happen if we approached this exercise from a perspective of growth rather than achievement?

Personal growth is a bit tougher to nail down than goal-setting, because it’s not necessarily something you can point to right away. It’s much more difficult to measure an increase in your capacity for love, for instance, or the expansion of your emotional resilience, compared to the relative ease of checking off a short-term result. Growth is more of a lifelong process, a journey.

As you go about setting your plans to conquer your world in 2011, why not consider how your goals are helping you to grow and develop your self? How are they making you become more self-aware? More emotionally mature? A deeper, more reflective thinker? How will your goals develop you to become a more generous friend, spouse, or co-worker? Are your goals generating a richer meaning in your life? How are they stretching your intellect? How will they cause you to positively influence and give back to others?  

Growth invariably involves pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, and comes from experiences that are generally difficult. Here are some ideas to stack up against your goals to see if they are truly growth-oriented.

  • Do something that terrifies you
  • Spend time with people who are smarter than you
  • Get with someone who won’t take any of your bullshit (a coach, a therapist, or a good spouse will do)
  • Suffer a little bit
  • Engage with people you would not otherwise engage with
  • Stretch your mind with material that makes you uncomfortable 
  • Put yourself in a situation where you are over your head
  • Get taken down a couple of notches
  • Try something you’ve never done before

Perhaps you should put the results-oriented goals on a shelf this year. Those are easy. It’s the growth experiences that will make a real difference for your life in 2011.

Photo by Nance Marie, used with permission.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2010 7:41 am

    I don’t remember hearing that quote before. It’s a keeper.

    I like the idea of tending to my growth as well as–or more than–my accomplishments. Your ideas scare me, but I’ve had a pretty good year, and as I read over your list, I think I could put a check next to each of them. Wasn’t intentional, though. Imagine if I was intentional.

    Thanks for this!

    • January 2, 2011 1:46 pm

      Exactly! Imagine if we channeled our fear in more productive ways. It’s going to happen anyways, right? Why not plan ahead? Thanks for the visit and comment, Sandra.

  2. December 30, 2010 9:32 am

    As one who avoids New Year’s resolutions, I really like the idea of focusing on areas of growth. And as your list (cool one) suggests, growth comes from taking risks. Great post, Brad.

    • January 2, 2011 2:02 pm

      I am, for the first time, not making resolutions this year. I am just letting it flow from 2010 into 2011. There is enough going on, enough for me to do, to work on. I have, however, decided to focus on a few things that are more character-building areas rather than goals. So as you can see, this post was mostly written to myself by that pesky sub-conscious of mine!

  3. December 30, 2010 10:33 am

    Love the challenges you put forward. No more of the same ole same ole

  4. Phil permalink
    December 30, 2010 11:50 am

    I love the “risk-taking” flavor of your growth list. Many are things that I have intentionally focussed on in my adult life, especially the one on hanging out with people smarter than me. That one is easy to do!

  5. December 30, 2010 12:15 pm

    how about…
    “when your green you’re growing. when you’re ripe they’ll eat you for lunch.”

    • January 2, 2011 2:05 pm

      Good one, Nance. Especially when it’s grapes we’re talking about, right? Except it would be, “they’ll drink you for lunch. Or dinner. Or at a fine social gathering.”

  6. December 30, 2010 1:07 pm

    I get to preach the New Year message this year (unusual for an occasional preacher) so I’ve been thinking about this. One thought was that we’re just a few days after Christmas, and somehow we tend to put Christmas back in the box for next year instead of letting it shape our new year. What I’m preaching on is Romans 12:2 – this is truly growth – not being conformed (shaped, moulded) to this world’s patterns, but being transformed by the Holy Spirit – transformed into what God originally intended for us. Jesus is the one truly autentic human being who lived after sin entered the world (and of course in Jesus case truly God as well). My challenge to the congregation (especially me) is to make this the year’s verse, not letting the world shape us, but instead allowing the Holy Spirit to really bring about God’s new creation in us. That way, says the verse, we’ll know how to live – we’ll know God’s will – what is good and perfect in His eyes – and by the Spirit in us we’ll be able to live that way. Wow I could do this sermon about two minutes if this made any sense! (But I’ll ramble on for 30 and my wife will complain again).

    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    • January 2, 2011 2:08 pm

      Graham – After reading this, I went and sat down to read those two verses again. I love the way you say “allowing the holy spirit to bring about God’s NEW CREATION in us.” That is so marvelous to think about as a possibility. And man, do I need that – this transforming thing. I see so much potential ow that I didn’t even see before – not so much in what I do, but how I live. That’s what that transformation is all about. Thanks for your words, and I hope your sermon rocked the house!

  7. December 30, 2010 1:42 pm


    I like ‘growth invariably involves one pushing themselves beyond their level of comfort’ – I like this truth (i.e. – growth requires pain), especially if one is physically running up steep hills on pavement – it hurts and it hurts bad.

    I really like the emotional resilience part too (but does this mean that a person should not be vulnerable emotionally?).

    In order for me to grow this year, I need help and support from people. I don’t have a problem with doing.

    • January 2, 2011 2:10 pm

      Matthew – It’s interesting that you bring up emotional vulnerability, because I originally had that on this list, then I deleted it because I thought that vulnerability is a RESULT of these growth-drivers, as opposed to a CAUSE. I believe that the vulnerability will come about the more we expose ourselves to difficulty and challenges, as we are stretched and humbled. Vulnerability is an important outcome of personal growth, I think.

      Good call, man.

  8. Bob G permalink
    December 30, 2010 11:30 pm

    I love the 9 suggestions, all intertwined but different avenues to growth.
    None are easy, and I want that. Logistics seem like a big problem (for me) right now. Wife, small children, work, commitments at church. Probably just need to think it through, some.

    • January 2, 2011 2:19 pm

      Like my good friend (not really) Michael Hyatt told me (actually comment-responded me) once, there is a season for everything. The season with young kids and building a business is not really the season to go out and start two or three new things as well. The others, the priorities, will suffer. But then life graduates, the kids grow more independent, the business stabilizes, and you can begin something else. IT’s all a balancing act, isn’t it? Timing is important.

  9. December 31, 2010 12:05 am

    Thanks so much, Brad. A very refreshing perspective. Already thinking about some of these growth options. Am already scheduled to try some out whether I like it or not!

  10. December 31, 2010 10:24 am

    I like the concept of growth and as I sit down with my clean sheet of paper inventing my next year, I shall incorporate some of these. Thanks Bradley. Happy New Year.

  11. December 31, 2010 11:47 am

    Wonderful, fresh, unexpected. I like this list.

    Though I like to sit down at the turn of the calendar year and reflect–and look ahead–I’ve never been good at the whole goal-setting thing. But I do like to stretch myself and find personal growth most rewarding. Your list gives me some memorable ways to evaluate an activity for its growth-potential.

  12. December 31, 2010 3:16 pm

    This is timely. I was just sitting down to make my “goals” this year and something didn’t quite feel right. I am stretched and uncomfortable – more than ever — and part of me was about to make a goal that I wouldn’t be stretched and uncomfortable, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. I guess that means I’m growing. It sure beats rotting.

    • January 2, 2011 2:30 pm

      Susan, I don’t see you as the rotting type, if you know what I mean. In fact, I am hoping that you don’t over do it! Let’s say that “stretched and unmofortable” should be interspersed with periods of rest and joy and being completely off the hook. Okay?

  13. January 1, 2011 10:18 am

    Great list. Great ideas. Great suggestions on how to enter and live 2011 — and every year!


  14. ucida permalink
    January 13, 2011 8:12 am

    The words you sent me are really encouring i also want you to continue sending me more messeges.

    May the Lord bless you.


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