Despite what our political leaders insist on telling us, we all know deep down that persistent economic growth is no longer an option if humankind is to survive for very much longer on this planet. Yet it is not “growth” per se that is a bad thing when we consider what it really means. Growth is not about achievement, consumption, exploitation, manipulation, survival of the fittest, take-overs, domination, hierarchy, power or control. This is just what we’ve been led to believe through cultural conditioning and it is now so deeply ingrained that few of us can even imagine a different, more life-sustaining way of living and working.
So, if growth is not about all of those parameters I’ve just mentioned, what is it really? And how does this relate to our personal and business lives?
Signs of Life
Exchange, evolution and renewal. One of the definitions of a living thing is that it grows. One of the miracles of our human forms is that, although on a moment by moment basis we appear to be solid, unchanging matter, at a microscopic level we are a buzz of activity with our cells continually exchanging matter, evolving and renewing themselves. So, growth for a living thing is about exchange, evolution, renewal and being part of a natural cycle that also, eventually, includes our demise.
In Our Personal Lives
Re-integration. In our personal lives, we are continually open to fragmentation and contamination, physically, socially and emotionally. Physically, we can become fragmented and contaminated through lack of exercise, eating unwholesome food, or being exposed to pollutants. Socially, this can happen through spending too much time with people with a negative outlook on life or who behave aggressively. We might also use socialising as a distraction or in order to manipulate others rather than to connect with them. Emotionally, we cause fragmentation and contamination by dwelling on grievances, bearing grudges and maintaining limiting beliefs.
So, on a personal level, we can ensure healthy growth by being aware of our behaviour and favouring habits that reconnect us with positive and wholesome influences on our physical, social and emotional wellbeing. We can take steps to remind ourselves of our part in the natural rhythm of life and avoid sources of physical, mental and social contamination.
With Our Children
Modeling Healthy Growth. We can model healthy growth for our children by living it ourselves and by encouraging them to do the same. For example, by eating well, getting plenty of exercise, steering clear of bullies (adults or children) and spending time with others who are caring and supportive of them. We can help them spend some time each week in nature and to express their gratitude for the things that have gone well, the true friends they’ve spent time with and the people they love.
In Our Business Lives
Georgia wanted more than anything to grow her fledgling organic clothing business. She had begun by searching for business partners and associates, approaching retail outlets, online green products directories, anyone she could think of who might want to do business with her. Now, she was at full capacity with her suppliers, the working capacity of her staff and the limits of what her mental and physical health could stand. Initially she wanted coaching to help her take a step up to the next level
The next stage of growth for her business, as she saw it, was massive expansion, but it involved a leap of confidence – to take on extra staff, quickly find additional suppliers and promote herself to a more hands off directorship role. She had held off taking this next step and she wasn’t sure why, but her body was telling her something. She had some persistent low level illnesses that she just couldn’t shake off.
When we took an audit of the company, a kind of bird’s eye view coupled with some reliable financial data, we discovered that if she were to take the steps she envisaged to grow the company (as she thought she “ought to”) then she would be a little better off financially, but would be spending most of her day doing tasks that she didn’t enjoy. She would have completely lost touch with her reasons for starting her business and her business mission.
Business growth, in terms of increased turnover, profit or manpower, is not always the healthiest move, for the company or for the business owner. A mature approach to business growth means:
Exchange and renewal – reviewing business and personal data on a regular basis, communicating with and acting on messages received from clients, associates and employees.
Re-integration – being aware of sources of fragmentation and contamination (be they physical pollutants, changes in external circumstances, complaints from clients or unhelpful behaviour and beliefs from colleagues.) and addressing these. It also means having methods in place for helping the business learn by adding more effective communication systems, more enjoyable working conditions and continual professional development.
Through coaching, Georgia was able to reconnect with her business purpose and reintegrate that with her personal aspirations. Both she and her business were able to continue to “grow” but in a way that was sustainable for her and her employees as well as for the planet.