I think certain therapies such as occupational therapy (OT) have their place, but sometimes I feel like it’s too focused on what I perceive to be “fake growth”. Instead of making internal shifts, I feel like it’s too focused on accomplishments and goals. I think it’s fine if it’s something you want to do. But otherwise, I’d much rather focus on “real growth”, which stems from internal shifts.
How do I define “fake growth” vs. “real growth”?
Fake growth is basically anything that can be translated into a bullet point for a list of accomplishments or for a resume. It could be a blog/website you’ve worked on, a book you wrote, a degree you’ve earned, money you’ve accumulated, jobs you’ve possessed, the next step in a romantic relationship, weight loss, muscle gain, etc. It’s something external that you can measure.
But, real growth is typically an internal shift. And, there’s no real “ego” or attachment to it. It’s about how you relate to life. You may start having a deeper understanding of life. You may grow past your fears. Or, you may learn how to better deal with negative emotions.
Eventually as you make these internal shifts, you may see it reflect externally. But, simply making an external shift doesn’t necessarily indicate internal shifts. For example, you can go from being broke and depressed to rich and content. But, could you stand to be broke and content? Did you make that mindset change first, or did you achieve making more money, which caused the mindset change? Depending on your answer, it would make the difference between fake growth and real growth.
Some people pursue fake growth in the hopes that it will solve everything. They go through years of working hard on their goals, only to achieve them and be left feeling empty. The achievements only mask what was hiding under the surface. The only purpose of the state of busyness was to avoid their internal reality.
Think about it. What is the purpose of fake growth? It might be to stroke our own ego, or to feel as if we have contributed to the world in some way. But, what if the world didn’t need any contributions? What if everything would be perfectly fine or even better without you contributing anything at all? Your list of accomplishments would essentially be meaningless.
Even real growth can seem meaningless, but it doesn’t have that same attachment that fake growth does. With fake growth, it’s all about showing and proving what you’ve done. With real growth, there’s no need to prove it. Still, it impacts your life and indirectly affects the people and situations you interact with.
Also, fake growth is sometimes focused on this idea of “leveling up” or “achieving a higher frequency”. With real growth, there are no levels. There is no comparison between individuals. Everyone is on their own journey. It may relate in some ways or not at all. But, there is no race to the top. It doesn’t matter what you possess or what you have achieved. It doesn’t even matter if you’re trying or not. As I mentioned before, there is no ego to real growth.
But what about being productive?
According to Google, the definition of productive is, “Producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.” It’s just essentially making more of what isn’t there. Is that necessarily good? Do we need to have all this stuff? What are we going to do when we have an abundance of everything we need? Do we just keep going?
Plus, how do you decide if one activity is more productive than another? Some people may define it as the opportunity cost, maybe based on how much money they are making per hour doing a particular activity. But then, isn’t that just values-based? You’re prioritizing money, so you try to align with more activities that earn you more money.
What if you decided to focus on something else besides money? Would that still be considered productive? Again, what is the point? Is it to drive your ego, or to contribute to society? If it’s driving your ego, then when is it enough, or is it a constant battle uphill? If it’s to contribute to society, is it something actually meaningful or are you just doing it for the sake of doing it?
Being productive just for the sake of being productive doesn’t really make much sense. It’s better if you are working on something that matters to you or that aligns with your values/interests. It’s more purposeful this way. Simply checking off a box on your to-do list isn’t actually meaningful in itself. It may help you keep track of your progress, but again, it’s still focused externally and doesn’t really mean much in the end.
How do I start focusing on “real growth” vs. “fake growth”?
There’s no one answer fits all for this, but basically, you focus on how you’re relating to life. Do you hold onto resentment? Do you act in ways that feel aligned, or do you often feel conflicted? How do you feel about yourself? What are your beliefs, and do you find these beliefs to be serving you?
You may notice patterns in your life that you want to change. Maybe your boundaries are always being crossed and you want to learn how to enforce good boundaries. Or, maybe you have a pattern of lashing out on people you love, and you want to learn how to communicate in a healthy way.
The only thing I want to call attention to is that no one point of your real growth journey is better than another point. It’s just different. There is no attachment, as the journey of real growth is constantly going in ebbs and flow.
(Update on Nov 9th, 2021): Was correcting a few pieces (small phrases and words) of this post, and wanted to add… I think “real” and “fake” may come off as judgmental. Feel free to substitute these words with other ones. I find it helpful to view my life using such frames, as it reminds me not to focus on “ambition” or the numbers, but on the experiences themself. Many people will update their resume or keep a portfolio of their projects and achievements. Yet, a lot of people neglect to keep track of experiences and how those experiences sculpt their character. In a future post (perhaps as Q4 of 2021 wraps up), I can share some real growth experiences from this year, to hopefully provide a better understanding.