“You will either step forward into growth, or backward into safety.” —Abraham Maslow
Throughout life, we experience moments of momentum where we feel like we’re expanding, moving upward, and spreading our fierce little wings. Other times, we feel like our own growth has become sluggish or blocked in some way. When stagnation occurs, it’s an indication that it’s time to get curious and shake things up.
Stagnation can be safe and comfortable…at least in the beginning. I like to use the analogy of a dirty house when thinking about this concept. It feels nice sometimes to ignore chores. But after a while, the dishes in the sink start to smell bad, dust piles up on the shelves, and you can’t seem to find where you put anything. Growth works much the same way. We can get comfortable in our routines, but eventually the stagnation weighs on us. The longer we’re stagnant, the more uncomfortable it becomes—and if we don’t take action around things that aren’t working, we may end up losing something or someone that matters to us.
If you’ve become aware that you’ve stagnated and want to step into a place of growth, you may find yourself running into some unwanted barriers as you try to move forward. Here are some of the most common.
1. Infrequent Feedback
According to Workboard, 72% of employees think their performance would improve with more feedback. And as a leader, receiving feedback is just as essential as giving it. Feedback serves as a direct catalyst for growth by showing you what you didn’t know and revealing your “blind spots” so to speak, granting you the awareness you need to improve in these areas. If feedback is infrequent, so are your opportunities to grow.
Remedy: Break down this barrier by directly requesting feedback from your team. Annual reviews are old news, and giving feedback is best as a two-way street, regardless of your position within your organization.
2. Lack of Clarity Around Goals
Much of what we do we consider necessary to do. Unfortunately, necessity doesn’t do much for us in terms of growth. In order to grow, we have to have a vision. Having a desire outside of necessity and a clear vision of what you’re after is essential in order to know which direction you want to go and grow.
Remedy: Ask yourself essential questions. What do you envision for yourself? In what ways do you want to grow? Where do you see yourself in six weeks, six months, six years? What resources do you need to make this vision become reality? Once you have a plan in place, you can start taking action, and growth becomes inevitable.
3. Fear of Failure
Sometimes growth requires us to take on new challenges, and new challenges can be scary–especially when succeeding or failing might affect others on our team. But the reality is that it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. In fact, research suggests that failure can actually be a motivator and lead to higher amounts of success in the long run.
Remedy: Cultivate compassion for yourself and inquire about your own intentions. Think about why you want to try or pursue the thing that you’re also afraid of failing at. What about this endeavor do you consider important? Let the positive answer be your motivator rather than opting out due to fear.
4. Unsupportive Environments
An unsupportive environment is one that lacks the essential resources needed for development. This barrier is a bit general in that it focuses on the big picture, but looking closely at your environment can reveal real opportunities for change. Ask yourself: Do the people in my work life and at home support my growth? Do I have the resources I need (whether they be emotional, structural, or technological) to grow in the ways that I want to? If the answer is no...
Remedy: Commit to seeking out the resources you need. Have tough conversations with your loved ones or coworkers who you feel may not be supportive of your growth. Seek out people who do support you. Have a conversation with colleagues to request the kind of resources you think would present growth opportunities in the workplace.
These are just four of the most common barriers of many. Aside from this list, what else might be holding you back? A bit of self-inquiry can give you valuable answers.
We want to hear about your own development. What have been your challenges, and how have you overcome them?