Wow! Reflecting on the past four months, it is hard to fully appreciate the learning, growth, and change we have navigated. Whether it was managing health, navigating quarantine, homeschooling kids, working remotely, responding to the pervasiveness of racial inequalities in our nation and workplaces, or doing all of these things simultaneously, 2020 has already been a period of accelerated growth. Now, we are looking to revive ourselves, our relationships, and our businesses.
Few people invited this period of accelerated growth, but it happened, the heat was turned up, and growth followed–at least for some people. Still, why have some people grown in the face of this stress more than others? And can we sustain this accelerated growth, even as the heat dissipates?
Defining Accelerated Growth
In 2019, Sandra Ellison published an exceptional article* that reduces accelerated growth to a single, powerful equation:
Accelerated Growth = gH + (cP x fR) + (pL x ecoS)
gH = Genuine Heat
cP = Conscious Practice
fR = Focused Reflection
pL = Public Learning
ecoS = Ecosystem of Support
If you’re wondering why you just went through a period of accelerated growth (or perhaps, wondering why you didn’t), Ellison’s equation is illuminating.
Accelerated growth requires more than a catalyst (i.e., gH). When genuine heat is combined with new behaviors (i.e., cP or conscious practice, focused reflection or fR, and public learning or pL), the conditions support a growth mindset. When we also have an ecosystem of support (ecoS), we’re even better prepared to grow. After all, a support network is what can keep one from teetering on terror’s edge as they stretch and take on new challenges. During Covid-19, virtually everyone had gH, but only some of us had the other parts of the equation: cP, fR, pL, or ecoS. This isn’t surprising since the gH just showed up while the cP, fR, pL, and ecoS are all things we have to intentionally foster (and not just during times of crisis). This also explains the discrepancy between those who did and did not experience accelerated growth.
Harnessing and Sustaining Growth Over Time
While it seems likely that Covid-19 isn’t going away, at least some aspects of our lives are beginning to return to normal. As the initial heat or stress of the pandemic is dialed down, however, our accelerated growth doesn’t need to dial down, too. Trust me, you don’t need something as challenging as a pandemic to keep growing at a quickened pace!
To continue experiencing accelerated growth, engage in the following steps:
- Pursue new challenges: To grow, genuine heat or stress is essential. This isn’t about living on terror’s edge. This is about consciously seeking out challenges that create just enough stress to serve as a catalyst for growth. Once again, while a pandemic may be one catalyst, there are other and more sustainable sources of heat–for example, taking on new physical challenges that stretch you physically and mentally on a daily basis.
- Be mindful: Accelerated growth requires one to consciously engage in a practice. Repeating something mindlessly won’t lead to growth. Repeating something with intention and purpose will. In essence, it is about focusing your attention on what you need and how you want to grow. Since you can’t learn everything at once, this is also about prioritizing your growth goals.
- Take perspective: You won’t experience accelerated learning if you don’t occasionally take time out to reflect on your experience. However, focused reflection rarely just happens. You need to build a habit of finding the space and time to step back and do things differently.
- Embrace humility: Growth means taking risks, and taking risks sometimes means failing. For this reason, embracing humility is essential. You have to be able and willing to fall flat in your face and get up again.
- Shore up your support system: Accelerated growth is difficult. Having a great team supporting you at work and home is critical. After all, sometimes, we all need a bit of backup to keep growing, especially at a rapid pace. However, your support system is an ecosystem–to function well, support has to flow in both directions. By investing time and energy in others, you’re more likely to build a support system that will be there when you need back up yourself.
* Sandra Ellison (2019). “The Formula for Accelerated Growth: What’s Your Growth Quotient?” Ellison Consulting Group.