One big failure.
That’s how I’d label myself today if I adhered to the definition of growth I had ten years ago.
Back then I was a television news journalist, and defined growth strictly by numbers—TV market size, rankings, audience reach, newscast time slot, salary . . .
Today, I work in market zero, with no viewers, no newscast, and no salary. But I think I’ve grown tremendously professionally and personally—even if my face isn’t seen and my voice heard by thousands of people everyday.
What I’ve come to realize is that “growth” has a myriad of definitions. It’s not black and white, or cut and dry. It’s something we all want in some way, shape, or form; but how we define it is likely different and ever-changing.
When I was running in the TV news rat race, I sacrificed a lot to “grow”—so much so that many other parts of my life shrunk. My friends made a cut-out of me to stand-in at gatherings. My family shifted holidays so I could make an appearance—if only for a night. I even almost missed standing up in my sister’s wedding because it was during a sweeps (ratings) month—news director’s orders. No joke.
At some point it became clear to me that my career growth was holding the rest of my life in arrested development—and despite dream job opportunities, I was stuck.
Something had to change. So I left TV news for a career that would allow me to grow in other aspects of my life, too.
Admittedly, my former definition of growth still haunts me from time to time. It’s hard not to get caught up in numbers. But, then I remind myself that growth is much more than just numbers. It’s about experiences and relationships. Look up the definition and this is clear—“to increase in size or substance.” I wouldn’t have much substance to my person or life if I kept chasing growth by numbers.
Now, when looking at where I’ve grown and where I still need to grow, I use these 3 truths as guides.
Growth doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
We don’t play one role in our lives. We aren’t only professionals. Or only parents. Or friends. Or what have you. We are all, or some, or more of these things. And, while we grow in one area, we may not grow as much in others.
For example, this year we had our second child, and I’m blessed beyond measure to work at a place, Weaving Influence, that allows me to scale back my workload so I can grow in my role as a mom while still growing (at a slower rate) professionally. I’m only one person and I’ve learned that it’s probably impossible to grow at a fast pace in all aspects of my life—thus it’s important to shift priorities as necessary.
You can’t have growth without challenges.
Some seek challenges, others encounter them. But no matter how they arise, being pushed out of your comfort zone is how you gain new skills and learn about your capabilities.
While I may not work as much as I did last year, I’m constantly challenged by new ideas and projects at Weaving Influence, helping me grow my public relations skill set. And as a work-from-home mom with two young kids, I’m constantly challenged to be as productive and efficient as possible. Without these challenges, I’d be stagnant.
You are always growing.
As mentioned, challenges in life are unavoidable—and with each one you grow—even if they don’t have the desired outcome.
So you may not be getting the promotion you wanted. Still, you’re likely learning from the experience of disappointment. Or maybe you handled a difficult situation with your child the wrong way; hindsight is 20/20. Each difficult situation adds another tool to your toolbox.
All these truths illustrate how growth is more about substance than size. It’s not just about getting bigger, but also better.
As 2017 comes to a close, many of us are starting to think about how and where we’d like to grow next year. As you start making those resolutions and reflect on those from this year’s past, I hope you keep these truths in mind and realize how far you’ve come and how far you have left to go.
Whitney is the public relations director at WI. She started her career in communications as a TV news anchor/reporter in Virginia and Tennessee before switching to public relations. Whitney earned her bachelors in government at Georgetown University, and masters in PR from the University of Tennessee. She enjoys spending time with her family in Knoxville, TN, and running competitively.