how to know if you are secretly growing

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The Reward is Who You Become in the Process

Have you ever arrived at your goal, only to realize that your journey is what you cherished the most? Maybe you realized the hard work, the memories, and the people along the way were what made your goal so valuable.

Back in 2010, I was enjoying my year of being a volunteer in Kenya. One of my highlights was definitely hiking Mt. Kenya! A group of us were planning to lead students up to the summit and our training began three months before our trip.

Training was brutal. We are talking about filling our backpacks with bricks and hiking up and down steep inclines over and over again for hours. There were a few mountains we hiked nearby every other weekend that stretched us even farther.

The qualifier to go on the trip was decided by a timed hike with our backpacks across the Ngong Hills and through the valley. The cut off time to complete it was 4 hours, and I have no idea how many miles it was. I just remember little Maasai kids running up to me to chat excitedly and I used that time to learn their language along the way. This is where I first learned how to count in Maa and other simple phrases. Their smiling faces empowered me to persevere.

And I made the qualification!

Not Monkeying Around

And then it was time to face my challenge.
Mt. Kenya.
With a summit of 17,000 feet.

Arriving at the entrance to the mountain was magical. We unloaded our gear and threw our backpacks on. And off we went for our three-day adventure.

Along the way we ran into monkeys who stole our food, including my vegetarian hotdogs that I had shipped special from the US. I was amused and devastated at the same time. It is possible to experience both! One monkey tried to steal my scarf while I was wearing it. Which, I may or may not have been trying to get a photo next to it. A frustrated staff member tried to feed the monkeys bread covered in hot sauce, which the monkeys ended up loving. It was ridiculous and wonderful.

During the final day, we woke up and hiked at 1:00 am on a scree slope in the dark, and then onward for a 14-hour day of hiking to finish the trip back down the mountain. Students had moments of crying from blister pain. Others had been distraught trying boil water at 15,000 feet. We ran into an unexpected snowstorm near the summit after hiking through the jungle and desert, and we decided to turn back right before the top. We ended the trip with all of us laughing our heads off for about 3 hours on the way back to the city as our brains absorbed all of the extra oxygen. This was one of my most cherished life adventures.

And what did you notice about that story?

We never made it to the summit.

There may be that itty-bitty part of me that wishes we did make it. The part at the top may have been fantastic for the few moments of being there. But the value of that trip was truly the journey. What would the trip have been without every step along the way?

What I appreciate the most is who I became in the process.

I became a better leader. I became stronger physically and mentally. I became an advocate of training and preparing for what I value in life. I became a better team player. And the empowerment list goes on.

This new inner strength and growth is what I will have for the rest of my life.
And the memories along the way.

Remember this as you are working on your dreams and goals – that this time right now is what you are going to look back on and be grateful for the most. Life is absolutely all about who you are becoming in the process. This growth is the foundation for everything else.

Not Seeing Growth?

For some of you, you see the beauty of becoming more but you have a dilemma. You are wondering why all of your effort is going into your dreams but you not seeing the results yet?

First of all, this is a common feeling for many people. It is natural to have this thought from time to time.

A great parallel to our growth can also be seen in the growth of Chinese bamboo. After planting bamboo, during the first four years you will only see two inches of growth a year! That’s it! And during year five and six the bamboo grows eighty feet!

What is the reason for this explosive growth? The reason is that during the first four years, the bamboo was creating an extensive root system underground that we couldn’t see so that the roots could support the bamboo when it would be towering eighty feet above the ground!

The transformation taking place within yourself is nourishing the dreams you are investing in. This is true for all of us.

Enjoy the journey and know that when you keep moving forward, you will have your own bamboo version of year five and six. Right now is when the heavy groundwork is being done to support your dreams and your becoming.

Where is Your Current Awareness?

Understanding your awareness is important for gauging your internal growth. For the sake of simplicity, I will only cover two levels of internal growth.

The first level of awareness is the “to me” stage. This is when someone sees life happening to them and there is a feeling of being a victim. A common thought may be along the lines of, “Well, if only they would do this or that, I would be able to be happier.”

The second level is “by me.” This is when someone realizes that they are a co-creator with life and they take responsibility. They start to choose how they perceive the events and circumstances in their life, and they take action to make changes.

An example of this could be, “My spouse is cranky today but I am going to choose to remain positive and to see them through loving eyes.” In this case, you are choosing to see the situation through a different light vs. a victim mode of the first level, “My spouse is always cranky. Why do they have to ruin my day?”

There are also levels three and four that go up from here.

The reason it is valuable to recognize your phase of awareness is not because there is a race to the top. But it is a powerful tool.

Maybe you are usually a level two “by me” or higher. During your week, you think back to these levels and you have a moment of awareness. You realize you have slid back after an argument with a loved one to level one – feeling like a victim. All is well though. The beauty is since you can see it, you can do something about it.

There is power in your awareness.

The caveat is that your experiences of these levels of awareness will ebb and flow. My clients report going back and forth between their levels of awareness, and again, this is normal. Especially while laying the groundwork.

Creating awareness is a way to train yourself in understanding your current level of awareness, and it is simply that – awareness. The goal is not to judge yourself as good or bad. It is simply to see more clearly.

Your awareness can also be encouraging if you ever feel discouraged about your dreams taking more time than you anticipated. But maybe you can see your level of awareness is rising and that you are providing the best environment to be growing your dreams. That is the great news! You can rest assure that you are well on your way.

Be proud of your progress every step of the way. And embrace the journey of you becoming your true self.


Recount a time when you set out to do something, whether you accomplished it or not, and write about the positives that came out of that experience. Who did you become and what did you gain in the process?

Between level one and two of awareness, where are you at today? And maybe you are beyond these two levels and you are in the flow of life and beyond. Either way, take time to recognize where you are at in this moment.

What is one situation in your life where you could elevate yourself from level one “to me” and to take action / change your perspective?

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