There is a myth in Western society that growth is a positive thing. If your company grows it is considered a sign of success. Growing ones wealth is thought to be a universal desire.
But growth is an energy without morality. We are the ones that make it moral. It is not good or bad. Or better said, it can be either good or bad, both or neither.
Cancer, where cells grow out of control, is the best example of bad growth. Hormone filled animals are bad growth. A sprawling city out of control is bad growth. Obesity, one of America’s “largest” problems, is unhealthy growth.
Yet we hold onto the notion that expansion, rising up, accumulating and growing is good for us and the world. We hold to the mantra that our growth in technology is a good thing that can solve our problems. Our growth in wealth as a nation is good for the world since we have money to help the poorer countries, right?
But the major flaw in this thinking is an ignorance of the whole. If something goes up, something else is going down. If we are growing, they might be decreasing. It is not that the two are necessarily connected but the world is an ebb and flow, a yin and yang, a black and a white. You don’t stay young forever do you?
There is no such thing as constant positive expansion. We need to wean ourselves of the tunnel vision that there is only one good way to go: up.
Expansion, growth, bigger, wider, longer, richer, and the holy grail of them all: more productive. These are part of life. But they are not better that contraction, smaller, thinner, shorter, poorer, slower, and god forbid, being less productive.
Since most of us are under a constant pressure to get things done, we have become obsessed with productivity. We believe and have good proof that if we just become more productive we can finally do all the things demanded of us in the day. Therefore productivity is good…
But being productive says nothing about the reasons BEHIND your productivity.
That is what we all forget about.
In our constant race to go bigger and more productive we loose track of the reasons BEHIND it all.
Have you ever gone on holiday and realized that 90% of the things in your life back home are not as important as you thought?
From your wider perspective on holiday it really seems trivial whether you organize the garage or not. Who cares! Or how about that thing you had to do at your job? Like it is going to really matter to the world!
And that is the irony. Most of our productivity is aimed at things that don’t matter.
In our quest to run faster than the rat next to us we forget the reasons behind why we started running in the first place.
To step back and take a moment to look into the reasons BEHIND the actions you are about to take. Why would I want to open a new store? Why do I feel the need to clean the garage? Why do I want to build the extension on the house? Why do I want to grow the company?
It is not about self doubt or holding back your potential. It is about knowing what the solid foundation is from where you will jump. And it is about not forgetting it in the noise of the day.
That way when distractions come you will not mindlessly speed up.
Buddha is the most productive person in the world and he spends most of his day sitting with his eyes closed.
These thoughts came after I watched a private school here in Carroll Gardens quibble with the locals over whether the school could add an extension and decrease it’s front garden. The locals wanted to keep the garden. The school, in it’s quest to grow, wanted to expand it’s classroom size.
This fight of human expansion vs. nature is so primordial. Everywhere in the world we see the tension. So far nature has lost almost every time.
And the epic fight was even more symbolic since the school is Jewish and the locals are Italian. The expansion of one race over another. The expansion of one religion over another. These are such old themes.
One side sees it as simple growth, the other side sees it as encroachment.
In this case I am happy to say it looks like the garden will win and they won’t be allowed to expand.
Another example: My mother has a beach front property with a little beach cabin on it. The property could be developed to build six beach front condos. It could allow six families to enjoy the beach. It could make my mother rich. I’m a builder. I could do it…..
But then we sit back and look at the reasons BEHIND such an expansion. Do we really need that extra money? The extra work? Does the property need that extra housing load?
It would be a lot of work. The property would be ruined aesthetically IMO. Even though it is perfectly legal, we would piss the community off. In the big picture would we be helping the world?
In our insatiable drive to expand we might be tempted to build six condos on the lot. But is that drive to expand simply blind drive or is it a wise action with the interest of everyone including the world? Are we good enough as we are?
Are you good enough the way you are now? Good enough is a wonderful place to be most of the time. It is not about settling. It is about saying, this is good enough, now I will spend the rest of the day watching the sunset.