“I think I’m outgrowing my current role.” One of my clients said this to me recently, and it felt immediately familiar. Outgrowing things is tricky business. And more than that, it’s hard work. And it’s often an extremely uncomfortable state of being. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it happens. All. The. Time. Because we are all constantly growing. Even the oldest among us is growing and changing every day. And as we grow into new things, we inevitably outgrow the old. Sometimes seen as a negative, outgrowing something is actually healthy, because what it leaves behind is space for new growth to take place.
So how do we outgrow things with grace? How do we take that uncomfortable feeling and turn it into something positive? Something that opens us up to new opportunities and leaves space in our lives for new things to come?
First, let’s think about what it really means to outgrow something. It means to grow too big to comfortably fit somewhere. That’s the obvious definition. But another one is to ‘leave behind as one matures.’ And, here, I think we’re talking about both. To outgrow a job role, for instance, can mean you’ve gotten too skilled, or ‘big’ to comfortably perform that role anymore. To outgrow a relationship can mean to understand yourself better, to become more mature, that you realize it is no longer healthy for you to continue as you were. To outgrow an old mentality can mean that as you have changed you have learned and so your way of thinking has evolved.
Outgrowing something you once loved; a job, a manager, a start-up office, can lead to feelings of guilt, shame or sadness. And all of that is ok. We are all still growing, and that means sometimes you outgrow things that used to fit. How do we recognize that? Act on that? Feel good about that? It can be scary, but at the end of the day, it’s the right direction.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE OUTGROWING?
You know you’ve outgrown a part of your life when that part of your life feels uninspired. You may feel bored or disconnected from the thing that used to bring you joy. Or you may, quite literally, outgrow your space. If your business becomes too big, or you need more than a home office, then you know you’ve really outgrown something.
One of the things I have grown out of and continue to outgrow is the need for approval or validation from other people or their opinions. I outgrew my corporate job and the need to have other people perceive me as successful. I spent years chasing promotions, salary and respect. I woke up one day and realized those things didn’t matter to me as much as they once did and certainly not in the same way. My priorities have changed and while I still want to be respected and contribute to society and my family that takes a backseat to being able to be a present parent and control my own destiny. I have learned to stop looking outward and look inward for guidance on what to do or where to go both from a personal and career perspective. I feel that often we know the answers deep down but we sometimes quiet that voice in ourselves because of fear or because of what other people might think.
So how do we grow, and outgrow, with a grace for ourselves, and for what we’re leaving behind?
GROW WITH GRATITUDE
To outgrow with grace, we need to be able to recognize what we’re leaving behind, and be thankful for that time and that place. The saying goes, ‘don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.’ That’s just the attitude you need when you’re continuing to evolve. Seeing it through the eyes of gratitude allows us to acknowledge what we’ve outgrown and let go of it fondly, rather than with fear or sadness. Recognize how it has served you and how it has brought you to this place and then, carry on.
GROW WITH PURPOSE
It becomes easier to outgrow phases of our lives if we have a clear vision for where we want to go. When you have a plan, you anticipate steps and the evolution that those steps will inevitably entail. Plan for how you’ll outgrow your space, your mentors, your job. Have an idea of how and when you want that growth to take place. Additionally, have an understanding of what it will feel like when you do outgrow something. For some people, that may sound like ‘when I wake up dreading work more days than I don’t, it’s time to move on.’ Or ‘when I feel like I’m no longer adding value, then I’ll have a discussion with my manager.’ When we know where we’re headed, with intention and purpose, it’s easier to leave behind what helped us get there.
GROW WITH AN OPEN MIND
Sometimes, we have a plan, and, yeah, sometimes that plan doesn’t work out. That’s ok, too. To grow with an open mind is to be open to new possibilities. When it feels like you’re outgrowing something before its scheduled time, or before you planned to, listen to what your intuition is telling you. Have an open mind and dialog with yourself about evolving your plans, and don’t stay anywhere longer than you should, just because it feels too uncomfortable to move forward.
When we intentionally grow with grace, purpose and an open mind, it inevitably leads to outgrowing with grace; to shedding the skin of the things, places, jobs and people that don’t fit right anymore. And even though it may feel uncomfortable, sad or even ungrateful, give yourself some grace and know that all you are feeling is healthy. Because what you’re setting yourself up for is better than what you’re leaving behind. What you’re about to embark on is far more exciting than where you’ve been. It’s a new start, a fresh opportunity. A new chance to grow, evolve and change, and yes, eventually outgrow again, and start the whole process over, knowing, full well, that it will lead to better things to come.