As my children were growing up, one thing that astonished and amused me was the way their little bodies grew in cycles. They would have a vertical spurt where they would suddenly appear long and lean and pants would be a tad short. This would be followed by a filling out phase or a non-vertical, slightly more horizontal growth where they would refill their new taller outline.
I don’t know if this is even a medical thing but I noticed it as a mum and it made perfect sense to me that nature would work that way. Accelerated growth then integrate/ fill out/ occupy the new space then grow upwards some more.
The natural cycles of ‘inner’ growth
The work of self-development can work in similar mysterious ways. In fact, I believe it is meant to flow in cycles of accelerated growth and integration.
Accelerated growth phase
As we enter an accelerated growth phase we are hungry for new information, data, stories, facts, anything aligned to whatever it is we are interested in. We may notice a little more energy at these times as the fire of inspiration flickers with warmth and encouragement.
We dive into the learning or practice of a new skill and we feel ourselves expanding in one direction. A unilateral growth phase that is all encompassing can feel like a new romance. It occupies a lot of our time and thought.
Then we may notice a point where we feel full. Full of information, topped up with new inspiration, still excited and yet…..needing to sit down.
As if we’ve just climbed a mountain and reached the peak and WOW we are blown open but also a little tired. It’s like we’ve gorged on new learning at the banquet of life but overdone it a tad and need to stop and just allow time for absorption.
This feeling indicates that we are ready to move into the integration stage.
Integrate growth phase
The integration phase of growth and self-development allows us the time to process all the information we’ve taken in quickly. It offers a slower pace where the new data can be properly absorbed and used to nourish us fully.
During this phase we may need to read over the same material multiple times, listen to the same podcasts, practice the same skills and just allow the information to really sink in. It’s a good time to get in touch with how this new information makes us feel and how it affects us directly.
Our bodies may feel like going on long walks in nature or sitting down and just being with our thoughts or even taking naps.
Our brains may feel a little less wired and a little more tired and that’s okay. We’ve just had a big meal of new growth and now we need to sleep it off.
What happens when we get stuck in one phase or another
These two phases of growth are meant to be temporary and not stagnate. When we don’t heed the call to move back into either phase we can become stuck.
Growth can be addictive. We love the spark of energy and inspiration that the new learnings bring and anyone who knows addictive patterns understands the feeling of wanting to preserve the high at any cost.
But energy is always seeking balance and to be constantly growing, taking in, absorbing new information is energy consuming. There comes a point where we need to stop and integrate.
If we don’t we risk burnout. Our bodies and minds cannot run at full speed for unlimited amounts of time.
There is a lack of energy that comes from staying too long in either phase but it has a different quality. Too long in growth feels like a physical exhaustion that grates against what your mind wants – to keep learning, to keep pushing.
Getting stuck in integration phase feels less like burnout and more like boredom. Stagnancy of mind and body, the result of having thoroughly processed new information a long time ago but overstaying our welcome in this safe, comfortable place.
Signs you are ready to move into integration
You are tired but wired
Trouble sleeping, switching off at night
Constant mental chatter
Short attention span, constantly switching channels, scrolling, searching
Inability to sit still despite feeling tired
A feeling of ‘not enough time’
An anxiety provoking feeling of understanding the tip of the iceberg, that there is a whole lot more underneath but you can’t quite see it
Suggestions to help
- Take a break from any classes or activities that make you feel as though you’re scrambling to keep up.
- Spend the next few weeks or months slowly going over your notes and processing the information you’ve learned. Allow time for the information to sit and resonate with you or not.
- Schedule time in your day/ week for walks in nature, sitting quietly and contemplating or meditation. Give yourself time and space in which to slow down and process where you’re at.
- Find a like-minded group of people to practice your particular interest or craft with or talk through issues that may arise with whatever it is you’ve been learning about. Perhaps you know some people already or look for a Facebook group or online community that feels aligned.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings. Practice your lessons. Extend yourself patience and compassion to allow it all to just sink in. Give yourself as long as it takes, there is no time limit on either phase.
Signs you are ready to move into accelerated growth
You are tired but just feel flat
Feeling irritable, bored, in a rut
Comfortable in your routines, beliefs and activities and a little fearful of change
Oversleeping, complacency, apathy
A feeling of ‘nothing ever changes’
Feeling that you know all there is to know, skeptical of the new
Suggestions to help
- Take a trip, get out of your environment. Whether it’s a day trip to the country or the city, visit a museum or gallery, go see a movie or eat in a restaurant with a cuisine that is foreign to you. Take a longer trip if you are able, to new territories.
- Write a list of 3 things you’ve always wanted to do or learn more about and take the first step towards them.
- Download a podcast, order a book or do some internet research on each.
- Ask a friend who is currently inspired and actively involved in something if you can tag along and either watch or have a go at whatever lights their fire.
- Attend a class on one of the three things you were interested in above but haven’t yet invested in. Dip a toe in the water and see whether it still appeals once you know a little more.