“To be even inadequately prepared for battle, you have to fight a few first.”
“Personal growth does not start with the act of seeking improvement, but with improving the act of seeking. ”
Is forcing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable the only way to achieve personal growth? Not at all! You can stay within your comfort area and certainly achieve more skill, greater awareness, better health, or anything else you might consider growth.
If you are comfortable reading fiction, you can achieve quite a bit of development in your understanding of others, the world, human conflict, and in understanding more about yourself. You can even just limit your reading to the works of Dickens or Dostoyevsky and achieve growth. Maybe reading Philip K. Dick novels would be enough. I know I achieved some personal growth as a child reading Dr. Seuss books, and probably would get something out of them today, just re-reading them.
Spending time with a friend or your child, a stranger, or a dog or raccoon (watch out for rabies), is enough to develop personal growth — if you are there, in the moment, and not on automatic pilot like the cars Google and Tesla are developing.
Not so sure eating at an all-you-can eat pizza place would be effective, but don’t rule it out if you are do so with the intent of getting something out of it more than indigestion.
That said, the biggest bang for the buck often occurs when comparing what actions we had taken when staying in our comfort zone and reflecting what actions were available if we had gone outside that comfort zone — and then modifying our actions in the future, even though that is uncomfortable.
You and I do need to consider stepping outside our comfort zone, at least occasionally. It gets us off automatic.
There is another aspect to consider when pushing ourselves to do something uncomfortable. There is the aspect of right and wrong. Avoid doing it if it honestly feels to be the wrong action. If you know it is the right thing to do, use that as a motivator.
Ask a stranger if you can help them carry groceries, as awkward as that may seem. (Don’t just grab the groceries and start walking — that may get you in trouble.) When someone says something that’s not particularly interesting to you, but is to them, pursue their statement with a follow-up question — get to know their point of view better. Getting a better understanding of others may be uncomfortable in some situations, but it will sometimes result in an new or extended understanding.
Don’t shut others off when their political or religious views are different. As crazy as their viewpoint may seem at that time, have them elaborate and see what you can learn from better understanding their point of view.
Whether staying within your comfort zone or extending its boundaries, the main thing is to widen your perspective, knowledge and understanding.
Another way of looking at this is the DIKW pyramid. As an information professional this is something I am well aware of. There are variants on this pyramid, but one I like a lot is the diagram below at conceptdraw.com.
The DIKW is of course, Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. Another cool diagram (below) is from kvaes.files.wordpress.com:
My own take on this is that we don’t have pyramid at all but a recursive cycle of action: Observe, recognize, filter, connect, compare, evaluate, realize, know, understand, act. (Slightly different to some of the DIKW pyramids, I see true understanding as wisdom)
One way to apply this is to think of us being in a synthetic, artificial, simulated, or virtual universe, like in the movie “The Matrix” or as many scientists are now proposing.
We observe (collect data), connect and compare (information), determine/conclude (knowledge), achieve wisdom though understanding brought about by reflection and focusing our knowledge to the reality we believe is there and then take an appropriate action. After the action, we then start the process over again by observing, recognizing, filtering, connecting. comparing, evaluating, realizing, knowing and understanding — understanding more than before, and then taking action. This occurs with a boxer in the boxing ring or a driver in a race car on the racing track — and occurs over, over, and over again. This occurs whether we are playing an old-fashioned mechanical pinball machine in a bar (drinks are on you) or playing a virtual pinball machine on the internet.
So personal growth will happen as long as there is observation and ultimately action to be in a position to observe more. We can speed up the process by observing more and taking action when appropriate and as appropriate. If the action is inappropriate, the universe, synthetic or real, will let us know — maybe not immediately, but at some point. And generally that will not be personal growth, but personal decay — that is, unless we get up, brush ourselves off and start the cycle of “observation through action” all over again.