In his book Considerations author Colin Wright focuses on growth and success and writes, “maybe focusing on growth — or the measurement of it — is missing the point of living well.” This quote speaks to me about the importance of not focusing on others and worrying about how we compare to others. When we spend time worrying about others, what they achieve, what they drive, and how fancy their job title is, we either feel inadequate or we overinflated our ego. What Wright is arguing is that all of these comparisons between us and our neighbors, co-workers, peers, and the other people in the grocery line distract us from focusing on what is truly important in life. At a more profound level, Wright’s quote also speaks about the importance of self awareness, and what we should use self awareness for. Rather than analyzing ourselves and critically analyzing our level of growth, his quote seems to show that we would be better suited by finding ways to enjoy life and lead a positive life rather than living with a focus on constant growth. In this way it is as though the best way to growth is through an oblique path as opposed to a direct tangent.
Wright’s idea feels quite stoic to me and reminds me of Marcus Aurelius in many ways. I am currently working through Meditations and 2,000 years ago Aurelius was encouraging us to focus inwards on ourselves and not be tempted by desire for the things that others have which we do not. When we are not worried about obtaining the same things that our neighbors have and when we do not spend all our time trying to impress others, we can connect with ourselves in a meaningful way, and move in a direction which fuels us for more positive reasons.
I think that both Wright and Aurelius would admit that there is a difficult balance to be maintained when it comes to self awareness and growth. In previous posts I have written that establishing goals based around growth is a more effective way to guide ones life, but at the same time, focusing on growth as opposed to focusing on living a well rounded and meaningful life still will not guide an individual in the best possible direction. We are still measuring ourselves and making comparisons between our current self and past self along with others. Focusing on these changes and gaging whether or not they are the changes we want or expect of ourselves does not provide the meaning to our life that we should desire.