The sun touches the small green, freshly sprouted leaves. Slowly but surely the blossom is replaced with flowers, and leaves. The white glory of a fresh new beginning is transformed into the vibrant colors of growth. Over the years the bark grew thicker. More rings formed around its core. Branches grew and supported the nests of birds. And so the tree grew. Season after season. Evolving, letting go, but never still. Always in motion from one season to the next. Until the end of time. It all started as a little seed, planted by one of the owners that lived in the house down the street. They saw it grow from seed to tiny baby tree. Their kids saw it grow taller, forming the first leaves and strong branches. Their kids, kids saw it become strong. Steady in the wind, surviving in the winter, and flourishing in the summer. Their kids, kids, kids now play in it. They climb it. Swing on the branches. Scratch their legs, and wave at their mom and dad from up above. The tree has grown through many ages of history. Has witnessed tanks pass it by. Has dealt with storms, hot summers, and saw many different faces pass. Over time its roots settle deep into the ground as the streets and houses around it multiplied. Now it has become the center of attention. The tree grew. Effortlessly. It faced the seasons as they came. It didn’t stop growing, just because it didn’t feel like it. It used every drop of water that it was given, it withstood cold winters. Bullets stuck in its bark. It gave shelter to squirrels and birds. Butterflies grew on its branches, and ants ate its leaves. Many years have passed. Generations of plants, humans, animals, and seasons have come to know this tree.
Yet all that time. It grew effortlessly. Slowly. Patiently. That made me wonder. Why are we forcing our growth? Why are we so focused on innovation, change, growth. Self-development has exploded and I am part of that too. I too focus on growing a lot, yet I wonder if this is the right approach. If all of nature grows and changes effortlessly, why are we so focused on it. Causing tremendous amounts of stress, anxiety, fear, doubt, and harm to the world. Our need to grow quickly was sparked in the industrial revolution. Which has brought a lot of amazing change. We no longer have to worry about wars, at least in most areas of the world. There is less poverty and more abundance for everyone. Yet that quick growth is now also showing its toll. More depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses. As well as environmental impact. These are real problems that we have an incredible chance to change. Again with growth. Yet not the growth we are used to. Not the pushing, and hustling growth we are used to. Maybe the effortless growth of a tree can do us good. Changing us, shaping us, through different seasons of our life. Without ever feeling the need to be anywhere, or anything else. Allowing life itself to grow us, and let us bloom.
Constantly on edge
I turn the last page. Finish it quickly. Close the book and then what? I walk up to the mini-library I created for myself and grab another book. “Let me first grab another cup of coffee before starting this new book.” I think to myself. I rush downstairs. Grind some beans, put the ground beans into a French press, and pour over some boiling water. The usual ritual I use to make myself a delicious cup of highly stimulating goodness. And so I continue reading the next book. This time on digital minimalism. One by one I go through books. Making notes, highlighting, and learning from them. Over time I feel the need to read quicker. Improve more. The coffee that I drank starts kicking in, creating some physical jitters. I still want to grow, push on. Move forward, do more, learn more, read quicker, faster, more, more, more. And then I sit there. Looking straight ahead. “Why?” I think to myself. Why do I want to do more? I feel my tongue pressing against my teeth. My throat is tight and tensed. My heartbeat can be felt in every part of my body, and my leg can’t hold still. I hold out my hand in front of me and see it shake. This is partly because of the coffee, party of my constant push for more. My drive for growth. “Why?” I again ask myself. “Why am I so focused on constantly growing, on reading the next book, on growing more followers, on writing more, on learning new writing styles, on finding my style, etc. The list can go on and on. So many things that I could grow and evolve in. Yet the question remains, why do we grow?
Why do we go to the gym, when our only goal is to grow our muscles? Why do we constantly want to get a better grade on our tests? Or never feel satisfied with ourselves? “Does the tree feel dissatisfaction?” I wonder. “Does it feel like it needs to grow? Or does it just happen to him?” I wonder if the tree feels the need to grow, or if it just grows effortlessly. Why can’t I grow effortlessly? Why do I have to constantly push them to grow? I feel constantly on edge, and to be honest the world feels constantly on edge. Whatever I am doing, at whatever time I feel like there is always more to do. Which means there is more to grow in, to think about, to accomplish, and achieve. This is directly in my way of just feeling alive. It is in my way of living peacefully and allowing life to flow freely. So once again, has nature intended growth to feel this way? That’s where the comparison with a tree came from. I looked outside, I saw the tree gently moving in the wind. It couldn’t be moved. It felt calm and relaxed. It used whatever was given to him and grew. Effortlessly, so there must be a way for me to grow effortlessly. Growth and change are part of nature, so there is no need to force them. It will happen anyway if we are open to it. A tree, flower, or plant grows, without the need to be pushed. It’s in its nature to grow, and so can we, right?
Growth is part of nature
Growth and change are part of nature, they happen in every organism. Whether it’s a plant, an animal, or a human being. It all changes all the time. The sun rises and sets. So does the moon. The moon pulls and pushes the water around, which moves the currents and fish around. Birds eat those fish and grow stronger. They are eaten by other animals, and so the cycle continues. Everything is constantly in motion. Perfectly in balance, yet there is one organism that seems to distort all this balance. It is us. We are aware of this growth, we can in some way influence this growth. We can learn and evolve, we can push ourselves to the edge or decide to do the exact opposite. So in some way aren’t we going against the nature of our being. Which is constant growth, constant change, when we force it to happen? When we purposefully find our comfort zones and step out of them, when we push ourselves to grow when we feel anxious or stressed because of this?
Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nature is slow and deliberate. It is therefore that it grows effortlessly. It has one purpose, that is its growth. A tree doesn’t have to worry about many aspects of life. It just grows as much as it can. Therefore it becomes effortless. That’s why it never has to go to the edge of its comfort zone. That edge will present itself once he gets there. For a tree winter can be seen as stepping out of his comfort zone, yet does he go after looking for that comfort zone? No, it is perfectly still and follows the pace of nature. It meets winter when it is ready to meet winter. Its secret is indeed patience, just like Ralph Waldo Emerson said. If nature can so effortlessly grow, never have to search for its growth potential, why can’t we right?
If growth is part of nature that must mean we can effortlessly grow. That must mean we can just go through our lives and grow when nature intends us to grow. So why do we push ourselves then? Why do we focus on this so much? Why do we still try so hard to grow and start to feel more and more agitated, worried, anxious, depressed, and stressed? Aren’t we desperately trying to hold onto growth, slowly suffocating it? Aren’t we looking at others and how they are doing, and then look at ourselves and think “Why ain’t I there yet?”. Why do we want to grow? Why not stay the same? Why not relax and hang back?
I asked myself, why do I grow? And most importantly, is that growth making me feel more alive? Is it feeding me, with joy, love, and meaning? Or is it taking from it? The answer was mixed. On the one hand, I was more joyful than I have ever been before. Yet I still felt like something was lacking, which I needed to change and grow in. Some parts of my life were still not the way I wanted them to be. So did I feel more alive? The answer was, no not yet. I still had to grow a little more…
Why do we want to grow?
But why do I want to grow? Why do we want to grow? Is there some greater meaning behind it? To be honest. There isn’t, we just grow. It’s part of us. Without it, the world would still be just a spec in a black universe. With growth we changed from a single organism to sea creatures, to land creates, to apes, and eventually to humans. We all grow, in the physical form, and throughout recent history in the mental form as well. We can grow our intellect, our understanding of the world, and with that, we can better understand the world and make changes accordingly. So we change out of habit because we don’t know anything different. We just do it, we like it because it is part of who we are. It creates a better version of ourselves. It helps us to walk, to express ourselves, and now helps us to develop new skills, innovate, create, expand, and evolve.
The flip side to that growth is that we start to push it. We are so into it that we start to force it. This is why we start to feel anxious, stressed, pressured, and less alive. Our growth has become mandatory, without it we think we aren’t enough. And that is what has created our drive and push for more growth. An unhealthy way of growth, yet highly effective way of growth. This growth has two faces. One is unhealthy which is when we push and push and push without ever resting and reflecting. The other is healthy, which is we push, and rest, push and rest. Just like the tree grows in seasons. It grows in summer and blooms in spring, then it gets rid of its leaves in autumn, ready to rest in winter. These cycles are needed in growth. These cycles make growth less mandatory and more free-spirited. This means that we are naturally encouraged to grow out of our comfort zones, but also that we see that there needs to be time to restore after pushing out of these comfort zones. We can’t just constantly push. In fact, that takes tremendous effort and energy. Both of which we don’t have infinite amounts off.
So we grow because it is part of our nature. With that comes the need to constantly grow, forgetting about our time to rest and reflect. This is where effortless growth begins to form itself. This is where it shows to us. Our push for constant growth is suffocating us, it is unhealthy and creates a lot of anxiety and doubt.
The two sides of growth
To further dive into effortless growth I reflected on the two faces we grow in. Which is our internal and external world. We can either grow in our internal world or the material world. The internal world consists of mindset growth, perspective, joy, love, meaning, a sense of belonging, and resilience. In the material world, we can grow our wealth, our physical health, our crafts, our possessions, and our image for the rest of the world. Both are part of growth and neither one can be denied. If we grow internally, we grow externally. If we grow externally, our internal world will have to grow as well. The only thing is that our external world can be forced to change, our internal world can never. So when we start with external growth and grow for example our wealth by working real hard, and we neglect our internal growth, sooner or later there will be an imbalance. This I believe can be seen in people that have fasts amounts of wealth yet feel highly unsatisfied. Or the people who are constantly focusing on getting into shape, yet when you ask them if they like their bodies there is always something to improve. For me, this was the case with self-development. I would always find something to read next, always something new to learn, I never felt satisfied, because the cause of this growth was for the external world. I wanted to look good. In fact, I wanted to grow and read more so I could sort of show what I had learned.
So starting with an external growth factor will most likely result in an out-of-balance inner world. We can’t just want money, or a good-looking body, if we don’t grow internally as well. Feeling satisfied with that which we already have. This creates forced growth, instead of effortless growth. At some point, you will have to force yourself to work out or make more money, because internally you are resisting the very thing you are doing. If you start with internal growth, which includes things like your mindset, your emotional, and spiritual state of being we can feel satisfied with ourselves and detach us from the constant need to grow. Which results in effortless growth. What does this look like?
Well, take sports example. If we want to get into shape, we start internally. We start by accepting our body as it is. We see that we are maybe unhealthy, or that we want to build more muscle. Yet we acknowledge that we are fine just the way we are. We accept ourselves which is a spiritual practice. We start with our why, the core reason why we want to grow. If we then start to work out, we are satisfied doing it. We like it. Have fun with it, and don’t blame ourselves when we can’t go to the gym or do a workout. For our financial growth, this could mean that we first figure out how we think about money, our mindset around money, and the way we spend it. Are we spending it on things, buying more than we need, to cover up something that hurts on the inside? If so we should first heal that and grow internally before we can start to grow externally. This way growth in the external world becomes effortless. Growth in the internal world can also be effortless I found.
Effortless internal growth
I have been so focused on growing myself, that it became an obsession. That in itself was forced growth. It wasn’t feeling effortless anymore, it felt like a mandatory thing I had to do. If I didn’t do it I would never feel happy or successful. Turns out, this won’t work. It is just as toxic as focussing on external growth like earning more money or followers. To grow internally without effort I realized that spirituality had to come in. I have always loved spirituality, and that too became an obsession. Yet in that obsession, I did learn that the only way to grow is through acceptance and letting go.
Your internal growth most likely involves either letting go of past traumas or memories or accepting your current state of being. Letting go and accepting are both practices that can’t be forced. The very nature of forcing something isn’t allowing us to let go. If we want to force a nail into a piece of wood we grip the hammer more tightly. If we relax our grip on the hammer and use its weight and our movement to our advantage the nail will go in just as quickly yet it will feel effortless. Unforced, and relaxed. I always love the example of a young monkey learning to gather his own food.
When a young monkey grows up and gets old enough to swing on trees by himself, he has to learn how to gather his own food. Some monkeys love to eat ants but to get them is a tricky technique. So the mother teaches the kid. She grabs a piece of thin wood, or a thin branch, that fits into the tiny holes of an ant’s nest. Her kid does the same. Every move the mother makes the little monkey follows. He sits down next to his mother and watches her poke the stick into one of the holes. Moving it around, scraping the sides, and then pulling it out. The branch is filled with thousands of little ants and she quickly pulls the stick up to her mouth and in one smooth swoop, she eats of all the ants. Now it’s the little one’s turn. It mimics its mother. Pushing in the stick, twisting and turning it, scraping the sides. Then pulls it out and… There are just a few ants on the stick. It quickly eats the few ants that are on there and tries again. Over and over again. Watching its mother as she too continues to eat. Slowly but surely the number of ants increases and the young monkey starts to understand the right moves and techniques it has to use.
You see the young monkey grows internally and externally at the same time. Internally it tries to figure out the right way to do this. It’s figuring out how to move its stick to get out more ants, as well as remaining patient and observant of its mother. In his external world, this growth results in more and more ants. His goal is to get more ants but the way he does so is by first growing internally. It grows the techniques before it reaches the external growth which is the number of ants. Thus it seems to be growing effortlessly. But in fact, it just takes time to learn the right way around. Starting internally and then slowly increasing externally.
Where to begin
Effortless growth sounds amazing, it sounds relaxed and easy. Yet where to begin? If this is the way we grow and are meant to grow. Why don’t we know where to start? Well, we do know, only we are kinda deceived by ourselves. Effortless growth involves making the right decision. If we make the wrong decision we will feel like our growth is hard and takes a lot of effort. If we make the right decision it will always feel effortless. So how do we make the right decision? How do we choose the right things to grow?
Why. That’s where we start. Figuring out why you want to grow. What drives you? Why are you feeling joyous in life? Why would you jump out of bed energized and excited for your day? The core of effortless growth is knowing why we grow, what is the real purpose behind it. If that purpose doesn’t feel right, we will never feel like we are growing effortlessly. As I shared with you at the beginning of this article I have felt like growth was a struggle, as if I had to constantly push to grow. I felt anxious and it just didn’t work. I wanted to grow my follower base on social platforms and therefore tried to do my take on popular stuff. This never felt right, and therefore the growth in numbers on social platforms stayed out. It didn’t work out and most of the time I just quit. I gave up. Not because I didn’t have any grit, but because I want to help people, and if not even the few followers I have like it, there is no point in continuing. So the real reason for my internal dissatisfaction, was that my why, my reason for doing it wasn’t right. The only goal was to grow followers. Instead of focussing on the satisfaction of creating content that I would love to share. You see that’s an inner shift, from needing to be popular, and having to grow. To I get to create content I love to create and I believe brings value, that will hopefully result in a growing follower base. If that follower base stays out, I at least had fun trying.
Just like the tree that growth became effortless. It didn’t feel like a hassle anymore. It felt fun to do and I moved with seasons. I would create content for a few hours and then could relax and slow down in the evening without feeling the constant need to do more. I felt satisfied internally and therefore I can allow my external world to change.
A small change will do
So forcing change won’t help you. It’s unnatural and will not make you feel more alive. You’ll probably feel a constant lack or dissatisfaction with the things you are doing. All you have to do is one small change. To change your perspective on growth. Instead of seeing that you must grow, see it as a gift. You GET to grow, instead of ‘you MUST grow’. It’s such a small and minor detail, but trust me this makes all the difference internally. If you get to grow every moment you get to improve is a gift, if you have to grow every moment your growth will not feel like it is enough. So remember this, if there is just one thing to take away from this article.
“You don’t NEED to grow. You GET to grow”
It lifts off the weights that can wear you down and make life less fun to live through. Have fun with your growth. Make it exciting. If you have a dream go for it, find the things you love to do, and stick to that as long as you like it. Let your joy, fun, and excitement be your guide through growth. That will make it feel effortless. It will not feel like a hustle or drain your energy. In return, it will just give you more, and more. For me, that is writing. I figured out that I love to break down things, to think about them. Reflect and make them understandable in the simplest way. These articles, to me, feed me with excitement. They make me feel more alive because I too get to understand what burdens I carry in my day-to-day life. Find the fun and exciting ways to grow, make small changes, and see the external results follow. Trust and let go.
Your joy and excitement are the real rewards for your growth. Never the outside factors like money, followers, a good-looking body. Focus on the internal things, like joy, meaning, healthy, mindset, your emotions, an open heart. Effortless growth is free. It doesn’t require tremendous amounts of energy. You just do it. You grow with the seasons just like a tree. Effortless growth makes you feel alive. You have fun doing it. You no longer strangle in life, instead, it becomes your friend, your co-op player in your video games. You do it together and you learn from it. You notice when you start to feel stressed again and see that your growth isn’t effortless and therefore you should relax again. No growth needs force. It will happen at the right time, at the right moment, as long as we keep learning and moving forward. Without the push, without the need, but out of a choice, out of a free will to grow. You get to grow, and you start to understand that life is change.
We can’t force life to change. So relax. Sit back. Do the things you love, improve them. Grow. But remember that you are alive, and that life is worth enjoying. So relax. Feel life flowing through you, encouraging you, and trust in the process. Growth is effortless. Today You Live!
As a sidetone remember that this is just my perspective on effortless growth. We are all human, we are all different and for you, things can feel different. I would love to talk to you, text with you, whatever you feel comfortable with. I love to learn more about life. I want you to join in, and see this as a conversation. As a way to communicate together, and grow together. To feel alive together. That’s what this is about, not to just push my opinion out as the truth, but to share it, in hopes of helping others. So join the conversation and let me know what your perspective is on growth and effortless growth.
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