The underestimated element to finding balance

The positivity content online these days tends to be pretty thorough when covering gratitude and goals. One element that seems to be lagging behind is the topic of how to achieve and maintain personal growth. While gratitude and goals are great, not reflecting on growth misses an opportunity to attain greater harmony.  The power of growth For example, picture yourself as a new caretaker of a beautiful potted bonsai tree. It's pruned neatly and is lustrous, healthy and vibrantly green with symmetrical twisted branches. Before you can feel confident about keeping it in this great condition, you have to learn the best techniques of care. But even if and when you become a master bonsai caretaker, it will never grow bigger than the space provided in the pot as they are intentionally root bound to stunt their growth. However, as the caretaker, if you wanted it to grow, you need to transplant it into a bigger pot.  In life, you are both the beautiful bonsai tree and the caretaker; in order to stay healthy, you must find ways to care for yourself. And if you want to defy being a bonsai tree and grow bigger, you must change your pot size or plant yourself in the open ground to expand to your full potential.  Growth is a necessary element in life. Without it, there’d be no beauty, no joy, no survival. Hence, it can be just as much a teacher as it is a propeller, but only if you stop to reflect, absorb, appreciate, and understand the lessons along the way.  Appreciating growth is like how some parents document the height of their kid on the wall for 18 years or posting a good report card on the fridge. As we get older, this practice of growth appreciation becomes a rarity, but it's worthy of a comeback. Think of your growth reflections as something that's wall or fridge worthy -- things you're proud about. They don't necessarily even have to be things you want to share with others, especially if you’re a modest person, these growth achievements can be special personal celebrations just for you.  How growth adds to balance  Celebrating your improvements can also lessen the demand for attaining approval from others. Even if you don't seek such approval, it's built into several everyday systems, including ourselves. Think about how it feels to get those social "likes," positive annual reviews at work, or just a nice compliment about how you look from a loved one. This is all part of acquiring approval from others. It's okay to get praise externally. Feeling accepted and liked/loved is a part of building interpersonal relationships, which help us build our sense of community. While it’s valuable to grow from a community and support system, I don’t believe it’s the full picture in achieving personal harmony. In fact, without also building in a sense of inner strength from personal growth reflections, it can lead to an unhealthy imbalance.  For example, as a young adult, I experienced a breaking point from seeking sole approval externally. I never really learned how important it was to value celebrating my own opinions or prioritizing my personal needs and wants before or in tandem with others. I believe this undervalued element of finding balance is more common than not. I learned the hard way that a personal evolution needs to include appreciation for both internal and external sources of growth.  While growth requires a balance of internal and external sources, remember, no one is going to do the work for you. When you reflect upon your own growth over a period of time, it also invites gratitude and goals to the balance, making it a perfect cycle of movement toward your next growth expanse.   For example, perhaps you reflect upon an argument or heated discussion you recently had where you changed your behavior from past experiences to be more understanding. This can instill feelings of gratitude for your behavior and for the person you were conversing with. This can then lead to a goal of continuing the behavior and aiming to be an even more attentive listener next time. The cycle can be similar to climbing a staircase to your next destina