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alchemy

Birthday prompts reflection: The seven signs of growth

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By the time you read this, I will have made another 365-day trip around the sun. Not a milestone birthday in itself, although the previous 12 months have been anything but ordinary.

Consider all that has transpired since October 2016 … feel free to catalogue your own wins and losses as you experienced them. It is probably no surprise to most of you that this year has been a stretch of wildly fluctuating emotions and events for me.

The presidential campaign was a moment-by-moment exercise in disbelief, shock and resolve. A serious car crash in February left me with lingering injuries, and a layoff in March was the proverbial insult to injury. A cancer scare and my now-infamous encounter with the Heimlich maneuver had me bruised and confused.

A good job, a modest run at poker in my first-ever casino venture, and a summer of concerts under the stars provided a welcome balance to the daily onslaught of ever-more-astonishing news.

Birthdays do provide the opportunity for annual introspection, and mine this month was fueled by an article outlining “7 signs you are growing.” I have to admit that I struggle with some of them:

1. Your beliefs are still evolving. Well, this one has definitely provided a lot of growth. I didn’t know that I felt quite so strongly about women’s and girl’s rights, about immigrants and refugees, about equality for all people. Recent events have shown me that I do, as I consider the possibilities and consequences of my actions – or inaction.

2. You can see different points of view. We all have our cognitive biases, and my 24/7 consumption of information leads me to prefer certain news outlets and sources. To counter this tendency, however, through the “nourish my political soul” initiative that I’ve previously described in this space, I’ve sought out differing perspectives. Thanks to those of you who have offered them.

3. You are willing to stop unproductive habits. I don’t sleep – much – and, unfortunately, I then take pleasure in playing word games on my phone until the early moments of the coming day. I’m told this can actually contribute to my sleeplessness, so this is clearly a growth area for me.

4. You consciously build productive habits. The flip side of number 3, I suppose. About weekly, I decide to eat better, exercise more, and enrich my mind. It’s turning these decisions into habits that’s the hard part. I’m full of good intentions, and we all know where that road goes.

5. You grow thicker skin. Whether I wanted to or not, whether I was even aware of it or not, I have embraced number 5. I suppose when you are as passionate – and as vocal – as I am, you receive your fair share of blowback. Part of my growth has been engaging in the constructive back-and-forth of civil discourse, and dismissing the rest.

6. You achieved more than you thought possible. I’ll have to ponder this one. Perhaps my greatest avenue for growth is through a conscious decision to learn more and to do more.

7. Your definition of success changes. What, from the previous year, defines my success today? I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out.

How has your own growth been? Email to let me know.

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes that growth happens through life experience, education, and our connections with other people. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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