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Personal Growth and a Perspective on Coping With Major Life Changes

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Let us remember our lives are but moments in the flow of eternity…
and let us also remember that eternity is but a flow of lives like ours.

~Paul Williams, Das Energi

I recently read an interesting post by Steve Pavlina about how to get perspective on problems  with the magnitude of death, divorce, job loss and other circumstances that many people consider devastating.

It seems to me, as someone who is in the thick of preparing to lose one of the most important people in my life, Mike Schwass, that there is a middle ground between catastrophizing and looking at oneself as a miniscule speck in an overwhelmingly huge universe across all eternity.

I am reminded of an article by Scott Young in which he decided to tackle the topic of defining personal development. He suggested there is a distinction between lateral and vertical personal growth. Vertical growth is the upward, reach for the stars kind of growth. Like an entrepreneur starting a business or a college student imagining what major course of study they would like to pursue or a newly married couple dreaming of their first home.

Lateral growth is the stuff that expands your experience. As an example, I put my "spiritual growth" in this category. I'm not trying to excel at something as much as I am immersing myself as much as I can in the full breadth of my human experience. This includes showing up to the fact that we will all die.

Steve Pavlina reminds us that death and various tragic life experiences have happened to millions of people for thousands of years.


But I am only going to lose Mike once.

And his brilliant life deserves a fine ending surrounded by people that respect and love him for the work of art he has made of his life. (His death could be a year from now — maybe two — but it's certainly true that 30 years of quadriplegia are taking their toll). His life should be celebrated for all he is given to those who have been touched by his inspirational story.

Are there millions of inspirational stories peppered throughout human history? Of course.

But, at the end of the day, this is my Michael, who impacted my life and grown me spiritually as no one else has.

My journey is a personal one. Nothing special. Just very, very personal.

If I wasn't so dedicated and disciplined with my lateral growth, I would not be able to show up to the beauty of watching an amazing life reach its completion.

We get one chance here. It's important that we appreciate all our dimensions and not think that lateral growth can wait until after we get that credit card paid off, or the next project done, or — God forbid — after we retire. All of life, in all its potential, including its potential for loss faces us every day.

Yes, vertical growth is necessary. It pays your way in the world. It stretches and challenges, frustrates and energizes. It produces. It's quantitative. It's about SMART goals. It's what you are.

Lateral growth adds depth, richness and humanity. It's texture, torture, bliss, grief, discovery and expansion. It's qualitative. It's who you are.

Being human, you will be facing losses of similar magnitude if you haven't done so already. Do yourself a kindness by attending to your personal growth in all directions.

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About Laura Young