Four Places To Be On The Growth Continuum And Three Of Them Are Bad

Bill Cottringer

“If we are growing, we will always be out of our comfort zone.” ~John Maxwell.

Sorry about the gloom and dome title, but it’s true, just like throwing a pass in football—three things can happen and two of them are bad. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed against any odds. There is just too much proof to the contrary.

There are four places you can be on the continuum of the single most important process in life—learning, growing and improving. Obviously the last place is the finish line where we would all like to be, but it is mostly our insights about life, courage, humility and efforts to get to this place, which get us there. And one important point here: If you are somewhere in between the stages of one through three and really do want to move to four, then serious change has to occur which may not be familiar and certainly not comfortable. Beware what you wish for, as in may come with undesirable side effects.

Unfortunately we usually are not motivated enough to make serious changes until we are on the brink of painful and obvious destruction where the bottom is falling out quicker than we can keep up with. And, being too comfortable at one of the first three places, works to keep you from growing past that spot. It is good to know the tipping point here—catching the point of no return before it comes and goes.


This beginning place is a sad one at which to be stuck and unfortunately many people who are super-glued here don’t have enough motivation, ability or desire to move on. This is where you over-focus mainly on the little you have learned and know, make too much of it, and just don’t see a need to do much of anything but live a life of quiet desperation, justifying the status quo with minimal effort. Here people are pessimistic victims and passive observers, complaining silently but not doing anything about anything. Here, life is seen as controlling and all you can do is react to survive the best you can. This spot seems safe and comfortable except when you are seeing it from one of the spots ahead.


This second place is where people are usually taking a temporary break in learning, growing and improving, thinking they already have done enough and are just trying to digest and enjoy where they currently are. People here tend to be realistic and may even lean towards optimism. However, possibilities aren’t that unlimited and the energy or drive to believe and achieve isn’t readily or abundantly available. Often the energy is spent defending the current small store of competencies, compared to what a little more openness can see or imagine. Unfortunately people can get addicted to this lazy safe place and retire on permanent vacation.


This is the reserved place where classic over-achievers reside full of pride but plagued with noticeable unhappiness and emptiness. Many people wisely skip this third place on their journey to the finish line. People wandering around place three learn, grow and improve at astronomical rates, but always for all the wrong reasons—to get ahead of everyone else with a self-limiting win-lose, scarcity mentality. Achievements are vast, but empty and unsatisfying unless they work well to impress others. People in this place are often trying to do the right things for all the wrong reasons. It is usually a strong ego, that keeps the person from truly opening up to growth and improvement, because it has intrinsic worth in and all by itself and doesn’t pay homage to a hidden agenda.


This last place is the sweet spot on the growth continuum where we are all at our best, feeling good and peaceful and being most productive and successful. This is the place where we begin to realize how little we actually know and begin to be very enthusiastic and active in seeking our what we need to learn to be most successful. Here we do much more looking and listening than talking. We are perpetually open to different possibilities with a committed win-win, abundant mentality. Here too is where we fix the broken realities we don’t like and create the new and better ones we want. We believe in our awesome power and use it constructively and responsibly to make a genuine difference that is satisfying.

Sometimes progress along this continuum isn’t gradual or subtle, but other times it seems to take a lifetime. The best advice is to be honest with where you are now and just don’t get too comfortable even if you are in place four, because possibilities there are even more boundless.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, The Prosperity Zone, Getting More By Doing Less, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Life’s Lesson Summarized, and Reality Repair Rx coming shortly. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or