Nathanael Garrett Novosel, December 21 2022

When Growth Goes Wrong

The Meaning of Life: A guide to finding your life's purpose goes into a lot of detail about how growth is the point because all life strives to be in a better state over time. It differentiates this purpose from happiness, which is the indicator of growth, such as when you feel happy after eating, sex, sleeping, or physical activity. One of the things that's important to note about happiness is that, like any indicator, it can be hacked. You can take drugs, have irresponsible sex, or gamble to trigger pleasurable feelings that are not necessarily growth-enabling. It's this fact that makes "to be happy" a misleading conclusion about the meaning of life because you might pursue these "pleasure hacks" that feel good over growth-enabling activities that will lead to fulfillment.

But this raises the question: can growth ever go wrong? After all, tumors grow, you can become too physically large like Andre the Giant where you die early, or you can grow a business "too quickly" where you cannot sustain it. Well, the short answer is that while growth is at the heart of meaning and purpose, it has to be growth that you desire and believe is significant to you. So you can do 1,000 finger curls one day and 1,001 the next, and it might not be significant because you do not care about doing more finger curls. Similarly, you can increase certain numbers that aren't bettering the overall outcome, such as when your cholesterol gets too high for optimal growth or you make money at the sacrifice of friends, family, and other priorities.

So, how do you avoid this "growth gone wrong" situation? There are a few angles to addressing it:

So, yes, everything in this world is capable of being used for positive or negative outcomes. Growth is no exception. But just because something can be used improperly doesn't mean that it shouldn't be used at all. Focus on growth that matters to you and continue to make your life and the lives of people you care about better, and you will find meaning and fulfillment in your actions. The only reason to be aware of where growth "goes wrong" is to avoid doing things you might regret later, such as over-consuming, wasting your time on the wrong things, getting manipulated, or being short-sighted. These are all risks that you can mitigate and live a meaningful life; it's just helpful if you are aware of them and avoid them rather than having to learn from the painful firsthand experience.

Though, if you do learn from firsthand experience, make sure you learn your lesson and turn that into a growth opportunity because that will bring meaning to even the most traumatic experiences. In other words, you can make anything meaningful, including your mistakes, as long as you keep striving to better yourself and your life. So don't worry too much about getting it wrong, as you'll always be able to get back on track and move forward regardless of the adversity you face in life.

Written by

Nathanael Garrett Novosel


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