By Jeff Shinabarger

Growth is a word many of us deeply understand and value highly. We want our companies to grow. We want our innovation to grow. We want to grow as individual people. But, maybe growth as a team in our work for social good needs a fresh perspective. At times, the pace of growth is happening at a rate that is hard to maintain, hard to keep up relationally, and hard to sustain on personal levels when balancing work and life. The problem we are trying to solve at this moment is not if we will grow, it is how we will grow together in sustainable ways.

As a leader of a community of start-ups doing good, I constantly need to be growing. I have experienced first hand how the pace of my growth has a direct impact on the growth of the community as a whole. I have found five unique directions that have guided my growth in my work, life, faith, and relationships.

I am just like you; I want to grow in new and different ways. I see broken things in the world and I want them to get better. This is not unique to my journey; this is the story we are all continuously living. We want the world to get better, and we know the best place to start is with ourselves. In each of our journeys, there are moments we can point to that have led us toward at least one of five growth directions: expectation, contemplation, preparation, application, and destination.

Take a moment to consider how these directional arrows of growth have impacted who you are and who you are becoming.



The expectation of growth in most western environments is up and to the right. This is often quantifiable growth through financial dashboards and numbers of followers. As influencers, we want to show progress numerically and to prove that growth is happening. This form of growth gives confidence to ourselves and our teams and helps us measure progress in our purpose. This is what we expect and what we desire to see.



Contemplation seasons of growth happen when data does not match expectation and when we can numerically show that progress has been replaced by digression. This is our time for concern. A lack of numerical growth creates a sense of urgency, causing us to pause and reflect on what is not working. Down and to the left generates many questions, from purpose to programs to models to marketing, all pointing toward a negative trend and giving us desire to turn the ship. Sometimes our greatest growth happens in these moments when we want things to get better. This is when we wonder why, when we slow down, and when we try to solve problems.



The preparation area of growth requires learning from people who are different than you in order to expand your perspective. This is often experienced when you travel to a different culture or country. On a personality level, this can happen through matching introverted and extroverted people in deep friendship. When problems in the world have names and faces, it causes us to think differently and to act differently. Sometimes we experience new things not knowing how it will help us in the future, but with time, hindsight offers an understanding perspective. This is the pursuit of seeing the world in a way you don’t currently see it. New perspectives shape how you operate moving forward.



The application moments in our lives are trying to make sense internally of what has happened to us externally. Situations or unexpected changes in our family, health, community, or occupation can change the trajectory of our lives. Some growth moments in life create feelings at such deep levels that transformational growth occurs. These moments of deep thought are some of the most meaningful and hardest seasons to understand. This is when we realize we are not in control, and we seek to find reason in the midst of confusion.



The destination growth leads us in a long view perspective of purpose or mastery. There is never a direct or straight path from where you are today to where you dream of tomorrow. In this mindset of growth, we constantly circle problems, inching closer and closer with every turn. On this journey, we gain wisdom, clarity, and understanding. Sometimes it circles us closer toward becoming an expert on a topic or issue. This is the journey of finding our calling through a series of life turning moments with the hope of a resolution in the end.

As we grow, we are always moving in a direction. This movement is called progress. I believe that progress is simply the daily decision to make things better in a broken world. May the growth direction you are moving lead all of us to positive progress, not only in our personal lives but for the betterment of our communities.