The Pattern of Growth

Bill Abbate

Who isn’t familiar with the old saying,“ You have to learn to crawl before you walk.” and its cousin, “You have to walk before you run.”Learning, practicing, advancing, and repeating is a fundamental life pattern. Let’s look at how you can use natural progression to live your best life!

Natural progression and life

Natural progression permeates all of life. It begins when we are born. We lie there, sometimes sleeping and sometimes crying. We begin to make sounds and learn to smile within a few weeks.

Before long, we roll over for the first time and, in a few short months, begin to crawl. Then comes the trial-and-error process of learning to stand and walk. An expected part of this process is failing before improving.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard Branson (1950-present)

More months pass, and the little tyke is running and talking up a storm!

If you are unfamiliar with the term natural progression, it refers to the steady, ordered development of something over time. It is learning and grasping basic skills before tackling something more advanced.

Natural progression continues as long as we live, physically peaking in our bodies while we keep growing mentally. It occurs in small and big ways and applies to every area of life.

The thing missed by some in using the metaphor of walking before running is that the running will return to walking, which, given more time, will disappear. But that is only the physical part of us.

Our minds can continue performing at high levels long after our body begins giving out. That is the reality of living on this planet. We are here for a relatively short time, but something in us drives us to be active and productive in society as long as we can.

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying.Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.

Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” Pope Paul VI (1897–1978)

You can use the pattern of natural progression in life to your advantage by recognizing where you are in it. Let’s look at a typical example and how it plays out.

For this illustration, we will look at a large portion of my life.

The pattern of natural progression

As a young man, I could run like the wind; however, my mind was still crawling as I went through school and gained experience in some early jobs. Although my physical abilities had significantly progressed, I had only started walking in my mind and had much to learn. As I kept a steady pace and became more sure-footed, I experienced some wonderful times early in my career.

Within a few years, I was up and running in my ability to think. I ran for decades, ever-increasing my speed and distance because I kept training my mind through continual self-development.

I was blessed to have made great strides during my years, completing what would amount to many mental marathons. My running culminated with a work history of more than 45 years.

After retiring, I continued running physically and mentally, producing great results. Unfortunately, life interrupted. In one day, an unexpected series of four consecutive widow makers rocked my world to the edge of death.

When I came out of intensive care 55 days later, I could barely crawl out of bed into a wheelchair. It took a lot of physical therapy, but I slowly started to walk again.

As soon as I was walking well, I attempted to run and could do so for short distances; however, the heart damage was too significant, so I had to hang up my running shoes. But hey, at least I can walk every day!

Besides my physical abilities, the health event affected my mind. Up to the day of the event, I was still running mental marathons, but that stopped too.

The heart attacks were a significant physical and mental setback for a time. To go from running mental marathons to crawling and walking slowly because of brain fog for more than a year was not fun.

While I became physically limited, the fog eventually lifted, and I took off running mentally again. Before long, I ran the marathon of finishing and publishing my first book.

If you have never written and published a book, be prepared for a real challenge, nothing short of a marathon!

After publishing the book, I started writing and publishing articles. I have written and published over 1,000 individual articles on multiple outlets, including Medium, Newsbreak, LinkedIn, my website, and several other places. While I may not be able to run physically any longer, I am back to running marathons in my ability to think!

Applying the pattern in your life

Take a look at where you are in your career. Are you about to metaphorically crawl into your first job? Or have you been walking for a few years now?

Some people enjoy the walking phase in their career and choose to stay there. Others will seek more and want to start running.

To run in your career, you must be ready to prepare by learning and putting what you learn to use. As you start running (achieving more), keep going, and one day, you may be able to run longer distances and eventually start doing marathons!

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” Emil Zatopek (1922–2000)

The main thing to recognize about getting to the running stage in your career is the preparation (learning and sharpening your skills) it will take. While you train one way for regular 5k’s and 10k’s, you must train at an entirely new level to run marathons.

As with physical marathons, not every runner cares to do mental marathons because of how much preparation is required. That is fine for many. But for others, once they start running, they want to run to achieve even more.

As you go through the stages of crawling, walking, running, and doing marathons, keep in mind that you will start to wind down one day.

Do all you can as long as you can, for the day will come when you can’t!

The great thing about mental long-distance running is you can do it well into old age. Life becomes very different when your body begins slowing down, yet your mind keeps going strong. If you are near that age, I hope you prepared well. When you retire, your preparation will largely determine how much you enjoy it.

Whatever age you are, it is all up to you and how you want your life to be, so why not make it great?

Final thoughts

The pattern of natural progression applies to practically every area of life. In addition to your career, you will find it in your marriage, relationships, children’s lives, spiritual life, and virtually everything else you do.

Pay attention to the pattern of natural progression and give it some serious thought. Consider where you are and how you wish to prepare for what is to come. As with many things in life, the better you understand where you are, the more you can control where you are going. It’s your life, and you only get one shot at it, so why not make it the best life possible?


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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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