Slow growth is a topic I have been exploring, cultivating, and slowly...growing over the last few years.
The main premise is that living processes, things that are alive, change slowly. The more we respect ourselves as living processes and let those processes grow at their own speeds, the more our lives are guaranteed to become what we want them to be.
Slow growth is built on a mindset of trust in the future, trust in yourself, and a focus on finding peace in the present moment. Our lives are made out of the present moment. It is the only thing we can experience. We often fill it with thoughts of the past, future, imaginary times or places, disasters or heavenly fantasies. It's actually rare to be happily immersed in what we're doing when we're doing it.
If we can't find peace right now, we can't find it later. If you're looking for peace in achieving a goal, you won't find it because the moment of achieving it will just be another present moment, filled with thoughts of another future goal.
If you're in the habit of fantasizing about how great things will be later, when later comes, you will not remember how to enjoy it because it will no longer be "later." It will just be "now" again.
So if now is the only time you can ever achieve peace and presence, why not start...now? Then, when later becomes now, you'll be an expert at enjoying it.
Another main ingredient in the Slow Growth mindset is uncovering and implementing effective, tiny solutions to really big problems.
Big problems in living systems build up over time, through tiny repeated stresses. Similarly, they can only be reversed over time, through tiny repeated solutions. This means, the real solutions that solve big problems are not the MBA style, data-driven, evidence-based productivity systems. Real solutions are ones that we can repeat with ease and therefore do repeat many times over.
Tiny solutions are easy and effective. They barely require any effort to change what we're already doing. We take things that we already do, slightly shift how we do them, and trust that the tiny, almost imperceptible benefits that come from those changes will accumulate over time. And they will. The hard part is trusting that they will.
Here are is an example from a coaching client, a high school student I worked with. He decided that it would be easy to take a deep breath whenever he paused while writing essays. This was his tiny solution that made him feel less distress when doing his homework. Over a year of practicing this, the solution began to take on a life of its own. He was taking a deep breath after each question in all of his in-class tests. Writing his college essay was a breeze because he managed his energy around it easily. He took deep breaths whenever he paused at the end of a sentence, and this allowed him to notice when his energy had peaked and when he was no longer being productive. He would catch himself earlier, so he would stop working sooner, and then it was easy for him to get back to it after taking a break, or the next morning after going to sleep. He even found a few moments to pause and breathe while thinking about his answers during a college interview.
To begin with, he barely had to put in any effort to change his writing process. Simply pause for two seconds to take a breath. Once this became zero effort, he barely had to put in any more effort to transfer this solution to other subjects in school. Once this became zero effort, he barely had to put in any more effort to use it for his college process. He could repeat the solution over and over, and the big problem, his anxiety over succeeding in school, had been building in him for years. It was solved over a few years as well, without becoming a new person or having some grand insight. He just trusted in his tiny solution and kept repeating it.
This idea of progression, however, is not even the point. Yes, tiny, effective solutions lead to more tiny, effective solutions, but the goal isn't to "get somewhere" ahead of you that's not accessible to you right now. Taking a deep breath when pausing to think leads to great things later, but it's a good solution because it has a tiny benefit in the present moment.
In the words of the wise teacher Alan Watts, life is not a journey. It's more like a song, and we just dance while the music is playing.
With slow growth, we keep this idea front and center. Life can be lived in some imaginary future in which everything is easy because of all the suffering you are doing right now. Or, it can be lived in the real present without suffering for that imaginary future.
The present moment will always be the only thing we ever have. If we are constantly discarding it for hope of some different, more peaceful present moment that will be given to us in the future, we will never find it.
Self-enforced suffering now leads to self-enforced suffering later. It's a pattern.
We can only find peace and joy in the future if we make a habit of finding it in the present.