Sometimes I tell people that I have a podcast, and that it's called the Slow Growth Podcast. My favorite response is when someone says, "Why would you want slow growth?" Since it's usually in a light social context, I'll say something like, "Exactly! Right? Why would anyone want that? Maybe you should check it out."
But let's get into it here. Why slow growth? What benefit would growing more slowly bestow on you? To be clear, I'm talking mostly about psychological, social, and professional growth, but it also applies to other areas of life, like business growth, financial growth, and physical growth.
First, let's think about the opposite: fast growth. At its most extreme, you have things cancer and nuclear explosions (out of control cell growth and energetic chain reactions). This hints at why growth that is too fast can be bad. It is hard to control, and it spreads to places you might not want it. It makes the environments around it more fragile and unstable.
But let's look at a more nuanced version. Let's say your arms suddenly started to grow really quickly. What part of your arms are we talking about? The bones? The muscles would also have to grow at the same speed, as would the tendons, ligaments, fascia, arteries, veins, and nerves, or things would get pretty gross. All of these systems that pervade your arms would have to grow at the same speed. They'd have to communicate and agree. But even if they did, at first you wouldn't be able to effectively use your arms for anything. In childhood, your brain spent years mapping out all the tiny possible motions you could make with your arms. If the length of your arms change, the brain will take a while to catch up with the new physics. This brings us to the central point.
Processes in complex systems evolve at different speeds.
In order for different processes to coordinate and work together, which is necessary in almost every living system, the processes have to match speeds in some way. Living systems include social systems like families, friend groups, and organizations. The faster the processes in these systems are moving, the harder it is for them to match speeds. Small differences in speed are not a big deal if we're walking hand in hand. Small differences in speed can wreck stuff fast if we're holding hands in separate cars while doing ninety on a free way.
Now imagine yourself, a complex system. Your mind is made of many sub-processes. Your friendly self, humorous self, professional self, angry self, selfish self, selfless self, hungry self, regretful self, etc. In order to stay sane, these parts need to maintain some kind of friendly communication and agreement with each other, or else you get things like dissociation. Also, severe anxiety and depression might be said to be mismatches between certain psychological processes. So the goal of personal growth cannot safely or realistically be "as fast as possible." It must be "as fast as the slowest parts of me can grow," otherwise you start to tear yourself into pieces. Slow growth allows the different parts of us to match speeds more easily, so our whole selves can grow.
As an afterword, let's take this idea to business and financial growth. Businesses have many moving parts, including people, products, and connections to other companies, just to start. If these are not well coordinated, like with a sudden tripling of production speed without an increase in distribution speed, the business gets hurt or dies. Financially, while many people do eventually go on to thrive after winning the lottery, the first few years can be extremely painful because of immensely increased social pressure and emotional confusion that has been called "wealth shock." It's clear that winning a fortune is more risky for a human being than building one slowly.
At the very least, if you get rich (or grow in any way) slowly, you get to face all of the accompanying challenges one at a time, rather than all at once.
Still think slow growth isn't for you? Ask your whole self.