I remember the day my son took his very first step all by himself. He was eleven months old, and I thought to myself: This is it. He's walking now.
That was the last independent step he took for three weeks. Throughout that time, he'd stand, and he'd cruise (walking while holding onto the couch or some other stable object), but he seemed stuck. And then: he took another step! Or maybe it was two! And I was like: Here we go! Walking!
Nope. Three or four more weeks. What the heck, I thought. What is wrong with you, boy? He'd taken his first step nearly two months before! He should have been sprinting at that point!
Except, really, I knew better. I do, after all, have some training in this kind of thing. And I think we all know this at some level, though it's easy to forget:
Development is jagged.
It's easier to think in straight lines, to imagine growth as a smooth upward slope, to get tripped up by the expectation that any type of progress will continue evenly. Whether it's writing, writing career, emotional development, interpersonal relationships, level of expertise, progress toward goals, or any other type of personal evolution, we all hope for continued growth, right? And when it doesn't seem to be moving along--or! Horror! We seem to be devolving in that area--it's easy to get discouraged, and even to believe we're done growing, that this might be it.
And I guess it could be sometimes. There are limits to our potential, I suppose. But we also know development is jagged. We go through periods of rapid growth followed by periods of level coasting or even a slight decline in the level or consistency of our skills/thinking/whatever. We often get really uncomfortable during those times, either because of frustration at the seeming lack of progress or because our minds are gearing up for the next push, something more complicated than we can grasp, so all we know is we feel squirmy ... until the next burst of development comes along.
Sometimes there are external factors that catalyze a period of growth. Sometimes it is a purely internal process. I'm not sure it can be forced, though, not if our minds aren't ready or able to go there.
Erm. Those are my random thoughts for today. Have you observed uneven growth in a specific area of your life or personal evolution? Have you felt the squirminess before a phase of rapid development (kids show this--they sometimes have trouble sleeping right before they enter a new phase of motor development, for example)? Did you recognize it for what it was, or were you merely frustrated? What phase are you in now? Growth ... or potential for growth?