A person’s default goal is to stay alive and function as efficiently as possible, that is, with the least energy expended possible. That is all.
Which is to say that a person who has no goals, usually has this as their goal. To grow, a person has to go further, which fundamentally means that extra effort has to be expended. The progressive overload principle is this:
In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.
This is true for the muscles of the body, and true for a person’s mentality. It can only change and improve when an environment is created which requires it to improve to adapt.
Progression of Overload
The progressive part is important. Too much additional load and a person can be crushed, or overwhelmed. A person’s capacity is huge and impressive, but not infinite. And the progression must continue. A large load that remains consistently the same does not produce growth. We will only get as much as we expect out of ourselves, and if we expect the same, never more, the person will get that: the same, never more.
What is Growth?
Personal growth is the process of undergoing these stresses, and evolving to meet and carry those stresses. This happens either because a person has done it to themselves, or their environment has done it to them. Either way, the adaptation process is natural and built-in, if unpredictable in the direction it takes.
When we speak of growth, we compare what the mind and the body do as if it was like a plant growing. Exactly what it means depends on the person, but growth often means:
- Coming to understand or cope with reality on different terms than one has done before, without any change in those terms
- Gaining deeper insight into oneself, with a more clear or complete picture of one’s own motives
- Finding one’s self able to bear certain burdens or stresses previously unthinkable
In all cases, what has changed is something internal. The person has found a way to adapt to the stress, and has found a key to some lock inside of themselves. They have crossed through a door into a different mentality.