To Grow or Not to Grow: That is the Question

This morning, my thought-for-the-day app offered a gem from Abraham Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or back into safety.” When I returned yesterday from a week of vacation travel, my weekly Run 4 Joy blog commitment loomed large.  I hadn’t been thinking about running this week, and I didn’t know where to begin. Maslow came through in the pinch.

Growth on the Road

Traveling itself is, for me, an exercise in growth.  The challenges of electronic check-in, airport parking, TSA, light rail, car rental, and a dozen other unfamiliar processes can be daunting.  My retired lifestyle in a small Montana city does not generate urban skills. The contrasts between growth and safety appeared at every turn as I navigated traffic and crowds.

Growth on the Run

The contrast between growth and safety also shows up for me (and likely for you) in running. The challenges to safety come in many forms.  The most obvious have to do with physical well-being.  No matter how cautiously we undertake a running program, we are asking our bodies to grow toward the next goal.  In adding distance or increasing pace, muscles, tendons, lungs, and hearts are challenged to improve.   We handle the stresses of an active lifestyle better as we incrementally push the limits. Up to a point.

Too Fast, Too Far

Then, one day we push ourselves too far or too fast. We aggravate a weak link and need to cut back.  We may even trigger a full-blown injury and need to stop running and recover.  As these experiences accumulate, we gradually learn how much is too much, and can tell when to cut back so we won’t have to stop later.

Always a Lesson to Learn

However, while we are always learning, there is always room for surprise.  The aging body responds differently to stress than it did twenty (or even five) years earlier.  As a result, Maslow’s principle applies throughout our lives.  Growth and safety are not natural partners. While the degree of conflict varies and a little more or less of each can enable them to co-exist, they have intrinsic trade-offs.

Growth over Fear Takes Work

I turned 70 around this time last year.  Some people say that aging makes them less fearful and more risk-tolerant.  I wish that were true for me.  As more of my peers describe their life-changing health conditions, I worry about my own vulnerability.  I also work harder to challenge those fears.

Maslow’s quote was well timed, coming as it did on the heels of a fun, not always safe, and growth-promoting trip.  I want to keep his words in mind, along with a maxim attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing each day that scares you.”

What About You?

Does taking some risk in pursuit of adventure come easily to you, or do you (too) harbor an inner scaredy-cat?  When have you recently overcome fears in order to grow?

Spring Training: Some Reasons Why We Don’t Run


I find the dynamics of Yin and Yang apply in many aspects of life. The following excerpt from the Tao de Ching points to the dynamics of opposing forces.  The interplay of yin and yang sets the stage for asking why we don’t run, despite the many benefits of doing so. (more…)

Coming Back: Mirror Neurons

I am writing on Earth Day weekend, surrounded by messages that applaud the role of science in understanding ourselves and our universe.  I have long been a science junkie, admittedly on an amateur scale.  Botany and geology were favorite “fun” classes that I took while majoring in other subjects. In recent years, I have been swept up in the findings of neuroscience about structure and function in the human brain. (more…)

Coming Back: A Deeper Look

Setbacks are a fact of life.  The path from here to there is seldom smooth or straight.  I recently wrote about several recent examples from personal experience.  An ankle succumbed to overuse and triggered a months-long gap in my running. A new laptop with glitches that, after months of struggle, ended in transition to a different brand.  Computer issues disrupted my writing and confused the muse who normally inspires this blog. These setbacks, though minor on a cosmic scale, illustrate the value of cultivating resilience.  We are called upon daily to cope with unplanned and often unwelcome change.