Are You Moving Forward or Just Running in Place?

Why we need creative growth.

Posted Apr 21, 2012

Have you been feeling run down and exhausted? Are your days filled with busywork: endless e-mails, reports, and meetings where everyone’s eyes glaze over? Is time at home a perpetual to-do list of cooking, cleaning, laundry, plumbing repairs and household maintenance? At the end of the day, is there only enough energy left to pay the bills, attend to basic bodily functions, and watch television?

If you’ve been feeling exhausted and frustrated by such a routine, it’s because you’re so much more than that. As Shakespeare wrote, “What is a man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed?-- a beast, no more” (Greenblatt et al, 1997). There’s more to life than eating and sleeping. Abraham Maslow (1971) said we need not only to meet these “deficiency needs,” but to strive for self-actualization. As human beings, we have an intrinsic need to create, to find meaning and purpose in life. As Viktor Frankl (1966) realized, without meaning, our immune systems break down; we become depressed and physically deteriorate.

Without time for growth — research and development — a company, a country, an individual cannot thrive. In today’s economy, investing in growth may seem like a luxury. How often have you heard your managers say, “We can’t afford it”? Actually, we can’t afford not to. Managing by the bottom line is short-sighted and suicidal. In nature, all plants have their growing edge. Without growth and renewal, companies lose their competitive edge, organisms stagnate, languish and die.  

Don’t let the daily grind of routine work and basic maintenance wear you down. Make time each day for what brings you joy: reading, writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, taking a walk in nature, activities that fill you with the sense of active engagement Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990, 1996) calls “flow.” Even if it’s only 20 minutes, block off this time as sacred — it is. Whatever gives you a deep sense of creative engagement is sacred to your existence as a human being. A personal commitment to maintaining your growing edge will bring new energies to your life — and new possibilities to our world.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Frankl, V. E. (1966). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square, (Originally published 1946).

 Greenblatt, S., Cohen, W., Howard, J. E. & Maus, K. E. (Eds.) (1997). The Norton Shakespeare. New York, NY: Norton. Quote from Hamlet, 4.4.32-34.

 Maslow, A. H. (1971).The farther reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Viking.

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Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, personal coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book, about living with greater power and purpose, is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

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