I feel my explanation of the differences between vertical and lateral growth deserve a little more attention. I wrote it rather in a surge of ideas, so much so that I forgot to even mention why I am referring to them as vertical and lateral.
Vertical objectives are those that require us to reach high. Anything that is in the form of a specific objective is likely a vertical goal. Earning more money, losing weight, starting a business, overcoming fear, even building confidence are all vertical objectives.
Society tends to recognize this form of growth the most. Ask someone who they think is successful and they will likely say someone such as Bill Gates, Donald Trump or Tiger Woods. People we usually associate with money, skill and excellence. However growth, and success, are not represented on a linear scale.
Lateral growth extends the linear thinking of personal growth into another dimension. A two-dimensional view of growth encompasses much more of what we need in order to consider our lives excellent. Lateral growth involves experiencing new things, traveling to new places, even falling in love.
I call this type of growth lateral growth because it generally doesn’t require a challenge. Usually this kind of growth allows us to experience or recognize something that was there all along. In a sense, this type of growth comes from broadening our experience of life. In a sense, this forms an axis that runs perpendicular to vertical growth.
Any growth we experience can vary from being highly lateral or highly vertical. The key to using this to have a great life is to discover that it is the total area we seek, not the height or width.
Look at this diagram.
This would represent a person who is primarily devoted to vertical growth. Such success oriented people are generally rich and powerful. They are disciplined, motivated and set goals. Ultimately, however, these people lead narrow lives. They don’t enjoy things and spend most their time pursuing things that will all be gone when they are dead.
In essence, the total area of their graph is rather low, even if it is very high.
Now look at the above diagram.
This would represent a person who is primarily devoted to lateral growth. These people tend to explore, have fun and be spontaneous. Unfortunately, these people are also restricted in the quality of their lives. They lead shallow lives without meaning, never feeling any real sense of achievement or satisfaction. In the end they rarely create a true impact others lives.
Now I want you to look at the diagram of a balanced set of personal growth.
As we can see, the total area of this persons graph is far greater than either of the two before it. These people live lives of greatness, success and hope. These people live lives filled with exploration, discovery and beauty. These people are both happy and fulfilled.
You may have noticed something unfair about my graph. In the third graph, the person has the same level of vertical growth as the former and the same level of lateral growth as the latter. Certainly there has to be a tradeoff?
I believe that this tradeoff does occur. Often the richest, most successful people end up working a lot harder and have less time to truly enjoy life. Those who live life as a wandering exploration tend not to achieve as many meaningful objectives.
There is however, two important points to consider.
The first is that, even if we halved the lateral and vertical growth to create a graph that was 50/50, it would create a shape with more area, that is to say, a better life, than either of the other two graphs. In this case, the tradeoff is not linear. Achieving a closer to equilibrium state is the key for a maximum life.
The second point is even more subtle. As you try to increase your vertical growth without increasing your lateral growth, you create an unstable life. This life eventually means that in order to make even small increases in lateral growth, you must make larger sacrifices in lateral growth and vice-versa. By changing your schedule from an 80 hour workweek to an 85 hour workweek, you may have to cut out all time to spend with family or to try new things. This small tradeoff for increased vertical growth has cost you heavily in your lateral growth.
My point is simple. By achieving a balance between the two forms of growth you have a far, far better life than you would if you focus exclusively on one or the other.
Is the balance 50/50? I think that depends on each person. Just remember that by shrugging off one form of growth to focus exclusively on the other will only lead to a life that is far less than you are capable of experiencing.
I’m going to leave you to think about that. Tell me, are you primarily vertical or lateral? Do you feel you have balance?
Here is a question open for discussion, in which I’d love to hear your response:
I’ve talked about vertical and lateral growth. Two dimensions. Could there possibly be a third dimension to personal growth? If so, what would it be? What do you think it is?