01/29/2012 06:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 30, 2012

Redefining What It Means To Grow

I recently had the chance to sit down with filmmaker Katie Teague, who is making a movie on money and growth. It is the fuel of finance, thus the economy, and thus the 'developed' world. A world of constant, infinite, compounded growth; without which the majority of our citizens would literally die, as jobs dried up and people couldn't afford basic necessities... but is this really true?

Ecologize Growth from Katie Teague on KarmaTube.

What's true in the macro is also true in the micro. As we all grow in our lives and careers, it's normal to expect a raise every year. Why? Because it's a signal of growth. Growing is good -- not growing is downright un-American. You didn't get a raise? You're not growing? Well then you must be no good.

But why only 1 way to measure growth? If I get a 10 percent raise next year but eat less healthy food, spend less time with close and extended community, or do more self-serving work, did I really grow? Just because the number is easy to measure, is that all that matters?

Here's a few other ways to grow besides financial:

- Grow in generosity (give more of yourself)
- Grow in compassion (connect more deeply with people/planet)
- Grow in physical health (deeper care for 'lifestyle habits')
- Grow in mental health (deeper knowledge/understanding of the world)
- Grow in family/community (build more and deeper ties with others based on shared values)
- Grow in balance/wisdom (continual movement towards deeper harmony within and without)
- Grow in fun! (deeper joy at every moment)

What if, at the end of every year, we took stock of ALL of these measures, along with financial? Would that change behavior?

All of these ideas are tougher to measure, but you know it when you have it and when you don't. Conversely, financial growth is actually destructive in the long-run. In the macro, we outstrip the biological capacity to match our insatiable needs, we increase inequity leading to crime/disease/uneducated society, we build a transactional (rather than trust) mindset into the culture. In the micro, as our financial capabilities grow, so do our waistlines/stress levels, our debt averages, and our disconnection from our fellow man.

So what to do? Even if I'm right, that just means we're doomed because we're part of a system that demands infinite growth... right? Well, no. Anything can be changed, but some things are harder than others. What we're talking about is a long project, and a systemic deconstructing of many implicitly held beliefs. There are people that are doing this now (in many ways). But it's not easy to deny gratifying easily attainable pleasures.

Here we have another reason to practice turning the lens within. Over time, it may become easier to not react to such desires and really begin to act in a way that brings true growth. If that starts to happen in many people at once, you have the start of a movement away from constant, insatiable, cancerous financial growth. And then! Who knows what will emerge? They say the future is already here, just not evenly distributed yet :)