Positive Living Newsletter

Standing Still: Finding Growth Through Acceptance and Purpose

Logan D. Hanley
Logan D. Hanley

At the dawn of humanity, growth was barely a concept. We humans, like members of every other species, either survived or perished. As we flourished and civilized, personal growth began to encompass an increasing number of dimensions. Cut to 2024. We are flooded with growth and improvement barometers. We have smart watches which provide a real-time reading of heart rate, calories burned, blood oxygen, VO2, sleep patterns, and steps taken, just to name a few. We can access extrapolated data that indicates which direction these variables are trending; we are alerted of any indication of slowing down. If we move from smartwatches to our phones, we don’t just have access to other improvement yardsticks: we stand under an avalanche of them.

Social media has become a relentless source of two things: ways you need to improve yourself, and the many accomplishments of your contemporaries. It is eroding our self-efficacy and self-esteem, especially when viewing profiles that have comparatively high activity and indicators of positive health habits (Vogel et al., 2014); it erodes life satisfaction and plunges us into increasing debt (Knight & Gunatilaka, 2009; Christen & Morgan, 2005). Yet, dopamine-driven feedback loops lure us back to those feeds, even after just a few minutes of looking away (Cutillo, 2021).

While SmartFitness technology has shown some health awareness benefits (Hosseini et al., 2023), the fact remains that social media and technology are obscuring positive, purposeful motivation to face new challenges and endeavours. Purpose-oriented psychology, originally crafted by Viktor Frankl, encourages one to seek purpose in life’s challenges and turbulent moments (Frankl, 1966). This brand of therapy, coined logotherapy, is highly effective in boosting self-esteem (Soroush, 2021), and for those in life transitions, such as parents experiencing empty-nest syndrome (Lantz, 1999) and those seeking career guidance (Schulze & Miller, 2004). Frankl envisions this pathway to fulfillment as a paradox: those focusing on happiness will find it elusive; it comes as a function of fulfilling a purpose (Frankl, 1966). Paul Wong expands on this purpose-driven psychology by emphasizing selflessness and virtue not as a direct path to happiness, but as elements to be fused with one’s purpose in life (Wong, 2017).

People engage in self-improvement journeys out of lack of confidence and aspiration to attain status. This can be a hollow, potentially harmful way to achieve self-worth and enrichment. This is a notice that, for some individuals, personal growth can resemble a static state. Rest, contemplation, and exploration of goals and purpose may alleviate the aggravation behind living at the mercy of Apple Watch stats or bank account balances. Consider trees, an archetype of growth: they often don’t move or accumulate but expand to fulfill their purpose of providing the essence of life within their ecosystem. In a society that espouses us to be tigers, lions, wolves, and sharks, perhaps boring old trees are providing us the cues to build a better world.


Christen, M., & Morgan, R. M. (2005). Keeping Up with the Joneses: Analyzing the effect of income inequality on consumer borrowing. Quantitative Marketing and Economics, 3(2), 145–173. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11129-005-0351-1

Cutillo, M. (2021). Dopamine-drive feedback loops. What are they? The Outlook. https://outlook.monmouth.edu/2021/03/dopamine-driven-feedback-loops-what-are-they/

Frankl, V. E. (1966). Self-transcendence as a human phenomenon. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 6(2), 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/002216786600600201

Hosseini, M. M., Hosseini, S. T. M., Qayumi, K., Hosseinzadeh, S., & Tabar, S. S. S. (2023). Smartwatches in healthcare medicine: Assistance and monitoring; a scoping review. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-023-02350-w

Knight, J., & Gunatilaka, R. (2012). Income, aspirations and the hedonic treadmill in a poor society. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 82(1), 67–81.              https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2011.12.005

Lantz, J. (1999). Meaning and the post-parental couple. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 1.

Schultze, G., & Miller, C. T. (2004). The search for meaning and career development. Career Development International, 9(2), 142–152. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430410526184

Sheu, A., & Diamond, T. (2016). Diagnostic tests: Bone mineral density: Testing for osteoporosis. Australian Prescriber, 39(2), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.18773/austprescr.2016.020

Soroush, A., Ziapour, A., Abbas, J., Jahanbin, I., Andayeshgar, B., Moradi, F., Najafi, S., & Cheraghpouran, E. (2021). Effects of group logotherapy training on self-esteem, communication skills, and Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) in older adults. Ageing International47(4), 758–778. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-021-09458-2

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture3(4), 206–222. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000047

Wong, P. (2017). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. http://www.drpaulwong.com/integrative-meaning-therapy/