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10 Characteristics of a Growth Environment

By Maxwell Leadership | September 13, 2022
10 Characteristics of a Growth Environment

What do you do if you want a plant to grow? Do you put it under your bed, in the shade? Do you uproot it and place the body on your bookshelf? Do you drop it in the snow and expect it to sprout?

Or do you water it, give it sunlight, and keep it potted and well cared for?

The Law of Environment, one of John Maxwell’s 15 laws of growth, states that growth thrives in conducive surroundings. If we want to experience personal growth, we must evaluate our environment and make the changes that support our growth goals. 

The people we spend time with, the places we go, the things we surround ourselves with, the media we ingest – the things around us affect what’s going on inside of us, and growth will only happen when we make it welcome.

So, how do we make it welcome?

This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s bestselling personal growth guidebook 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. For a comprehensive roadmap to accomplishing your personal growth goals, you can pick up a copy here.

How to Recognize an Atmosphere of Growth

In a fertile personal growth environment, you feel encouraged and motivated. You are reminded of your potential and constantly pushed to fulfill it. You’ve begun walking down a road that goes uphill after every turn, but you’re so well-nourished, you’re ready and eager to climb – and you’re so well supported, you’re not afraid to fall.

Specifically, a growth environment is a place where…


We cannot be at the head of the group. If we want to experience personal growth, it does us no good to be “number one” among our peers. The bottom of the class is where we do our learning; the top of the class is where we do our talking – and if we’re talking, we’re not learning.


Growth is rewarding, but it’s not easy. If it were easy, there would be no personal development. Everything worthwhile is uphill.

In a personal growth environment, you are supported and encouraged so that you can tackle the obstacles that constantly come up. Growth happens in the facing, the approaching, and the ultimate overcoming of those obstacles. They are a necessary part of the growth journey you’re on.


One key element of growth is reflection. But the goal of reflection is not to dwell on the past; it is to gain insight for the future. We move in the direction we are facing, so we can only step forward into growth if we are not looking back in worry over what we may have done differently.


An environment conducive to personal growth doesn’t just “hype you up.” It offers encouragement without the empty energy – an optimism that is not unaware of the obstacles of the journey. Your growth partners remind you of your strengths. They genuinely see what you are capable of and want to speak that into existence.

Is your environment energizing you? Does it reorient you toward your goal? Is it grounding you in possibility?


Personal growth requires self-confrontation, effort, and brutal honesty, none of which are known to put us at ease. The moment we make the decision to grow, we begin to step out of our comfort zone. However, you can, will, and should grow inside your zone of gifting.


Maybe you’re the kind of person who loves a good challenge. If that’s you, then no doubt, growth is already your favorite pastime.

But even if you’re not, growth is something to celebrate! And not just the final product – the whole process is exciting. It is taxing, too, but even in the valleys, growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will be better than today – and that’s fantastic news, if you’re growing.


Your attitude on failure – or the attitude that your environment perpetuates – can determine whether the idea propels you or paralyzes you.

Consider the story of Thomas Edison and his invention, the nickel-iron battery. This anecdote by Edison’s associate Walter S. Mallory from the biography Edison: His Life and Inventions reveals an incredible perspective: 

I found him at a bench…on which there were hundreds of little test cells…He was seated at this bench testing, figuring, and planning. I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question. In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.’

Or, as John Maxwell puts it, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” 


We become what we behold. If we are not surrounded by people who are on the same growth journey as we are, we may not be on the journey long. But progress abounds in community. Their successes inspire your successes, and when you encourage them in their moments of need, you better prepare for your own. 


Growth-oriented people do not resist change because they understand that growth is change. In a personal growth environment, there is a hunger for change underneath every conversation, decision, and action. Everything is pointing in one direction: better. Greater. More. 


The best and most effective leaders lead by example and motivate others with their actions. The more time you spend in a growth-focused atmosphere, the more you’ll learn about the growth process – and the more you’ll find yourself growing.

Do you have a personal growth plan guiding your development?

Are you surrounding yourself with resources that foster your growth? We want to empower your pursuit of your full potential. The Maxwell Leadership app is free to download and power-packed with leadership lessons to fuel your development journey.

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