There are several adult development theories, with their own unique thoughts on growth. Behind each theory is a common theme...self awareness is necessary for growth to occur.
We do not wake up one day and all of a sudden have it all figured it out. There is no light switch to transition from childhood to adulthood; instead we live in a continual growth process that never ends. There are times when growth can happen after we overcome a difficult experience or crisis, emerging with a new sense of self or capacity to succeed. There are also times where we uncover our sense of identity, propelling us on a journey of learning to fulfill this purpose. In both instances, the growth is not automatic. There is a need for reflection and increased self awareness in order for growth to occur.
Adult development theorist Jane Loevinger believes a person progresses by how they perceive themselves in relation to the world. People who avoid looking within often plateau in what she calls the "conformist stage." In this stage we live by operating off a need to abide by social expectations and standards AKA going through the motions of life. To surpass this stage the requirement is an investment in oneself, developing an understanding of who we are, how we operate, and what our purpose is. Self awareness is a one way ticket to freedom with the autonomy to operate as our best selves, providing clarity in purpose and meaningfulness.
Not everyone achieves this level of freedom but the opportunity is available to everyone who dares to look within.