In a steady-state economy the focus is on development versus growth. As Herman Daly puts it, growth refers to “physical scale of the matter/energy throughput that sustains the economic activities of production and consumption of commodities.” In other words, growth is the increasing of production and consumption of goods and services. This is a quantitative increase in scale. Development is a qualitative improvement of the same scale. A contained system (the Earth, for example) can develop inside but does not significantly grow. (Daly, Beyond Growth)
We live in a contained system, of which our economy is a large part of and, currently, the largest driving factor in changes within that system. In our system, we can choose to develop or “grow,” but our growth is limited by the constraints of that same system (e.g. Earth’s natural capital). If we change our focus to development, we will increase the quality of our lives (qualitative development) instead of the amount of production and consumption (quantitative growth).
As our system is right now, we are increasing the production and consumption, but decreasing the quality of our lives.