George Shultz probably echoed the hopes of millions for the new year when he commented recently, ''We want an expansion in 1983, and setting that objective clearly in our sights is important.''

Yay, Mr. Shultz. The American secretary of state is, of course, talking of economic expansion - the need for all nations to begin showing some growth and mobility rather than constriction and stagnation. Who could quarrel? Nothing is as sobering these days as the thought of 30 million unemployed in the industrialized world alone, of the $500 billion debt owed by the developing nations, or of the rush of many countries to hug their tatters around them, so to speak, and look inward. Mr. Shultz even complains about the ''austerity'' programs everyone is hastening to adopt - a trend that works against expansion.

What interests us, though, is that Mr. Shultz, himself a businessman and economist, has no recipes for getting countries to import - as well as export - more so that there can be economic expansion. He calls on the State Department to start coming up with ideas.

We have one. Could it be that expansion is first of all a mental quality, a matter of attitude? Could it be that true growth is evidenced less in the amassing of goods, the size of the GNP, the per capita output of products, the magnitude of profits - less in the physical realm, that is - than in the intelligence, resourcefulness, zest, daring, integrity, determination, and spirit of working together which tangible assets only feebly measure? Many would join us in thinking so.

There indeed needs to be expansion. Not just in the meaning of more people working, more cars rolling off the assembly line, or more shoppers in the stores. But in terms of enlarging our horizons in every facet of human experience. Take integrity. Who would say that mankind has reached the limit of honesty in political, social, and personal life? Rather do we seem to be witnessing a stern challenge everywhere to ethical standards. Yet how can the forces of progress be unleashed in any country when government officials dip into the public purse, when businessmen use ruthless methods to beat out compe-titors, when citizens cheat on their taxes, when politicians lie and scheme? A little more truthfulness in everyday living would already do much to expand the economic pie.

And how about a more enriched sense of family? Not just by bringing an alienated son or daughter back into the fold, perhaps, or restoring a sense of mutuality, or caring for an elderly member. But by helping neighbors in want, taking part in some community activity, and giving support to the worthwhile endeavors of peoples in far-off places. Such a looking outward could extend to business entrepreneurs, too, who would benefit from new ideas for trading with others.

The list could go on.

In the end it is a matter of each individual stretching his own vision - his own capacity for usefulness and intelligent action. There is no limit to the possibilities for expansion, as the achievements of intellectual, philosophical, religious experience tell us. Yes, there is a need for economic growth. But there is more fundamental need for growth in the quality of everyday thinking and acting, something that flows naturally from an enhanced understanding of man's inherent spiritual nature. By starting with those oppportunities for expansion which we all have, by breaking down our own self-imposed limitations - whether of intelligence, integrity, joy, compassion - we will contribute to a purer, more buoyant world climate. And who knows? The economy may tag along too.

As 1983 approaches, then, an expansive new year to all.

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