10 Personal Growth Strategies That Actually Work For Me

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust

If you are reading this post, you are probably a lot like me — a seeker.

You want to grow as a person, understand yourself and others better, and figure out how to live a joyful, fulfilled, and purposeful life.

And maybe like me, you’ve tried it all over the years. You’ve read hundreds of self-help books, taken courses, explored metaphysical or alternative options, practiced the “law of attraction,” and followed the guaranteed-for-success formula of the newest self-help guru du jour.

I’m not putting this down at all — we need to explore, experiment, and separate the personal growth wheat from the chaff. We each must experience our own journey of self-discovery to discern what is truly life-changing and what is merely fluff and magical thinking.

Over the years, I’ve become more practical in my approach to personal growth strategies. I practice what works. I focus my energy on actions and beliefs that have a proven track record of improving my quality of life and my state of mind.

Here are 10 strategies that have worked well for me . . .

1. Be present

As much as possible, keep your attention focused on this moment right now. Immerse yourself in what you are doing, even if it’s tedious or boring. Pay full attention to the person you are with. Savor what you are doing without allowing your mind to dwell in the past or ponder the future. When you do plan for the future (as we all must), create a loose template — a flexible plan or goal that allows you to stay open to all possibilities. When you are living outside of the present moment, you are truly “wasting time” because the past and future aren’t real. Only the present.

2. Disengage from the opinions of others

This was life-changing for me. Once I stopped worrying about what others would think of me, how they might judge me, or how my decisions might disappoint people, I was free to become myself fully. I was able to be authentic. There is so much pressure from parents, peers, society, and the media to conform to certain standards and ideals. But we each must create our own “personal operating system” that is a reflection of our true selves. Real happiness is impossible when you fake it through life in order to make others OK.

3. Go deep rather than wide

Rather than trying to do many things and cram my life full of activities and achievements, I now focus on fewer things but I focus deeply. When I work, I strive to be engaged in the task at hand and remove other distractions. When I travel, I go to fewer locations but spend more time in one or two. You don’t learn much or experience the depths of joy from just scratching the surface.

4. Redefine failure

I don’t like to fail any more than the next person. But I’ve learned to accept failure as a necessary element in success. You encounter failure because you had the courage and creativity to try. Failure teaches us how to do better the next time. We can spend our lives avoiding failure, but then we take no risks — which confines us to the status quo. If you want to live a big life, you must embrace failure, knowing that it can and will happen. You gratefully accept the gifts that failure offers and so you can move on to success.

5. Rewire your brain

The science of neuroplasticity shows we have a huge reservoir of potential for learning, change, and growth. This is particularly meaningful related to how we think about ourselves and how our thinking impacts our motivation and outlook on life. If our thoughts are constantly negative and self-critical, we are training our brains to accept these thoughts as true. But by practicing positive thinking, thoughts of self-love and self-respect, we can retrain our brains to believe these things. Practicing positive thinking isn’t just feel-good nonsense. It actually changes your brain chemistry and changes how you feel about yourself.

6. Stop struggling

So much of life feels like a struggle. Someone says or does something to hurt us, and we respond with anger or defensiveness. Something bad happens in our day, and we get frustrated and agitated. Our children aren’t doing what we want them to do, so we feel compelled to worry and fret over their decisions or actions. In many (maybe most) of these situations, a path of non-resistance is the best way to go. Instead of fighting against the person or situation, just observe and offer no struggle. Events usually take care of themselves without forcing them, so let them unfold.

7. Simplify everything

Life is becoming increasingly complicated and demanding. We are overloaded with information. We keep buying stuff. We take on more commitments and obligations. It’s suffocating. Less is truly more. Less feels liberating, open, and light. Get rid of stuff, streamline your schedule to the few most important things, release people who are sapping your time and energy. You need emotional and physical space and time to actually live your life rather than racing through it.

8. Define your values

To live a fully-actualized life, we need guideposts to help us make decisions and set goals. Our core values are those guideposts. These values are the most important principles for your life, and every major life decision and action should support or reflect these values. If you don’t define your own values, then you look to others to help you decide what’s important. Or you bounce around trying to “feel your way” through decisions or a direction for your life. When you know your top 5-6 values, you know exactly what you do and don’t want for your life.

9. Have a beginner’s mind

You are never too old, too smart, too experienced, too rich, too powerful, or too creative to learn something from every person you encounter and every life experience. Approach each new relationship with wide-eyed anticipation, like a child. Allow yourself to try something brand new, where you have no experience or skills — and then savor every aspect of learning. Not only does this expand your capacity for joy and personal fulfillment, but it also makes you a more interesting, approachable, and attractive person. As Forrest Gump says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

10. Show kindness and good manners

Kindness and manners are underrated. It’s so easy to simply be kind to people, to speak warmly, to smile and acknowledge them. It is so easy to say “thank you,” to hold a door open, to offer to help. Even in the face of anger, life difficulties, and ugliness, we can elevate ourselves and those around us by being kind and decent people. When you practice kindness, you inspire others to do the same, and it creates a small but very powerful ripple effect.


What about you? What personal growth strategies have been the most useful and practical? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Thank you Barrie, I really enjoyed this list of personal growth strategies. You are a continuous inspiration for me and I am very grateful for this!
    Best wishes,
    Sarah

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sarah,
      I’m so glad you liked it and that I’ve inspired you. Thank you for letting me know!

  2. I think all of these have been helpful and I have been applying them in some shape or form for a while. A big one is knowing yourself. Being aware of your thoughts, tendencies, moods, and how they shift when you are hungry or tired is very important to being effective. I think having your core values define is the first step because without those you can just flounder.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sebastian,
      Yes, knowing your own moods and mental and physical reactions can help you tremendously. They impact our view of the world and our reactions. When you have awareness around those things, it’s easier to manage and find strategies for coping.

  3. Thanks for sharing the things that work for you Barrie. I absolutely recognize the overwhelm we can have with so much information available to us. The idea of having a beginners mind…always open to receive and learn…equally resonates with me.

    I gratefully accept where I am whilst experiencing divine discontent. Which to me means the continual expansion of my spirit, however that shows up. I’m open.

    Love Elle
    xoxo

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I love that expression Elle — “divine discontent.” It is a gift to accept change and personal growth as a gift from the universe!

  4. santhana says:

    Great and Very useful.

  5. Thank you Barrie! I like this a lot. I will try to practice it.

  6. Great strategies, 100% agree!
    Be in the moment but plan the future, look at the past just the enough to get the lessons, define your goals, never ending learning process, know and live by your values, treat yourself, your body and others teh best way you can.

    All the best,
    Nuno

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Nuno,
      It sounds like you already practice many of these strategies. That’s wonderful. It’s an ongoing learning process, isn’t it? :)

  7. One strategy that has worked wonders for me is getting out of my head and taking action. To often do we strive for a perfect way to start and a lot of times this leads to not starting at all. These days, I try to find an approach that is simply good enough rather than perfect and then I take action and correct along the way. Taking that first small step is extremely powerful.
    Awesome post as always Barrie, sharing this :)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Patrick,
      Oh darn! I should have included this one. It is sooooo important. Action is the key to succeeding. Over-thinking is one of our biggest limitations. Thank you for reminding us of this critical strategy.

  8. Thank you, a lovely post.

    Go straight to the top is one of mine. If you want to learn something, find not just a teacher or a book but the very best that is available to you. The very best have their own lit-up energy. They simplify and they love to teach.

    Another is simply: Have Fun. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey. If we don’t, we’re less likely to stay the course, so keep an element of play in the actions we take towards all our goals.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I love these strategies Cherry! Both of them are so spot-on and useful. Finding the best person to inspire and motivate you is a huge part of success. It provides rocket fuel to your aspirations. And having fun is so underrated. We should see life as one fun adventure. Why not? We don’t have to take it so seriously.

  9. Learning habitual changes may be one of the hardest things to do, according to psychological studies and personal experience. Excellent way of breaking it down.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes, learning new habits and new behaviors does take practice and patience. I’m so glad you found it useful!

  10. Thanks for this. I thought every step was a winner. I especially like the “go deep” and “simplify,” but I have always been a believer in “Beginner’s Mind.” As usual, Barrie, excellent work. I will share it around.

  11. Love everything about this post! Brilliantly thought-provoking.

  12. Hiii
    This is a gem of a post.
    I have experienced many of the changes you have gone through and hoping to go through the rest in time.
    Thanks Barrie for the great reminders.

  13. Those are all great points and also things I am working on myself. I especially like the reminder to be present and also to simplify everything. I always try to do way too much.

  14. Chaundra says:

    I am reading number six in pure disbelief!!! This totally directed at me. I am going to strive to change, it is a must.

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