Consider for just a moment how much time you (and the rest of us) spend on our exterior lives. When we’re not sleeping, we’re busy with work, tasks, entertainment, socializing, eating, and driving. When we do have some quiet time, we often spend it in front of the TV or surfing the net.
Virtually every moment of our lives is filled to the brim with activity or distraction. Ironically, the source of happiness doesn’t spring from our outer distractions and activities but rather from the evolution of our inner lives. As Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, reminds, “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.”
You might be someone, like me, who spends a lot of time looking inside, seeking self-understanding and ideas for inner growth. Or you might not pay much attention to your inner life and view self-reflection as a waste of time.
The truth is, whether you seek it out or not, your inner evolution will happen spontaneously simply as a result of living. “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness,” says thought leader and author Eckhart Tolle.
I have found that actively seeking personal growth, during times of difficulty or joy, makes the difficult times more bearable and the joyful times more meaningful. Through reflection, reading, self-questioning, and counsel with others, you expand your experience of life and become a more authentic, self-actualized, and compassionate person.
Here are 25 random things you should know about personal development to help you on your inner journey:
1. Life is only happening right now.
As much as we live in the past and future, you’d think we’d find happiness in one or the other. Both the past and future are illusions. This present moment is the only reality. Rather than wasting real life dwelling in illusion, focus on what you are doing right now and find joy in it.
2. It’s not what happens, but how you respond to it.
We don’t have much control over certain events in our lives. People hurt or betray us. We go through difficult times. We lose loved ones. Though we may not have power over events, we do have power over ourselves. We can choose to learn and grow from our experiences and to accept them as part of our personal evolution.
3. Change is good.
Change can feel disruptive and scary. We spend a lot of time avoiding change because we don’t like the discomfort and uncertainty it creates. But change expands us and helps us realize how much we are capable of. It makes life more interesting and teaches us to be fluid and flexible.
4. Know your personal values.
Everyone needs a personal framework in order to navigate life. Your values are your guiding principles, and you use them to help you make important choices and decisions throughout your life. Without defining your values, you are rudderless — simply reacting to events rather than creating your life on your own terms. Here’s a list of 400 values to help you define yours.
5. Cultivate your relationships.
Ask people on their deathbeds what was most important in their lives, and they inevitably say their close relationships. If you have people in your life whom you love and value, make a daily effort to cultivate the relationships. That means spending quality time with them and showing them (rather than just telling them) that you care.
6. Accept people as they are.
People you love will disappoint you. They will make choices you wouldn’t make. They will have differing points of view and different priorities in life. Don’t try to control or change them. Don’t be angry because they aren’t just like you. Accept them as they are and love them for who they are. Trying to change people is a waste of time and emotional energy.
7. Embrace your flaws.
We spend a lot of time hating ourselves because we are flawed. We don’t like the way we look. We don’t feel smart enough. We make mistakes and have failures. But remember, this is what it means to be human. Being flawed is as much a part of who we are as walking upright. Even as you strive to improve, embrace your flaws and acknowledge it is OK to have them.
8. Stop struggling, let life unfold.
Because we want our lives to be perfect, we often struggle against anything that doesn’t match with our vision. When you find yourself agitated and pushing back at circumstances, step back and allow life to happen. Sometimes something better than you envisioned is awaiting you.
9. Have goals, but be flexible.
Setting goals for your life (based on your values) motivates you to take action and move forward. But remain open to all possibilities even as you work toward your goals. Again, if you find yourself struggling with a goal, step back and see where life is leading you instead.
10. Live simply, find balance.
A complicated, adrenaline-fueled lifestyle robs you of the ability to fully savor life. Too many material things require constant care and upkeep. If you work long hours, you don’t have time to cultivate your relationships or to relax and enjoy the things you value most. Simplify your lifestyle, your possessions, and your schedule.
11. Spend more on experiences than things.
Rather than spending money on material possessions that bring fleeting happiness, spend on experiences instead, like travel and family events. Do things that create long-lasting memories which will provide good feelings forever.
12. Seek out the positive.
We are wired to focus more on the negatives of life than the positives. It takes a concerted and disciplined effort to think about what is good and what we feel grateful for. But it is an endeavor well worth the effort. As you train your brain to see the glass half full rather than half empty, you will improve your general feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
13. Appreciate nature.
Spending time in nature not only allows us to appreciate beauty, but also it allows us to slow down and find peace. Studies show that people who live close to a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression and are generally healthier. Being in nature also invites contemplation, creative thought, and self-awareness.
14. Have a vision for your life.
Part of personal growth involves taking responsibility for your life and what you want from it. When you create a vision for your life, you create a mental picture of where you want to be. This allows you to create specific goals and actions to help you move toward the vision. Even as you have a vision, remain fluid and open to altering it.
15. Find joy in the process, not just the outcome.
Remember, life is happening in the present moment. If you are working toward a goal, don’t delay your happiness until you reach it. Find the joy in every step along the way. If you are working to learn a new skill or improve yourself, find happiness in practice and effort. Outcomes are fleeting, but you are always in process.
16. Love yourself first.
You can’t fully love others or love life until you love yourself. How do you do that? By deciding to accept yourself, flaws and all, and being grateful that you are able to have the experience of life. You simply decide to start loving yourself, and then treat yourself lovingly.
17. Action must follow awareness.
Inner awareness and growth must be followed by outer action. Otherwise, your personal evolution will stall out. You can’t keep it all in your head. You must practice it in daily life.
18. Improve your confidence.
Confidence is the assurance that you are essentially capable, even if you’ve had past failures. It is trust in yourself and your abilities. If you don’t have this trust, you can’t take the actions you need to take to improve your life. Begin by improving your confidence. It is a skill that can be learned.
19. Fear is an illusion.
Fear is the main culprit in preventing us from growth and change. But the vast majority of the time, fear is a self-created illusion. The things we fear rarely come to pass, or if they do, they aren’t nearly as difficult as we feared they would be. Learn to act in spite of fear, and over time, your fears will lessen.
20. There is more than one “truth.”
Let go of the notion that you are right — about most everything. There is more than one truth in religion, politics, parenting, success, morality, and just about any area in which we feel self-righteous and correct. Allow yourself to view things from the opposite perspective, and you’ll be amazed at how much you grow.
21. Anger almost always hides pain.
If you feel angry, seek out what is causing you pain. If someone else is angry, assume that they are in pain. This makes room for compassion, for yourself and others.
22. Accept aging.
You are going to age. Your appearance will change. Your body will change. You can fight it (very draining and counter productive) or embrace it (much more fun). There are many positives to getting older. Focus on the positives.
23. Every day is invaluable. Don’t waste one.
If you live to age 90, how many days do you have left. Add them up. It’s really not that many, is it? Do you want to waste one precious day on unhappiness, regret, anger, boredom, fear, or depression? Do everything in your power to enjoy every single day. Treat every day like it’s the most valuable, remarkable, exquisite gift you could ever receive.
24. Kindness is always the answer.
When you want to act in frustration, anger, resentment, cruelty, intolerance, or indifference, step back and take a deep breath. Choose kindness instead. Even when someone is unkind to you, be the person YOU want to be. Kindness is disarming to the unkind and attractive to everyone.
25. Never stop evolving.
Your personal evolution is a life-long process. You will never reach the end of it, because life is always presenting new opportunities for growth and awareness. This means you are always a work in progress. You are not destined to be the person you are now, nor should you resign yourself to staying the same. You can resist evolving, but you are only delaying the inevitable and preventing yourself from experiencing the joy that comes with self-awareness.
What are some random things you’ve learned on your journey toward personal development? Please share your experiences in the comments below.