If you are reading this post, you are probably a lot like me — a seeker.
You are deeply committed to personal growth and desire to understand yourself and others better. You want to learn 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.
What Is Personal Growth?
Your true inner growth and development as a person occurs whether or not you actively seek it. Life often forces it upon us.
But by being intentional about growing and life-long learning, you'll reach your potential much more quickly — and without as much strife.
Personal growth involves a wide array of actions and internal changes, including:
- Developing your emotional intelligence.
- Becoming more flexible and open-minded.
- Accepting your own fallibility.
- Accepting the fallibilities of others.
- Building relationship skills.
- Accepting and embracing the differences in others.
- Healing your past wounds.
- Facing your blind spots.
- Facing life challenges and difficulties.
- Acknowledging that you're not the center of the universe.
- Defining and living your values.
- Developing your own opinions and beliefs.
- Learning to like and love yourself.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust
Over the years, I've become more practical in my approach to personal growth strategies. After years of trial and error, I practice what works for me. 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.
10 Personal Growth Concepts That Actually Work
These ten inner growth goals and actions can improve anyone's life who is willing to look within and put in the effort for positive change.
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. Honor whatever you do in the moment by giving it your full focus.
Savor what you are doing without allowing your mind to dwell in the past or worry about 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.
If you're with someone else, pay full attention to that person. Give them your presence so they feel it and know you are there — not just physically but mentally and emotionally.
When you live outside the present moment, you are wasting time because your thoughts about the past and future aren't real. Only this moment is real.
2. Disengage from other people's opinions.
This mental shift 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 more authentic and empathetic.
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 to make others okay or to impress them.
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.
I've learned to minimize and prioritize my schedule so I'm not pulled in too many directions. I've stopped spinning plates.
You don't learn much or experience the depths of joy from just scratching the surface or living an adrenaline fueled life.
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 many times during your life. You gratefully accept the gifts and knowledge 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 brain power 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 pablum. It literally changes your brain chemistry and 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, and we are overloaded with endless information.
We keep buying stuff we don't need and taking on more commitments and obligations. It's suffocating.
Embrace the truth that less is truly more. Less feels liberating, open, and light.
Get rid of stuff, streamline your schedule to the few most important things, and 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.
Part of your personal growth plan should include determining your most essential life values.
To live an intentional life, we need guideposts to help us make decisions and set goals. Our core values are those guideposts.
These values are the most important guiding 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 a direction for your life.
When you know your core values, you can better decide what you do and don't want for your life.
9. Have a beginner's mindset.
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 in which 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. Prioritize kindness and good manners.
Kindness and manners are underrated. It's so easy to be kind to people, speak warmly, smile, and acknowledge them. It is so easy to say “thank you,” hold a door open, and 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.
How will you begin your personal growth and learning efforts?
The most effective way to begin your personal growth journey is to simply start. Right now. Today.
Don't wait for some momentous event or sign from the universe. And don't wait for life to throw you under the bus so you're forced to grow in the face of a difficult challenge.
Where do you think you need the most inner work? Your relationships? Your self-awareness? Your past traumas?
Begin with the low-hanging fruit, and apply the ten concepts outlined here. Dig deeper with the help of resources (books, articles, etc.) or a counselor or coach.
View these first steps as the beginning of an incredible adventure that will continue throughout your life.