As human beings, we constantly need to keep evolving in order to achieve our fullest potential, learn, and grow. How many times have we heard of our co-workers feeling burned out or an old relative feeling left behind because they refuse to grow with the world? In part, this is all due to a lack of self-development and personal growth.
All of us want to achieve a high level of success in our professional lives and happiness in our personal lives. But ask yourself – how often do you actively work towards it? Do you make a conscious effort to improve yourself every day? Do you set a few minutes every day to focus on yourself? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer is a resounding NO.
Before we dive headfirst into what it means to work on personal growth and how to do the same, we need to know what it actually means. Pop culture has made it a fluffy term that can be used interchangeably with anything. But the truth is that personal growth and development actually means understanding and developing yourself in order to tap your own potential to its maximum.
Understanding personal growth
Personal growth is a continuous journey that will go on our entire lives. It motivates us to move forward and master our environment.
Here are some tenets of personal growth that need to be understood before you can embark on this journey:
1. A Continuous Journey:
Have you read a self-help book? Listened to a Guru? Attended coaching and seminars on personal growth? If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you have. The reason why you didn’t see a sudden transformation is that personal growth is a continual endeavor. You need to constantly expend time and effort to improve yourself intellectually, morally and physically.
2. The Cycle of Positivity:
Personal growth can also refer to changes in behavior, thoughts, and feelings in order to adapt to the changing environment. It can have a lasting effect on how we feel about ourselves and life in general. In fact, any change results in successful personal growth further motivate us, leading to an infinite cycle of positive changes. As we commit to personal growth, we also start feeling more passionate about life in general.
3. The Expansion of the Self:
Personal growth allows us to become the best version of ourselves. It helps us master our environment, and show resilience in the face of difficulties. As we become a better version of ourselves, we also tend to become more aware of all the possibilities that surround us.
Our frame of reference shifts from ‘me’ to ‘us,’ and our days are filled with much anticipation.
There is no shortcut to personal growth. It is a difficult process that will go on for a lifetime. Do not measure your success by comparing it with others, we are all on our own journeys.
The stages of personal growth
There are 5 phases in the journey of personal growth. However, they vary from individual to individual, and sometimes we may need to repeat a particular phase multiple times.
When we are in school, we do not worry about the workload of the next grade. Imagine a 5th grader who worried about the syllabus of 7th grader. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s exactly how we treat ourselves when we grow up. A lot of adults tend to feel the need to know everything right now and forget that everybody needs time to learn things.
While reading the phases, keep in mind that you may have to repeat some phases several times. You may develop a new insight or recognize a new problem area, or your expectations may trigger further self-discovery.
There are many phases to personal growth and development and no two people’s journeys look the same. That is why it is important to remember to be kind to yourself and those around you during this process:
1. The Sleeping Stage
When you are not seeking personal growth, you are asleep.
Anybody who is asleep would not be reading this article. The very fact that you are seeking personal growth is proof that you are past the initial sleeping stage.
The tenets of personal growth do not resonate with someone who is still stuck in the sleeping stage. Do you remember the time when you had an excuse for everything bad that happened to you? When you externalize blame and refuse to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions? That’s what being asleep feels like.
Attributes like neuroticism, fear, lack of fulfillment from life, externalizing blame are common side effects of the sleeping stage. When you start believing that only you can control the cruise of your life, that’s when wake up.
2. Waking Up
The journey from blaming others to deciding to taking control of our lives falls under waking up.
Usually, there comes a point in our lives when we start asking ourselves – why do people always disappoint us? Why doesn’t our life look like we want it to? Why are we constantly stuck in a situation where we are not in control?
This is the initial process of waking up. It can be due to a traumatic experience or a self-awakening. Many people seek self-growth after they experience some unpleasant situations, trauma, or simply an epiphany. In any case, this rude awakening will make you realize that even if we do not control the events happening in our lives, we do control how we react to them. And that makes all the difference.
This phase will make you connect the dots and realize how to learn and find your true self.
The shift from knowing things to taking measures to improve your life and actually making the changes falls under Implementation phase.
This is the phase when you shift from knowing things to doing things. If you know that you want to improve and grow, but are unsure how to, this is the phase you are in. When your knowledge of how things should be done not reflect your reality, it is time to gear up and start working things out on your own.
Waking up is not enough for transformation. You need to implement what you know, changing your belief systems, and control negative behavior in order to move up the ladder. It is the time to forget your old stories, discard your programming, and get ready to commit.
Implementation involves being brave – digging up old wounds, working through our issues, and not letting our past define us.
The implementation phase will also involve failures and do-overs. Often, you will feel as if you have failed and you will have to start all over again. Do not get disheartened. Doing things over and over is the best way to break toxic patterns and integrate awareness with action.
Self-growth is a long, winding road that needs emotional labor, healing, forgiveness, and kindness towards the self. Allow yourself time to move from the awakening phase to the implementation phase, as it can be a difficult transition.
Acceptance involves learning how to accept the things we cannot change. It also brings us closer to our authentic self.
Acceptance refers to the acceptance of ourselves, and that of others. As we move towards successful personal growth, we also start developing new habits and this new way of being. We start to become truer, more authentic versions of ourselves. It also helps us see others in a new light and feel kinder, more open to those of us who are on a similar journey.
This does not mean that we have completely evolved and no longer have anything else to work on. As human beings, we can always improve how we see and do things. There will never come a time when we are such a perfect version of ourselves that we don’t need to grow anymore.
Acceptance simply means that we stop fighting our reality and accept the things we cannot change. Impulses no longer have any control over us and we are simply happy with our current circumstances, whatever they may be.
A key part of acceptance is knowing we are not new people, but more authentic versions of ourselves. This phase helps us develop our identity and learn to accept the things we cannot change.
When we use our experience and knowledge to help others who are also on their personal growth journey, we move to the Expansion phase.
Although personal growth is an ongoing process and will continue for the rest of your life, the next phase expects you to shift your focus outwards. Expansion refers to changing the lives of those around us. Once you move past the acceptance phase and learn how to love yourself, your next step should be of service to those around you and teach them how to complete their spiritual journey.
Research has revealed that supportive relationships often foster personal growth. If you can help a struggling individual, it will not only accelerate their journey but will also make you feel better about yourself. Share the love you feel for yourself and make the world around you a better place.
You may feel tempted to jump into the expansion phase when you are still working on implementation. Remember, there is no finish line on personal growth and there is no rush.
The phases are just an outline, there is no model that fits everyone. It may help you lend structure to your unique journey, but it is not a cut and dried solution that absolutely needs to be followed.
How to jumpstart your personal growth journey today?
Educating yourself about what’s happening around you, volunteering to help the less fortunate, and traveling can help us accelerate personal growth. It is also important to ensure we are physically and mentally healthy during this journey and stay truthful and honest about our lives.
There is no fast or easy way for personal growth and development, but there are certain ways you can kick start the process:
1. Keep learning
Education is an important tenet of personal growth. The more you are aware of what’s happening in the world around you, the more you can learn about your own drawbacks and problems. The internet age is the age of information, and there are hundreds of educational courses you can take up to commit to your journey in a deeper, more dedicated manner.
2. Volunteer for social causes
Being close to people who are less fortunate than you and helping them open up the gateways to self-understanding and self-growth. It will help you pick up new skills, and develop a more compassionate and empathetic world view.
This sounds like a millennial thing, but it is true that traveling to new places is the only way to learn about new people, challenge your thought processes, and enrich your life. By opening yourself up to an entirely new way of living, you will discover corners inside your heart that was completely hidden from you before.
4. Take care of your health
Self-care is an important aspect of personal growth and development. It promotes self-understanding and helps you keep your body in shape. Taking a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep to provide direct benefits to your physical well being and keep you energized throughout the day. Personal growth is an active process – you will not be able to commit to it fully if your body is not at its peak performance.
Personal growth is an aspect of a healthy mind. And for keeping your mind healthy, we need to keep our bodies healthy too. Taking care of your health will have positive effects (direct as well as indirect) on your journey of self-growth.
5. Be honest with yourself
No journey will be fruitful if you do not act objectively towards your own life. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. This will help you avoid those mistakes in the future, and accelerate your movement towards the Acceptance phase.
One of the biggest enemies of personal growth is the excuse that you do not have enough time. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. You can choose to waste it in front of the TV, or start improving your life.
Personal growth is a journey unique to every individual. It takes time, effort, commitment, and it never ends. But it is the only way to live. As humans, we need to keep evolving, keep bettering ourselves, and keep moving towards a life that is true to our vision. There is only one life – as far as we know. So what are we doing, if not moving forward?
Namrata Singh is a dentist turned writer and clinical researcher. Eager to learn about anything and everything, she is what you would call a jack of all trades and master of none. With a zeal for reading novels, books and anything she could get her hands on ever since she was little, she embarked into a writing career purely out of luck. After indulging in a freelancing career for nearly two years, she can now write on anything - from dentistry to decor, travel to technology, medicine to management - but psychology remains her first love. Having dealt with mental health issues in the past, she hopes to raise awareness for the same and help people with her work in association with The MindFool team