- Humans have the desire and capacity to change, grow, and adapt.
- With so much expert advice available on what we should and could be doing, it can be hard to know where to begin.
- Navigating a personal growth journey begins with looking inward.
We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us that we need to be better, faster, healthier, smarter, richer, stronger, busier: everything “-er.” We find ourselves in a constant state of wanting to improve, to do more, and to be more at any given moment.
Our human condition desires change and growth. But seeking out self-improvement doesn’t always mean that you are unhappy with the person you already are; it’s just that life can feel stagnant without it. We may start to feel dissatisfied, unhappy, and even unfulfilled if we are not learning and changing. To be able to function in a world that is constantly evolving, we need to be able to grow and adapt.
Where do we begin?
In our efforts to improve our habits and behaviours, we often turn to experts for answers. We plow through books and articles on personal development, sign up for courses, attend workshops, and connect with coaches. There are more resources available than ever on personal development topics such as time management, relationship repair, organization, fitness, healthy eating, professional development, stress management, emotion regulation, and more. The self-help and personal development market has become a multibillion-dollar sector globally. This industry is anticipated to continue growing and it is on course to be one of the fastest-growing industries by 2030 (Grand View Research, 2022). This is huge. Yet, we still don’t have all the answers.
The way forward
It can be hard to figure out where to start. Change is complex and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And we know that knowing better doesn’t equal doing better. It is important to prepare yourself for the journey ahead (and all its messiness and beauty) by building the proper foundation on which to base your change. Here are 10 ideas to keep in mind as you embark on your personal growth journey:
- Prioritize you. The reality is that true personal growth and development come from looking inward. It’s getting to know yourself. Personal development is just that—it’s personal. It’s between you and yourself. You are unique and your situation is unique. It’s not selfish, it is science. You need to look after yourself. No one is coming to fix this for you.
- Become aware using a holistic approach. A holistic approach to personal development recognizes all areas of wellness. I invite you to think about how you are doing and how you hope to grow in these eight dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, financial, occupational, and spiritual. Ask yourself what you can do to bring yourself closer to your goals and closer to the person you want to become in each of these areas. There is no one right balance that will benefit two people the same way.
- Make room for your past. Your way forward is not defined by your past. All the things that you have weathered in your life are events, not characteristics. Trust yourself that you handled your life the best you could in the moment with the tools and resources you had. You have not only gone through hard times, but you have also grown through them too.
- Limit social comparison. Most of us will have heard Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While it’s valuable to take inspiration from those who inspire you, we need to be mindful that the trajectory forward will not look the same for all of us.
- Build healthy habits consistently. Consistency compounds. Commit to doing one activity, every day, even for just five minutes, that will bring you closer to your goals and the person you want to be. Having goals and something to work towards helps to maintain our drive and gives us a sense of fulfillment.
- Build the team to support the dream. There are guaranteed to be roadblocks, times of low motivation, and other curveballs are thrown our way. Knowing this, we all need a champion. Someone who is in our corner. When our foundation is solid, we create the space needed for growth.
- Embrace the discomfort. Being comfortable doesn’t help us develop. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. As the popular saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” Change is hard and noticeable. It is supposed to be.
- Celebrate your progress. Are you proud of a recent accomplishment? Are you handling or approaching situations better today than you would have five, or even just one year ago? Celebrating even the small wins in our change journey brings awareness to our progress. And it feels good.
- Take it slow. In a fast-paced society, we are often urged to do more, be better, and excel no matter the cost, but this is not sustainable. You don’t need to do a Herculean overhaul of your life. Give yourself permission to rest along the way. After all, growth is a lifelong journey, not a destination.
- Notice your allies. When you commit to personal growth, some people may not support or agree with your choices. Don’t let that deter you. Real allies want to see you living your best life.
Working on making self-improvements can have a remarkable impact on how we show up in the world, and it’s not easy. Yet, we can find comfort in knowing that we will find out what works best for us. We can trust in the process and know that we have the tools and supports available to navigate our lives and reach our truest potential. In an episode of In Time, singer-songwriter Peter Katz captured the idea that we are in the driver’s seat of our own growth when he said, “At any moment we can choose, and we can find ourselves on a new path.”
On a final note, I wholeheartedly believe that we can all show ourselves a little more compassion and grace on our journeys. Instead of drowning in all the things you are told you should be doing and could be doing, my invitation is for you to pause and reflect. Take inventory of all the things you are already doing right.
Grand View Research. (2022). Personal development market size report, 2022-2030. Grand View Research, Inc. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/personal-development-market
Katz, P., & Hanley-Dafoe, R. (Hosts). (2023, Mar 14). Listening for the compassionate voice (No. 5) [Audio podcast episode]. In In Time. https://hereintime.ca/episodes/this-the-perfect-time-ssw3a-3etga-5kdw4-ck5ff