The Path to Personal Growth
Growth is about overcoming our tendency to respond quickly or negatively.
Posted June 13, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- Steps to personal growth include learning how to respond better to situations and finding those we can learn from on our journey.
- Reframing our mindset to be more solution-focused than reactive can ultimately help make our lives happier.
- It is important to find a teacher whose teachings and philosophy resonate with you, and to apply their principles to your own life.
Many people are focused on achieving fleeting things like wealth, success, or fame. While they may bring about temporary happiness, the feeling is often fleeting. I believe that out of all of the things we can work towards, pursuing personal growth is the best choice to achieve lifelong happiness and contentment. Today, we’ll learn why.
We don’t have much control over things in the external world. For example, we didn’t choose the place we were born, our family, or our natural talents. The one thing we do have control over is how we respond to the world, more specifically to adversity. Personal growth is about overcoming our natural tendency to respond quickly or negatively to situations. When we’re able to control our reactions, or our internal selves, a world of possibilities opens up.
In today’s post, I want to discuss the two ways we can achieve personal growth and how we can better respond to the world around us. This will help us find inner peace no matter what’s happening in our external world. This may sound hard for some of us, and it is. But when we change how we see the world and how we respond to the world, there is an unlimited amount of potential for achieving happiness and peace.
The first aspect of personal growth is learning how to respond better to situations that we have historically struggled with. Let’s use self-confidence as an example. When we’re having a particularly low day, we may look in the mirror and think, “I don’t like the way I look.” To combat these thoughts, we can develop skills to accept our appearance and even begin to like the way we look. This acceptance stems from the realization that there are some things that are out of our control. Once we internalize this fact, we can begin to accept what is, and eventually love what is.
The second key ingredient to personal growth is finding a teacher or teachers that we can learn from on our journey. The reason this is a key ingredient is that it’s helpful to have an expert in the subject who can help us understand these principles more deeply.
Let’s dive deeper into both of these concepts.
The first aspect of personal growth is focused on re-framing our struggles. What I mean by this is, the next time we face a problem, the best way to overcome it is to see it differently. For example, the next time we wake up anxious, are upset at a friend, or have an interaction that causes us to stress, we can choose to see these as opportunities to make our lives better.
Something I have repeated throughout my podcast is that there is a solution to every single problem we face. One of life’s purposes is to find these solutions. We have the power to adjust our typical responses to situations that bring on intense emotions, whether that is shame, anger, depression, etc. We now can begin to say, “I’m struggling with this. There must be something that I’m doing that is causing me to struggle, because there are other people who have also faced this problem and they’re doing well. This means there must be a solution.” Instead of criticizing ourselves, or hating our lives, we can reframe our mindset to be more solution-focused than reactive. This will guide us towards finding a way to solve our problems and ultimately make our lives happier.
Let me use an example to explore this point. Studies have shown that about 80% of people are unhappy at work. For the purpose of this example, let’s say we’re in that 80%. In order to change our circumstances, or find a solution, we must ask ourselves what can we do to make our situation better? We can perhaps leave our job, but that would have consequences since we’re responsible for supporting our family. Maybe we can look into other career paths, but seeking out more education may take a long time. Or we can say, maybe I can reduce my living expenses so I don’t need to keep up with the lifestyle I’ve created for myself. With these reduced expenses, I can now work a little less or find a job that will be more fulfilling. Happiness is about enjoying our day all day long, so we want to make sure that our job makes us feel happy and fulfilled.
There are so many ways to tackle this problem. One solution that many of my clients have reached over the years is to work less. A lot of people have flexibility in their work already that they may not be taking advantage of. For example, one of my clients gets three weeks of vacation a year but is tempted to skip out on the vacation because they get paid out on those days at the end of the year. In response, I asked them, is it worth not taking your vacation to have a little more money? When they examined the option more closely they decided that no, it wasn’t worth giving up the opportunity to recharge and decompress. My goal is to help folks reframe what life is about. I believe that it’s about enjoying the journey and for most people who work regularly, taking a vacation is necessary to maintain our happiness.
Remember that this is just an example. Your story and your struggles may look completely different. The overarching point here is that we often have some control over situations that may seem out of our control. And when we take the opportunity to make some changes, we will find that happiness is within our reach. We can look at life’s challenges as an opportunity for personal growth, rather than an inconvenience or hassle. The best part is, when these challenges re-emerge later, we’ll know how to handle them.
The second aspect of personal growth is to find a teacher whose teachings and philosophy resonate with you. When you do find the right teacher, it’s important to apply their principles to your own life. This step may seem less important but it is just as important as step number one. Our parents or caretakers were the people who taught us how to respond to the world and if we want to change that, we need someone who is better aligned to our current belief system than the one we had when we were younger. We also don't necessarily have to access these teachings in person. We can listen to them on audiobooks, watch them on youtube, or read about their beliefs in a book. And if you reach a point where their teachings are no longer serving you, there are always other people out there who can guide you through your path to self-discovery
Working on ourselves is no easy task. It involves unlearning and practicing different responses to problems, over and over again. But we must remember that we are capable of real change, and these changes can help us live beautiful lives. When we look at problems in a different light and follow a teacher with whom we resonate, we’ll grow exponentially.