Unlike physical (external) growth, personal (internal) growth isn’t something that just happens to you like ‘by the way’. Don’t get me wrong, I know you have to eat in order to grow physically but I’m pretty sure eating comes naturally to you. You play a ‘passive’ role in your own physical growth and development. It’s kind of a by-the-way thing.
Personal growth and development is a lot different. For one, it is internal and so cannot be easily measured. Secondly, unlike external growth where you reach a peak and stay there, there’s no peak in personal development. It is a ‘forever’ thing. And the tricky part is that once you stop growing, you don’t just stay there, you actually start shrinking. So, the intangible food needed for internal growth also has to be eaten everyday –forever!
Eating this ‘food’ doesn’t come naturally to us. It can be such a drag sometimes. Because of this, we all need to have a plan for personal growth. We need a recipe to follow to make that intangible food we so badly need for sustained personal growth and development. We need steps to follow everyday to ensure that we are constantly on a personal growth path and that, while on that path, we are constantly moving forward and not back, because it’s not a flat road; it’s uphill and so there’s no possibility of even remaining stagnant.
Here are 4 steps to sustained personal growth and development. They have been of immense help to me the past few years, and I hope they help you too –as you implement them, of course.
Step #1: Choose One Area
Remember we’ve been talking about “the ONE THING” lately? Just pick only one area of your life that you wish to improve. Don’t go crazy with more than one at a time. Once you’ve successfully worked on that area and improved immensely, then you can take on the next area you have in mind, but one at a time.
First, you must decide on which area you want to improve. And don’t be vague like “I would like to make more money” because the truth is that ‘more money’ is actually one of the by-products of personal growth and development. Yes, it’s a by-the-way thing here. Ask yourself deeper questions like “Do I need to work on my patience?” “Am I easily offended by people?” “Do I react to situations rather than respond to them?” “Do I need more spiritual awareness?”
You will get your answer once you go off to a quiet place to ask yourself these questions. Once you do, make that ONE area a priority. Start reading books on that area and do what the books say –practice is important! Start observing people who are better improved in that area you’re working on and see how they respond to situations rather than react. Observe how they let insults slide like water off a duck’s back rather than get easily offended. Examine how deeply spiritual they are and what steps they took to get there. And then apply to your life. You would even be better off getting a mentor in that one area, who’ll hold you accountable.
Step #2: Introspect & Reflect
Next, commit to about 20-30 minutes, preferably at the end of each day, for a deep introspection on that one area you’ve chosen to improve. You can do this by reflecting on your day. Think about your interactions with people that day and ask yourself: “Was I patient with that customer?” “Did I get offended when the homeless man called me names?” “Did I react emotionally by commenting rudely under an article I disagreed with, or did I respond by putting myself in the writer’s shoes and then offering my own two-cents respectably?”
This is very challenging to do because this is where you have to get really honest with yourself. And who on earth loves to do that? But we have to, if we really want to grow personally and improve on lacking areas.
When you sincerely answer those questions, you would know, deep down within, if you truly are becoming better or if you’re falling short. Remember, there’s no staying still here –you’re either getting better or getting worse. So, always plan on how to get better answers at the end of the day on the area you’re working on.
Step #3: Journal
Once you’ve got the answers to your questions in Step #2, then write them down. Keep a journal where you record your daily progress. You can make it weekly if daily is too overwhelming. You’d just have to make your reflection time longer, as you’d be reflecting on the whole week rather than on just a day.
Journaling helps you to see where you were before and how far you’ve come. I read my journals sometimes and I’m amazed at how much I’ve personally grown in some areas where I once struggled. It helps me to keep current challenges in the right perspective. I know that whatever challenge I’m going through at the moment will soon become a laughable thing of the past, just like many others I’ve recorded in there. It’s a good reminder of how worth-it the personal growth journey actually is.
This is how you’d know when it’s time to move on to working on another area. By keeping a steady record of your progress, you can go back and read it and notice that “Oh, I don’t seem to write about quarreling with Folake anymore!” “Oh, I’ve stopped yelling at my employees”, “Oh there are no more recorded incidents of my stinginess. I guess I’m good there now”. It doesn’t mean that you’ve plateaued at that level (remember we never stop growing). It just means that you’ve taken that unnatural aspiration of yours and successfully turned it to a natural tendency and you now can move on to other areas and do the same.
Step #4: Share
Share what you’ve learnt with others. From journaling you’ll notice many recorded life lessons that you can share with others who are struggling in the areas you have overcome. You can then easily take those records –instead of trying so hard to remember what you did to overcome pettiness, for example –and create blogs, vlogs, articles, podcasts, sermons, tweets and Facebook posts. You can use any appropriate medium to do so and just make the world a little bit better because you exist in it.
This would, in turn, attract the right kind of people to you –people who are constantly looking to become better versions of themselves. And that creates the right kind of environment for you because you’re suddenly surrounded by people who are looking up to you to continue improving yourself so that they too can grow. Sharing is the easiest way to ensure that you never rest on your laurels and get trapped into thinking that you’ve ‘arrived’ in a certain area of life meanwhile not only have you stopped growing there, you’re actually now shrinking!
Personal growth and development, because of its internal intangible nature, can seem so abstract that most people easily give up on it as they don’t even know how to tell if it’s working for them or not. But this is a good way to sort of make it tangible; by mapping out a clear path to both practicing it and measuring its results.
So, go out there and start working on becoming a better version of yourself. Pick one area, become a hungry student of that area, record your progress, and share your results. Your little world will fall into place and the world at large will become a little bit better because you took your place!