What is the deal with all this personal growth and self-development business? Why bother in the first place? We are rapidly moving into an economy based on collaboration and personal branding so to be successful each person will need to understand how well they work with others. This begins with being self-aware, adaptive, flexible and persistent, all of which are found in most Self-Development programs.
It is so easy to treat personal development as ‘optional’ and so few people ever take the time to improve themselves. Too some, it may seem corny or a waste of time, yet there is no denying that everyone has a hero and typically that hero has understood self-development sometime in their past.
Personal growth and self-development is arguably one of the most important things you can do with your free time. In fact, you may find it beneficial to schedule time for this very important process; you can even argue that to actualize your true potential is the purpose of being here. In many ways, all your actions are geared towards ‘self-improvement’. Everything you do, you should do with a positive intent.
This however is mostly unconscious and for the majority of people it is a case of pursuing ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ with the (all too common) assumption that when they get enough stuff they will be happy. You do not really have to go too far to find that things do not always provide the happiness or joy that we seek. There are plenty of rehab clinics populated with well-intended people, of all social statuses, seeking happiness from tangible items.
Many view this process of seeking, as a destination, rather than embracing the journey. What happens when you arrive at a destination and it was not what you expected or it did not satisfy when you finally arrived? Disappointment is usually the first stage but that can be followed by depression, anxiety and fear, which can be crippling if not refocused.
Some try to fill the voids with adrenaline, which means they keep pushing physical, emotional and intellectual boundaries with little consideration for others, but if they find how to channel that need for speed or adrenaline with a balanced approach to life, their capabilities will grow even further.
The key to a lifetime of happiness and balanced life lies in continuous personal growth. Real and lasting fulfillment in life comes from consistently improving the quality of your life. Life is dynamic and it has to keep moving. Similar to nature, everything that does not grow dies! We suggest you look at your life as an ecosystem that needs input and output and you can control the input, which in turn helps you control the output. You will either grow or die, and although you probably will not die a physical death, you most certainly will suffer a psychological death. Depression is but one example of the effects of failing to grow as a person.
Everyday life hands us many opportunities to grow. However, they are usually disguised as problems and unfortunately; many people curse them instead of seeing the wonderful opportunities that they present. Earl Schoff once said ‘Don’t wish for fewer problems. Wish that you were better’. This is where personal growth comes to play and you must do it on purpose and with a proactive state of mind.
So why do people fail to “actively” participate in their own personal growth? Many barriers can prevent us from actively pursuing change in any area of our life. The three biggest growth barriers are interrelated behaviors that tend to keep us immobilized and locked up in inaction. Let us review these areas so we can be aware and take proactive steps for growth:
Self-Development Barrier #1: Procrastination
Procrastination is the irrational or even a perceived rational delay of tasks, especially important ones. On a conscious level, you may expect a specific result and you know what course of action to take, but you remain immobilized. The failure to act is what keeps you where you are. It is likely that what you are procrastinating about is something you MUST do and doing it will help you grow. The key is learning to take action and just do it. Keep in mind that you only procrastinate about tasks that you value and at some level, you know you will benefit from it.
Self-Development Barrier #2: Indecision
Every single action is preceded by a decision. The predecessor to every action is usually a decision and the failure to act can be traced back to the failure to make a decision. The ironic thing is that not making a decision is a decision – mind-boggling isn’t it? Indecision is like a disease that you have to eradicate from your life. Indecision is simply the result of a fear of failure and faulty logic that says that by not making a decision you can’t fail – right? Realize that nothing in the future has happened yet; therefore fearing the worst possible predictive outcome will definitely keep you from making any decision. If you do not make decisions, you will not take action and therefore you will remain immobilized.
Self-Development Barrier #3: Comfort Zones
Comfort zones are all those things that you are too familiar with – and often to the point where you do not even attempt anything else. Inside your comfort zones, everything is known and you have this sense of certainty that you can comfortably deal with anything that comes your way. You have done it before and you feel ‘at ease’ with it.
However, stepping outside your comfort zones challenges your beliefs and it challenges your perceptions. Stepping outside your comfort zones however, challenges you to grow as a person – you have to grow to get comfortable outside your old comfort zone. Most of your limitations are self-imposed and controlled by what you belief you can or cannot do, what you like or dislike, what you think is right or wrong.
You have to keep stretching your ‘self’ physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to avoid standing still and remaining imprisoned by your comfort zones. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said ‘Man’s mind, once stretched to new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.’
All barriers are only that – they are barriers. For example, it is interesting how a vehicle barrier at border checkpoint seems so ‘flimsy’. They can hardly stop a bicycle, yet they stop big eighteen-wheelers. The barrier is more psychological than actual. Therefore, it is similar with the barriers to your personal growth. They can stop you, but they cannot keep you locked up unless you allow them to. Simply acknowledge them and then move on. Personal growth is a choice and it is a proactive process. To ensure a happy and fulfilled life with joy and appreciation you have to consistently grow and expand your ‘self’. As you grow, look for opportunities where you can help others grow, this is a critical part of the process.