The personal growth conversation might seem a bit crowded, especially for newcomers. Enter the term into Google’s search bar and in less than half a second you’ll have nearly 6 billion results.
Can it be a complicated topic? Certainly. It’s nuanced and deeply emotionally driven, because that’s the way that people are. But in all the in-depth discussion around it – personal development plans, tracking, goal achievement, accountability – we can be prone to let the complexity keep us from taking the first step to actually grow. We can be stricken with “must know everything” syndrome. Symptom one? Analysis paralysis!
Personal Growth Begins Simply
Personal growth might be a nuanced topic, but there are only 4 things you need to know to get started today:
1. IMPROVING YOURSELF IS THE FIRST STEP TO IMPROVING EVERYTHING ELSE.
Authors Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus asserted, “It is the capacity to develop and improve themselves that distinguishes leaders from followers.” That same capacity is also what separates successful people from unsuccessful ones. And that ability is becoming more important every day.
The world is moving along at an incredible pace. Some archaeologists believe the Stone Age lasted millions of years. The Bronze Age, which followed it, lasted roughly two thousand years. Next, the Iron Age was less than a thousand. Each period in technological history has come faster and faster. And now that we live in the information age, the world is moving even faster. Computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, in his book The Singularity is Near, projects that the 21st century will see 20,000 years of progress, compared to the century before.
The bottom line is clear: If you are not moving forward, the world is passing you by. If you want to improve your life, your family, your work, your economic situation, your influence, or anything else, you need to first improve yourself!
2. PERSONAL GROWTH REQUIRES US TO MOVE OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE.
Novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky observed, “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” Instead people should fear the opposite – not taking a step. Why? Because if we don’t step forward out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, we will not experience personal growth. Security does not take us forward. It does not help us to overcome obstacles. It does not lead to progress. You’ll never get anywhere interesting if you always do the safe thing. You must surrender security to improve.
What does it take to get us to move out of our comfort zone?
- Handling our aversion to making mistakes. Mistakes are not failures. They are proof that we are making an effort. When we understand that, we can more easily move out of our comfort zone, try something new, and improve.
- Overcoming a life controlled by feelings. Speaker Peter Lowe once said, “The most common trait I have found in successful people is that they conquered the temptation to give up.” Not being controlled by our feelings means that we can face our fears – an important part of innovation.
3. PERSONAL GROWTH IS NOT SATISFIED WITH “QUICK FIXES.”
Dr. Kevin Myers once remarked, “Everyone is looking for a quick fix, but what they really need is fitness. People who look for fixes stop doing what’s right when pressure is relieved. People who pursue fitness do what they should no matter what.” And it’s true – losers don’t lose because they focus on losing; they lose because they focus on getting by.
Personal growth doesn’t come to people who fixate on quick fixes. It comes to the slow but steady people who keep working at getting better. Shifting from quick fixes to continuous improvement means doing two things:
- Accepting the fact that improvement is a never-ending battle. “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar and a hippopotamus that wants to wallow in the mud.” Poet Carl Sandberg echoed the timeless plight of humankind when he said these words. The key to success is to follow the impulse to soar more than the desire to wallow – and to make that decision daily.
- Accepting the fact that improvement is a result of small steps. People today are looking for a shortcut to success – a simple trick, a life hack, a key phrase – but it doesn’t work that way. As Andrew Wood observed, “Success in most things comes not from some gigantic stroke of fate, but from simple, incremental progress.” Improvement is achieved in inches, not giant leaps.
4. PERSONAL GROWTH IS A DAILY COMMITMENT.
David D. Glass, the president and chief executive officer of Walmart, was once asked why he admired Sam Walton, the founder of the organization. His answer was, “There’s never been a day in his life, since I’ve known him, that he didn’t improve in some way.”
Some things simply have to be done every day. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” they say, but eating seven apples all at once won’t give you the same benefit. If you want to improve, personal growth needs to be a habit – something I do continually, not once in a while. Motivation may get you going, but the positive habits you develop and practice consistently are what keep you improving.
How can you more easily make a positive habit a daily commitment?
It’s important for daily habits to have a daily touchpoint. Think about the things you keep close by. Would you wash your hands every day if the soap was three houses down? Would you remember to drink water if it was out of sight, and therefore out of mind? What do people touch every day? For some it’s their phone or mobile device. What if you had an app on your phone or computer that allowed you to access some of the very best personal growth content? Would you be more likely to use it than not? The answer is obviously yes. The proximity of the content to your person and the ubiquity of the device in your life would make it more likely to be used… and of use to you. Don’t think twice about it… take action down. By downloading the Maxwell Leadership Growth Plan app, you’re putting the power of personal growth in your pocket.