This article was written for the Huffington Post
You know you’re here for big things, right? You have a difference to make and a purpose to live. And if you’re doing that right now — perfect. Keep doing your thing.
If you’re not, and you’re unsure how to start, it’s possible you’ve missed the important journey you need to take to get to where you want to be.
Whatever you like to call it — personal growth, personal development, self-acutalization or finding yourself — this journey is you exploring and developing who you truly are. It explores identity, talents and potential, as well as dreams and aspirations. It develops you physically, mentally, spiritually and intellectually.
And it can look however you want it to — that’s the personal part! Your journey might involve training, up-skilling and traveling; or it might involve yoga, meditating and spiritual healing.
The key is to put yourself into situations that will trigger that exploration and development.
To get you started, here are 14 ways you can stimulate personal growth.
1. Know yourself.
Self knowledge is not just about knowing your likes and dislikes, it’s about knowing who you truly are as a person. How you look at life. How you interact with others. What fires you up. What leaves you shaking. What gets your heart pumping. A person who sincerely knows who they are shines with confidence.
This kind of knowledge is learned by personal reflection, lots of time alone, and situations outside of your comfort zone. Those situations can be different for everyone – anything from enjoying a long lunch with a pen and notebook for company (no phone!), to solo travel. You learn a lot about yourself by jumping into an unfamiliar environment. And when you break through what you previously thought you were capable of, you’ll feel like you can achieve anything.
2. Surround yourself with beautiful people.
I’m talking about inner beauty, of course. People that make you see the world in a new way. People that do extraordinary things. People that exude the qualities you’d love have rub off on you; kindness, compassion, bravery, drive. People that have a story to tell, gifts to share and lessons to teach.
3. Rid yourself of people who bring you down.
This is a tough action to take, as the person who brings you down might be person you share your bed with. Or the person you’ve known since you were a kid. Or the person who employs you. Only you can decide whether or not you should do this (or want to), and how best to do it. Every situation is different. Sometimes it calls for addressing the situation in person, sometimes it calls for fading contact between you, and sometimes it calls for leaving one day and never looking back. This is absolutely easier said than done, so I don’t want to make light of this situation. The one instance where I would urge you to immediately remove yourself is if you are physically or emotionally at risk. Often, these situations will require outside help — ask for that help.
4. ‘Three good things’ practice.
Each day, you write down three good things that happened throughout your day, or three things you are thankful for. It can be as simple as ‘I’m thankful for a warm sunny day today’.
5. Avoid comparing yourself to what you see on social media.
Here’s the thing about social media: it’s a clipped, cropped and cultivated representation of who we are. It’s not really who we are. We accentuate the best of ourselves. We filter and tweet what we want others to see – and to be honest, that’s perfectly ok. It’s no different to quickly cleaning your house when someone says they’re dropping by; we like to present ourselves in the best light. The key is to be mindful that this is what everyone is doing — everyone.
So when you scroll through Facebook, know that all those updates, photos and comments have been carefully considered. And when we compare ourselves, we have a tendency to compare the worst of ourselves to the best of everyone else. Not that you should compare in the first place; but it’s not a fair comparison. The funny thing is, people are probably comparing themselves to you. It’s not a healthy pastime. If there’s someone you find you can’t help but weigh yourself against, unsubscribe from their posts for a while. You’ll still be friends, but you’ll stop seeing updates. The ‘three good things’ exercise and knowing yourself will help in this situation.
Whether it’s a public blog or a private journal, writing is a therapeutic outlet for your thoughts. Totally up to you however you do it; Julia Cameron’s morning pages, a diary that you might go for months without writing in, or random notes typed on your phone.
7. Meet new people.
If you’re shy or introverted, this will serve as you getting outside of your comfort zone. Spending time with new people will broaden your horizons and open up different adventures and opportunities in your life. Unsure of how? Friends of friends is always a good start. Get yourself invited to parties and make it your mission to talk to someone you don’t know. Strike up a conversation at the gym. Introduce yourself to the person you always see at your favourite park or beach. Ask to share a table with a stranger at a busy café.
If the thought of doing this is giving you heart palpitations and sweaty palms right now – great! Do it! The easiest way to do this is offer a compliment and ask an open ended question (one like ‘So, how do you know…’ is a good place to start) or just flat out say something like ‘Hi! I see you here quite a bit, so thought I’d say hello. It’s a great café/bar/gym/park isn’t it?’. If you use that intro, I would one hundred percent resist the urge to follow it up with ‘So, do you come here often?!’. Up to you though.
We get emotionally attached to ‘stuff’. When you finally purge and rid yourself of all the clutter you’ve hoarded over a lifetime, you feel empowered. It’s freeing. Bin, donate, cull down. Be especially mindful of what you bring into your life in the future.
9. Turn off the TV.
Emotions in others stimulate emotions in you, and if a movie or a show has ever made you cry or laugh, you’ll get what I mean. You know it’s not real, but you still get caught up in the story and emotionally react. A good movie will leave you full of whatever emotion they were trying to portray – it’s a job well done.
But what about those dramatic reality shows? Shows that thrive on conflict for the story line? What sort of emotions do shows like that stimulate and leave you with? There is nothing worse than walking into a room and seeing people watching a screen filled with other people fighting, arguing, complaining and backstabbing. It’s something most of us would avoid like the plague in real life, so it doesn’t make sense to give up your free time to watch it play out on a screen. Spend that time learning something new instead.
10. Get in touch with nature.
Take time out each day to get some fresh air, walk through a beautiful park or garden, visit the beach or just watch the clouds. It’s a mini escape, and plants you firmly in the ‘real world’, as opposed to the virtual world. Watch the stars, swim in the ocean, walk through a forest or toast marshmallows over a bonfire. The world is beautiful, and taking time out to enjoy it is energizing.
Reading connects you with a person that may have lived decades, or even hundreds of years before you were born. It gives you an insight into another world and perspective. And it grows you in the easiest way possible, all from the comfort of your favorite chair. If you’re not a big reader, the best way to start is to either pick your topic and go for the most popular book in that genre (it will be popular for a reason), or just go to the most popular books list on Amazon and start with something short.
12. Develop a childlike sense of humor.
If you have young children around, you’ll know how easy it is to make them laugh. Their humor is sweet and simple – pure joy from a silly joke or a funny face. Embrace a lighthearted sense of humor; spend the day with a friend that shares the same crazy sense of humor as you, watch stand up comedy online, or read a funny article. Try and get to that crying-laughing-I-have-the-stitch stage at least once a week. It’s healthy!
13. Get a hobby.
Hobbies serve a multitude of purposes. You learn a new skill, it’s (usually) a creative or physical outlet, it often introduces you to new people, it gets you out of that comfy place, it’s usually an achievement of something you’ve always wanted to do or try, and it gives you something interesting to talk about when you meet new people. Being passionate about something different is cool. Passionate people are interesting, and it doesn’t even matter what the passion is. It’s energizing to talk to someone who has a real excited love for something.
14. Make someone’s day.
Whether it’s for stranger, a friend, or your mum – do something to brighten someone’s day. It can be as simple as a genuine compliment, or an unexpected and thoughtful gift. Seeing the effect of your kindness toward others will have a lasting impact on your personal growth.
If you’re ready to start or develop your personal growth journey, try one of the ideas listed above.
If you’ve started your journey and would like to share what triggered your personal growth, please do so below – your story might inspire someone to start their own journey.