The shelves of bookstores are lined with volumes related to self-help and personal growth. From how-to tips for mindfulness meditation and delicious recipes for cure-all, fad diets, to feeding-your-demons therapy techniques, personal growth can mean a variety of things.
What Is Personal Growth?
A personal growth definition refers to any activities, practices, rituals, or observances performed in the name of enhancing your quality of life, allowing you to know yourself more deeply, and improving your awareness of the potential of your place in the world/universe.
It’s true: we all seek happiness, health, safety, love, and ease in life. Each of us is on a personal journey toward freedom from suffering. Each of the worlds’ religions and spiritual observances offer differing approaches to alleviate the torment of being a human. That being said, what may look like an indication of growth for one person (e.g., having a glass of wine to chill out after a long day) may be considered a backslide for someone else (e.g., recovering from an unhealthy relationship with alcohol). Your self-improvement journey is a private, intimate one and only you can honestly recognize the truth of your development. Each day brings the opportunity to check in and consider how you feel. Each day brings the opportunity to transform yourself on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. And how you feel and what you do each day really matters.
Cultivating Healthy Habits
According to author and happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” The specific choices you make on a daily basis about what you do, eat, wear, say, think, and share all support or hinder your quality of life.
One of the tenets of positive psychology echoes that idea: what you plant, grows. If you are gardening and you plant apple seeds, you certainly would not expect an orange tree to grow, would you? Similarly, if you are often thinking negative thoughts, feeding your body processed, unnatural foods, and drowning out the intuitive hits you receive, how can you expect to be living the life of your dreams? Cheers if you attended a group meditation one time, but if you really want to notice the many benefits of meditation, sit every day. Kudos if you went for a run last month, but if you really want to improve your mile time, lace up your shoes each evening. Good-on-you for writing in your journal when things were going so well last Spring, but if you really want to make journaling a habit, put pen to paper every morning.
What you do every day, often without thinking, becomes your personal list of habits. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, says, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision-making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.” However, Duhigg says, habits aren’t destiny. You have the power to change those that no longer serve you (note: perhaps these habits did serve you at one time! Take a closer look at why you do the things you do … don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!) and create new, positive habits that benefit your personal growth.
The Benefits of Personal Growth
There are benefits of daily attention to your personal growth. Writing about starting any creative process (which your entire life is, of course!), Twyla Tharp, choreographer and author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, says, “It’s vital to establish some rituals—automatic but decisive patterns of behavior—at the beginning … when you are most at peril of turning back, giving up, or going the wrong way.”
You can set yourself up for success by setting the intention to attend to your self-improvement in specific ways each day. The benefits of a daily focus on well-being include:
- You’ll be able to track your progress by checking in each day with how you feel.
- You’ll have the opportunity to “start over” if you “mess up.”
- You won’t have to think about the skills you’ll want access to when you’re in a challenging situation, you’ll have practiced them daily and they’ll (maybe) come automatically.
- Your new normal will be in alignment with your highest good.
- Your discipline and commitment to your personal growth will ripple into other areas of your life, allowing you to show up as the best version of yourself with your family, friends, coworkers, and community.
Set SMART Goals
Personal growth, of course, is a lifelong process. Each day brings the opportunity to begin again, start fresh, or try something new. If you happen to be plagued by the demon of perfectionism, you may read the following self-improvement tips and decide right then and there to tackle each one and then be on your way to flawlessness (sound familiar?).
Stop. Don’t do it. You will find much more satisfaction if you pace yourself, set some realistic SMART goals, and remember that this is your life. This. Is. Your. Life. Choose one or two areas to work on and only one or two habits from each area. And your only intention in considering these proposed habits ought to be improving your health, happiness, and well-being.
The following suggestions are healthy habits to consider incorporating into your daily life for personal growth. For each habit area, (nourish, savor, create, cleanse), there are suggested daily habits to benefit your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Here’s to planting the seeds for growth!
To nourish is to feed yourself with that which is necessary for growth and health. A daily nourishing practice involves learning what foods and drinks you are putting into your body and what body care regimens you practice, as well as what thoughts you are feeding your mind and any other routines that allow you to feel nurtured and whole on a regular basis. Here are some habits to practice self-care:
- Body: Nourish your body with a simple self-massage. Abhiyanga, or a warm oil massage, is part of an Ayurvedic morning routine. Abhiyanga lubricates the joints, increases circulation, moves the lymph, and soothes the nervous system. Self-massage is a wonderful way to show yourself some love.
- Mind: Nourish your mind by repeating a mantra. Using mantra, or a positive phrase, chant, word, or intention daily helps to focus the mind. Choosing positive thoughts is important: each thought you think creates a groove in the circuitry of the brain! Choose an intention for your day, week, month, or year and then repeat it silently during meditation (any time you like!).
- Emotions: Nourish your emotional body by keeping a mood journal. Make notes of how your emotions and mood shift throughout your day. As best you can, observe your moods with compassion for yourself and let go of judgment.
- Spirit: Nourish your spirit by socializing (if you’re an extrovert) or enjoying solo time (if you’re an introvert). Community connections can bolster your spirit and remind you of our shared humanity. Solo time can help you recharge and get grounded.
To savor is to enjoy something completely. A daily savoring practice will aid in your personal mindset. Here are some habits to try:
- Body: Savor the foods with which you nourish your body by eating mindfully. Put away distractions so you can really taste, smell, feel, and appreciate your food.
- Mind: Savor your comfy bed and get lots of sleep. Your mind works best when it is well rested. When you prioritize a good night’s sleep, your mind will function at its highest capacity.
- Emotions: Savor your emotions by learning how to express them in healthy ways. Take an art therapy class, address anger-management issues with a professional, read books about emotions, and remember that the lifespan of an emotion is only about 90 seconds unless you feed it with unhelpful stories. Savor the aliveness of your emotionality.
- Spirit: Savor each moment you can by dropping into a daily meditation practice. Sit each day at around the same time until it becomes a habit. You may even begin to crave the stillness of your spirit (eventually)!
To create is to bring something into existence. A daily practice of creating involves looking for ways to make, invent, or produce something (anything!) in each area of your life. Here are some habits to try:
- Body: Create something for yourself to enjoy, like cooking a new recipe. Choose one day a week to make something you’ve never made before. Look up the recipe, shop for the ingredients, cook up a storm, and savor your nourishing creation!
- Mind: Creatively consider several solutions to a problem. Is there some aspect of your life in which you feel stuck? For each day, write down 10 ideas that could be solutions. These ideas don’t even have to be realistic or viable. The simple act of turning on your brain in this way can spark the creative idea that might just be the true solution.
- Emotions: Create space in your heart by writing daily morning pages. Morning pages, the daily ritual of writing three journal pages, sparks creativity, gets foggy thoughts and emotions out, and makes space for insight and inspiration to come in.
- Spirit: Create some art just for the sake of art. Make a nature mandala in the sand. Finger paint. Twirl and dance. Sing a song. Make art.
To cleanse is to make something thoroughly clean. A daily cleansing practice involves learning how to clean up your inner world (e.g., mind, emotions, and spirit) as well as your outer world (e.g., body, environment, and community). Here are some habits to try:
- Body: Cleanse your body with daily movement and exercise. Just 20 minutes to an hour a day of doing yoga, running, swimming, or doing any physical exertion that helps all of your body systems to better work in harmony.
- Mind: Cleanse your mind by cleansing your space. Declutter your closet, car, or kitchen, and you may find that your head feels clear. Remember: outer order, inner calm!
- Emotions: Cleanse your emotional life by addressing the underlying issues that influence what you do, say, and feel. Attend therapy or meet up with a group of people who have been through what you’re experiencing.
- Spirit: Cleanse your spirit by exploring your own beliefs. Think about what you believe happens after death, read books about topics that interest you, and consider the big picture often. And finally, release judgments of others and how they choose to cleanse their own spirits.
Knowing that what you choose to think, say, and do each day contributes to your overall physical and emotional well-being, is fuel to commit to your personal growth now. Just for today, set an intention to nourish, savor, create, or cleanse in some way. Set up a system to keep yourself accountable: sticker chart, online community support group, or a reward when you achieve a certain objective. Your mind, body, spirit, relationships, and community will thank you. Cheers to your health and your journey of personal growth!
Feeding Your Demons® Process with Lama Tsultrim. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.taramandala.org/programs/feeding-your-demons/feeding-your-demons-resources/free-video-of-lta-leading-feeding-your-demons/
What You Do Every Day Matters More Than What You Do Once In a While. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://gretchenrubin.com/2011/11/what-you-do-every-day-matters-more-than-what-you-do-once-in-a-while/
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/
Morning Pages. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/