Personal growth is that shiny object everyone gravitates toward to some extent, even if you don’t really know what it means or how to satisfy the craving. Just the term alone has such a great ring to it and you likely feel drawn to work on yourself—whether it’s reading a great book during your downtime, continuing your education and training, or attending workshops and retreats. Yet, when life throws you real challenges, personal growth and your daily practices can be the first things to fall away while you navigate the fallout of what’s happening around—or within—you.
What Is Personal Growth?
Personal growth is a continuous process of learning to become the best version of yourself through both short-term goals and long-term goals It’s an ongoing journey that involves getting out of your comfort zone, settling into a practice of self-reflection, and taking consistent daily action. The term itself refers to several approaches and techniques for improving your attitudes, behaviors, and interactions with others. Ultimately, the key to self-improvement success is a means of breaking out of old patterns and ways of being that no longer serve you, so that you might launch into the person you’re meant to become.
Sounds exciting, right? It can be! And embarking on a path of personal growth demands that you be more committed to your evolution than you are to your reasons and excuses. It requires, first and foremost, an honest desire to make changes in your life and a willingness to go the distance and do whatever is required for that evolution to occur. Sometimes that leaves you standing in a doorway and needing to make a clear choice about whether to stay in the past or move courageously forward—defining and achieving some personal goals.
Sometimes you wake up with the desire to learn and grow as a result of experiencing a situation such as loss, a breakup or divorce, a career change, or any one of life’s struggles. Other times, the trigger can be watching an inspiring movie, attending a workshop or training, having what is referred to as a “spiritual experience,” or even reading a great book. Sometimes a growth mindset is sparked by being around certain people.
Starting to Grow
Once on the path of self-development, you begin to manifest things you only once dreamed of. Your self-confidence is boosted and you’re able to make clear choices that are aligned with who you truly are. Some of your relationships grow stronger and more meaningful, while others fall away in order to support your continued growth. You aspire to understand yourself at a deeper level and have learned that sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. You strive to achieve personal growth goals and professional excellence and you also seek new ways of connecting with your people, your communities, and the world as a whole. Life becomes overall better and, while it’s not always easy, life has taken on a new hue and you feel more inspired, fulfilled, and purposeful. Until the moment when life throws you an unexpected curveball.
Enter a Challenge
Let’s be real: life can be extremely challenging and it can even seem as though you’ve been targeted by the powers that be to deal with circumstances that are just plain unfair. To a person who is consistently tending to their personal growth goals, most hiccups are easily recognized as being ordinary everyday life “stuff.” You’ve learned to ride the wave, so to speak, and to go with the flow of things to see where it takes you. It’s usually not too much of a stretch to find the opportunity or the learning within your experiences. Yet, when the big waves roll in and you’re sent tumbling below the surface, it’s hard to know which way is up or down. And this is precisely when it’s most crucial for you to remain focused on and anchored into your daily practices and centered on your personal life goals.
This is also the most difficult time for many people because, depending on the circumstances, you may experience difficulty simply functioning in daily life. When you’re stuck overcoming adversity, you may be barely managing to get through the days, the hours, or the moments. You may be walking around in a daze, while other times being in the thrust of your anger, sadness or hurt, fear, guilt, or grief—maybe even all of the above. It can be hard to see beyond the moment you are in, let alone find the energy or strength to do the things that usually energize, ground, and inspire you. When life feels as though it’s falling apart around you, you’re thrust into fight-or-flight mode and your sole focus is on spiritual, mental, emotional, and/or physical survival.
Of course, you know at a conscious level that you need to be adhering to self-care and your personal practices and yet it feels just out of reach. You know what you need to do and it’s just too much of a stretch. It’s not a question of knowing you need to reconnect to the tools and techniques you’ve adopted—it’s a matter of how. How do you find the strength, focus, and fortitude to get back there in desperate times? Here are a few tips for achieving personal growth during challenging times.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel into Your Emotions
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to avoid feeling your mental and emotional discomfort. You tend to sprint to the nearest distraction in the hopes you can avoid the reality you’re experiencing and, unfortunately, this only creates baggage that you end up carrying with you into future experiences. Instead, allow yourself to just sit and breathe while allowing yourself to be with whatever you’re feeling for as long as it takes. This helps you to process your thoughts and emotions, allowing them to pass through you.
2. Lean on Your Close Friends
Having close family members, friends, or like-minded people to sit and talk with when you just need to fall apart can be incredibly cathartic. You may isolate yourself when the going gets rough. Allowing someone you trust to be there for you—to offer advice, to simply listen, or just to sit in silence—helps you let go of your protective mechanisms and just free fall into someone safe. Allow yourself to just be held in the space you’re in without judgment or expectation.
3. Do One Thing Each Day to Remind Yourself How Amazing You Are
Chances are, there’s been at least one inspiring event in your life that you can call upon to remind you that you aren’t what is happening to you right now. You’re simply moving through a difficult time—and you WILL be OK. Make a list of your positive qualities (even though you may not be feeling so good about yourself in the moment) and ask yourself which of those skills or qualities you need to draw upon to help you get through this time. Journal about it, meditate on it, and do your best to feel into the energy of that quality.
4. Spend Time in Meditation
Meditation anchors you into the present moment, which may not be the place you want to be in challenging times. That being said, silence is your greatest teacher. In those moments when you connect to your breath and feel relaxed and nested, repeating your mantra will take you to deeper levels of consciousness where you’re able to transcend your thoughts, connecting you to who you truly are at the core of your being. It’s here where you settle into the oneness of all that is, even if just for a short period of time. You may find that guided meditation tailored to what you’re going through are more suitable during tough times.
5. Practice Self-Care
Never underestimate the power in nourishing yourself through healthy food, exercise, and restful sleep. While these things may be a challenge in themselves when you’re dealing with bigger problems, the best thing you can do for yourself is to choose wisely what you put in your body to be sure you’re moving your body and that you’re sleeping soundly. Fresh pressed juices and lighter meals are ideal when the body-mind is stressed. Some people like to exercise hard when trouble sets in, while others prefer to be guided through a yoga class or take a nice stroll in nature. As you wind down in the evening, light a candle or a fire, do some journaling, take a hot bath (or shower), maybe infuse some essential oils in the air to help soothe your mind and emotions.
Cultivating emotional intelligence, setting goals, leaning on others, reminding yourself of your magnificence, meditating, and practicing self-care are some of the primary pillars of well-being, and they also enable you to grow and evolve even through the most difficult of times.