As humans, we have the propensity to constantly be on the hunt for change. Perhaps this is a throwback to our nomadic lifestyle, when our lives revolved around moving alone or with small packs in search of food and shelter. Now that we live a far more stable lifestyle, we’ve turned inwards - seeking ways in which we can change ourselves.
Growth is the momentum that keeps us moving forward. It is what gives our life meaning and encourages us to continue waking up each morning, knowing that we have the power to seek out new opportunities and change the trajectory of our lives at any given moment. To put it one way: if you’re not growing, you’re not really living.
Enter: personal development, a popular way of evaluating ourselves and the progress that we’ve made against our goals. Instead of thinking about things that should be different, we make changes, learn, and develop ourselves into the people we want to be.
What is personal development?
Personal development is a process in which we seek out the ways in which we can improve upon ourselves and then act to reach the goals that we have laid out for that growth.
Development can come in many forms, from learning new skills to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. From making new connections to admitting that you’re not always right. The common underlying factor between personal development goals is a determination to be better, to chase after the idea of becoming a person that you would admire and look up to. For some, personal development is the path toward living a life that feels fulfilled and purposeful.
Without this desire for change, we would be content to live as we are, rarely making progress and never asking ourselves the all-important question:
What do I want out of my life?
“I want to meet like-valued people and develop a new community.”
We all need a community. Having a support system that is behind you, no matter what, is an incredibly valuable asset to have. When we are connected to people who encourage us to pursue our passions, cheer for us when we succeed and pick us up when we fail - it becomes clear that we aren’t alone. You can take on any challenge that’s thrown your way.
So what do you do when you move to a new city and leave your community behind? Or, better yet, what if you just want a few new perspectives thrown into the mix?
Making new friends as an adult isn’t easy. We’re already pretty committed to the networks that we’ve established over the years, from school, work, church, and sports teams, so it can be difficult to figure out how to meet people who are outside of that circle. Sure, there are networking events being held all of the time in major cities, but they tend to be professionally-oriented, making it difficult to get to know people on a personal level any further than, “So, what kind of work do you do?”
The simplest way to meet new people who have similar values and interests to yourself is to join a community that already exists. Seek out organizations that intrigue you, whether that be a coworking community specifically for entrepreneurs, a book club, a soccer league, a blogger collective, or even an alumni group.
Building new connections is an important step in personal development because it forces you to step out of your comfort zone, open your mind to new perspectives, and consider how you want to present yourself to the people you’re meeting.
“I want to grow.”
Everywhere you look, people are doing things. Your friends are getting married and having kids, that guy you went to college with just got promoted, and that woman on Instagram that you just can’t bring yourself to unfollow just completed a whirlwind year-long adventure around the world.
You on the other hand are left wondering:
How are other people doing all these things and why am I not doing any of them?
Welcome to stuck.Your life has been going down the same path for awhile now - and it’s getting pretty old. You’re not exactly unhappy, but you have a feeling that there’s supposed to be a lot more to life than this.
Here’s the thing: you can do all the things that those other people are doing (and even more). You have the capacity to grow out of this “in-between place” and into the exact person that you’ve always wanted to be. It’s not out of your reach - you just have to make the effort to stretch a little further.
That’s where personal development comes in.
Start by trying something new. Abandon part of your routine and expand your idea of who you are. Never felt like you were musically-inclined? Try taking guitar lessons. Think you’re too far into a career to try something different? Start a side hustle.
These small changes may not seem like much, but they’re a great way to test out a bunch of new lifestyles without doing a complete 180. They’re meant to push you just far enough outside of your comfort zone that you’ll feel like you have a purpose again, like you’re growing in the right direction.
Once you give yourself that space to grow, the rest will fall into place.
“I’m ready to take the next step in my career.”
Having a career that is fulfilling, sustainable, and able to support your lifestyle is the dream. Though some people give up at least one of those three factors in order to maintain employment, it’s possible to find a role that matches your expectations for responsibilities and compensation.
You may have that kind of career already. You may be completely happy in the field that you’ve chosen, but are ready to take it to the next level. This could mean getting a promotion, asking for a raise, becoming a manager, etc. As you set out to complete these achievements, consider aligning them with a personal development goal.
In order to get to that next level, you’ll have to impress an important person: your boss. He or she will be searching for clues that you have leadership potential and that you know how to take initiative. You could sign up for that data analysis class at your local university to bolster your skills. You could lead a company skillshare event where different team members could teach the rest of the company about an area of their expertise. You could look into a non-traditional opportunity like a work and travel program that will allow you to stretch your wings and show your manager that you are able to take on new challenges with an open mind.
On the flip side, you may be on a career path that just isn’t the right fit. Maybe it’s the company, maybe it’s the role, maybe it’s the responsibilities. Regardless of what you’re missing, you know you want to develop in a different direction.
There’s never a right time to make a transition into a new field of work, so you’ll never feel quite ready to make that leap. Trust your instincts and look into the areas of work that you’re passionate about. Spend time learning about that field, perhaps taking a class or two and consulting with mentors who may be able to help you get on the right path. Then jump in headfirst. You never know where you’ll be in ten years if you don’t invest in yourself today.
“I want to find my purpose.”
Purpose is a buzzword these days, urging people toward finding the one true thing that they were meant to do with their limited time on Earth. However, finding that purpose isn’t so easy. We are lured by well-paying corporate careers that may divert us from our path, or we get caught up in the distractions of everyday life. Some people leave the world without ever finding their purpose.
If you want to find yours, start with personal development. Take some time to assess your current lifestyle, skills, talents and resources. How could you use these things to create, educate or connect?
Does your current work feel purposeful? Why or why not? Can you take the lessons that you’ve learned in your current career and apply them to a new business idea that you’ve had or help someone else with their next big project?
Purpose can seem like a huge, scary word. It can feel like something that was decided long before we were born, not something that we get to decide. You might think that your purpose has to change the world in some way - that if your impact isn’t larger than life, than it doesn’t amount to much of anything. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.
What would you change about your life for it to feel more purposeful? Perhaps you could begin volunteering for an organization that inspires you, or offer your services or skills to someone who needs just a bit more help to become successful. Could you add a morning run to your routine so that you can work toward a goal of running a marathon? Could you carve out more time in your day to read so that you can devour a subject that interested you?
Each of these small changes can add up to major personal development. When you start with self-reflection and find ways to tweak your everyday, you’ll be able to look back in a few months and track the ways in which you have evolved.
“I want to make an impact on the world.”
Leaving your mark on the world is a notable objective, and one that can start a ripple effect; first with your own network and then around the world. So many people have a vision for the way that they think the world could be and don’t act on it, hoping that someone else will have the courage to sacrifice areas of their life in order to make an impact.
Revisit the idea of self-contemplation to take the first steps toward achieving this goal. What are the unique ways in which you alone could make a change within the world? What are the individual skills and talents, connections or resources that make you the prime person to take action?
No matter what you’re looking for out of life, taking time to consider the ways in which you can improve through personal development is the key to feeling fulfilled and happy with the life you’re living. Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference in how you see yourself. Go on, outgrow your comfort zone. Spread your wings and break through that glass ceiling. You’re just a few personal development steps away from becoming the person that you’ve always wanted to be.