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The 5 Areas of Personal Growth (And How to Improve Them)

Personal growth isn’t like GDP. It’s about quality rather than quantity. So, what areas of personal growth do you like to improve? Take a look in your vegetable patch and see what’s growing there now. Identify what is serving you and what is holding you back. Nature abhors a vacuum so if you remove those stinging nettles and bindweed, you will make space for strawberries, aubergines, or whatever brings you joy.

If you aspire for personal growth, then you have to focus on yourself. Here are five areas of personal growth and how to improve them.

1. Self-Awareness

Most of the time, people operate the journey of their lives on autopilot. Over the years, you have programmed yourself to react rather than respond. The strategies that you have adopted in the past have become your default settings. Many of these learned behaviors were set in stone during childhood, and you unconsciously trust these strategies because they have worked in the past—”worked” in the sense that you at least survived whatever life was throwing at you at the time.

Self-awareness will help you recognize these knee-jerk reactions and question them in the context of who you are now. In some cases, you may perceive them to be perfectly appropriate and benign, while in others, you will realize the opposite. You will see that some options that served you in the past are no longer in your best interests as a fully formed adult. Indeed, some of these learned behaviors may be positively toxic and hence, they are significantly holding you back in terms of career, relationships, and life in general.

As this process occurs, it is important not to judge yourself for having let these “ways of being” outstay their welcome. Furthermore, do not regret having used them in the distant past, since it is likely they did indeed get you through some difficult times. The trick is to simply see them as they are, give thanks for what they’ve achieved in the past, and with the clarity you are now experiencing, choose another way—a way that will serve you now and in the future.

2. Control

One thing we humans love is control—to be in control. Or, at least, we love the idea of being in control. We tend to link control with safety. This is completely understandable, and it’s an example of the logical cognitive brain in action: “If I am in control of events I can protect myself and I will be safe.”

The need for safety is in our DNA. According to Darwin, it’s why we are here today. We are living proof of natural selection. So far so good. However, the development of the human brain is such that we are different from other animals.[1]

We no longer need to fear for our physical safety to the extent that our ancestors did. Not that we are free from fear and its partner anxiety, on the contrary, anxiety is one of the most debilitating conditions in the developed world.[2]

One difference between fear and anxiety is that fear tends to be based on reality whereas anxiety is not. The fact is we spend too much of our time worrying about external factors and future potentials. The important thing is what we focus on. What is it we want to be in control of? What are we in control of?

The answer, of course, is ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, external factors are important in our lives, but what’s most important is how we respond to them, how we perceive them, and how much of our power we give to them. All this important work is done inside.

If you want to be in control, focus on your thoughts, your beliefs, and your values.

3. Acceptance

How many times a day do you curse? Whether it’s under your breath or even in your head makes no difference. The energy is the same: resistance.

What we resist persists. —Carl Jung

When we allow something that “happens” to disturb our peace, we give away our power. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a person who might be irritating you, a technical problem, or even a recurring thought in your head. If you let it trigger you negatively, your emotions are like a ship at sea with no engine power.

Shirzad Chamine, the creator of Positive Intelligence, recommends that we treat unwanted thoughts, perceptions, and irritations in the same way as physical triggers. For example, if you pick up a pan from the stove and the handle is hot, you put it down immediately. Provided your pain threshold is not too high, the burning feeling will disappear within about ten seconds.

Why is it, then, that often something happens that we obsess about for the rest of the day—maybe even several days. Is this logical? It has already happened. We can’t do anything about that. Why expend so much energy on wondering: what could have been different? Why was that person so stupid? Why was I so stupid? Why didn’t I listen to my intuition? What I might have done differently?

Some of these questions, although not useful in themselves, are potential links to positive action as opposed to uncreative ruminating. For example, “why didn’t I listen to my intuition?” might lead to a note to self: “In the future, I should listen to my gut and my heart as well as my head when making an important decision.” Three brains are better than one.[3]

So, use the ten-second rule. Recognize your emotion—frustration, anger, disappointment, blame, self-pity (this is a great one to let go of), or whatever—and focus on it for ten seconds. Acknowledge it, respect it, and let it go. Release it into the ether, and keep your emotional channels clean. This will create space for positivity and practical solutions.

Eckhart Tolle recommends that we ditch the perception that “this is happening to me,” which is a sure-fire precursor to self-pity, feeling like a victim, and, once again, giving away our power.

“Suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving; and the only way to be liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is.”—Yuval Noah Harari

The keyword is “accept.” Acceptance is the friend of peace. So, if you aspire to improve areas of your personal growth, don’t say “no” to things, say “yes,” accept, and get on with your life.

4. Knowing Yourself

How well do you know yourself? How does your perception of yourself compare with how others see you?

The quote “what other people think of me is none of my business” has been attributed to countless famous people.[4] So, how useful is it in terms of different areas of personal growth?

It can be tempting to compromise who we are for the sake of being accepted by others. Cultural issues, whether familial or national, often restrict your confidence to just be yourself.

If you want to know yourself, you need to dig deep and find your authentic self—the real “you.” Listing your core values is a useful way to start. Consciously knowing your values will ground you, empower you, and enhance your self-confidence.

The German philosopher, Axel Honneth wrote that:

“Basic self-confidence has less to do with a high estimation of one’s abilities than with the underlying capacity to express needs and desires without fear of being abandoned as a result.”

Honneth uses this concept in the context of potential traumas in your childhood. Through examination, either by yourself or with the help of a therapist or coach, you can make more sense of how your responses and perceptions of past events created who you are today. Typically, you will have beliefs hidden in the “shadows” of your mind that significantly limit your potential, your self-worth, and your happiness. So, shine a light on them.

Miley Cirus says she is comfortable with her shadows since they “show me that I am standing in the light.”

By knowing yourself, you can establish where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. You will grow the person you are to fit your aspirations and your dreams.

5. Not Knowing

Part of the personal growth process of acceptance is to accept what you don’t know.

Humans tend to seek solace in knowledge, a bit like a comfort blanket. The idea that perceived knowledge provides security is, of course, a myth. Indeed, a significant amount of “knowledge” and “certainty” is, in reality, just opinions.

To be able to accept what we do not know is a significant step in the journey of personal growth in areas of our life. It allows you to let go and trust, which can remove stress and anxiety. Simply surrendering yourself to whatever is happening and may happen in the future is a liberating experience and when you stop investing energy in futile efforts to “control” and “know,” you’ll be amazed at how your physical energy levels will increase.

Final Thoughts

Awareness, inner control, acceptance, and true knowledge will enhance your journey to improving different areas of your personal growth. Only by knowing yourself can you grow yourself.

More Personal Growth Resources

  • 12 Learning Goals For Personal Growth And Self Development
  • 10 Ways to Step Up Your Personal Growth and Succeed in Life

Reference

Scientific American: What Makes Our Brains Special?
verywellmind: The Difference Between Fear and Anxiety
Goodnet.org: Head, Heart, and Gut: How to Use the 3 Brains
Petri: 3 reasons why what other people think of you is none of your business

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We all know the distinction between positive and negative. It’s like white and black, good and bad, and right and wrong. Therefore, the desire to live a good and positive life comes naturally to us.

A positive life is different from a specific goal or want. If you want a specific thing like money, a job or a person – then you might have it, but it’s still something you can’t always control.

But a positive life is something you can always take control of and change from within because you can live a positive life no matter where you are, who you are, or what you do.

This article takes you through the simple steps that will help you let go of negativity and start living the positive life you deserve.

What Is A Positive Life?

Before getting to the 4 steps, it’s worth asking yourself what exactly is a positive life? What does living a positive life look like?

A positive life is more than something that you can control. It entails a series of thought processes, beliefs, and an overall mindset. Specifically, living your daily life like this:

  • Maintaining an overly positive and realistic attitude and taking positive actions.
  • Focusing on the solutions to your problems rather than the problems themselves.
  • Making an effort to constantly improve you and your life.
  • Learning from your failures, moving past them, and trying again with a new approach.
  • Living in the present and making the most of it while not dwelling too much on the past or future.
  • Focusing and noticing the good traits in people and not solely focusing on the flaws. This development makes you more empathetic and less judgemental.
  • Ultimately striving to do the best you can with what you have to work with.

From these aspects alone, it’s clear that a positive life isn’t so much what materials you have in your life right now. But by adopting this way of thinking, a lot of aspects of your life will improve dramatically over time and you can live a more positive and happy life.

The reason for that is your mindset has shifted to see problems, goals, and dreams differently.

4 Steps to Take for Happy and Positive Life

Here is what you can do to improve your life:

1. Take Control of Your Mindset

Did you know that most of our reactions and actions are controlled by our habits?

Let’s use an example:

You might wake up every day with the alarm clock going off and this causes a negative reaction. Why?

Well, you have implemented the idea of waking up early as a bad thing. Then your mind has made the alarm clock a trigger. The sound of it now connects it to something negative.

It’s normal to be tired in the morning, but you don’t have to start out your day by being grumpy. Even though you’ve told yourself that it’s okay and it’s a ‘normal’ reaction; it’s actually something you’ve programmed all by yourself in your mind.

Changing your mindset takes time because it’s about recreating your way of thinking, but it’s still a simple step. The good news is that, unlike a vegetable, you actually have thoughts – and not only that – you’re able to change them.

You might have told yourself that your daily negative responses to certain things are normal and they are out of your control at this point because the reaction is unconsciously made. But the unconscious mind is not a second mind playing by its own rules. It’s something you can control and reprogram.

John Bargh explains how our unconscious mind functions. It’s controllable if we want it to be:[1]

”We have a single, unified mind that operates in both conscious and unconscious modes, always using the same set of basic machinery, fine-tuned over the course of evolutionary time.”

This means you can take control of your mindset and you can change your outlook on things to something more positive and happy.

Remember, the alarm clock is just an example of a daily habit or routine that can control your mindset with or without your knowledge.

It’s not about the alarm clock ringing. You can’t turn off the alarm clock without throwing away your responsibilities. The problem isn’t the alarm clock. The problem isn’t even your response. The problem is that you have programmed this reaction without noticing it and it’s affecting your mental health.

If you create a mindset that reacts to these situations with a positive response, then you’ll reprogram yourself day by day.

Yes, you have to get out of bed early. No, you don’t really want to go to work or wherever you have to go, but what do you want?

You still want to get out of bed and do something with your day.

You still want to live your life.

Instead of letting the sound of the alarm clock remind you of what you don’t want, let it be a reminder of a new day arriving – that’s great – because this day is yours.

2. Memorize Positive Words

It sounds too easy to be true, but by memorizing a list of positive words, you can force your brain to use positive and happy words more often and this will help you in living a positive life. [2] In the same way, you can reprogram your mindset, you can rewrite your vocabulary. The words will start to come to you naturally and your outlook will change.

Some psychologists have measured which words count as positive and negative, but if you think about it, then you probably already know the words yourself. [3]

It’s not about educating yourself and learning new words. It’s about using what’s already within you and using it more in your daily life.

Once you start using more positive words, it will not only affect your own way of thinking but also affect the people around you. Here’re some to light up your day: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

Have you ever noticed how positive and happy people tend to spread their mood to other people around them? Usually, a smile is met with another smile. A positive conversation will most likely be met with the same good tone.

3. Focus on What Matters

Mark Manson wrote a book titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, which leads many to believe it’s about not caring about anything. This could not be further from the truth.

The one thing you have to realize is that there will always be both negative and positive things in your life, but you can control which ones affect you.

Yes, you have the ability to care about what matters. It’s as simple as it sounds. Take a look at your past, present and future. How many times have you wasted your energy on something that in the end didn’t matter?

The truth is that we shouldn’t care about everything. We shouldn’t care about certain things like what our old classmates think of us, or what people say about us on social media or get annoyed by the co-worker who talks behind our back.

In the end, you’ll never be able to win in all aspects of your life and you can’t focus your energy on everything. [4]

“You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.”

What you can do is prioritize. What really matters to you? What do you care about? Block out everything else and focus on what you should care about. Take a look at this guide and learn more about prioritization: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

4. Learn to Say No

For some people, it’s hard to say no because it means you’re either letting someone down or letting an opportunity go. If you look at the words yes and no, then most people would view a no as a negative and not a positive word.

The thing people forget is that you can’t say yes to everything. When you say yes to something, then you’re also saying no to something else. Maybe your boss asked you to work late and finish a project, so you say yes because you don’t want to disappoint him or her. At the same time, this may mean you’ll miss out on your kids’ play, even though you promised him or her that you would be there.

The point is that every time you say yes, you’re also saying no. Every time you choose to do one thing, then you’re taking away time from something else. It would be great if we could do it all, but we can’t.

You need to learn to say no. This step can be very simple as it’s actually just an extension of the step above. You’ll learn to say no by finding out what you really want and what you don’t want. This way, when you say no to someone or something, you’ll be saying yes to the things that you care most about.

If you find it difficult to say no, this article by Leo Babauta can help you: The Gentle Art of Saying No

Final Thoughts

A positive life starts from within and even though nothing (rarely) drastically changes from one day to another, a positive life can come to you easily by following these simple steps.

More About Positivity

  • 10 Simple Ways To Make Positive Thinking Your Habit
  • 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success
  • How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

Reference

John Bargh: Before You Know it – The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do
Psychology Today: Think Positive: 11 Ways to Boost Positive Thinking
University of Florida: Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW): Instruction Manual and Affective Ratings
Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of not Giving A F*ck

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