I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re spending time reading this blog or listening to the podcast, you’re interested in personal growth. I believe that out of all of the things we can pursue, like love, fame, or wealth, the pursuit of personal growth and development is the highest one we can go after.
Personal growth has life-long effects on our happiness and mental health, unlike things like money or wealth. I’m sure we can all think of someone who we know who has these things but is still unhappy, that is because they are fleeting. But, when we focus on personal growth, we’ll find ourselves holding on to the feeling of contentment and happiness that it brings, no matter the circumstances. This is because when we focus on personal growth, we take the locus of control from external and move it internal.
We don’t have much control over things in the external world. For example, we didn’t choose the country we were born into, our parents, or our natural talents. The one thing we do have control over is how we respond to the world. Personal growth is about overcoming our natural tendency to respond quickly or negatively and figure out how we can respond better to achieve a resolution when we face adversity or problems. When we’re able to achieve this level of control over our internal selves, a world of possibilities opens up.
In today’s blog, I want to discuss the two ways we can improve ourselves and how we respond to the world around us. This will help us find inner peace no matter what’s happening around in our external world. This may sound hard for some of us, and it is! But when we change how we see the world and how we respond to the world, there is an unlimited amount of potential for making our lives better and filled with more peace.
The first aspect of personal growth is learning how to respond better to situations that we struggle with and become masters of our responses to the external world. Let’s use self-confidence as an example. When we’re having a particularly low day, we may look in the mirror and think “I don’t like what I see looking back at me.” To combat these thoughts, we can develop skills to accept the way we look and even begin to like the way we look. This acceptance stems from the realization that there are some things that are out of our control. Once we internalize this fact, we can begin to accept what is, and eventually love what is.
The second key ingredient to personal growth is finding a teacher or teachers to help us on our journey. The reason this is a key ingredient is that it’s helpful to have an expert in the subject who can help us understand these principles more deeply.
Let’s dive deeper into both of these concepts.
The first aspect of personal growth is focused on re-framing our struggles. What I mean by this is, the next time we face adversity, the best way to overcome it is to see it differently. For example, the next time we wake up depressed, are unsatisfied in our relationship, or have an interaction that causes us to stress, we can choose to see these things as opportunities to make our lives better.
Something I have repeated throughout this podcast is that there is a solution to every single problem we face. One of life’s purposes is to find these solutions. We have the power to adjust our typical responses to situations that bring on intense emotions, whether that is shame, anger, etc. We now can begin to say, “I’m struggling with this. There must be something that I’m doing that is causing me to struggle, because there are other people who have also faced this problem and they’re doing well. This means there must be a solution.” Instead of criticizing ourselves, or hating our lives, we can reframe our mindset to be more solution-focused than reactive.
Let me use an example to explore this point. Studies have shown that about 80% of people are not happy with their job. For the purpose of this example, let’s say we’re in that 80 percentile. In order to change our circumstances, or find a solution, we must ask ourselves what can we do to make our situation better? We can perhaps leave our job, but that would have consequences since we have to support our family. Maybe we can look into other career paths, but seeking out more education may take a long time. Or we can say, maybe I can reduce my living expenses so I don’t need to keep up with the lifestyle I’ve created for myself. With these reduced expenses, I can now work a little less or find a job that will be more fulfilling. Happiness is about enjoying our day all day long, so we want to make sure that our job and career path put happiness in our hearts.
There are so many ways to tackle this problem. One solution that many of my clients have reached over the years is to work less. A lot of people have flexibility in their work already that they may not be taking advantage of. For example, one of my clients gets three weeks of vacation a year but is tempted to skip out on the vacation because they get paid out on those days at the end of the year. In response, I asked them, is it worth it? Is it worth not taking your vacation to have a little more money? When they examined the option more closely they decided that no, it wasn’t worth giving away their time off to recharge and decompress. My goal is to help folks reframe what life is about. It’s about enjoying the journey and for most people who work regularly, taking a vacation is necessary to maintain our happiness.
Remember that this is just an example. Your story and your struggles may look completely different. The overarching point here is that we often have some control over situations that may seem out of our control. And when we take the opportunity to make some changes, we will find that happiness is within our reach. We can look at life’s challenges as an opportunity for personal growth, rather than an inconvenience or hassle. The best part is, when these challenges re-emerge later, we’ll know that we are capable of handling them.
The second aspect of personal growth is to find a teacher whose methods and philosophy resonate with you. When you do find the right teacher, it’s important to apply their principles to your own life. This step may seem less important but it is just as important as step number one. Our parents or caretakers were the people who taught us how to respond to the world and if we want to change that, we need someone who is better aligned to our current belief system than the one we had when we were younger. We also don’t necessarily have to access these teachings in person. We can listen to them on audiobooks, on youtube as mp3, or read about their beliefs in a book.
If you are interested in learning more about what I teach, I host the Happiness Podcast weekly and you can find past episodes on www.happinesspodcast.org. If you have questions, send them to me! I love to hear from my listeners and I do my best to answer your questions during my podcast.
As we continue on our journey towards personal growth, remember that we can grow and have beautiful lives! We must remember that when struggles come, we are more than capable of overcoming them. And the second part of achieving personal growth is seeking out a teacher who can share their philosophy on living well. When we practice these two things, we’ll find that our lives can be exquisite.