Personal growth is the continuous effort to better yourself. It is essential for becoming mature, fulfilled and successful. It is also called personal development or self improvement. You can improve yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Personal growth is important because it affects every part of our lives, including our happiness, relationships and achievements.
People who embrace personal growth tend to achieve more and thrive in life—A fact recently proven by Stanford Professor Carol S. Dweck’s research into “the growth mindset.”
People with a fixed mindset believe everyone is born with a fixed amount of smarts, talent or creativity. So whenever they try anything new, they always feel like their intrinsic worth is being judged. This means they hate failing, making mistakes or receiving negative feedback. They care more about proving how great they are than learning.
On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe new skills can be developed through hard work and the right strategies. They view mistakes and failures as a normal part of learning, so they are more open to new challenges.
With a growth mindset, people tend to be:
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.– Carol S. Dweck PhD, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Here are the most popular types of personal growth, with examples of what each type looks like:
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed about where to begin improving yourself—don’t worry! The great psychologist Abraham Maslow discovered that a person’s development naturally passes through several predictable stages of growth which are now called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says that humans must first satisfy their basic needs before they will want to satisfy higher needs. For example, first you need food to eat before you will care about finding love.
Abraham Maslow divided all human needs into 5 categories, then he arranged these needs into a pyramid. The most essential needs start at the bottom of the pyramid. When one level of needs is satisfied, then our focus naturally shifts to the next level up.
This pyramid provides a map for your own personal growth. For example, take care of your basic physical needs like food, shelter and rest first. If you’re not getting enough sleep, then fix that first. Then your next priority is safety. This includes feeling emotionally safe (by learning therapy techniques to reduce stress and anxiety) and being financially secure (perhaps saving an emergency fund).
Got it? Just work your way up the pyramid!
The peak of Maslow’s pyramid is self-actualization. Everyone fulfills this goal in a unique way. For example, some people express themselves creatively, others do altruistic activities like volunteering, and others may follow a spiritual discipline.
The best source of wisdom to better your life are books. The problem is—countless new personal growth books are published every month! So to make your life easier, here are the books which are most often recommended online.
Quick Summary: Atomic Habits shows how each of our habits, good or bad, follow the 4 steps of The Habit Loop: Cue, Craving, Response and Reward. More importantly, this book shows how we can hack these 4 steps using practical techniques, backed by scientific studies and interesting stories.
Best Quote: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.” —James Clear
Quick Summary: Think and Grow Rich is a classic self help book, based on Napoleon Hill interviewing 500 millionaires including Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He says the formula for riches is first having a burning desire for them, then following a definite plan and having faith that plan will succeed.
Top Quote: “One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.” —Napoleon Hill
Quick Summary: The Power of Now introduced a generation of western people to the practice of living mindfully. Eckhart Tolle uses direct, simple language to explain how escaping the endless chatter in our minds causes an immediate improvement to our mental well-being.
Top Quote: “If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.” —Eckhart Tolle
Quick Summary: Daring Greatly shows how to break the shame that keeps us isolated. Brené Brown explains why vulnerability is actually strength, and how we can courageously “get into the arena” of life to cultivate truly fulfilling relationships.
Best Quote: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” —Brené Brown
Quick Summary: The Four Agreements shows how to love yourself more, not take things personally, and heal your relationships. Don Miguel Ruiz shares wisdom from the indigenous Mexican Toltec culture to help us stop living in this false “dream” of social rules, expectations and judgments.
Best Quote: “Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them.” —Don Miguel Ruiz
Quick Summary: How to Win Friends and Influence People offers practical tips for how to be friendly and get along with people. Dale Carnegie says people are naturally selfish and preoccupied with themselves, so life goes much smoother when we consider the other person’s perspective.
Top Quote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.” —Dale Carnegie
Quick Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shows how to become more effective and independent. Steven Covey breaks it down into several principles including acting proactively, beginning with your end goal in mind, doing actions in order of importance, listening to understand and more.
Top Quote: “It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” —Steven Covey
Perhaps the most important idea in personal growth is that small daily improvements can transform your life. So don’t try to change everything at once, just aim to be 1% better every day. Here are 51 practical ways you can make each day better than the last.
I find books to be incredible fountains of wisdom. Unlike shorter articles or educational Youtube videos, books can give us a deep understanding of a topic.
Let’s say it takes you 10 hours to read a book. (That’s the length of the average audiobook.) So if you read just 30 minutes per day, then you will finish 18 books every year.
And if you want to save time and find out what are the best books for YOU to read next, then browse our book summaries.
If you want to be productive, then you must start your day off on the right foot. If the first thing you do in the morning is scroll through social media bleary-eyed lying in bed (we’ve all done this, right?) then big corporations have already stolen your focus.
In his book The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod shares the story of how he got his life back on track after a brutal car accident. He did it by designing and following a 1-hour morning routine. I think his routine provides a great foundation for your own personal routine.
Breathing deeply into your lower belly (also called abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing) has many health benefits including:
Most importantly, breathing deeply can evaporate stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson says deep breathing activates our body’s natural “relaxation response” which counters the “fight or flight” response that makes people feel stressed or anxious.
Dan Sullivan has coached countless entrepreneurs to achieve more business growth. He says the most important question he asks his clients is this:
If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were to look back over those three years to today, what has to have happened, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?– Dan Sullivan
So answer the question. Visualize yourself sitting down in 3 years. What has changed in your life so that you feel happy about the past 3 years of work? This can be in your emotional life, relationships, career or business. Dan Sullivan says answering this simple question gives his entrepreneur clients a tremendous amount of clarity.
Have you ever wondered why a walk in nature can feel so good? The rustle of tree branches, the feel of the wind and the warmth of the sun. I think most of us intuitively feel that getting into nature rejuvenates us and flushes out stress.
But with more of us living in concrete cities or sterilized suburbs, we are becoming disconnected from the natural environment our organism was designed for. So why not make an effort to revisit nature every week? Find a quiet place with trees. Turn off your phone. Focus on the subtle sounds, smells and textures. Wander around. Follow your curiosity.
Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley and a specialist in sleep. In his book Why We Sleep, he says that not getting enough sleep is a factor in ALL major mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety and suicide.
A lack of sleep also has very negative effects on our physical health. Walker says “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
Having some regular reflection time is essential for both self awareness and self improvement. So set aside some time at the end of each week for a review. This is the time for you to step back and look at how your week went.
This is a great time to write down your top priorities for next week also. David Allen, productivity expert and author of Getting Things Done, says having a weekly review is essential for everyone. Otherwise we get lost in the same old habits and patterns.
Studies show mindful eating can aid weight loss and also prevent binge eating and emotional eating. How? Probably by reducing stress and getting us in touch with our body so we know when we are truly hungry.
Here is a quick summary of Harvard Health’s tips for eating more mindfully:
A “digital detox” means taking a total break from your electronic devices. Why? Because numerous studies show overuse of technology is linked to disrupted sleep, attention problems and relationship disconnection.
There’s no complicated method to this. Just turn off your phone, hide your computer and tell your friends you won’t be available for 24 hours.
If you’re wondering “but what will I do?!” then this is a good sign you need to try this! You will no doubt fill the time with less stimulating but more fulfilling activities. Grabbing a meal with a friend, picking up that book that’s been sitting on your shelf, etc.
In 1995, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages that only seems to be getting more popular with time. In short, he explained that everyone has a different way to feel loved and appreciated, based on their individual personality. By finding out what your partner’s love language is, you can meet their needs and expectations more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a groundbreaking book called Flow. This book explained why we should do more activities that put us into a “flow state” and less activities simply for pleasure.
A flow state happens when we are fully engaged in some activity that requires skill, challenges us, takes up our full attention and makes us lose track of time. When we are in a flow state, we feel deep enjoyment. For example, we may be put into this state by:
On the other hand, some activities give us only pleasure. Pleasurable activities are more about consumption like watching movies or eating at restaurants. Pleasure activities don’t provide a challenge or opportunity for improving a skill. They provide some superficial and fleeting good sensations, but don’t improve our overall happiness.
We all own many items we no longer need or want. Stuff tends to creep into our lives and fill up our closets. That’s why decluttering is so important—this means discarding items which you no longer value. After people declutter, they usually report not a feeling of loss, but relief.
Arguably the queen of the minimalism or decluttering movement is Marie Kondo. She is a Japanese woman who wrote the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She even has a Netflix reality show where she personally helps people make their homes organized and beautiful.
Marie Kondo teaches people to declutter with a specific method. Here is the cheatsheet:
A couple thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius was the Roman emperor, which basically made him the most powerful person in the world. However, this also meant he faced incredible opposition, violence and vicious attacks on his reputation.
One technique he used to remain calm in the middle of it all that was to remember death. He always kept in mind that he and everyone who knew him would be dead soon. A pile of bones buried under the ground or a pile of ashes. This allowed him to remain emotionally stable, not care so much what people said and focus on his most important values.
Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Standing up straight makes us look taller and our bellies look flatter. In voice training classes for singing, good posture is one of the first lessons because it helps us breathe deeper and speak clearer.
Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson says standing up straight has even deeper benefits. It is body language that signals to everyone around us that we are worthy of respect and status. At the same time, our own brains receive this message and increase the level of serotonin in our brains, making us feel more confident and relaxed.
To make this point, Peterson has famously cited research involving lobsters. When a lobster displays dominant or meek body language, that actually changes the level of serotonin measured in their brain. Comparing humans with lobsters may sound strange at first, but we do share many of our basic brain systems with other animals. (That’s why experiments done on rats or monkeys can be very relevant for humans.)
To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.
So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life
Green tea has some surprising health benefits. Researchers monitoring people’s brains through EEG machines found drinking green tea increases alpha brainwaves. This makes you feel more relaxed and alert simultaneously. These brainwaves occur when monks meditate, but drinking green tea seems to get you there too, which may explain why it is such a popular drink worldwide.
Most of us never learned how to communicate inside of relationships openly and honestly. Instead, we picked up very bad communication habits like blaming, shaming, criticizing and being passive aggressive.
In the book Nonviolent Communication, psychologist Marshall B Rosenberg explains a simple framework for healthy and effective communication. This book is highly recommended by countless therapists who say it can help us dissolve conflicts at work and build personal relationships where everyone feels seen, loved and respected.
Tim Ferris is a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, successful investor and top podcaster. He says his success is based on doing many experiments. Whenever he wants to make a change in his life, he sells it to himself as a short-term “experiment.”
It’s hard to commit to a big lifestyle change like a new diet, but it’s relatively easy to say you will TRY something new for like 28 days. This is how Time launched his podcast. He told himself he would just TRY it for 6 episodes. He found out he loved interviewing people, and now his podcast is one of the most popular ones in the world.
Research shows our ability to make good decisions becomes weaker throughout the day. This is called decision fatigue. So if it is late in the day and you aren’t sure what you should be working on next, then you might automatically begin doing something unproductive or impulsive.
One way to stay focused on the work that matters for your future is to make your decisions the night before. Write down your top 3 priorities. Keep this list somewhere always visible.
Can now limit screen time and set time limits for specific apps on Macbooks and iPhones. https://www.macworld.com/article/3295880/android-digital-wellbeing-vs-ios-screen-time.html
Or at least cut back significantly. Link to Mark Manson article. If something truly important happens, you WILL hear about it. Then search specifically for that event on Google. Otherwise you’re getting a lot of noise designed to trigger your amygdala, the fear center in your brain. News professionals carefully study which headlines attract the most views and shares. It is typically something that arouses a strong physiological response in your body like anger or outrage. However, putting your body into stress daily is very unhealthy and destructive. Link to Contagious book. Better use that time to read or watch content with depth. More books and documentaries, you’ll actually be better informed than other people because you’ll actually understand the historical context behind current events. Rather than drowning in a sea of noise.
For example, I spent a few months following the news every day and I didn’t really consider how much it colored my worldview in a negative and anxious way. When I started only checking the news once per week for a short burst, I found my life became a lot better and calmer. I highly recommend an article written by Mark Manson called “Why You Should Quit The News.” It explains how we can be informed and understand the world better by paying far less attention to whatever inflammatory news is most attention grabbing this week.
Make bad habits more difficult?
smartphone distraction in morning – put phone across the room. Put social media apps into a folder on that says “are you sure?”
junk food – put it on a high shelf or in a locked plastic container. Better yet, don’t buy it in the first place. I schedule one big cheat meal per week where I pig out. It helps me avoid compulsive eating of junk foods the rest of the week.
james clear – leave guitar where you can always see it, hide video game console in closet, buy an outlet timer to turn off wifi router.
it’s all about getting rid of the immediate gratification. If you’re forced to pause, then the rational thinking part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex will have some time to step in and regulate your impulses. (Studies show this is exactly what happens.) But you need to remove that instant candy from your environment.
when – then
goals decrease motivation after completion, also reinforce happiness = future
everybody at olympics has the goal the be number one, but only the ones with the best systems win. bike race britain example. small optimizations of the systems
Although this tip sounds simple, it can change your life. Atul Gatuwande wrote The Checklist Manifesto which is all about checklists. He’s a doctor who was able to save countless lives by making simple checklists more commonly used among doctors.
To make this fun, combine learning a language with travel plans to some place you find fascinating. Imagine how cool it will be to go to Japan and order coffee in Japanese. Studies show that being bilingual wards off brain decline.
These include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprout, collared greens, etc. Cruciferous veggies contain some of the highest levels of vitamins and nutrients of any food. In particular, Dr. Greger highlights a compound only found in cruciferous vegetables called sulforaphane. Studies show sulforaphane has promising health benefits for preventing cancer and brain decline.
Think and grow rich 6 steps. “Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.”
Far more than a physical exercise. (Although it can be a physically demanding too, especially hot yoga) Many studios let you try it out a few classes without a big commitment. The body awareness cultivated by yoga appears to be very effective at healing traumatic patterns in the body. The Body Keeps the Score.
Dr. Michael Greger is a huge fan. After a few weeks, they appear to lower blood pressure as well as many of the top medications. They also look very promising for slowing down or even stopping prostate cancer. (Though further research is needed.) Can mix this into a daily smoothie or oatmeal. Bake a dozen muffins then freeze them, eating one for breakfast every day.
Love someone else without wanting them to change. (ruiz quote) Full acceptance can be transformational for a relationship. Therapists call it “unconditional positive regard.” without judgment
For thousands of years, most religious traditions have made a connection between sexual abstinence and spirituality. This is not a coincidence.
There’s a whole online movement called “NoFap” which promotes the power of abstinence. It is mostly young men who make us this movement. They say they aim for abstinence not for religious or moral reasons, but primarily because masturbating saps confidence and motivation.
Especially for young men, the temptation of porn makes it difficult to avoid masturbation. Scientists call this a super-stimuli. A teenager can now see more naked people in 10 minutes than their grandfather would have seen over 5 lifetimes.
I’m the first person to gag when I hear the word “gratitude” but it really works according to science.
Do an act of kindness. Although humans are generally chasing their own selfish interests, research has shown that doing acts of service for others is ironically what makes us more happy. (link study) So do something out of the ordinary. If you see a homeless person outside, buy them a sandwich or meal. Next time you’re at a restaurant, tip 50% and leave. Search where your local food bank is and buy a box of canned foods for them.
If you try to learn about nutrition, you will run into experts contradicting each other. Should you eat low fat? Should you eat low carb? Should you eat vegan? All the noise online distracts us from the fact there IS a basic consensus among health professionals about how to eat healthy.
Virtually every expert and health authority agrees that we should eat less processed foods and foods that contain added sugar. For example: pizza, sugary cereals, cookies, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc.
So what to eat instead? Whole foods, which means foods that are unprocessed and don’t go through a factory. Apples, oranges, leafy greens, eggs, fish, whole grains, etc. All these are “whole” foods because they come in the same form they grow in nature.
(daring greatly) dissolves shame
You’ll find out a lot of your money is flowing into areas that are not returning much (if any) fulfillment. Your Money or Your Life quote about “we have learned to seek”
“We have learned to seek external solutions to signals from the mind, heart or soul that something is out of balance. We try to satisfy essentially psychological and spiritual needs with consumption at a physical level.” – Joseph R. Dominguez
Every day would be ideal, but 1 time per week or 3 times per week is a great start.
Research shows you probably won’t lose much weight with long low-intensity exercise, contrary to popular opinion.
However, exercise has excellent benefits in other ways. born to run
Lifting weights doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow the Stronglifts 5×5 program for a simple beginner’s program. You just have to learn 5 exercises, and you can begin getting stronger week by week.
Modern psychology is very clear that the way to decrease anxiety about something is to voluntarily face the situation. When you do this repeatedly, the “fear center” in your brain (a part called the amygdala), becomes desensitized to what you fear. So take a step out of your comfort zone. One thing most people are terrified of is speaking in front of groups. You can practice public speaking at Toastmasters gatherings. Another fun idea is to join an improv theatre class, available in most cities. (You literally improvise the scene you are acting as you go!)
There’s no better way to expose yourself to fresh perspectives than to experience people living differently firsthand. My ideal travel is to take a few months off (maybe between jobs) and travel cheaply, experiencing countries like a local. I like to spend as little time as possible in the tourist hotspots. It’s about seeing how people in other parts of the world really live, not ticking landmarks off a checklist.
(scale up to 10%) small wins build confidence.
One of the biggest obstacles we all face in our lives is fear of rejection. Whether it’s applying to a great job, communicating our romantic interest or sending in our book manuscript to a publisher—fear of rejection can be terrifying. When we are rejected, it can feel like our very worth as a human being was judged and found not good enough.
Well, it turns out salespeople suffer from this fear a lot. And obviously it severely affects their success. So there was a book called “Go For No” that helped many salespeople succeed. The basic idea is in the title: they taught salespeople to “go for no.” Every day the salesperson had a goal of getting 5-10 “no”s before they finish work.
The side effect is that if you try to get more “no”s, then you also get more “yes”es. Salespeople who followed this way became very successful. Rather than avoiding “no” out of fear, they now saw each “no” as a step on their way to success.
The other person can either say “yes” or “no” or make some excuse. If they don’t say yes, graciously move on. But you’ll never reach your goals without going for no.
Try fasting. Obviously this isn’t medical advice, see your doctor before you do anything drastic. For centuries fasting has been a part of spiritual practices to give the body a chance to clean and rest. Today intermittent fasting is popular and it shows great benefits for both health and weight loss.
Watch how you talk to yourself. The Four Agreements first rule is “be impeccable with your word.” Your world is created by the words you choose to use in your head. Don’t go against yourself. (ruiz quote)
Treat yourself with the same compassion you would give a friend. Thinking of it this way reveals the harsh and abusive ways we often talk to ourselves.
Learn a new way of cooking. Whether it’s Italian, French or Thai food, you can add more deliciousness into your life by learning to cook some new dishes. A local class would be a great experience, but you can also look at online courses often taught by famous chefs, or look for the right books or follow online recipes.
breathwork – pranayama or taichi
Learn how to dance.
Learn to sing or play a musical instrument.
clarify your values
Spend less time with toxic people.
Start a daily journal. Clears your head of excessive thinking.
Make a room in your home beautiful. Hang up artwork or photos you find inspirational.
80/20 rule – focus on most important work
build your support network
Feel free to set these quotes as your phone background or share them with your friends.