Curious about why some personal growth advice seems great, but doesn’t actually do anything to improve the quality of your life?
“Positive thinking” has been an online cliché for years now, but it’s not true. It’s never been true.
Thinking by itself – no matter how positive – is just thinking.
It may be comforting, distracting, and even contain the secret to world peace and fresh, minty breath, all rolled into one.
But it has no magical powers. It won’t transform your life or get you where you want to go unless you add one thing…
Positive thinking is a meaningless exercise without personal growth goals.
What makes positive thinking work?
I have my own theory about happiness. Happiness is about pursuing your goals, not thinking about them.
To make positive thinking work, you need to understand your own situation and priorities. Then you need to break down your goal into small chunks, and take action on it.
As my own personal mission statement reads, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Your career decisions, your choice of partner and friends, your hobbies and interests … all of it fits into a larger picture.
Here are 10 personal growth goals that drive my own discoveries. You might focus on one or two, or you may want to explore all ten goals.
As you read through the list, see which of these you can apply to your own life.
Goal #1: Explore who you are and what you can become
This is the most obvious use of personal growth, and it’s a good one.
When you get to know yourself, you’re building a lifelong friendship that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
You build trust and confidence in yourself, and invest in your own happiness and well-being. You learn to listen to yourself, and deal with those inner gremlins.
Lack of confidence can kill your personal development. Your personal beliefs can stand in your way, which stops you from taking the action you need.
A mindset shift builds momentum and brings about change like nothing else. But too many people stop there. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
Goal #2: Build healthy habits
We all had it drilled into us since we were kids: you have to eat your veggies.
Your habits shape the quality of your everyday life. Why? Because they set the agenda for the day, whether you know it or not.
No matter what your habits are right now, you’ll want to look over them in the future to keep things interesting and fun. We both know it’s easy to fall back into bad habits. Remember what Aristotle said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Smart guy, that Aristotle. 😀
Need help with breaking your bad habits? Check out my free report Everyday Rules: The 10 Rock Solid Habit Breakers That Will Change Your Life.
Goal #3: Practice kindness and gratitude
No, you’re not doing this to become Mother Teresa.
The fact is, people are happy because they appreciate what they have rather than focusing on what they lack.
Kindness is always refreshing, especially when people show their nasty side. Be a nice egg and respect others. You’ll be surprised by how far that will get you.
When you practice kindness and gratitude, others are drawn to you. To be sure, some will take advantage of your kindness, but it’s my belief that their behaviour will get back to them sooner or later.
Life’s too short to hang out with party poopers.
Goal #4: Learn something new
Pick up an instrument. Learn a new language. Master a craft. Read more books, explore your creativity, and get your hands dirty.
Make learning more fun and playful. Make it mean something to you. Enter a beginner’s mindset and take baby steps.
Figure out how you prefer to learn. Is it by reading a text, listening to a podcast, watching a video, or through trial and error? Maybe it’s even a combination of two or three of the above.
Remember to put what you learn into practice. Watch what works for you and do more of it. That’s Personal Growth 101.
Goal #5: Manage your time and energy
We obsess about productivity today. We put more pressure on ourselves, our friends, and our families to get more done in less time.
Wasting time is a sin. Don’t be bored and lazy – you don’t have time for it!
So instead of doing nothing, you sit unfocused and exhausted in front of the screen, “staying productive” for another forty minutes, until you finally have had enough and check in on Facebook. (True story.)
We end up talking about finding a work-life balance, as if the two had nothing in common. We download the latest productivity apps, automate our emails, and run to yoga class. It’s sad and pathetic, really.
Becoming more productive and effective is simple, but not easy. Step away from the screen, learn to say yes and no, and start planning your life around your biggest priorities. And oh, mindfulness helps a lot too.
This Zen proverb sums it up well:
You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.
And whatver you do, swallow that frog first thing in the morning.
Goal #6: Find your group
This is probably my favourite.
Knowing that you don’t have to go at it alone is a very comforting thought. Strong relationships make the journey less scary and more wortwhile.
Consider this: you are the sum of the five most important people in your life. You are known by the company you keep. Choose friends, partners and colleagues who challenge and inspire you. Be brave, and choose wisely.
As the African saying goes:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go with a group.
Goal #7: Tackle your fears
Courage is an indispensible part of personal growth. It’s by stepping outside your comfort zone that you stretch yourself.
Do more things that make you nervous, and watch your confidence skyrocket.
Most fears are learned, and when you push yourself that extra bit, you discover that your fears aren’t that scary after all. It’s all in your head. Go figure.
If you want to learn more about tackling your fears, check out Self-Talk for Smart People.
And take comfort in your brain’s alert system: if it’s way outside your comfort zone, it will say no and you won’t do it.
Goal #8: Help others
Why is helping others a worthwhile goal?
Because it helps you practice kindness and gratitude (goal #3), learn something new (goal #4), and find your group of people (#goal 6).
There is another side benefit to helping others. You learn to listen to others’ needs and problems. And in a world full of constant chatter, practicing the skill of listening will make you so much smarter and happier than everyone else.
The best part? You can do it in less than 15 minutes.
Goal #9: Ship your art
Stop asking for permission to ship your art.
In the 21st century, you decide whether you want to publish your book, record your song, or share your photographs with the rest of the world. (And it’s never too late to start, either. My dad started his photography site when he was 60 years old.)
One of my friends had the courage to release her debut video on YouTube:
Today she has recorded her first EP album and now thousands of people can enjoy her music. Thank you!
This year, I’m starting to fall in love with the process. Done beats perfect every time. So, start shipping and gather some feedback from your audience.
Welcome others to hear your unique voice. Know that it’s normal to be afraid and to think you’re not good enough. This is actually good news, because it means you care about what you do and that’s a beautiful thing. That’s the sign of a true artist.
What’s stopping you from shipping your art? Check out this article for some inspiration: How to Beat Procrastination.
Goal #10: Build a legacy
For many, this is the ultimate personal growth goal.
You’re building something that will outlive you. To achieve this end, you may want to start a family, build a business, and pass on your wisdom to the next generation. When it’s time for you to leave, you want to feel that you’ve lived a life that matters.
Keep pursuing the goals that mean something to you, and you’ll build a legacy you can be proud of.
How about you?
What’s the main thing you’re looking to get out of personal growth? Do you have any personal growth goals that you don’t see here?
Let me know in the comments.