Most people hold one major problematic belief about the world. They think that once they attain the level of personal development that they’re striving for, they will be able to stop working on themselves. Personal development is a journey that allows you to grow throughout your life. While cultivating your growth can help you live in alignment with your values, mission and purpose, it’s an ever-evolving process. It’s more than a quick fix—it’s an ongoing pursuit that makes you feel alive.
When it comes to personal development, you can do everything that you want. You just may not be able to do it all at once. The ideas below will help you flourish throughout your life.
Focus on Being Instead of Doing
Remember that the key to feeling fulfilled is often just being instead of doing. Huffington Post contributor Estelle Williams says that people in modern society are always striving for something better. Personal development isn’t about repairing deficiencies in your mind, body, and spirit. Instead, it involves drawing connections between all of the elements of your life so that you function at an optimal level physically, mentally and emotionally.
Sometimes, elevating yourself to this level is about letting go of everything that you once knew. It may involve slowing down, dropping your to-do list and relinquishing many of the obligations that you think that you should do. When you do that, you lose much of the anxiety and stress that pervades your life. Then, you can take advantage of the richness of your experience.
What if you could choose to be exactly who you are at this moment? You might think that you would need to enhance some flaws or fix things that weren’t quite right. However, consider the fact that accepting your present state could bring you true happiness and fulfillment.
Many of the personal development ideas that we discuss in this article have to do with getting back to your nature, tuning into your intuition and releasing judgment. These concepts indicate that your growth doesn’t necessarily come from crossing off items on your list of things to do; it stems from recognizing your desires, choosing the way that you want to feel and creating the life that you want.
Below are some personal development ideas that can help you connect with yourself so that you experience life to the fullest.
Tune Into Your Desires
When a friend asks you where you want to go for lunch, do you shrug and say that you don’t care? Although this may not seem like a dramatic problem, apathy can permeate everything that you do in life. When you’re not tuned in to your desires, you might not feel much of anything at all. That’s no way to live.
According to Psychology Today, apathy is the lack of hope that fulfillment or happiness is possible. It’s the opposite of personal development. Apathy can occur without depression. It might not even feel like a bad thing. Someone who doesn’t really know or care about what they want may seem laid-back or easygoing.
But apathy can cause other problems, including:
- Trouble making decisions
- Overwhelm that stems from difficulty prioritizing tasks
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to move past fear or failure
Apathy feels easy. It doesn’t take much effort, and it can make you feel as though you’re going with the flow. It’s certainly a lot simpler than confronting your limiting beliefs or pushing your boundaries with uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, if you stay in your bubble of comfort for too long, you’ll never grow.
Therefore, it’s essential to follow your desires. Our culture doesn’t place a great deal of value on pleasure. Doing something just because it feels good doesn’t seem as important as performing an activity that will produce a profit or help others. But if we’re all moving through this world like robots, what will humanity become?
On the other hand, when you know what you want, you’ll:
- Pursue your passions more easily
- Make swift, clear decisions
- Prioritize what’s essential in your life
- Do what you love without feeling guilty about it
- Make time for leisure so that you don’t burn out
You’ll create an experience that you’re proud to live. You won’t use excuses to escape from the tediousness of your daily routine because you will have developed a schedule that lights you up.
We’ll touch on a few practices that you can use to get in touch with your desires below.
Some people think that setting intentions is the same as establishing goals. However, goals have to do with the future, whereas intentions are all about living in the present moment. Intentions help you get clear about how you want to live right now.
Your intentions live independently from your goals. They can help you achieve your goals, but they don’t have to. They do, however, help you align with your desires.
You might want to create a daily intention-setting practice to help you get in touch with your desires. This can be as simple as starting your morning by writing down one sentence about how you intend to feel that day.
Keep it simple, and make sure that your intention has to do with your relationship with yourself and the world around you. Avoid setting an intention to check off something from your to-do list. If you’re tempted to do that, you might want to set an intention to feel productive.
When you begin doing this, you may not have a clear idea of how you want to feel. It may be challenging to come up with an intention every morning. That’s because you’re not used to asking yourself what you want. The more you do so, the easier it will get. You’ll find that your intuition begins to send you messages about your desires, and life becomes more meaningful, energetic and aligned.
Do What You Love First
We often get into the habit of taking care of our to-do lists or work projects before sitting down to do something that we love. By doing this, we tell ourselves that our desires are unimportant, and we stop paying attention to the little voice inside that helps us live our best lives.
If you’re not living according to your desires, you’re catering to someone else’s. The goals that you set might benefit your employer, but they’re not doing anything for your personal development. Fulfillment comes from knowing what you want and then taking action toward it.
When you’re busy, you might fool yourself into thinking that you don’t have time for anything other than the necessities. You wake up, go to work, come home, clean your house, go to sleep, rinse and repeat.
How is that routine nurturing your development?
If you wait until you’ve finished all of your to-dos before tackling your want-to-dos, you might never fulfill your passions. Try doing one thing that you love as soon as you get up in the morning. This might be singing to your favorite song, going for a walk outside, painting, writing poetry or even hula-hooping in the backyard. You don’t have to do it for a long time.
Consider setting your alarm 10 minutes early and doing the activity that sparks joy for just a little while before hopping in the shower and going about the rest of your day. You’ll notice that you’re primed to take on more complex projects, be more creative and approach your day with confidence when you’ve started by doing something that you love.
Once you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll find that you seek out the passion in everything that you do. This may be the key to breaking out of that dead-end job or leaving the toxic relationship that isn’t serving you.
Take a Recess
Career coach Sarah Woehler shares that taking time to play can fuel your fire and spark your growth. She likens this to recess when children could take a break to let loose and do whatever they wanted. The key to taking a grown-up recess is to give yourself a chunk of time without planning it out in advance. Give yourself a break in your schedule, but don’t establish a to-do list for it.
Decide exactly what you want to do when the moment comes. Maybe you’ll try out a new coffee shop or call a friend. Perhaps you’ll dance to your favorite music or go for a bike ride. It doesn’t really matter what activity you choose. The key is to do something that’s completely enjoyable and feels good.
You’ll probably find that you return to work feeling more refreshed and productive. If you’ve been feeling blocked, inspiration might hit. When you let go of the need to control everything and work all of the time, you open up space for your brilliant, creative mind to draw innovative connections and propel you further.
You can take all of the personal development classes in the world and work with the best gurus. But if you don’t foster self-awareness, you’ll miss out on the opportunities to assimilate what you’ve learned. The key to growth is the ability to heal, shift and adapt. However, you can’t change from the position that you’re in now if you have no idea what that is.
Self-awareness allows you to notice:
- What’s going on in your imagination
- The self-talk that goes through your mind at any given moment
- The emotions that have become habitual
- The way that you respond to people and events
- Your inner wisdom speaking to you
Your perception is the way that you experience the world. It could be argued that it doesn’t really matter what happens in reality. The only reality that makes sense to you is your own. Therefore, self-awareness is a crucial skill for personal development.
Here are some strategies for nurturing your self-awareness
Have you ever participated in a guided meditation but had trouble envisioning anything in your mind’s eye? Some people have difficulty recognizing their own visual thoughts. However, you can train yourself to become more aware of the imagery that goes through your mind.
Win Wenger, Ph. D. developed the concept of image-streaming. This creative practice helps you think more fluidly. It allows you to verbalize visual thinking and connect the dots between your mind and body faster.
Image-streaming is essentially the practice of describing out loud what you see in your mind’s eye. Children have this ability to access their imagination during real-life scenarios. But as they grow into adulthood, they’re conditioned to edit what goes on in their heads. Because of this, adults lose some of their imaginative abilities.
Your working memory also relies on visualization. Image training helps you expand your capacity to learn and remember things.
Here’s how to practice image-streaming to unclog your creative flow and unlock your imagination:
- Set up a recording device.
- Sit quietly, relaxing your breathing and closing your eyes
- Describe the images that you see in your mind
That’s it. Try to use the richest, most vivid language possible. You may feel as though you’re forcing the image when you begin the process. It will feel easier over time.
You can improve the practice by using as much sensory detail as possible. Describe colors and textures. Explain how something feels to the touch. Speak as quickly as possible so that you can be as thorough as possible. Don’t worry about sounding good or being perfect. There is no “right way” to approach this practice.
If you don’t see any pictures when you close your eyes, try these techniques for eliciting images during this process. Most people who have trouble with visualization find themselves seeing pictures rather quickly once they start practicing image-streaming.
Dr. Wenger explains that you can learn how to decode the messages that you receive during image streaming. But it’s not always necessary to understand what you see on a conscious level. Practicing translating the images in a non-verbal format can enhance your creativity.
During your image streaming session, try drawing, dancing, singing or playing an instrument. Your subconscious understands the resulting “language” that you create even if you can’t explain it with words. Practicing in this manner can expand your self-awareness and creativity.
Meditation reconnects you with your authentic self. It removes the distractions of daily life as well as the clutter that comes from your thoughts. It leaves you with stillness and presence.
However, meditating is a practice that doesn’t always come easily. Many people complain that they can’t quiet their minds enough to meditate. You don’t need to shut everything down to develop a meditative practice. The more you work on the process while being gentle with yourself, the more self-awareness you’ll cultivate.
One of the reasons that meditation helps you become more self-aware is that it distances you from the constant barrage of external stimuli. About 10 percent of people check their phones about 300 times a day. If that describes you, you’re not giving yourself much space and time to practice self-awareness.
Meditation can awaken you to your inner environment and help you realize that you have everything that you need for your personal development. Don’t fall prey to the idea that you need to meditate a certain way. A long walk in a quiet forest counts as meditation. So does a soothing bath with a candle flickering in the dim light. Get away from technology and practice being with yourself.
Watch Your Emotions
When your emotions hit, do things feel tumultuous? Do you see red when you’re angry? Do you have trouble getting out of bed when you’re sad?
If you allow your emotions to take over, they might blind you to the self-awareness that you could otherwise harness. On the other hand, many people block intense emotions because they’re uncomfortable. Those people turn off their self-awareness in certain situations because it feels overwhelming.
There is a way to process your emotions without getting wrapped up in the turmoil that they can elicit. This takes practice, though. Many of us have deeply rooted emotional trauma to heal before we can fully access our emotional intelligence.
One way to bring awareness to your emotions without getting bogged down is to practice Jill Bolte Taylor’s 90-second rule. According to the neuroanatomist, your emotions are a chemical response to your thoughts. They travel in a 90-second circuit throughout your body. If you can stay with the emotions without letting them trigger additional distressing thoughts, they’ll dissipate, and you can move forward.
The next time you feel a strong emotion, watch it course through your body. You can usually feel it as it makes your stomach clench up or brings tightness to your chest. Focus on the sensations instead of thoughts or judgments. Then, watch the emotion dissipate.
If you continue to have the same distressing emotions, you need to bring your attention to the thoughts that stimulate the emotional circuits. You might want to journal about the thoughts that go through your mind. You can use a similar technique as image-streaming. Instead of describing what you see in your mind’s eye, describe the words that are going through your head.
Doing this can give you an objective view of the negative or limiting things that you tell yourself. You will observe how your emotions are stimulated and can take actions to change your responses to the events that activate the thought that leads to the emotional reaction.
Cultivate Your Mind
Have you ever heard that humans only use 10 percent of their brains? That statistic has been revealed as a myth. But it’s plausible that people don’t meet their full psychological potential. You can train your brain for success with these personal development ideas.
Challenge Your Brain
Any brain cells that you don’t use will atrophy. Fortunately, the majority of your brain is active at any given time and won’t melt into a useless mess if you don’t follow this advice. However, the synapses between neurons, which help transmit messages through your central nervous system, get stronger when you use your brain in specific ways.
Building up your brain can make it easier to perform tasks. It also helps you learn and remember new information.
Any demanding intellectual task can help you strengthen your brain function. Puzzles, word game, and number of games challenge you. You can also set goals to learn or memorize information just for the fun of it. Even learning a new language stretches your mental muscle to help you grow.
Your physical health plays a massive role in your mental wellness. Exercising promotes blood flow and brings oxygen to your major organs. Moreover, the neurotransmitters that are released during exercise help your mind stay clear and sharp.
Brain function naturally declines with age. However, researchers have found that exercise helps to slow the deterioration. You don’t have to be an athlete to reap these benefits. In one study, older participants who exercised for approximately 52 hours over a six-month period showed improvements on a variety of cognitive tests.
Exercise can help you live longer. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take advantage of your full cognitive potential even as you age? Exercising regularly can help you harness the psychological growth that you want.
It can also help you stay physically healthy. Your body’s health is vital for maintaining the motivation and energy that’s necessary to accomplish everything that you want to do.
Do New Things
Some routine is good. When you establish systems, you create consistency surrounding your positive habits. Habits help you establish discipline when you need to get something accomplished.
But taking advantage of new opportunities whenever possible is an ideal way to promote your personal development. Exposing yourself to novel situations ramps up your brainpower.
The first time you do anything new, it probably doesn’t feel easy. You have to pay attention to many different factors and move slowly so that you don’t make mistakes. You internalize some of that information so that you can use it again.
The next time you perform the same activity, it feels a little easier. You strengthen the synapses that send the messages related to your actions. Eventually, that behavior will feel like a piece of cake.
That doesn’t mean that you should stop, though. If you stick with what’s easy, you’ll always stay in the safe zone. This is a surefire way to restrict your growth.
Finding ways to do the things that come easily is one way to encourage personal development. Another strategy is to do new things as often as possible.
Doing this has several benefits:
- It encourages the growth of new neural pathways.
- It puts you in a position to take potentially positive risks.
- You get to know yourself better.
- You become more marketable.
- You make new friends.
- You become more creative.
- You learn not to let fear stop you.
- You become more adaptable and resilient.
You don’t have to go bungee jumping or take a solo vacation to an exotic location to take advantage of doing new things. Start small. Change up your breakfast, regular coffee shop or route to work. As you become more comfortable with novelty, you’ll crave new experiences and grow exponentially.
Do you feel like life is out to get you? No matter how much you try, everything always seems hard.
Your experiences are tied to your perceptions. Changing the way that you feel about what happens to you is often as helpful as changing the events themselves.
Looking on the bright side isn’t easy. However, you can practice doing so by keeping a gratitude journal. Try doing this every morning or evening. Alternatively, you can track your gratitude throughout the day so that you benefit from the positive emotions that it brings about.
Many people talk about keeping a gratitude journal. That’s a great start. When you’re writing down what you’re grateful for, though, make sure that you take a moment to feel the experience of gratitude. Observe it as it moves through your body and opens your heart. As you gain practice, you’ll be able to dredge up that emotion more easily, even when you feel like complaining.
Scientists who have done gratitude research have found that it’s a quality that people can develop. The practice of giving thanks can make you happier. Gratitude is the antidote for many emotions that people judge as negative, such as anger and fear.
When you practice gratitude, you don’t allow your mind to fill with worry. When you give thanks, you open up to receive grace.
As you move through your personal development journey, remember to reflect on the gifts that fall in your path. Even if you’ve experienced a failure or have hurdled past an obstacle, you’ll find that you notice the lessons in the hardship.
Soon, you’ll realize that everything is an opportunity for growth. With you look at the world from a personal development perspective, you never stop evolving.