Often, in order to change our lives for the better, we need to allow time and space for personal growth. Though everyone’s personal growth journey will look different and will likely evolve over time.
Whatever you’re aiming for, the good news is that there are a number of tools you can use to help you strive toward your goals, stay on track, and prioritise your commitment to becoming a healthier, happier version of yourself.
With that said, here are 11 self-development skills that can improve your life.
1. Learn to separate the things you can control from the things you can't
One of the most liberating and important steps in any self-development journey involves letting go of the things in your life that you can’t control, so you have more time and energy to put into the things that you can. Letting go of what you can’t control can also help you to start living in the here and now, which is the only time we have any power.
For example, you can’t make your partner want to work on things if you’re in an unhappy relationship, nor can you change the past or whether people like or dislike you. Though what you can do is leave a relationship if it’s making you unhappy, practise focusing your mind on the present, and work on being the best version of yourself.
Other examples of things you can control are how open you are to new opportunities and how you choose to put your values and beliefs into practice.
This article on How to stop worrying about things that you can’t change from Psychology Today has six tips that may help if you’re finding it difficult to let go.
2. Write down your goals
According to research, we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down. Experts believe that this is because putting pen to paper provides clarity. It also forces us to question our current situation and strategise about how we can take proactive steps to where we want to be.
For many of us, the simple act of putting pen to paper can increase hope and make the possibility of achieving our goals feel more real. When this happens, we may feel inspired to take action.
If you haven’t yet written down your goals, then you might want to consider starting a journal to keep tabs on your progress. As well as writing your goals down, it can also help to make a note of why these goals are important to you and what each one will add to your life, so that you can remind yourself of these if you’re ever in doubt.
For every goal, try to write down at least one action that you can take now to help you achieve it. This part of the exercise can be particularly empowering because it’s at this point that many people realise that the ability to change the course of their life lies within reach.
If you want to go a step further, you could also consider creating a vision board full of images and words that remind you of what it is you want to achieve. As the name suggests, these boards can encourage you to visualise your goals and start to believe in them – which can be a powerful motivator in actually making them happen.
3. Practise self-awareness and reflection
An integral part of personal growth involves practising self-awareness and reflection, so you can learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, reactions, habits, likes, dislikes, motivations, fears, and so on.
Self-awareness can help you better understand how to meet your own needs and how your actions can impact the world around you. Building self-awareness often means making a conscious effort to take stock of your reactions and behaviours to better understand how this could be affecting yourself and others – or how other people’s actions could be affecting you.
An example could be understanding what you need to do to relax and recover after a stressful day so you can come back stronger tomorrow. Or another could be recognising what your boundaries are so that you can set or re-establish these with the people around you should you need to.
Self-reflection is similar, but it requires us to evaluate whether or not our reactions and behaviours were right for a particular situation or moment so we can plan for greater success next time. It involves asking yourself questions like: How did I handle that situation? Could I have done things differently? Did my actions aline with my values and beliefs?
Observing and reflecting on our actions and behaviours can often feel uncomfortable because it can force us to face up to aspects of ourselves that we may not like or be particularly proud of – and it can also leave us feeling vulnerable. But self-awareness and reflection are powerful tools for learning more about who we are and how we can get to where we want to be.
To get started, why not try these 10 practices for self-exploration?
4. Accept that fear is a normal part of growth
Though personal development can be exciting, it can also go hand in hand with fear. Nine times out of ten, we need to step outside of our comfort zone in order to grow – but this can come with butterflies, sweaty palms, and a strong urge to run away.
Many people try to fight this fear or they assume that if they feel scared about doing something, it shows weakness or is a sign they shouldn’t do the thing that’s scaring them. However, some of the greatest feelings of accomplishment and pride come when we achieve the things we thought we couldn’t.
If stepping outside of your comfort zone is something that you find tricky, then it can help to start small. Even things like trying a new recipe or taking a different route to work can shake our daily routines up and remind us that there’s more life outside of what we already know.
You might want to have a read of our article, 18 ways to step outside of your comfort zone, to find out more.
5. Practise mindfulness
To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
When we’re striving toward our goals, it’s easy for our minds to be constantly focused on the future, not the present. This can cause us to become unfocused on what’s in front of us and may lead to stress and anxiety about what’s to come.
Mindfulness can help with this, as it encourages us to concentrate on the present moment. In doing so, we can come to understand ourselves better, enjoy ourselves more, improve our focus, and let go of our worries.
It’s easy to start practising mindfulness as you can do so at any time – for example, in your car, while exercising, or in your room just before bed. Though, remember that the more you practise it, the more you’ll reap the benefits.
To get started on your mindfulness journey, why not take a look at our introductory guide to mindfulness?
6. Become your own biggest supporter
Sometimes, learning to love and accept yourself can be the goal in itself – while, other times, it’s needed to help us get to somewhere else we want to be.
Being your own biggest supporter is important for a number of reasons. But it’s especially important when it comes to trusting and forgiving yourself, believing in yourself and your capabilities, and prioritising your own needs and wants.
When we accept and like who we are and what we stand for, making decisions can feel easier, and spending time with ourselves can feel more enjoyable. We may also be better able to assert ourselves, set boundaries, and have healthier relationships with the people around us.
Learning to become comfortable in your own skin is something that takes time, but with patience and perseverance, it is possible. Our articles, 16 ways to improve your confidence and self-esteem and 7 powerful ways to conquer self-limiting beliefs, have plenty of tips on how to do this.
Kamal Rivikant’s book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, is also a great read. It details how Rivikant recovered from some of his darkest moments after his company failed – and how, in the end, it was self-love and acceptance that helped him move forward.
7. Read widely
When it comes to your goals, knowledge is power, so it can help to try and incorporate some regular reading into your day. What you decide to read about will usually be quite personal and depend on what it is you want to achieve.
For example, if you’re planning to start up your own business, then you might find it useful to read autobiographies of entrepreneurs, as well as ‘how to’ books on various different business models, to equip yourself with as much information as possible.
Some people also get a lot out of reading more general self-development books, which can offer advice on things like forming routines, building confidence, and overcoming fear.
8. Try not to compare yourself to others
When you have goals that you really want to achieve and you’re keen to get there, it can be tempting to measure your progress against that of other people. However, this can lead to feelings of demotivation, dissatisfaction, and even, jealousy – none of which adds to the success of your own journey.
Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, you might find it helpful to:
- Remember that someone else’s success doesn’t take away from your own progress, and the more we can learn to support and celebrate other people’s achievements, the happier we tend to be.
- Remind yourself that having imperfections is normal and they’re what make us unique. It’s also true that everyone has them – even if they aren’t immediately obvious! No one is perfect.
- Focus on your own journey and learn to be happy with your own progress this far. It’s easy to get so caught up in competing with others that whatever we do is never enough because we’re always just trying to keep up with the people around us.
But try to keep in mind that even if you achieved the same success as someone else tomorrow, there would be someone new to compare yourself to, and the cycle of dissatisfaction would continue. This is why the only person you should ever compare yourself to is you.
9. Practise gratitude and optimism
When practised often, skills like gratitude and optimism can be life-changing. Many people assume that these are inherent traits that we are simply born with or not – yet optimism and gratitude can be learned and developed at any age.
These skills are important for progression because they breathe positivity into everything we do, and help us build resilience and keep moving forward. Optimism and gratitude can also help us to see new opportunities, have greater satisfaction and happiness in life, and find silver linings in even the most difficult of situations.
If you’re used to dwelling on the negative, then it can feel like a tricky cycle to break – but with practise it’s possible to start seeing things differently. To get started, why not have a read of our articles; How to learn the skill of optimism and How practising gratitude can lead to a happier life.
10. Declutter your life
Decluttering and organising the things in your life is more than just a physical task – it can also have a significant impact on the way you think and feel. And these thoughts and feelings can affect your self-development.
For example, if you’ve been holding onto items from your past that bring up negative memories, then you may struggle to look positively at the future – and this may demotivate you when you think about achieving future goals.
Or, if you have clothes that don’t make you feel particularly good about yourself or reflect your personality, then this can also have an effect on your confidence and may end up holding you back.
Removing these items from your life and making a conscious effort to only introduce new things into your life that add real value or make you feel good can set you on a more positive path.
Sometimes, it’s also not about the sentiment behind an item, but about the volume of items that we’ve accumulated over the years. Whether we realise it or not, having a home, car, or workspace, that’s overflowing with stuff can leave our minds feeling cluttered and overwhelmed.
It can also make daily tasks more difficult if every time you open a cupboard something falls out, or you’re always hunting for what you need amongst all the things you don’t.
Therefore, decluttering and reorganising can not only leave you with a tidier space but with a tidier mind too. Many people say that they can see things more clearly after they get rid of all the items that were weighing them down or getting in their way.
Though the idea of decluttering your living space can be daunting, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to help make the process as seamless as possible. To get started, why not have a read of our handy guide here? It has pointers on everything from learning to let go to getting creative with your storage space.
For some people, decluttering can also extend to relationships. This could mean letting go of connections that no longer serve you well or that leave you feeling anxious, upset, or unsettled – and focusing on creating new, positive connections with like-minded individuals. Though, deciding whether or not to cut ties with someone will be a very personal choice; one that may not be entirely possible for everyone.
11. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them
Personal growth usually doesn’t come without some form or failure along the way. However, it’s important not to let bumps in the road stop you from moving forward.
Making mistakes gives us the opportunity to get to know ourselves better and learn how we can achieve a more successful outcome next time. It can also teach us lessons in resilience and gratitude – and give us the courage to grab new opportunities next time.
The most common reason that many people are scared to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new is the fear of failure. But once we make peace with failure and start to see it for what it is (a necessary part of life that goes hand in hand with self-development), we can often feel less afraid to strive towards our goals, even if they come with risk.
Every time we achieve success after failure, we’re also reminded how strong and mentally capable we are, which builds confidence and reminds us why personal growth is also about the journey, not just the destination.
Journeys of personal growth and development aren’t always easy, but that’s part of what makes them so fulfilling. Often, it’s when we challenge ourselves and achieve things we may not have thought we could that our lives develop even more meaning and purpose.
It’s also never too late to start working towards becoming a happier, healthier version of yourself. So, whatever your goals, we hope that this article has given you some ideas for how you can start achieving your full potential.
One final tip is to remember to trust to process and that persistence pays off. Sometimes, not all progress is immediately obvious, but if you keep consistent and don’t give up, eventually things will fall into place.