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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You read a new book, start a new course, or set a New Year’s resolution. You get excited and motivated to grow, sure that your new lifestyle will stick this time.

And then a few weeks later, you lose your steam. You just can’t generate the same level of excitement you started with.

The truth is, the people who experience radical growth over their lives are not the ones who hyper-charge their motivation when they start something new. They are the ones who gradually build their capacity for continuous personal growth so they can iteratively get 1% better.

Kaizen is a Japanese term often used in business, meaning continuous change for the better – an ongoing endeavor for incremental improvement. This concept can be applied to the mind just as easily.

There are a number of techniques for increasing your capacity to grow throughout your life, and these are some of the most worthwhile investments you can make.

1. Design Your Environment

One thing you can do now that will keep working for you continuously (no willpower required) is to alter your environment.

Look around at how your living space is arranged. What behaviors does it promote and what does it neglect or discourage? Would you say the physical space you spend your time in is representative of the person you would like to be? Your digital environments shape you as well.

The websites you visit regularly, the podcasts you subscribe to, and the apps you keep on your phone will shape you. If you want to be less distracted, disable the notifications and unsubscribe from the email newsletters that you don’t feel push you in the direction of your ideals, and consider subscribing to those that do.

Another crucial way to design yourself through your environment is by surrounding yourself with people who have priorities, traits, or practices you would like to cultivate in yourself.

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Statistically, the more overweight people in your social circles, the more likely you are to become overweight.[1] So if you want to become more fit, you’ll be swimming against the current if you haven’t embedded yourself in active environments or built connections with people who prioritize fitness.

The character traits of the people around you will rub off on you as well, so people who are honest, narcissistic, altruistic, or manipulative will gradually shape you in the direction of those traits. So the act of designing your environment is literally the act of designing yourself.

2. Study Your Biases

If you are like most people, you look around and see others who are confused, dogmatic, and irrational. You, on the other hand, have mostly found the correct beliefs and learned to think clearly. If everyone else would just listen to you, the world would be a much better place.

But the truth is that we are all deeply biased and have blind spots that prevent us from seeing our own thinking errors.

The tricky thing about cognitive biases is that one little distortion in your thinking won’t just cause you to make a single mistake. It will continue to cause mistakes for the rest of your life – unless you can find it and program it out.

If you want to overcome self-limiting biases, the first and most obvious step is to familiarize yourself with the most common biases found across the human race. Here are some examples:

Confirmation bias is responsible for the fact that we tend to look only for information that confirms our existing theories, beliefs, and worldview at the expense of those that conflict with them.

The bandwagon effect refers to our tendency to come to conclusions and make decisions based on what is popular, though we often find ways to rationalize these decisions to ourselves.

The fundamental attribution error causes us to attribute our own positive behaviors and successes to our individual character while blaming our negative behaviors and failures, and the successes of others, on luck and circumstance.

These are just a few examples of biases – you can find a more exhaustive list here, and a nice diagram here. Biases can be stubborn, but if you can learn to identify and remove a particular bias, the quality of your decisions will be improved throughout your life.

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3. Practice Asceticism

Over the course of our lives, we develop dependencies that could be compared to addictions. We start to need a glass of wine to relax after work, need our Tempur-Pedic bed to get to sleep, or need a six-figure income to be content in our lives.

You will not have time for continuous personal growth if your life is dominated by trying to satisfy your elaborate requirements.

Weird as it may seem, we often learn about ourselves by observing our own behaviors, so if all of our behaviors suggest to us that money, for example, is the highest good, we very well may start to believe it.

To counter the effect of acquired dependencies, we can use the practice of asceticism, or voluntary discomfort, to intentionally deprive ourselves of some desired and attainable object.

The practice has been used by some to serve as self-punishment, which has led some to quickly write it off. But the useful purpose of asceticism is to decrease our ongoing desires and bring contentment into closer reach.

Simply choose something on which you feel you are overly reliant, and intentionally limit or sacrifice that desire. If you find yourself unable to endure basic economy flights, enjoy camping trips, or are unhappy whenever the thermostat is not set to the perfect temperature, you have become overly-reliant on comfort. Counter this dependency by sleeping on the floor for a night or walking barefoot on a gravel road.

If it is pleasure you crave, you can temporarily deprive yourself of food (fasting), sex, or a drug to down-regulate the desire. Minor acts of social sacrifice, such as neglecting an opportunity to signal something positive about yourself, can decrease your desire for status, approval, and validation. And giving away all but the most necessary possessions in the spirit of minimalism can down-regulate the innate desire to accumulate and horde.

Would anyone who thought pleasure was the ultimate good deliberately put herself in an uncomfortable position? Would anyone who thought social status were the highest good neglect his social media accounts? Would anyone who thought money were the highest good turn down, or even give away, a large sum of money? You teach yourself what is important to you through your behaviors, so behave wisely.

For every type of perpetual desire you are able to remove, you remove complication from your life. If you can snip out these burdensome lifestyle addictions, you can make room in your life for growth.

4. Design Your Consequences

Every time you take an action, there is a consequence that gives your brain some kind of reward or punishment.

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It may seem strange to suggest we can “design” the consequences of our actions, but there are many ways to ensure that the right behaviors are reinforced and the wrong ones are discouraged. And putting these consequences in place will take away the need to be motivated all the time to achieve your goals.

You can leverage your desire for money by making the commitment to give money to your friend every day you fail to practice an instrument you want to learn. Simply make a deposit to a trusted friend that you can only get back if you meet your specific behavioral goal. This way, the consequence for slacking off will be a financial loss, making it harder to justify.

By publicly announcing the behavioral changes you intend to make, you can use your social drives to raise the stakes of failure. By getting a personal trainer or workout partner, you can add accountability to your habits and make it so that failing to go to the gym may cause you to face the judgment of others.

As I write this, I’m using an online tool called Focusmate which calls itself a virtual coworking tool. It sets up roughly hour long video sessions between strangers trying to accomplish their own goals, and asks each person to work silently, only sharing their goal at the beginning and how well they did at the end. It’s a surprisingly powerful productivity tool, and it works because it stacks consequences of social approval or disapproval onto our personal goals.

A method known as temptation bundling allows us to stack enjoyable activities onto our defined goals. Whether you love fantasy football, bubble baths, or dressing up like a pirate, you can structure your plans so you only allow yourself to do these things after completing a particular disciplined activity. This will slowly cause you to associate the positive behavior with the indulgence until you begin to crave the positive activity itself.[2]

One of the most interesting ways to take advantage of your reward system is by creating a token economy. Create some kind of token, be it a poker chip, a paper clip, or a check mark in your notebook. Assign a particular value to the token, and give yourself one immediately every time you perform a predetermined action. You can say that a token equals a coffee, a concert, or one episode of your favorite streaming show. Over time, the token will become so closely associated with the reward that it will serve as a powerful reward itself.[3]

Make it so the path to growth is also the path of least resistance, and you will never burn out on your goals again.

5. Log Your Thoughts and Emotions

Bad emotional habits are just like biases – they will be continually triggered throughout your life if you don’t find ways to program them out. According to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the most effective therapeutic method ever devised, negative emotions are caused by automatic and distorted thoughts. So if we can notice and correct our flawed thinking, we can remove problematic emotions.

One of the most effective methods for removing these bad emotional patterns is to keep a log in the form of a notepad or a smartphone app. Try to take a note of every unwanted emotion you notice – anything from minor annoyance to severe anxiety. Every time you log an emotion, take a note of the situation which triggered it, and if possible, the chain of thoughts which came immediately before it.

The simple act of keeping a log should cause you to notice many more of these emotions and patterns than you normally would. You will find that certain lines of reasoning dominate your emotional experience. You may find that a certain kind of mistaken reasoning is responsible for a huge percentage of your daily struggles.

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Once you find a potentially distorted belief at the root of your emotions, you can investigate how accurate it really is. Positive psychology researcher Courtney Ackerman offers some basic questions to ask:[4]

Is this thought realistic?

Am I basing my thoughts on facts or on feelings?

What is the evidence for this thought?

Could I be misinterpreting the evidence?

Am I viewing the situation as black and white, when it’s really more complicated?

Am I having this thought out of habit, or do facts support it?

If you can correct the mistaken reasoning, you can permanently reprogram the undesired emotion.

By learning to quickly recognize and refute your emotional distortions, you can build the habit of short-circuiting this tendency automatically, programming it out for good. Then you are free to focus your efforts on setting new goals and taking action.

More Tips on Personal Growth

Featured photo credit: Nana Kim via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ryan A Bush

Creator of Designing the Mind and the world's leading expert on psychitecture

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

10 Ways to Step Up Your Personal Growth and Succeed in Life

10 Ways to Step Up Your Personal Growth and Succeed in Life

When you apply what you’ve learned about yourself in your day-to-day, you’re setting yourself up for achieving success. There are many ways to develop and grow as a human.

Personal growth is a divine transcendence involving the physical, mental and emotional aspects of ourselves. To me, challenges act as a passageway or path toward greater awareness and a better understanding of your self — the self which is multilayered, dynamic and complex and demands (but resists) change.

Personal growth, however, is bigger than simply changing. If you’ve ever experienced losses or setbacks in your life which forced you to rebuild, that is one way to identify and evaluate the inner workings your self.

You don’t have to go through a major devastation to begin the process of personal growth. All you need to do is take the time to identify where you’re at, especially mentally, which can open many doors you might never have thought were possible to open.

A family member sent me a three-minute and thirty-five-second video on YouTube that changed the way I think, perceive, and respond to life situations. In the video, you’ll learn how to locate yourself mentally by asking the question: “where am I?” It might sound silly, but really, if you think about where you are, you’ll get a sense of how you’ve been navigating in the world and perhaps why you’re not making the progress you’d like, whether in your personal life or career.

Many people are wired to thrive on ego and reject anything that threatens their ego. In fact, our brains often struggle to detect a real threat from a threat to our ego (which you’d know already if you watched the quick video). If you are close-minded or functioning below the line, you’re not allowing personal growth to manifest. Instead, you may think, well, I don’t need personal development or growth. I’m perfect and everything is figured out.

What you might not realize is that personal growth is happening on a daily basis. Each day, things are unraveling and unleashing all around you for the sole purpose of teaching you something or to make you take (healthy) action.

As of recently, I underwent a life-altering mindset shift after I assessed where I was at. I recognized bad habits and things that I needed to work toward and shift. The way we think, whether you accept this or not, influences our actions which thus becomes our behaviors. These behaviors may even induce our daily habits, good, bad or indifferent.

Identifying where you’re at mentally is even more important than asking the question, “what do I want?” You won’t likely get what you want out of life if you’re too close-minded and not willing to improve areas in your life. The biggest challenge I faced was recognizing and being mindful of the ways I was functioning on a mental and emotional level.

This year has been, I thought, an awful year; the worst of my life. Six months ago, I felt that I’d lost everything. In recent weeks, this mindset shift occurred when I began painting again for the first time in quite a few years. I’d concluded that in life, what’s meant to come apart will and if something isn’t meant to manifest, it won’t.

Life can often feel like a series of chaotic events that you can’t control. But in this chaos, something is trying to take a new shape. And that something is you.

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The only control we have is how we think and respond to the things happening around us. Our actions are an extension of our thoughts. How we think determines more than you may realize.

I put to the test, on myself, to try and be more open-minded to new things and experiences. This experiment led me to finally finish yet another novel I’d written and produce the kind of artwork I’d always dreamed of producing. And, this new openness also directed me towards getting the job of my dreams.

So, here are the 10 ways to step up your personal growth for success.

1. Establish an Effective Morning Routine

Morning routines are a great way to develop new and healthy habits. The most successful people wake up way before 8:00 in the morning. If you want you to start your day off on the right foot, sleeping in until the eleventh hour won’t help.

Beginning your day with ease and moving slowly will guarantee smoother transitions throughout the day. Even if you have a chaotic job, how you greet a new day determines a lot.

Statistics now say that a morning routine, which may involve accomplishing personal goals like making your bed or doing an exercise regimen, improves your mental and emotional health immensely, by a large percentage.

Create the ultimate morning routine to accelerate your personal growth and you will see greatness unfolding all around you.

Take reference of this Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day.

2. Establish an Enriching Evening Routine

Evening routines are just as important. My evening routines consist of journaling, meditating or doing some meditative artwork while listening to interesting music.

At the end of every day, after dinner, I write out what I accomplished and what still needs attention. Doing this increased my success because it inspired me to do more, create more and always be engaged in something positive.

After three weeks, I found myself producing about forty paintings, finishing edits on a book project, and completing some overdue tasks.

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Here’s a guideline on how to build a night routine: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

3. Spend at Least 15 to 20 Minutes a Day Reorganizing and Cleaning

A clean office, workspace, or home is the best way to achieve self-efficiency.

A video on Netlix I watched about minimalism influenced me to implement that in my home and work. Minimalism is extremely beneficial for your mental, emotional and even physical health and well-being. A tidy space allows one to move freely and accomplish a lot. It can even be inspiring.

As an artist, a polished space inspires me and promotes calmness. In turn, this mental clarity allows me to work without distractions and interruptions, ensuring a nice flow.

Inspiration and influence drive creativity and working in a dreadfully messy and chaotic environment will hinder and impede your ability to finish tasks. Organization is a big part of personal growth and will set you up for success and achieving a great deal of work.

4. Consider Time-Blocking

Time-blocking is the best time management tool out there.

I am a creative individual and enjoy doing many things including painting, drawing, sewing, photography, and writing. These activities are my lifestyle and passions. Without them, I feel like something is missing. And yes, I do a lot each day. So, time-blocking keeps me in check and disciplined. If I set aside three hours in the morning to write, I stick to it and do nothing else.

Time-blocking can also prepare you for the workforce if you plan to get a job in the future. In a job, you must be punctual and spend a set amount of hours. Even time-blocking your hobbies and wellness activities is a great way to set up personal growth for success.

Learn more about time-blocking here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

5. Make an Appoint to Check-In with Yourself Each Day

Daily self-check-ins have a wide array of benefits. I spend only fifteen to twenty minutes each morning or afternoon to evaluate how I’m feeling and where I am mentally and emotionally.

Taking the time to identify where you are mentally can also improve your ability to manage stress and anxiety. You might use these check-ins to journal and empty your mind of useless thoughts or worries. I call this ‘brain dumping.’ A clearer mind makes more room for you to focus on what truly NEEDS focus.

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Have you ever found yourself obsessing over something silly, something that you later realized doesn’t need so much attention? This is one reason these check-ins are so empowering. You’re in control of the inner workings of your thoughts and perceptions.

6. Cut Those Bad Habits Out

We are habitual creatures and our minds are hardwired to thrive on habits. Unfortunately, bad habits are easier to cultivate than good ones. Stepping up personal growth means leaving those bad habits behind so you can stop sabotaging yourself or getting in your own way.

Bad habits can force us to miss out on great things. If there are bad habits you’re having a difficult time scrapping, use journaling to identify them and work through them. Writing is a great tool for getting to the bottom of and resolving issues.

7. Practice Self-Love Regularly

At a meditation group I’ve been going to lately, a poster on the wall in the room caught my attention. It said that if you’re peaceful with yourself, the world will be peaceful too. This is so true. Inner peace promotes peaceful responses and actions. Practicing self-love fosters this peace and promotes inner growth.

Meditation is one way I implement self-love in my life. Doing so has resulted in a calmer and quieter mind devoid of useless nonsense.

There are many ways you can implement self-love into your life: 30 Ways To Practice Self-Love And Be Good To Yourself

Just do what feels good to you, what enriches and moves you.

8. Give Back, for No Reason at All

When I began giving back, either to my community or supporting organizations, this gave me new insights. Everyone experiences similar struggles and setbacks and we’re always trying to overcome something and better ourselves.

Volunteering is a great way to step up personal growth. You’re giving your time and attention to other people (instead of yourself) and spreading goodness. That’s one thing the world needs right now: goodness.

Volunteering also creates peace in environments that may otherwise be chaotic and in disarray. Invest your time in helping others and you’ll be surprised by how this changes you.

9. Strive for Simplicity

We can’t always avoid complicated situations in life. Again, it’s imperative to be mindful of how you’re responding to the things that happen to and around you.

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Simplicity is the key to happiness, less stress, worry, and negativity. If you’re living in an environment that is utter chaos and in shambles, you’ll find yourself functioning at an extremely unsatisfying level.

We don’t always realize the sources of our stress. Something as small as a disorganized and messy house can have such an unforeseen and monumental impact on our mental sorting and functioning.

Strive to apply simplicity in as many areas of your life as you can. This will set you up for success down the road.

10. Practice Mindfulness as Often as You Can

At a conference I attended a while ago, the speaker introduced mindfulness by telling the audience to sit with feet planted on the floor, eyes closed and focus on breathing. But mindfulness is so much more than that. You can find joy in the mundane by simply being fully aware and in tune with your inner self and outer environment.

Even if you’re someone who is leading a rushed, jet-set lifestyle, no one is too busy for practicing mindfulness. Move slowly, breathe normally, and be completely aware of everything around you.

Being mindful increases your chances of success and will help you achieve tasks in a calm and peaceful manner. And, you’ll accomplish more! You’ll make fewer mistakes and the likelihood of causing further stress in your work or personal life will hugely reduce.

Final Thoughts

If you want to step up your personal growth and achieve success in life, it all begins with you. Stress has detrimental effects on all aspects of health. We might not realize that that is the reason we’re self-sabotaging or remaining stagnant.

Personal growth means you’re willing to truly grow and expand mentally, emotionally and physically. How you navigate life has a ripple effect–good or bad. It’s important to recognize that sometimes we all make things bigger or worse than they actually are, which only can interfere in relationships and friendships.

Asking yourself the fundamental question, “where am I at” and actually doing what you can to be more open-minded will change your life. Because knowing where you are will put you on the path towards achieving your long and short-term goals.

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Featured photo credit: Stanislav Kondratiev via unsplash.com

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