Being comfortable with who you are and satisfied with what you have are noble traits that will ensure that you stay fairly happy in life. However, wanting more out of life – a better job, a fit body, more confidence, and a more active social life – is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact being ambitious is a great thing, as it focuses you on goals that become a major source of motivation to improve and grow. Becoming a better person allows you to improve your quality of life and forge strong relationships with those around you, while giving you the strength to deal with difficult or toxic people and persevere through hard times. So, how do you grow as a person? Are there effective ways of reaching a high level of emotional maturity, happiness and financial stability? Here are a few different things you can try in order to reach these goals.
1. Find the time to read more
An essential part of personal development is intellectual growth. Don’t be fooled by faulty rating systems like IQ tests, or allow yourself to crumble at the first signs of criticism or mockery. If you are a slow reader, and even a slow learner, it only means that it will take you a bit longer to attain information. But to accumulate and retain knowledge takes time and effort regardless of how quick your mind is. You can become more knowledgeable through active reading than people with 10 to 20 IQ points above you who waste their potential. Set aside one to two hours a day or several hours on the weekends to brush up on some basic knowledge, learn more about certain topics, work on your vocabulary and read a mentally stimulating piece of fiction. Reading will help you expand your knowledge, which makes life a bit easier. Audio books are also a good choice as you can listen to them while you run or perform household chores.
2. Seek out and befriend smart and accomplished people
When it’s time to relax and just chat with some friends, the last thing on most people’s minds is the fact that this can be an opportunity to learn something new, become more creative or get a different perspective on certain things. There’s no better way to test your knowledge on global economics or find some detailed information on wilderness survival skills than talking to someone who is a professional in the field or has at least done plenty of research on it. Some people will have tons of practical skills and experience in a few fields, while others will have plenty of information about minute details on certain areas of their chosen field.
If you start choosing your friends a bit more strategically, you will find yourself in the company of experienced, skilled, well-read and interesting individuals much more often. Don’t shy away from old friends or make every relationship strictly quid pro quo, but try to gravitate towards people whose company you enjoy and who can help you evolve. This way every relaxing afternoon or night out with friends becomes a unique learning experience.
3. Try to learn several useful new skills and focus on mastering one or two
There are tons of things that can look good on a resume, and quite a few skills that would come in handy in your day to day life. Have you ever caught yourself saying something like: “I’d be a lot less nervous during this date if I was a good dancer,” or “Things would be so much easier if I knew Spanish”? You can probably think of three or four skills that would be useful to have, just off the top of your head. I’m going to shock a lot of you with a huge revelation right now: there’s not much stopping you from acquiring those skills. Yes, as some may argue, time and money are a factor, but with the amount of free information on the internet and given the amount of time a huge majority of people already spend there (you are, after all, reading an online article right this second) picking up new skills is just a matter dedication and motivation.
You only need to become good enough to meet your basic needs in most areas, but you should have one or two main skills that you should strive to truly master. This means that you’ll devote an hour a day or a total of seven to 10 hours a week for several years on your main hobby. Attaining mastery can be incredibly beneficial for mental growth, as the long, arduous journey teaches you a whole lot and helps develop a strong will.
4. Strive to be somewhat selfless and join a good cause
Making a stand and fighting for something you believe in is a great way to become more assertive and proactive. Find something that you believe is worth fighting for and join a non-profit organization. Just raising awareness on some issues can mean a lot, and these days it can be as simple as posting some pictures on Instagram or creating a buzz on Twitter and Facebook. Just pointing things out isn’t enough, but it is a great first step. You can get more involved if you want and meet some like-minded people, organize events or help out in any way you can. This can really make you appreciate the luxuries you have and help you become more humble and considerate.
5. Do some traveling and experience different cultures
The single best cure against prejudice, dogmatic views and general close-mindedness is travel. When you spend enough time among people of different cultures you start to see all the basic similarities and learn about some interesting little differences that make us unique. Broadening your horizons some call it. You can also learn a lot about human social interactions and the nature of various traditions and ceremonies. Travel doesn’t have to be very expensive, and there are probably plenty of places close to home that you have never been to. It can be a real eye-opener to see your own country for what it is and experience the cultural nuances in different areas. Going abroad for a while and getting your share of cultural shock is an excellent experience that everyone should go through at least once in their lifetime.
6. Train your body and mind on a regular basis
There can be no major improvement in the mental plane without improving in the physical plane as well. Physical exercise and a relatively healthy diet can help you significantly reduce the risk of a huge number of health issues, keep your mind fresh and sharp, become less injury prone and feel more confident and full of energy. It can also help you go back to healthier sleep patterns, thus making you less mentally fatigued and sluggish. There is also something to be said about the lessons learned through hard training, e.g., learning to cope with failure and keeping going, controlling your fear and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to spark growth. This brings us to our last point.
7. Push yourself past invisible barriers created by fear and insecurity
We could all just sit around and feel comfortable, but nothing exciting ever happens when you are absolutely comfortable, and you can’t learn unless you jump into unknown territory and make some mistakes. By forcing yourself to try new things, to jump into situations that make you feel uncomfortable and fearful, you will slowly learn to cope with fear and anxiety and perform well under all kinds of stress. Eventually you will be able to thrive in an environment that once frightened you, and then it’s time to find another situation or activity you are inexperienced in and uncomfortable with, and then conquer your fear all over again. You don’t have to become a daredevil, do anything illegal or go out of your way to make yourself uncomfortable, but do try to set up a tent just beyond the border of your comfort zone.
No one said self-improvement and personal growth were going to be easy. All of the things in this article require a decent amount of determination and even courage to do, but with some persistence they will make you a better and stronger person.