The Key To Personal Growth – Part One

I am a reader. I always have been and hopefully always will be. In a good week I digest and absorb several books that help me to grow personally as well as in my chosen profession as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. In a tough week when things don’t go as planned I manage to read, work through, and apply the truths I discover from one book. Setting aside regular reading time has been a habit of mine since I was in high school. There is very little that can derail that decision made many decades ago. 

I remember a quote I wrote down from James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh which said: “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” 

If you focus on goals, you may hit the goals — but that does not guarantee growth. If you focus on growth – growing as a person in all aspects of life — you will grow and always hit your goals. Most people can see the gap between where they are and where they want to be – who they need to be. The distance between here and there is a growth gap. And we all need to work through how we are going to bridge that gap. 

Here is the one thing that is certain: To bridge that gap, to grow personally you have to be intentional. Personal growth, development, and maturity do not happen by accident. 

In my research over the years I have discovered a number of misconceptions about personal growth and development that often hold people back from being as intentional as they need to be. 

1> People assume that growth is automatic.

They assume that they will simply grow and mature without any or much effort as they just live life daily. When we are children, our bodies grow automatically. A year goes by, and we become taller, stronger, more capable of doing new things and facing new challenges. I think many people carry into adulthood a subconscious belief that mental, spiritual, and emotional growth follows a similar pattern. Time goes by, and we simply get better. The problem is that we don’t improve by simply living. To grow, develop, and mature, we have to be intentional about it.

Musician Bruce Springsteen commented, “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be.” No one improves by accident. Personal growth doesn’t just happen on its own. And once you’re done with your formal education, you must take complete ownership of the growth process, because nobody else will do it for you. 

If you want your life to improve, you must improve yourself. You must make that a tangible target. In other words, grow up and be responsible.

2> People think that they simply don’t know how to go about growing personally.

You hear people say, “I don’t know how to grow.” So, they never develop a personal growth plan. Go ahead, ask most people, “Do you have a personal growth plan?” Guaranteed, most people will say no. Most people simply don’t have a plan for growing and improving. Why? Mainly because they don’t know how to grow.

As a result, many people learn only from the school of hard knocks. Difficult experiences teach them lessons “the hard way,” and they change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The lessons are random and difficult. It’s much better to plan your growth intentionally. You decide where you need or want to grow, you choose what you will learn, and you follow through with discipline going at the pace you set.

As you begin your own growth program you will begin to get excited about the potential that you begin to see. You will begin to see growth opportunities everywhere. Your world will begin to open up. You will accomplish more. You will learn more. You will be able to lead and help others more. Other opportunities will begin to present themselves. Your world will simply expand. The decision to grow and develop as a person will impact your life more than any other decision you will make in life. 

More next time…