Accelerating personal growth
How can I accelerate my personal growth efficiently?
Accelerating personal growth can lead to staggering transformations.
Here are some guidelines and techniques for accelerating personal growth, illustrated with a classic true story.
Tasha Eurich tells this story in her Insight book, which is pertinent to the question of accelerating personal growth.
It is a time of escalating conflict. A young Colonel aged only 22 and with no combat experience finds himself as second in command of an army.
The Colonel launches a successful attack against an enemy scouting party, which is destroyed. While flushed with the success of his first victory, the Colonel worries that the enemy will launch a revenge attack. He decides to move to a more defensible position.
Unfortunately, the Colonel’s choice of a new site is abysmal. Part of the reason for this wrong decision is tactical errors made without the benefit of combat experience.
However, it is more to do with the Colonel’s lack of self-awareness. He sees in his earlier victory skills which he doesn’t have. Further, he is blind to his many weaknesses. In truth, the young Colonel is brash, arrogant and lacking in personal insight. He does not listen to his experienced senior officers. In short, he thinks he is a military genius; actually, he is in over his head. Indeed, later he is criticised for “shocking hubris in thinking he could defeat the far larger enemy force.” Today, we might call it immaturity or undeveloped character.
Accelerated personal growth from defeat
Sure enough, the enemy attacks as predicted and the Colonel is thoroughly defeated in a short sharp battle. Next day, he signs a surrender document and retreats home with his tail between his legs.
The Colonel takes the lesson to heart and understands the need for a lot of personal transformation. He examines and acknowledges his shortcomings and embarks on a lifelong programme of accelerating personal growth.
The consequences of this transformation are staggering. The Colonel’s name is George Washington. He learns the lessons of the battle of Fort Necessity and his humiliating surrender on 4 July 1754. Through his own efforts at accelerating personal growth, he becomes a wise, restrained, self-aware statesman. Ultimately, he becomes a founding father and the first president of the United States of America.
Washington’s transformation is clear to see. It is a story of accelerating personal growth and development. It is stuffed full of answers to the question.
Washington’s humiliating defeat at Fort Necessity was a trigger for growth. It was the catalyst for a journey of transformation. Without it, Washington would probably have remained the brash, arrogant and totally unaware individual he is criticised as.
There is an element of serendipity here. Washington was in the right place at the right time. However, it’s not uncommon for external events to incite an individual to take the path of accelerating personal growth. We are less likely to benefit from such awakening events if we stay in our routine and comfort zone. There is merit in placing ourselves in positions of physical or emotional discomfort, as Washington discovered.
I have long advocated that travel and personal development are two sides of the same coin. Travel could be a journey to distant lands, a course, a trip to the library or opening a new book. Whatever you choose, you take a voyage out of your self. In the view of Karen Armstrong, “you die to your old self and are reborn into a new self”. Opportunities to escape your ordinary self and become your essential you become available, according to Alain de Botton. It’s why I encourage linking the two and giving them a high priority in family financial spending plans.
Your lifetime of mistakes, learning and growth
Washington makes blunders at the battle. However, if you deal with mistakes well, they become your greatest asset and teacher. It’s only by truthfully telling the story of your mistakes that you learn their lessons. Then, you benefit from the accelerating personal growth that your mistakes confer on you.
We can also learn something from Washington’s subsequent careers in the military, business and politics. Washington never stopped growing and developing. Each new role required him to gain new insights into his character as well as to acquire new skills. In short, accelerating personal growth happens because we live life and make mistakes which become our ever-growing story. The stories and failures of others can also contribute to accelerating personal growth, if to a lesser extent, of course. Life itself is our chief teacher and cannot be hurried.
In short, Washington’s story provides three essential guidelines to accelerated personal growth: get outside, make mistakes and be patient.
Accelerated personal growth inside and out
In Washington’s case, personal growth came from his extensive internal work as well as external sources. Accelerating personal growth using external sources such as coaching, workshops, seminars and books can be dealt with quickly. This is the straightforward acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding from others.
One of my mentors told me that to become an expert in sales, you should spend just 25% of your time on technique. The remaining 75% should be dedicated to working on your story and beliefs. His point was that it is the internal work where your personal development really happens. Often, it is your reaction to events that stimulates personal growth. Your response lets you down and leaves you ashamed and humiliated. Learning to tell your story and look yourself in the mirror again re-establishes faith in yourself. You grow and develop.
I have argued that personal development is a part of life and takes place at life’s pace. However, there are steps you can take to achieve accelerating personal growth:
Keep the right company
Jim Rohn argues you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time with. However, David Burkus argues that the size of our influencing network is far more extensive than five. Whether it is five or forty-five, it helps to be intentional about the quantity and quality of the company you keep.
Ask the right questions
Questions are powerful tools, and it’s not just a question of asking a question. Asking the right question will precipitate an answer that helps you to grow and evolve. In other words, stay curious and stay with the not knowing.
If asking the right questions is essential, then listening to the answers is even more so. And because the answers usually lie inside you, it is crucial to listen to your own inner talk.
Use the right language
Talking of talking, accelerate your personal growth by being conscious of the way you think, speak and write. For instance, using the word “and” instead of “but” will inspire you into different thoughts and actions. Communicating with positive intent will influence you as well as your audience.
Develop a set of values and personal manifesto. This is an excellent catalyst for accelerating personal growth. Defining your own values forces you to live to your own standards. Circumstances may put your personal integrity to the test when your values are tested. In so doing, you grow as you attempt to resolve the challenges you face.
Get a coach
Conversations change you, so find someone to talk to. This could be a professional coach or counsellor or a friend. Make your choice carefully. Look for someone with wisdom and experience who will listen to you, ask questions and guide you when necessary. Avoid people who are intent on highjacking the relationship to boost their ego. They will waste your time telling their own story or pushing their advice down your throat.
Set a goal, make a plan
This is basic. Work out where the gaps are, decide how to close them and set down a written plan which is likely to include, amongst other things courses, workshops and a reading list.
Much of your behaviour is habitual. Changing your habits, therefore, improves your performance. Disposing of practices that don’t fit your values paradigm and adopting ones that do makes you a different person. This is an excellent way of accelerating personal growth. It will remove the stress you feel when you live out of sync with your values and defend your integrity.
Consider what you want from ‘personal growth’. Is it to become number one at everything you do? That’s going to be hard on your self and probably means others will suffer in your wake. Alternatively, see personal growth as a way of narrowing the gap between your values and actions and strengthening your own integrity. That is likely to lead to a fulfilled and happier life.
Who am I…
Finally, you will already know that much of the thrust of personal development is answering the question ‘Who am I?’. You only have to look around the self-help shelves of a bookshop to see the truth of this. I often wonder if you can ever wholly and honestly answer this question. It needs to be asked, and even a partial answer is helpful. However, you could go a complete lifetime and never fully understand yourself. So, instead of asking ‘Who am I?’ consider asking yourself this question:
‘Who am I for?’
References and resources
Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: How to succeed by seeing yourself more clearly. Macmillan
Burkus, D. (2018). You’re NOT The Average Of The Five People You Surround Yourself With. Medium
Armstrong, K. (2004). A Short History of Myth. Cannongate (Myths series book 1)
de Boton, A. (2003). The Art of Travel. Penguin
This post has been adapted from Jeremy Deedes’ original answer to a question on asked by a Quora member.
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