Top 5 Strategies For Enhancing Personal Development
Human beings are animals of habit.
We create routines which are scientifically embedded within our brains to keep us on a certain track. Forming different patterns in our actions, and enforcing habitual change is an integral part of achieving personal growth.
Experts believe successful people all have certain habits in common. Initially, the challenge lies in formulating the changes which can aid our personal development, and then maintaining these changes enough until they become embedded in our psyche — thus transforming them into habits.
Before we get into what these strategies are, we should understand the science behind why habits are created.
Neural pathways are the roadways which allow different areas of the brain to communicate with each other.
In essence, they are the roads connecting a city center with its surrounding suburbs.
Neural pathways react similarly to the muscles in our bodies — they become stronger and fire more regularly, depending on how often they are used. In a nutshell, when we create and maintain certain routines, these pathways become reinforced, making them stronger, and thus turning them into superheroes of habit.
We all know how difficult it is to break some of the less desirable habits we have, and unfortunately it is just as difficult to create new, more positive ones. However, once they are in place, they will remain there just as diligently as the ones we wanted to part ways with!
So, what strategies can we use to ensure personal development, and positive change within our lives?
- Start Small
Everything begins with an initial small step. Huge corporate businesses didn’t start off huge, they began with a small idea that blossomed exponentially into something much bigger. Today, Nike is a multi-billion dollar company, but the history behind how it all began is something much more minute. When we want to administer positive change in our lives, we must start in much the same way.
Everything has to start with an initial step. The same goes for athletes. None of the top athletes we see in the world today started at the crest of the ladder. They had to reach out and grab the first ledge before they could move on to the next. A lot of hard work and positive habits succeeded, which enabled many of them to climb that ladder pretty quickly.
Now, for you, a baby step might be something like joining the gym, or loading up the computer and getting that first blog entry into print.
Whatever the goal, the fundamentals behind each will be very similar.
2. Baby Steps
So, you’ve joined the gym, or you’ve finally decided to go out on that first run. Now, increase your maximum bench press by three times and go from running a single mile, to completing five without stopping!
No. Seriously don’t.
Once the first step is taken, it is inexplicably important to make sure the next few steps we take remain small. Habits are often broken because people try to do too much, too quickly, experiencing immediate burnout, and thus quickly breaking the habit they thought they were creating.
A better example of a positive baby step could be starting out with running a single mile each day, or finishing one blog entry, to maintain these patterns of action.
The importance and significance of baby steps should not be underestimated. If you have a long-term goal of trying to achieve something specific, break the pathway to meet that goal up into multiple small goals, and these small achievements will eventually lead to something much bigger.
3. Enforce Habits
This is probably the most difficult strategy to maintain. It is the strategy all other strategies rely upon. Looking back at the first two steps, they are what formulate the plans we need to begin enforcing our habits.
Deciding the steps you need to take is the easy part. Doing those things over and over again to form a habit is where the challenge lies. It requires both willpower, and self-discipline to keep up with our habits, but if you can make a habit out of one thing, you can make a habit out of multiple things.
Building good habits, is in essence itself, a habit.
As Sean Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens put it:
“We become what we repeatedly do.”
4. Learn From Your Mistakes
Let’s say you are trying to make a habit of using your time at home more productively, but each time you wake up in the morning, all you want to do is load up Netflix and indulge yourself in the latest TV series to trigger a popularity bomb…
Doesn’t sound productive, right?
To combat this, you decide to run in the mornings to get your mind off Netflix, and avoid the urge. However, you begin stressing over the prospect of running, in turn making you crave the couch (and your relentless binge-watching).
Despite not helping you toward the achievement of a new habit, you still attempted to make a change through trial and error. Learning from mistakes is a proven concept in the success of many individuals and large corporations.
As Robert F. Kennedy once said:
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Formulate your habits, then find the best method to stick to them through testing what works for you. Once you find that winning solution, sticking to your habits will be much easier, and personal growth will be limitless.
5. Focus and Encourage
When long distance runners approach the finish line, they don’t slow down — they push harder.
Each time you notice a positive difference in your life, you are winning — even if on a very small scale at first. The same way small habits build up to make a greater change, experiencing these small “wins” gives us encouragement to focus on long-term goals, as we will continue to pursue those wins with relentless determination and focus.
I believe it is essential to reward yourself for positive change in your life — it allows you to focus on your goal because you know there will be rewards for doing so. Companies reward their employees for hard work through various bonuses and schemes. This is because they understand their employees will focus, and push themselves when there are small wins to be had along the way.
Do not overwhelm yourself with juggling multiple goals at once. As already mentioned, focus on taking baby steps to lead you to a greater goal. Any time we feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed, it is the result of our focus being split into too many different branches.
Focus is necessary in aiding personal development on any scale because it allows us to achieve consistent progress in one area at a time. This is what your brain is good at, so work as a team with yourself, and the rewards shall be richly reaped.
Each of us is unique — truly what sets us apart as human beings. Our brains however, work very similarly. We all have different habits, and things we enjoy doing, but animals of habit we are, and where one habit can be easily broken, another can be easily molded.
Personal growth does not have a ceiling. The possibilities are truly limitless, and we often end up surprising ourselves with what we can achieve.
Life is an adventure.
Go out and explore it!