Encouraging Growth: Personal and Professional Self-Improvement

Over the last few months, we have frequently contemplated the role of growth in achieving success and living a fulfilling life. To achieve anything in life, one must be honest with themselves and develop a strategy. Growth is imperative. Recently, we have grappled with a tension between our ambitions and certain people’s expectations of us. We have constantly heard that we have changed, making people who knew us before the last seven years perceive us as completely different, unrecognizable people. Our recent contemplations on the subject prompted this post. Let’s check it out.

Personality

To understand the crux of this post, we must first address a very important topic: personality. Everyone has a certain characteristics that make them who they are. A chattiness. A defining interest. An instantly recognized disposition. We all have a certain personality that either attracts or detracts people. For example, one of friends is an intense, near-workaholic-type person who does not tolerate ineptitude. But they are also one of the most empathetic people we have ever met. This combination of personality traits makes for quite the impression. Some people dislike them, but most people like and respect them.

The above example begs the question: how do people change without sacrificing their personalities? The answer is they cannot. Personalities are not static. They morph as people grow and have new experiences. While people still retain key aspects of a previous personality, they develop new interests and hobbies, new perspectives, and different ways of thinking. We are a lot like our previously described friend; we work hard, socialize when possible, and care about the state of the world. Like our friend, we just tolerate some people less as we have grown.

This brings us to the importance of personality in understanding this post. As humans, we benefit from malleability. We can change to fit certain circumstances. Our personalities in grade school, and even college, differ from our current personalities. In high school, we preferred doing the bare minimum (in large part because of arrogance) and what was easy. In college, we reevaluated our trajectory and realized that that mentality would not work. So, we rediscovered our affinity for hard work. This personality shift made all the difference in later endeavors. While we retained much of our energy and empathy, our personalities evolved. That evolution made us better people. But it also invited disdain from people who knew us before the change. They claimed that our personalities changed, and we changed.


Growth as an Uncomfortable Thing

Changing personalities inherently makes some people feel uncomfortable. Most people prefer the status quo. We see this in everyday life, from following a predetermined life plan to playing it safe. Those life plans or safe decisions make people feel comfortable. Why change something if it is not broken? Personalities typically fall into that category for most people. “I have always been this type of person, and it has worked well for me.” People who live by these words live life in a comfort zone. Each decision they make conforms to very specific plan and a particular personality trait.

Those life decisions might show a maturity, but they may not show a growth personally. Growth is hard to gauge, but we know from personal experience that people fear what they do not understand. Changing a position on anything might feel like a betrayal, either to one’s self or one’s family, friends, etc. That perceived feeling of betrayal causes discomfort, which in turn causes one to maintain a previous position or personality. That person might even deny that anything needs to change.

But more often than not, the denial conceals the need for change. Enter growth. From personal experience, we have discovered that personal growth is scary for a few reasons. First, personal growth might cause self-doubt regarding whether one is doing the right thing or not. Second, it might (and likely does) invite skepticism and criticism from others, including family and friends. Finally, personal growth causes fear of the unknown. Combined, all three make for a severe discomfort. But we learned that we need to growth personally to get closer to our goals regardless of how others feel. Personal growth might lead to various frays in relationships though.


Personal Growth and Relationships

Have you ever heard or had to tolerate a family member or formerly close friend tell you, point blank, that “you have changed; you are not the same person you used to be”? We have experienced that on three separate occasions during the last two years. The initial impulse is to defend ourselves by saying “I have not; I am the same person I was all those years ago” only to have the same accuser reject that comment. As disconcerting as it might seem, someone who has grown personally is not the same person as they were before. They have different perspectives, new interests and hobbies, and specific ambitions/goals. We had to recently accept that our previous relationships before college failed to keep up with our growth, which begs another question: how should one perceive relationships during our personal evolution?

We have had to answer this question for ourselves by carefully scrutinizing what we want out of life. That careful scrutiny included reevaluation formerly close relationships, including those with family members. Through that scrutiny, we learned that we needed honest communication with certain people to discover who we should keep in our lives. Those conversations and interactions yielded two discoveries. First, we discovered that we wanted to surround ourselves with people who encourage our growth and ambition while challenging us to develop new perspectives. Second, we discovered that some people are islands in the vast ocean that is our life, destined to play a minor role in our story.

These two discoveries go to the heart of this post: personal growth. In our journey to be the best possible versions of ourselves, will the people we invite to join us grow with us or continue to challenge us to grow? Some people will dissuade us from pursing our goals. Others will encourage us to try new things, have new experiences, and develop new interests. The latter group are those people who should join us in our journey to becoming a better version of ourselves.

But how we do determine which relationships we should keep? The primary determinant is open-mindedness. The most conducive relationships for personal growth are those where people not only appreciate our attempts to better ourselves, but also encourage them. Whether they want to join in those attempts personally or not does not matter. It is the encouragement that matters the most. One should cut ties with anyone who directly, or even indirectly, interferes with our attempts to grow.

All this advice also applies to professional growth. In work, as in life, growth makes all the difference between success and mediocrity. While most people will perceive success as a zero-sum game where organizations pit us against each other, success is like “a rising tide that lifts all boats” where the only competitor is ourselves. Professional self-improvement entails doing better today than we did yesterday and doing even better than tomorrow than we did today. These endeavors are easier when we have colleagues and other work relationships encouraging this growth.


Final Thoughts

Success relies heavily on personal growth. We have discovered this over the last two years. While it might feel uncomfortable, growth makes a huge difference in how go through life, what relationships we develop and maintain, and why we keep working for our goals. People will try to stand in the way, even trying to sabotage any progress we make. But personal growth teaches one to use that friction to fan the flames of desire. Personal growth also teaches one to compete against themselves with the goal of being a better person today than they were yesterday, and even better tomorrow than they were today.

It took us a while to realize these lessons, but growth and some encouraging relationships help in developing the skills and disposition necessary to succeed in life. Success becomes easier when we approach life from a different perspective. Only growth can reveal that perspective. Accordingly, seek to grow both personally and professionally, and cultivate those relationships that contribute meaningfully to your efforts and pursuits. Becoming a better person always requires a good faith personality change that others will find discomforting and potentially threatening.

What have you recently done to grow either personally or professionally? Let us know in the comments.

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26 thoughts on “Encouraging Growth: Personal and Professional Self-Improvement

  1. Great reflection on personal growth. People tend to fear and resist change, whether that’s about themselves or others. I find that investing in our personal growth can lead us to some periods of time in which we find ourselves alone. I’d just like to add that’s part of the process and we must have the courage to keep pursuing what’s best for our development as fully functioning human beings. The right people will stay around or new people will even come along who embrace our goals and targets. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to reflect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such an interesting read and could find me a lot in it. I noticed that I have changed a lot personally and that has caused to distance from people that were not on the same page anymore. I think that growing will always be with a side of being uncomfortable but its always great to turn back and see how far you have come!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Personal growth is such a hot topic at the moment and we should all be thinking about it throughout our lives. We are meant to adapt and change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a great post, I can really see myself in this post! Personal growth is such an important topic which is talked about but I also feel is overlooked at times. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, it’s a great post! Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved reading this. It has been few years since I decided to step out of my comfort zone and i must admit it wasn’t easy. It was terrifying and it felt a lot like pain. Lots of people felt discomfort after several choices of mine. However, I must admit that I have no regrets over it. Thank you for this inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post so much! Personal growth is so important for us to develop. I’ve experienced a similar thing in terms of people telling me I’ve changed and commenting on it in a negative manner but I think it just shows not all relationships will last – and you should only have people in your life who value and support you. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A lot of this reminds me of my journey over the past year or so with creating my website and starting writing classes. I had been complaining about my job for a couple years and how I felt stuck with it, but I would never take the time to do much about it. I simply kept waiting and hoping for something to magically appear to fix it. I eventually realized that wasn’t going to happen (partly because my career path has pretty limited options for growth). I took the plunge to starting my website and taking writing courses to develop these skills of mine further to make hopefully make something of them. It was hard admitting to myself that I needed to grow and change my current way of thinking, but I’m glad I did even if it has been a lot of hard work!

    Liked by 1 person

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