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The Most Important Part of Personal Growth

And How Easy It Is to Overlook

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” 

—Gail Sheehy

I’ve worked for many bosses. Some were great and others were horrible. I’m sure many of you can relate.

At one point in my career, a new boss took over the department I was in–and this boss would always try to tell us a better way of doing something he’d never done. It’s like me telling Apple how to design phones. I’ve never done it before, but since I’m the boss, you will do it my way.

He was like that. We had to do things his way no matter what we told him. He knew better than us even though he didn’t have a clue about what we did or how we did it.

But it never worked out like he thought it would.

Because he didn’t listen to our decades of personal experiences. And he thought his experiences overruled ours.

Our personal experiences are important. But we don’t listen to them enough and we rely too much on others to teach us how to grow and develop. We forget what our experiences are worth. And we overlook the most important part of personal growth.

personal growth

Many people will tell you what to do (even me). Society will say you should go to college, get married, have kids, and retire in 40 years. And there is nothing wrong with that path if that is what you want. You can be happy that way. Many people are.

But what society won’t tell you is this “normal” path leaves many miserable too.

Yet we rely on others experiences to shape our own.

Throughout your life, you will receive all kinds of advice to do or be something or somebody–even this article is advice you might say.

But the person you should listen to the most is yourself. Because you have years of experience with yourself. You know who you are the best.

That is why it’s called personal growth. Or personal development. It is personal. It’s not public growth. Nor is it public development.

 The growth and development of yourself are up to you.

Because it is up to you to decide what is best for you. My experiences don’t transfer over to you and yours won’t transfer to me. They may help and I may provide insight, but that doesn’t mean it is what is best for you. Nobody can relive the experiences you have. Even if others have been through similar events, it’s not the same.

And it’s not about what others believe you should do. It’s not about what society tells you to do.

Personal growth is about what YOU believe YOU should do.

You know yourself better than anyone else and you know whether something will work for you. It could take experimentation, but experimentation helps us learn more about ourselves and adds to our knowledge. And it tells us what works or what doesn’t.

personal growth
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

“Insist on yourself. Never imitate.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I look back on my life, the things I’ve learned the most from I had to experience on my own. It wasn’t from a book or an article or from others. It wasn’t from following in other people’s footsteps.

I grew and developed the most from personal experiences. My personal growth came from within. I had to learn what was best for me, not what others believed was best. I had to create my own path.

I learned the most from my hardships — depression, anxiety, divorce, changing my job, and starting over at 45 — just when I should be at my peak from what I hear. Because it showed me what I’m capable of and allowed me to know myself better. I came through them healthier and happier. I let those personal experiences help me grow and learned the importance of sharing stories of mental health.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t seek help or advice from others, but the ultimate decision lies with you.

Because your growth comes from inside you. 

Your personal growth and development will look different from mine. It will be on a course distinct to you and you can’t learn what is best for you from me or anyone else. The only person who knows what you need is you.

So free yourself from trying to follow what everyone else is doing.

Free yourself from the pressure you feel to be the best. The pressure to make millions of dollars while sacrificing yourself for those same dollars.

Free yourself from the constant “success” noise you hear daily. And determine what “success” means to you.

Free yourself from letting others decide your growth and development.

Because it is personal.

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