Ducere Academic and Founder of Change Shapers, a social change incubator for young people from local and migrant communities around the world.
Life is a weird and wonderful thing! This is a well-accepted notion, no matter where in the world you come from or where you currently reside.And despite all of our differences, what human beings have in common is our ability to change and grow through time and experience. We are preconditioned to change, despite our often-best efforts to avoid it. So what steps can we take to cultivate the skills required to confidently embrace and navigate personal growth?
Step 1: Understanding who you are and how to be your authentic self
In order to embrace personal growth, it is helpful to have an understanding of who you are to begin with. Now this might seem obvious at first as you have probably written your name and date of birth on millions of forms and introduced yourself to thousands of people in your lifetime, but how many opportunities have you ever had to go much deeper than that, and truly unpack the things that make you uniquely you? Have you thought deeply about your passions, values and strengths? Unfortunately, it is not something that businesses and organisations in mainstream Australian society has traditionally tended to encourage.
Thankfully, this is starting to change as ‘authenticity’ is increasingly being recognised as an essential soft skill for any organisational leader to succeed. To be authentic means being true to who you are, and what you do. In business, authenticity is closely related to integrity. Authentic leaders are better able to build trust, respect and command authority through leading by example, providing evidence-based advice and promoting fairness.
Engaging in self-reflection, practicing balance and seeing things in the bigger picture, building genuine self-confidence and displaying humility are some strategies you can use to start being your most authentic self (Kerpen, 2015). The benefits of being more authentic won’t be limited to the workplace however, as they will most certainly cross over to your personal relationships as well.
Step 2: Cultivating emotional intelligence
We all know about IQ but there is another type of intelligence, that of emotional intelligence (often referred to as EQ). It has been gaining popularity over the last decade due to being recognised as the most essential component of leadership (Resnick, 2016). Emotional intelligence, put simply, is the level of awareness or understanding that you have about your own emotions, and the emotions of others. It also encompasses your capacity to control and regulate them. This type of intelligence can significantly impact your ability to manage interpersonal relationships, as well as embrace change and adopt a ‘growth’ mindset.
Cultivating emotional intelligence can help people succeed socially, professional and academically and therefore it is a key ingredient in personal growth. The good news is, unlike IQ, EQ can be easily developed with practice and indeed entire institutions have been established that dedicate their work and services to helping the general public cultivate emotional intelligence. The School Of Life is one such global organisation which has a branch in Melbourne and a plethora of online resources on understanding and developing emotional intelligence.
Step 3: Setting goals
Once you have a solid understanding and acceptance of who your authentic self is and how your emotions impact you, the next phase in personal growth is to begin to think about who you might like to be in one month, one year or five years (otherwise thought of a personal goal setting). Research has shown that people who consider the future and regularly set goals for themselves professionally, personally and academically, are generally higher achievers and therefore often happier and healthier individuals (Nota, Soresi & Zimmerman, 2004).
Fortunately, this recognition is ever increasing and therefore a range of resources have emerged in order to support people to set goals. Books such as Where Will You Be Five Years from Today? by Dan Zadra take you through holistic long-term goal setting strategies. Also simply writing down your goals on a piece of paper, and reviewing them on a regular basis can help achieve a deeper sense of personal satisfaction and strength to face adverse conditions.
Step 4: Building resilience
Regularly setting and working towards realistic life goals can also help to build resilience. Resilience is now a defining characteristic of successful employees who are recognised as being able to deal well with the stresses and strains of the modern workplace. The good news is that like most soft skills, resilience is something that can be built over time and with intentional effort. People with lower resilience can learn how to boost their ability to cope, thrive and flourish when the going gets tough (Centre for Confidence and Well-Being, 2006).
In addition to practicing goal setting, other strategies for building resilience include cherishing social support and interactions, celebrating successes, and taking positive action (Winbolt, 2016).
Step 5: Learning from failures
It used to be that we would try to conceal the mistakes we have made in the past and the moments we are least proud of. However, more recently and thanks largely to the influential culture of innovative start-ups, there has been an appreciation of the value of mistakes and an encouragement to express them in order to learn and grow as a result. The rapid growth of F#%Kup Nights, a global movement and event series that shares stories of professional failure, is just one example which embodies this approach that learning from failure is essential to personal growth. However of course for that to occur, you need courage to recognise and reflect openly on your failures.
So if you are interested in developing the essential skills for embracing personal growth, a good place to start is to begin working on understanding who you are and how to be your authentic self. Then move your focus to cultivating emotional intelligence and setting realistic and attainable goals for yourself for the future, incorporating strategies that will help you build resilience. All the while, don’t forget to stop, reflect and learn from past mistakes.
Kerpen, D, 2015, 4 simple steps to becoming your best self at work, World Economic Forum.
Nota, L, Soresi, S & Zimmerman, B, 2004, Self-regulation and academic achievement and resilience: A longitudinal study, International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 41, Issue 3.
Resnick, V, 2016, Emotional Intelligence in Coaching: Challenging the World through a Gestalt Perspective 1, Gestalt Review, vol. 20, no. 3.
Winbolt, B, 2016, 9 Ways to Improve Your Resilience at Work , Barry Winbolt Blog, 21 January.