Eight techniques that have allowed me to reach my personal development goals faster than ever before.
It has been about four years since I discovered the world of personal growth. I was in a dark place at the time. I was living with a good dose of social anxiety and on the verge of depression. At the time, my focus fixated on getting through the day without many problems. I rarely thought about my dreams for the future because it was hard to imagine myself thriving. It just didn’t seem like a possibility.
Discovering self-help books and personal growth videos was a major breakthrough for me. It allowed me to see the opportunities I had to control my life and steer it in the direction I wanted to go. Once that first idea gained some traction, I threw myself into different books and articles I discovered. Following the ideas of Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma, and many others became my passion. I became extremely curious about how they viewed the world and what science was saying about the human experience.
This began a quest to find new information and tweak my life toward more personal growth and happiness. I still have decades to go in this quest, but I feel like I’ve already learned a lot about what works for me.
These are 8 techniques that I have found to be tremendously valuable in my journey to become the person I want to be:
Visualization has been an amazing addition to my life. I have seen my abilities greatly expand because of it. I have also found myself more willing to take on challenges outside of my comfort zone. Visualization allows me to see how great my potential is, even though I haven’t reached it at this moment.
The first step to prepare for my visualization practice is to find a quiet space where I can be alone. For me, this space is usually my bedroom. I find a comfortable space in the room to sit and close my eyes. To begin, I spend 1–5 minutes focusing on my breathing. Following my breath through my nose allows me to relax and focus. Then I start the process of visualization.
Visualization takes on many different forms. The two I go to most often are visualizing a character trait or visualizing an event. First, I try to create a mental picture of the event or trait I’m visualizing. If I have an interview I want to visualize, I will do my best to create an accurate mental image of myself, the interviewer, and the room the interview is in. If one of these things is unknown, I don’t fret over it. Perfect accuracy is definitely not a requirement. Once I have a decent mental image, I will start to add some other senses into it. I will add words to the scenario. If I know what type of questions may be asked, I will focus the words on those subjects. Then, if I have been able to maintain this image and the conversation, I might try to add certain smells into the room as well.
There are two goals I might have for this conversation. Sometimes, I try to picture the situation going as well as possible. I picture myself feeling confident and joyful with the conversation flowing smoothly between myself and the interviewer. This helps create a little extra confidence when I do the interview for real. It’s a reminder that I can indeed ace the interview, regardless of what my doubts may say.
Other times, I imagine the possible challenges that might come up. I will picture myself visibly nervous, unsure of what to say, or facing questions that I don’t know how to answer. In this scenario, I give myself an opportunity to prepare for these possible problems. I answer the question: what will I do if this doesn’t go as planned? This type of visualization helps me feel in control when I start to struggle because I have a better idea of what to do in that situation.
Even as someone who struggles to create clear mental pictures, I’ve found that just 5–10 minutes of visualization increases the confidence I have in myself and helps me create a path to follow to be the person I want to be.
In addition to visualization, I use affirmations to remind myself of the qualities I want to live with. Affirmations are a sentence that I use to help guide my actions, and they can be extremely helpful as a quick reminder during the day.
I often use affirmations in tandem with visualization. For example, I might say “I am strong and resilient” and I will picture a memory from the past of being strong and resilient. I think the biggest problem most people have with affirmations is they don’t think what they’re saying is true. Using affirmations along with memories from the past makes them feel more real for me.
Once I’ve established the affirmations that are important to me and I’ve used them during visualization, I start using them at various times during the day. When I feel myself starting to slip, I will use an affirmation as a quick reminder of who I want to be. With that goal in mind, I can get back to focusing on actions that exemplify that characteristic.
3. Meet People
The people I meet, both in-person and online, form the reference points that allow me to picture who I want to become. It is really hard to picture a specific quality, such as enthusiasm, if I have never met or seen anyone that I felt was enthusiastic. This reason, along with others, solidifies the importance of spending the majority of my time with people I enjoy and away from people I don’t.
At least once a week, I discover someone through the internet or in person that has a quality I would like to emulate. It could be the energy they have while talking to others or the way they listen. Sometimes, their body language is the thing that catches my attention. They provide me with a new ideal to strive for. They show me the possibilities I might have overlooked. Without these people, I think my life would feel stagnant. It would be devoid of the inspiration that shows me the amazing qualities people can create.
4. Set Reminders
Becoming my ideal self is not a one-day thing. It takes years and by the time I get to a place where I feel like I have fulfilled my original goal, I’m sure I will have created a bigger goal to pursue. Continuing along in this journey requires persistence. I can’t let myself give up, and I can’t let myself forget either.
This journey is not an easy process. There are struggles, doubts, and regrets, but I’ve found that persistence tends to pay off in the long run. I choose to stick with it when things aren’t going the way I would like. I have decided that it is important to continue along the path and I have to remind myself of this decision whenever I can.
Every day I remind myself of at least one reason for actively working for a life that is closer to what I want it to be. I think about the achievement of career success and how that would provide a sense of security and the ability to do things I want to do like traveling. I remind myself of how I could be happier if I had better control over my emotions and was able to avoid the pitfalls that I sometimes fall into currently. I picture how I could treat the people around me better and help them create some of the happiness they desire. These are all important parts of my mission but when I don’t remind myself of them, I lose the motivation to face the challenges that I must overcome.
5. Live by My Decisions
For most of my life, I have been a huge people-pleaser. I care about people and want them to live the best lives they can. Unfortunately, creating the life I desire requires saying no to certain requests and opportunities.
Sometimes, I have to choose to stay in and focus on personal priorities instead of going to the movies or dinner. Parties often don’t interest me, so I don’t go. When my opinions clash with someone else, I’ll consider their side of the story, but my goal is to find the belief that works best for me. I no longer make decisions based on what will allow me to fit in with the status quo.
I’m sure there are people in my life, both lesser-known acquaintances and those close to me, that have created certain expectations for how I should live and what I should do. Thankfully, they don’t make these expectations apparent. I know for many people this is not the case. If a conflict should arise at some point, I have decided that I must live based on my decisions. I don’t want to create a rift in the relationship but I will if it’s the only way to live by my decisions. Life is too valuable to relinquish control.
6. See the Future but Live in the Moment
Creating the life I want is the overarching goal that guides all other goals. It’s a long, possibly unending, path with a bunch of milestones along the way. Whenever I complete one of these milestones, I make sure to celebrate it.
I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the future I want to create. I want to experience the joys and freedoms that I believe lie further along the path. I often have to remind myself that those are thoughts best saved for another day. The only moment I can control is the one I’m a part of right now.
I create little pockets during my day, usually at the beginning and end, to consider the future and my goals for it. For the rest of the day, I focus on the present and how I can align my present with that future. Currently, that means writing this article. As tempting as it is to think about the future, there is only so much I can do before it becomes unproductive and I start missing out on the joys and opportunities available today.
Sometimes, today’s happiness takes priority over working toward a better tomorrow. I know that doing good work tomorrow requires me to be happy, healthy, and motivated. This means taking a break when I’m feeling worn out. I go do something I enjoy instead of making minimal progress toward a future goal.
This applies to long term goals too. I would love to have a good retirement and never have to consider working again, but I think I would rather travel to a few different countries in my twenties and have to be a little more cautious with my spending during retirement. I plan on saving some money, but I’m going to spend a little on the experiences I enjoy too. Waiting a few decades before I start investing in the things I enjoy doesn’t sound like the right philosophy for me.
7. Question Doubts and Limitations
I’ve accepted that any large challenge is going to be accompanied by its fair share of doubts. Doubts try to persuade me that I’m not good enough and I’m going to make myself look bad. Doubts like to turn my focus toward the worst-case scenario. It’s an attempt to keep me within my comfort zone and as far away from fear and embarrassment as possible. Unfortunately, there is little room for me to grow inside my comfort zone and, more times than not, I end up feeling the discontent of stagnation.
Instead of allowing my doubts to talk me out of a decision, I question their validity. Questioning these doubts gives me time to look at the situation logically instead of making an emotional decision. Once I look into the doubts I’m having, I usually find the scenarios they create are unlikely and not as bad as they appeared to be at first. Sometimes, they are completely unwarranted. Other times, there may be a few simple changes I can make to my preparation that handles those doubts. Going into any difficult challenge, such as those involved in creating the life I want to live, I expect my doubts to try to persuade me that I’m not ready. I have learned that it’s usually not in my best interest to listen to those doubts.
8. Do Other Things Too
One of the biggest mistakes I have made in my journey of personal growth was making it my entire life. When I first started, I spent nearly all my time daydreaming of the future when my life was put together the way I hoped it would be. I let this dream overshadow the good things I had going for me at the time. Seeking to become better is a normal and healthy desire, but I became so focused on this desire to improve that I was often discontent with my life.
The lesson I learned from this mistake was to focus on other things as well. As much as I like the process of growing, I need hobbies solely meant for my personal enjoyment. I have to make some time for hiking, taking pictures, trying new things, and watching movies. I can’t let the process of creating a happier, more purposeful life in the future come at the cost of my current happiness. That is a recipe for disappointment. For me, a happy life is an act of balancing. I must be okay with spending my time on other things so that I can give all my energy to personal growth during the times I am focused on personal growth.
There are people that will say the key to success is being obsessed with what you’re doing. I think that sentiment probably works for some people, but I am more concerned with creating a balance between my work, my hobbies, and my friends. Ever since I started giving myself more freedom to do things I enjoy, I’ve been able to achieve my personal growth goals in less time and the process has been far more enjoyable.
The farther I get along this path, the more important it becomes to drop all expectations and approach this journey with curiosity. I have a rough picture of the future that guides my actions but I know there will be details and detours that I can’t imagine. There will be a mix of good and bad events that I wasn’t expecting and I’m glad. Those are the moments that make each life unique. That is when my personal growth will be tested. I’m the author beginning his book with a sense of what he wants the plot to be but I hope there are a few events, characters, and settings along the way that surprise me.
I have a long road ahead to reach my current goals and those goals are just the beginning. Personal growth is not a daily or monthly pursuit, it is a lifelong journey to see where I end up. Luckily, the techniques listed above have helped me move faster than ever before. I hope one or two of these techniques will help you grow faster too.