Learn more about why self-growth is important and how to achieve it.
Self-growth, sometimes referred to as “personal growth” or “personal development,” is a process of developing new skills, attitudes, actions, or reactions that can have a positive impact on your life and increase your overall well-being. Self-growth can often involve an increase in personal resources, including self-esteem and coping skills, and changes in life and philosophies, such as deeper spirituality, redefined priorities, and a greater appreciation of life (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004; Taubman-Ben-Ari & Weintroub, 2008). For example, clinicians working with trauma survivors reported self-growth that involved a change in their personalities, such as greater sensitivity, compassion, insight, tolerance, and empathy, and deepened their appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit (Arnold et al., 2005).
Self-growth can look different for all of us. Some examples of self-growth may include:
Learning to control your emotions
Developing a growth mindset
Connecting with your body
Accepting what you cannot change
Improving emotional intelligence
Self-growth might help you improve your relationships with your coworkers, managers, partner, friends, and also with yourself. Here are some reasons why self-growth is important:
It forces you out of your comfort zone. When you leave your comfort zone (that space where you feel safe and in control) and work toward the growth zone (where you can set new goals and find your true purpose), you can reach your full potential. As the saying goes, “The best sailors aren’t born in smooth waters.”
Self-actualization. Abraham Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation argues that once we satisfy our “basic” and “psychological” needs, the next requirement is for personal growth and fulfillment. This is important because, for instance, not striving for growth might mean falling into a state of passivity later in life (Page, 2021).
Developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that people believe their intelligence and talents can be developed over time, while a fixed mindset means that your intelligence and skills are fixed, so if you’re not good at something, you might believe you’ll never be good at it. Research shows that those with a growth mindset achieve more than those with a fixed mindset in school, jobs, and personal life (Dweck, 2008). Having a growth mindset goes hand in hand with self-growth, as it broadens the possibilities and inspires you to work on yourself.
Tips for Self-Growth
There are a few ways to grow; some might require a long-term commitment or investment while others might be easier to access. Some tips to get started on self-growth include:
Meditate. Meditation has numerous benefits for your mental and physical health. When you meditate, you practice and learn self-awareness, an important skill that can help you on this path of personal growth.
Journaling. Writing in a journal not only has cathartic effects on your mental health—it can ease stress and anxiety—but also has important benefits for your personal growth. When you write down your thoughts and behaviors, you can start to notice patterns, which is a great way to increase your self-awareness.
Read. When you read books, you get invaluable insight into human nature, what makes us tick and why, and how others see and interact with the world. Whether that’s about love, the inevitable repetition of history, or a totalitarian regime in a dystopian world, reading is a good habit for self-growth.
Use positive affirmations and words. Positive affirmations and self-talk can be helpful for your overall well-being, including a decrease in depression and an increase in life expectancy (Beigues et al., 2021). This can inspire you to start and get you motivated to pursue your self-growth journey.
Be curious and gentle. Self-growth doesn’t mean that you are not “enough” or that you should pursue perfection. Rather it is about accepting yourself as you are and creating a safe space for you to dig deeper into what you could be.
Less is more. When people solve problems, they tend to add things together rather than take things away, even when adding more goes against our best interests (Adams et al., 2021). When it comes to personal growth, some people tend to add new skills or certifications. Still, some coaches recommend stripping things away—for example, other people’s expectations, self-limiting beliefs, stereotypes, and other things that don’t serve you (Lee, 2019).
Adams, G. S., Converse, B. A., Hales, A. H., & Klotz, L. E. (2021). People systematically overlook subtractive changes. Nature, 592(7853), 258-261.
Arnold, D., Calhoun, L. G., Tedeschi, R., & Cann, A. (2005). Vicarious posttraumatic growth in psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 45(2), 239-263.
Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Page, O. (2021, July 12). How to leave your comfort zone and enter your growth zone. Positive Psychology.
Tedeschi , R. G. & Calhoun , L. G. ( 2004 ). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry,15,1–18.
Taubman–Ben-Ari, O., & Weintroub, A. (2008). Meaning in life and personal growth among pediatric physicians and nurses. Death Studies, 32(7), 621-645.