Many people view personal development as a specific category of activities (reading, conferences, podcasts); it is something you do– “this morning I will invest some time in personal development.” Personal development is typically a targeted effort to move from here to there, wherever “there” may be.
But, what if you looked at personal development differently? What if you viewed personal development as a constant, not a category? What if you saw all of life as a classroom and every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow?
This approach lets you leverage your interests, hobbies, activities, entertainment, and everyday life as primary drivers of your personal growth and development. It’s a broader view that unlocks a world of potential left unrealized when you rely solely on traditional methods.
Here are four ways to take personal development from an activity in which you engage to a lens through which you experience the world around you.
01 | Become a Discoverer
Shifting your mindset is the foundational component of a new approach to personal development. This means changing what you consider to be a developmental activity. Personal development doesn’t have to be an academic endeavor (though it sometimes is) nor must it be a targeted effort to close a specific skill or knowledge gap. Personal development can include, well … everything!
Tapping the full potential of personal development requires a transition from passive consumer to active discoverer.
Don’t view life as a buffet to be consumed; it’s an adventure to be discovered. Whatever your purpose at work or in life, you should always be on the lookout for tools, resources, and inspiration for the journey and task ahead. What you want to accomplish is no small thing; it requires a focused effort, new ways of thinking, and wisdom yet to be gained. With that in mind, every environment is a classroom and every experience an opportunity for discovery.
02 | Live In The Stretch Zone
Becoming a discoverer makes you much more aware of the learning imbedded in everyday experiences. Some experiences are more likely to produce valuable insight and meaningful takeaways than others; this is especially true of experiences that challenge you to step out of your comfort zone.
We like to feel safe, secure, and comfortable. Under these circumstances, we feel like we are in control, and we like to be in control. To embrace a holistic growth mindset, it’s important to understand the value of intentionally living in the stretch zone. It’s here that you can challenge yourself and shed light on previously unseen or unrecognized opportunities for growth.
Challenge requires something you’re not used to giving. It produces stimulus which you’re not used to experiencing. Engaging successfully in the stretch zone means thinking, speaking, and acting in unfamiliar ways. If you intentionally take steps into the stretch zone, you can discover growth opportunities you may normally overlook.
Living in the Stretch Zone can look like taking on new responsibility at work, facing your fears (one at a time), having a tough conversation, embracing risk, or anything that requires you to stretch your skills or capacity to accomplish.
03 | Break The Norm
Experiences that break us away from our norms can also be great sources for growth.
Throughout our lives, we tend to develop familiar routines that dull our senses to important details about ourselves and the world around us. When we experience something new however, we alert our senses and step away from the familiarity.
Different, unique, and interesting experiences allow you to see things from a new perspective. They help inspire thoughts that you otherwise might not have. They allow you, if you are looking, to learn things that you would otherwise miss.
I recently heard a leader from the behavioral communications agency “HeyHuman” identify “divergence” as a key component of a successful advertising campaign. There’s a sense that something in the ad must be different and unique to gain the viewer’s attention.
You can apply this same principle to your own development. In the same way that an advertising agency uses divergence to get the attention of a target market, you can use divergence to get your own attention.
So, try a new coffee shop. Explore an unfamiliar place. Watch a documentary on a subject about which you know nothing about. Change your wardrobe. Eat new food. Try yoga. Who knows what you might discover?
04 | Transfer Your Learning
While insight can come from any experience, the benefit lies in being able to apply those takeaways to other areas in which they can be most helpful. This separates an interesting observation from productive development.
Find ways to capture key takeaways and insights as you have them. You can write them down, make a mental note, take a picture, draw something that will trigger your memory– whatever works for you. Then, circle back and ask “Now what?”
How can you implement these four tactics? Sometimes it’s good to start with goals. Is there opportunity to broaden your approach to development? Find small ways to infuse your day-to-day with becoming a discoverer, living in the stretch zone, breaking your norm, and transferring your learning; you will find both improvement and fulfillment in the process.