How to Get Started on a Life Changing Personal Development Journey
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Life’s too short to coast. Get to know yourself better by embarking on a journey that will lead you to discovering your true self.
First of all, congratulations on deciding to embark on a personal development (aka self-help) journey! It’s full of ups and downs, but if you stick with it, you’ll come out as a stronger, more confident and passionate self. Here’s the number one thing to keep in mind before you get started: improving your life cannot be done in “5 easy steps”.
It takes time and dedication. It’s a path of self-discovery that is literally never ending. When you put in the work, you will, without a doubt, come to a point where you realize it’s actually helping. The trick is, you have to put in the work.
I can honestly say, it’s a process unlike no other. You will be grateful for it, for the rest of your life. I dabbled in personal development for a bit, but about 7 years ago, I dove in head first. Do I have everything figured out? Abso-flipping-lutely NOT. And this is ok. I'm happy knowing I will never have all the answers - no one can.
Do I still have a shit ton to do? You bet, but I am less bitter, I don't hold grudges, I've learned to forgive and I've learned that everyone has their own challenges they are (or are not) working through.
If you can accept it takes time, then you’re off to a great start!
Before embarking on your journey, set yourself up for success. It’s easier than you think. Try these tips below to get started.
1. Be honest with yourself and why you’re on this new path
First and foremost, before embarking on a personal development journey, it’s important to know your why. What is it about your life you feel is hindering you from becoming the best you? Write these answers down.
Dig deep, really deep. Cry if you need to and allow the emotions to unravel. It’s not always enough to just pick up a book and read it. Sometimes, you need to understand or at least have some awareness as to why now, in this moment, you want to make a mindset shift.
Maybe it’s because of a bad breakup or a health scare. Perhaps you now realize you don’t speak up in meetings and wish you would. Maybe you are tired of being a people pleaser and want to break the habit of ignoring your needs over the needs of others (been there, done that, got the t-shirt). Whatever it is, hang on to that moment. Every time you stray from your personal development journey, remind yourself of the reason you started in the first place.
2. Find an expert you click with
It should be someone you want to have a coffee with. Someone who’s brain you want to pick. Self-help has the ability to give us the right tools, but if you feel no connection to the expert, look for another one. There are so many people working in this industry you can easily test a few out.
If you connect with someone through their stories, ideas and tools, you are more likely to take what they say seriously.
3. Baby steps
Personal development is not a one-hit-wonder you can download to your iTunes account and then go about your happier life. The trick to personal development is to know it’s not an overnight sensation. It requires baby steps.
Yes, you’ll need to put in the work suggested by a life coach or in the book, blog or podcast, but the best and most effective way to go about this is slowly, very slowly. Don’t rush through the steps provided by the expert(s) you’ve chosen. Focus on executing the suggested exercises and gradually add to your journey by reading or listening a bit more.
Essentially, personal development, of any kind, is a process, kind of like watching your favourite Netflix series. If you skip a few episodes, – or in the case of personal development, a few steps – you’re likely to miss something meaningful. Be part of the process by allowing yourself to make progress one-step at a time.
During your journey, keep this in mind: we are all a work in progress.
An important part in making any change in your life is to create a habit of the new activity or way of thinking. Habit formation can be easy at times. Like starting a new habit of eating a piece of chocolate on the couch every evening. However, when it comes to retraining our brain for healthy habits, it requires more repetition and self-discipline.
Although this sounds daunting, it will definitely get easier. Remember, you are retraining your brain. A superpower purely developed based on your perceptions, experiences and conditioning... from your entire life!
Training your brain is like training your muscles, similar to starting a new workout. You start off slow and gradually add weights, or distance. Going all in will only cause your muscles to get sore and overworked, resulting in you potentially giving up. Your brain works the same way. It prefers habits – 95% of what we do is automatic.
Take it slow and repeat until you master the particular step you’re working on. Then move forward, while still repeating the previous steps.
5. Reflect on what you’ve learned
Try taking a different approach to personal development. Whether it’s reading your favourite fiction book, blogs, listening to podcasts, or being open to someone else’s opinion, personal development encompasses anything that helps you grow as an individual.
The great thing about this is you don’t have to wait until you read or watch something new. You can reflect on your previous experiences too. In fact, this is a phenomenal way to grow as an individual.
Looking back on situations in the past, from yesterday, or as far back as your younger years, can help you learn so much about how you’ve grown, who you are today and who you want to be. What are the positive lessons you can take from your past and how have they shaped who you are today?
Think of everything you do, listen to, watch and read from here on out as an opportunity to reflect and learn something new. Personal development is not only about the Tony Robbins or Lewis Howes of the world (although I am a fan of both). It doesn’t matter where you get your information from, as long as it helps you develop as a person.
This last one is perhaps the most important one of all. Even if you never read anything else on personal development for the rest of your life, show yourself tons of compassion.
Treat yourself like you would a puppy, a baby or a friend in need; with your praise and comfort modes switch on. You deserve to be treated with respect from others, but most importantly from yourself.
It may initially feel selfish to hug, comfort and forgive yourself for mistakes, setbacks and negative thinking, but this is essential if you want to get anything out of self-help. For example, let’s say you’ve been on your personal development journey for 1 week. You’re practicing gratitude daily and maybe even trying to build a habit of meditating 5 minutes a day. Then comes day 8 and you completely forget.
At the end of day 8 or on day 9 when you realize you’ve missed a day, instead of calling yourself out for it, try saying “Wow, well done me. I was dedicated to my personal development for 7 days straight.” Then high-five yourself or pat yourself on the back and continue with your progress.
Embarking on a personal development journey takes time, repetition and self-compassion to form new more positive habits. Finding an expert and discovering what works for you is essential to your personal development and growth. No matter how you go about it, if you’re here, your goal is to learn and to grow as a person. Hold this thought close to you, as a reminder of what you’ve done to get where you are today. Give yourself room to grow and never forget how wonderful you are!