While it would be nice if we could solve all our problems and become better people overnight, the reality is that personal growth isn’t something you can “hack” or accomplish with a magic pill or quick fix. While there are many life coaches, personal development programs, and other opportunities that may promise you can “transform” your life overnight, you should not believe everything you read. Real change, the kind that lasts and helps you become a better version of yourself, takes time.
The Process of Personal Development
You are who you are, not because of one choice or one action, but because of many factors. Your personality, beliefs, values, and perspectives are all a product of years of experiences, learning opportunities, observations, and choices. You are who you are because of all the things you have done, learned, seen, and experienced. Therefore, changing something fundamental to your personality, such as your traits, beliefs, or skills, will also need to a product of time, practice, and persistence.
If personal growth were something we could accomplish easily, then why would we go to school for so many years? Why would we need years to become fully functional adults? Why would people spend years in therapy trying to overcome trauma? Because there are no quick fixes in life when it comes to those things that matter most, including improving ourselves.
The reason quick fixes do not work in life is that those things that are hardest to change, like your mindset, habits, and values, require consistent practice under lots of circumstances. They must become routine; they must become ingrained in your subconscious so much so that they become your new comfort zone. And that takes lots and lots of practice.
To develop a single new habit takes months of consistent practice. And that is just changing one behavior. When you are talking about setting personal development goals that are more extensive, you may be trying to change multiple habits plus underlying values that inform your choice and affect your motivation. Changing all those things takes time and practice, too.
If you want something to become a part of you, something you do without having to think too much about it, then it has to become a habit. Habits are formed when you do something so frequently that it creates a neural pathway in your brain, like a roadway through which your brain’s electrical impulses travel. Those roadways that are traveled the most become wider and more permanent.
When you first start doing something new, it is a bit like bushwhacking a trail through the woods. It is faint, cluttered, and just barely wide enough to walk down. But, if you return to that path day after day, it becomes much easier to travel, and your efforts to go that route become more automatic. Soon, you can drive down that road without even paying attention because you know it so well. But it takes a tremendous amount of practice and persistence to reach that point of habituation.
Our brains are malleable, but they require lots of repetition to create lasting change. Therefore, the key to changing your ideas, skills, or habits is repeating new behaviors or reinforcing new ideas until they become your new “normal” and supplant older parts of your personality.
Just as you did not become the person that you are right now overnight, growing and becoming a better version of yourself will not happen that quickly, either. Through a process of persistent practice, intentional choices, and patience, though, you can become who you want to be and accomplish what you want to achieve.