Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site.
Life is a continuous series of growth. Fortunately, it’s also what makes the journey worthwhile. Who wants to remain stagnant when there’s so much in this world to explore?
However, you have to hone your approach if you want to reach your goals. Mastering anything takes time, dedication and practice. Here are six steps to creating a self-growth plan that will help you achieve the life of your dreams.
You might recognize this phrase if you attend any one of the various 12-Step programs. When it comes to managing addiction, this process refers to examining the maladaptive beliefs or “stinking thinking” driving your behaviors.
In regards to creating a self-growth plan, it refers to spending some time soul-searching and determining what you truly want out of life. It means asking probing questions, such as what you would do with your time if money were no object. Go deep. Challenge yourself to clarify your values.
For example, you probably have to work to live unless you were born fortunate. If you’re exhausted from the rat race, ask yourself how much you genuinely need to survive. Can you downsize your current lifestyle to take a job that might pay less but make you feel more fulfilled? Could you pare back on some expenses to quit that second or third job and instead launch that side business you dreamt about starting forever?
Change is scary. Psychologically speaking, the brain doesn’t react well to it. That’s because once upon a time, early humans had to constantly scan their environment for any alterations that could signal danger. Your amygdala lights up when you try something new, and tackling too much at once can overwhelm your fight-or-flight response, leaving you feeling paralyzed.
Therefore, focus on improving one aspect of your life at a time. Perhaps you do want to lose weight and train for a marathon someday — but you’re currently a couch potato who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym since junior high dodgeball.
Start your journey by making one small step, such as taking a walk around the block after dinner. Once doing so becomes comfortable, maybe try starting your day with a stroll interspersed with brief periods of running. Eventually, you’ll add on the miles. Once your new running routine becomes an ingrained habit you look forward to each day, you can move on to tackling your diet.
People often make amorphous plans — “I’d like to write a book someday” — then wonder why the years pass with no action. The best goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
How can you ensure your plan meets all five characteristics? Write down what you hope to achieve and how you plan to measure your progress. Do this step first — does your plan seem attainable? For example, most nutritionists recommend aiming for between four and eight pounds per month if you want to lose weight. More than that could set you up for hunger pains, bingeing behavior and failure.
Then, examine your why and put it in writing, too. Why do you want to shed pounds? You might include things like improving your health and feeling better in your clothes. Finally, set a reasonable deadline where you’ll stop and take stock.
Many people struggle to get to the gym. However, far fewer have problems making it to work each morning. Your health is more important than your paycheck because you can’t earn anything without it. Why is it so hard, then, for many to prioritize fitness?
The answer lies in accountability. After all, if you don’t show up for your scheduled shift, it won’t take long for your employer to call you to find out where you are. You also won’t get the paycheck you rely on to pay your bills.
Use these principles when creating a self-growth plan. For example, you could hold yourself accountable for sticking to a fitness program by working out with a buddy. The guilt of leaving your friend stranded can drive you to the gym when you’d rather enjoy a nice Netflix binge.
You can use partners to hold you accountable for other endeavors, too. For example, programs such as Weight Watchers encourage participants to weigh in weekly at their wellness check-in for this reason.
What’s the point of doing anything if there’s no payoff at the end? Yes, your self-growth plan should involve intrinsic rewards, such as feeling better about yourself. However, that fact doesn’t preclude a little celebration for reaching a milestone.
Reward yourself through every step of your self-growth journey. Set weekly and monthly goals if you’re tackling a long-term project like completing a novel. Perhaps you treat yourself to a gourmet tea at your favorite coffee shop when you hit your page count for the week. You might spring for a short getaway when you finally type “the end.”
Everyone continually improves throughout life, but you’ll reach your goals faster with a firm sense of direction. Use the five tips above to create a self-growth plan.