The young adult years bring many important life changes: leaving home, establishing oneself as an independent individual and beginning the myriad undertakings associated with “adulting.” While these are all necessary steps to becoming a responsible citizen, transitions can be challenging to your sense of self as things you formerly relied on to define you fall away.
However, as the seasons change, you are presented with an opportunity to develop your identity and pin-point life goals. Instead of falling victim to “paralysis of analysis,” here are some three ways you can use this time productively to reflect on the past, dream about the future and grow into the kind of person you will be proud to be known as.
What is self-development?
According to Google, the definition of self-development is, “the process by which a person’s character or abilities are gradually developed.” Self-development focuses on discovering, obtaining and refining skills and qualities that will help you become the person you want to be and create the life you want to live. Self-development encompasses every area of your life: professionally, academically and physically; not to mention spiritual, emotional and social development as well.
Looking back to the definition, notice the emphasis on the word gradually. One of the biggest pitfalls for progress in growth and development is the expectation that it will happen overnight. However, change isn’t linear and true self-development takes root as a result of consistent hard work over an extended period of time. And it is generally anything but easy.
Personal development takes active work; it’s not a passive skill you can set on autopilot and expect to see results in two months. Even when you do notice improvements, you usually won’t see it happening all at once. Just like a flower blooming, personal growth comes in stages that require patience; sometimes they are so slight that you need an observant eye to even catch that they have taken place.
Follow these tips to grow in self-awareness and set realistic, achievable goals for sustainable growth and change in your personal life.
How to pursue self-development
1) Create a vision
The first step to lasting self-improvement is to develop a detailed vision of your goal. Although it might be slightly morbid, a helpful exercise to establish this is to imagine your funeral. What would you want to be written on your tombstone? As people exchange stories about you, what kind of person do you want them to remember?
Ask yourself the following three questions:
- When you look back at your life, what do you want to be known for?
- Which positive traits would you like to acquire or strengthen?
- Who do you know that is an example of a healthy, productive person that inspires you to be better?*
Take some time to journal your responses to these questions, and see if they spark any other realizations about the kind of person you would like to grow to become. Write it down. Talk about it with a friend. Print pictures of different things that remind you of this vision and hang them where you can see them daily. This vision will be important for informing your decisions in the future; when motivation dwindles, you can return to this “drawing board” you create for yourself as a reminder of why you embarked upon this journey, to begin with.
2) Reflect on your past
One of the most important aspects of the season of young adulthood is a thorough examination of your past experiences. You need to make a distinction between the good and the bad traits and habits you acquired from your upbringing and decide what you would like to carry with you into the future and what you intend to leave behind.
Think about your parents and the ways that you are alike to each of them, and how you are different. Do you like what you see? You will most likely see some similarities that are positive, and others that are negative. Perhaps you have a mentor or friend who has had a major impact on you. If a traumatic experience comes to mind, think of the ways that that memory impacts your behavior and relationships today.
It should be noted that this is a rather uncomfortable process. It demands vulnerability, humility and courage to take an honest look at what you have experienced and who you have become, and to honestly evaluate the things that need adjusting.
3) Gradually implement small changes
Improvement requires self-awareness; this is the first step. But awareness would be incomplete without knowing how to develop the self-discipline necessary to implement change in your life. Important here is an understanding of how self-esteem works. If you are wondering how to become a better person overall, the first question you need to ask is how to develop self-esteem.
Self-esteem, or the way we feel about ourselves, depends very much on self-image— how we see ourselves. We can improve our self-image by growing our sense of self-trust, or honoring the commitments we have made to ourselves by following through. The best way to make small “deposits” into the self-trust bank account is by setting small achievable goals for ourselves and actually doing them.
Some examples of small ways to grow self-trust, therefore improving self-image and boosting self-esteem are:
- Making the bed every day;
- Drinking water when you wake up in the morning;
- Going to bed when you say you will (Note: this doesn’t necessarily mean going to bed early. It simply means that you do what you say you will, even if “bedtime” is 3 am);
- Doing the dishes at a sustainable interval;
- Refraining from hitting the snooze button on your alarm;
- Implementing a very reasonable commitment to exercise (once or twice per week);
- Keeping appointments that you have made with other people.
Implementing these changes will take a considerable amount of forethought and organization, but with dedication and perseverance, a bright future is very attainable. The key here is to start small, with what you know you can handle and fulfill with consistency.
If you or a loved one could benefit from accountability and a professional’s companionship on this journey to a better version of yourself, Rehab After Work is here for you. Schedule your appointment today by calling (610) 644-6464 for a personal consultation and a listening ear.
*If you don’t know anyone personally who fits this description, get creative and look to different world leaders, celebrities or social media influencers who are living in a way that calls you to a higher standard.