Have you ever set a goal or a resolution and failed to take the action necessary to make it succeed? Have you ever found yourself investing into improving one area of your life while others begin to crumble? Have you ever spent more time worrying and stressing about a problem then actually fixing it?
Over the years I’ve invested into personal development I inadvertently developed a pattern to help stop these problems. This pattern allows you to put some of your growth effectively on auto-pilot. Although you will still need to continue pushing and investing energy, it reduces the need for excessive planning and worrying.
Personal development can definitely be hard work, but I don’t think it needs to be incredibly complicated. In fact, I believe the majority of your growth can be achieved with relative simplicity. Complex plans tend to result in complex messes. I believe that the simplest solution is usually the best one.
So what is this strategy for growth that I’ve found so effective? The strategy is actually fairly simple: identify growth targets, define next actions, implement and review.
This pattern encompasses the entirety of your personal development. You can use it whether you want to lose weight, improve your relationships or build a new skill. This method is also great for improving multiple areas of your life simultaneously while allowing you to focus on a single area for major growth.
Identify Growth Targets
Your growth targets are simply the broad areas of your life that you would like to improve. You could break it down to areas like health, finances, relationships, business, fun and spirituality. You could break it into divisions like personal and interpersonal or lateral and vertical.
Identifying growth targets is a process you only need to do once. You may want to change your definition of the different areas of your life, but the basic idea is to get a picture of all the different meaningful aspects of your life.
For myself in my current position I might break up those categories into:
- Fun & Adventure
Define Next Actions
The process of goal setting or setting a personal focus will tell you where across your growth targets you should be investing. If you set a goal/focus in the relationship category, then that area of your life should receive larger new investments then your finances or health.
Generally you can make new investments over several areas even if you make the biggest ones in your area of focus. Just because you want to start your business doesn’t mean you can’t make small moves to improve your health or do something fun and exciting. Extreme focus can be dangerous, so maintaining a little growth in all areas is a good thing.
Once you’ve identified your growth targets, the next step is to determine what is the next action to take in any of these areas. It is easy to get stressed or start procrastinating when you have to think about all the things you need to do in order to improve. When you focus on the very next step, everything seems doable.
Go through each of your growth targets and determine what next step you are going to take to improve them. If that particular target isn’t a focus for you right now you might want ignore it or add only a small next step. So for myself this looks like:
- Website – write one more post a week (small investment)
- Relationships – join a new activity to meet new people (large investment)
- School – try using different study method (no new investment, experiment)
- Finance – not a current personal focus, no next action
- Health – increase weight for lifting (no new investment)
- Fun & Adventure – join a new activity (same investment as above)
- Spirituality – read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now (small investment)
The investments I am making in each area reflect my focus. Since interpersonal mastery is my current focus, I am willing to make large investments of time and energy into that part of my life. Finances which aren’t a current focus have no new next action, but in my other areas I’ve defined some small next actions I can do.
I found this method when I was creating habits for myself. With each habit I created, I learned to enjoy the process of making a new change. More importantly, I noticed that I would only think one habit at a time, doing one 30 Day Trial before the next one started.
After each successful trial I would then define the next action that would be most effective. This process caused me to make a lot of change very quickly without wasting time and energy worrying and planning.
Implement and Review
Once you’ve set your next action now comes the part that is both difficult and easy at the same time. Since you’ve already defined your next action, you simply need to carry it out. Having absolute clarity about what to do next removes a lot of the stress people face when achieving goals.
Of course that means that you actually have to muster up the discipline to carry out these actions. If you are finding it impossible to carry these actions out then you have either chosen too big a step to attempt right now or you’ve picked a step that requires a bunch of other steps before it. Start small and you can carry it out.
After you have exhausted or completed a next action, you need to do a quick review of what the experience has taught you and define the new action you are going to take. If your diet failed, figure out something you would do differently next time around, and add it into the next process. Don’t fix everything, take it one step at a time.
Break down and classify the areas of your life that are important to you. With a focus in mind, decide what is the next appropriate step in each of these areas. Then carry it out with the clarity of knowing that you are taking the best action you can take with the knowledge you have. Not only will this reduce stress but you can grow faster than ever before.