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“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

This year, give yourself the most precious gift there is: YOU. But like all good things in life, personal growth takes time. The journey to becoming the best version of yourself may involve some challenges than originally thought. But what defines a positive journey is how we combat those challenges. Most people stop growing after finishing their formal education, thinking that the education system has taught them all there is to life—that is a misconception which needs to be broken. You might be developing yourself well professionally, but stop to ask yourself if you are developing yourself personally? Each year you celebrate your birthday, you are one year older, but are you one year wiser? Are you a better version of yourself from last year? Here are some tips to help you get started…

Reflect on what happened so far

We are all learners at different stages in life. Reflecting at those various stages is the most important part of the process, and whatever is not reflected is usually not learned and retained. The only way for us to grow and improve is to take a good look at what’s working and what’s not for us. Wisdom comes with reflection, to grow while actively pondering upon past actions and experiences. Deep reflections really empowers us to gain self-awareness and to improve and become better humans. We can gain more insights of ourselves to further learn about our strengths, weaknesses, fears, and might even discover something unexpected. I made myself get into a habit to reflect on my day every night, even if it’s for only 5 minutes. It lets me completely register everything that has happened during the day, and find something to learn from the experiences.

Focus on improving your soft skills

Studying sets you on a path to learn and master the hard skills needed for work, but what you need equally well are the soft skills such as: effective communication, creativity, problem-solving skills, collaboration, adaptability, etc. In today’s world, the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with customers is a vital factor in any organization’s success. Automation and artificial intelligence will also result in a greater proportion of jobs relying on soft skills, making them the key differentiators in the workplace. 18 months ago, I decided to work on my public speaking and networking skills and joined Toastmasters. Around 30 speeches later, I am a different person altogether; I am more confident in approaching people, striking meaningful conversations with them, and engaging with larger audiences. Pick one or more of the soft skills you would like to focus on, and join a group or take a course to improve them.

Cultivate a hobby unique to you

Having a hobby that we enjoy brings us joy and enriches our lives. It gives us something fun to do during our leisure time and affords us the opportunity to learn new skills. If you have already have a hobby which you are actively pursuing during your free time, congratulations! If not, cultivating a hobby is quite easy. Everyone has something which excites them in life—at least one thing that should stimulate a feeling of anticipation, curiosity, learning and joy in life. To explore further to see what you like, you can start off with some of the more common hobbies such as photography, crafts, reading, hiking, etc. Once you research and fix on something that interests you, finding and building a community of like-minded people who are also excited about similar hobbies is very important. Over the years, I have had numerous hobbies and interests, but I currently, since we are all staying home, I have a few that I am passionate about: listening to audiobooks, writing, and gardening.

Do what you fear

Fear, especially fear of the unknown, is usually the reason why most people don’t reach their full potential in life. Ironically, the best way to demystify fear is by doing what makes us afraid. You will not succeed every time you try something new, especially if that something causes you fear. But the confidence you will feel when you try something which you feared, let alone succeed in it, is something that will keep you coming back for more. All of a sudden, you will see new possibilities, do things you never imagined yourself trying, and set bolder goals overall. You will realize that it’s ok to fail, as long as you take that first step to try. In my case, I never imagined myself to be an entrepreneur. But this time last year, I took that step and joined a team of motivated individuals to create Joulebook, a marketplace for service providers and service buyers to come together and foster in a healthy exchange of skills. I had to do many things in the process of this one year to overcome my fear of doing something out of the ordinary without knowing the consequences, and now I love it. I hope you find something which you fear and overcome that fear by failing and then succeeding.

Make gratitude your best friend

There are many psychological benefits to being grateful, including feeling happier and lowering stress, depression and anxiety. But more importantly, gratitude promotes optimism and helps us to develop a more positive outlook. In one of his sessions on the power of the mind, Dr. Prasad Kaipa talked about why we should be grateful for all the people in our past and present. Most of the revered moments in our lives are gifts from other people. Dale Carnegie also wrote about the value of smiling at people and helping others to feel important and valued. He suggested that you should show people how much you appreciate them and be grateful for what they do and for the contributions they make. I personally thank my family, friends, and anyone who believed in me throughout my life. We can take advantage of this time we are going through right now to sit back and think about who to thank, and how we can pay that positive energy forward to others we may not know yet.

Again, I can only suggest these tips to help you take that first step of your personal growth journey, but it is your willpower which will carry you through to become a better version of yourself.  As Dan Millman said, “Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.” The journey of personal growth takes time and effort, but it gets easier the more we are invested in it. I can definitely say that I am a better version of myself from my last birthday to this birthday, and I will continue to strive to get better each year through various aspects of life. I hope you will join me on this journey of personal growth!