Personal Growth & Self-Actualization:
What Will Your Choice Be?
What Does Personal Growth Mean to You?
I asked this on my Facebook page recently and got some very insightful replies:
“Personal growth, to me, is a constant challenge to get better. It’s recognizing my shortcomings and liking myself anyway. It’s forgiving and leaving grudges behind. It’s realizing that my effort is more important than perfection.” ~Holly B.
“Personal growth means doing something out of your comfort zone—something in the back of your head that you always thought you wanted to do but always told yourself you couldn’t.” ~Amy W.
“Personal growth means looking through the eyes of faith and not fear. It can mean walking through the pain of the past to get to the present, and most of all letting go. I heard a great analogy once that I try to live by: If someone throws a rock at you there are three choices—pick the rock up and throw it back, pick the rock up and carry it with you, or after the rock hits and falls, walk away! Sometimes the growth is in walking away.” ~Tami B.
What Personal Growth Means to Me
To me, personal growth includes all of these things. It means choosing to remain open and receive the lessons we are given: choosing to learn from whatever comes our way. I’ve been handed many life experiences that have given me opportunities to grow, several of which I write about in my memoir, This is How We Grow. As I write, “There is a reason for every season of growth…’Life is Change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.’ What will your choice be? I choose to grow.” (p. 5) To me, this says it all. We are each given change—some we want and some we do not. But it’s up to us to decide what to do with it.
And often, change isn’t handed to us. Often, it is we who must choose to make change. If I don’t like how I feel, I can choose to change. If I don’t like how I’m behaving, I can choose to change. While it’s not easy to change, it’s always possible (as a psychologist, I would know!).
And that’s what I love about Personal Growth: Whether we opt to seek change or it is forced upon us, the question remains the same: Will we choose to grow?
Personal Growth & Self-Actualization
Self-Actualization is a popular psychology term that means: the process of “realiz[ing] fully one’s potential.”  I love this definition, for it’s basically the point of personal growth—to realize our full potential, to self-actualize.
However, people tend to misunderstand this term. In fact I used to not be so fond of it myself. I’d hear people speak of Self-Actualization, saying, “I can become whomever I desire, and I can do it all by myself.” While I agree that we each have endless potential, I don’t believe we can do it ourselves. In fact, the best personal growth comes through receiving support, learning, and help from others and especially from our Higher Power. All of our potential may lie within, and we are certainly the only ones who can choose to access that potential, be we need each other along the way. True Self-Actualization is choosing to realize our full potential–choosing to grow–while seeking and receiving love and guidance from others, especially God.
“In thinking about my life and the growth I have made, I know I couldn’t have done anything without support. Having someone on my side, having a cheerleader is what I needed to make the decisions that have changed my life.” ~Laura D.
Personal Growth & Self-Actualization: 5 Core Areas
We need others to help us grow, but how do we self-actualize? How do we grow? It’s a complex question. First, we must have a desire to “realize fully” our potential. Then, we must choose to grow.
If we break it down, however, growth and self-actualization can occur in 5 core areas: Physical, Emotional, Mental/Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual. When we feel weak in any one area, we can focus and work in that area until we improve.
Each of these areas has the potential to influence the others. For example, if I am physically unwell it will be much more difficult to grow intellectually. It’s also true that as we strengthen these 5 core areas they strengthen each other. The more I grow emotionally, the better my social relationships; the more mentally strong I become, the better my odds for physical improvements.
Thus, Personal Growth is a process of identifying the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual changes we desire and working in each area to improve and reach our fullest potential. And this, essentially, is self-actualization.
What Holds You Back From Personal Growth & Self-Actualization?
But it’s not easy to choose to grow. In fact, it can be scary. When I asked on my Facebook page, “What holds you back from Personal Growth?” most everyone agreed:
“Fear and complacency.” ~Doug K.
“I guess personal growth looks and feels scary. To me, it means trials and never-ending therapy. I would love to get to the point where personal growth means something I am choosing to do to make myself better each day regardless of whether or not I am in crisis mode.” ~Julie B.
I agree. We have to be willing to move beyond complacency in order to grow, and growth can be scary. It can involve crises, trauma, and trials, and often does. But we mustn’t let fear stand in our way. The way I see it, the only thing fear does is prevent potential good. If we’re afraid to grow it probably means it’s exactly what we need.
Personal Growth is a Choice We Make Every Single Day.
To Julie’s comment (above), I replied: “I know what you mean about feeling like you don’t get the chance to choose to grow–sometimes we don’t. And sometimes that ‘sometimes’ can last a long time. But you choose to go to therapy. And you choose to get up each day. And you choose to keep trying. And that is choosing to grow.”
In fact, personal growth is a choice we can make each and every day, and sometimes each and every hour! Whether we’re faced with parenting challenges, overcoming something like postpartum depression, struggling with health or mental health concerns, or dealing with grief, like the “rock” analogy above, we can choose to ignore what we’re going through, dwell on it, or grow through it. Even when life is flowing smoothly, we can still choose to grow.
I Believe in Growing. What Will Your Choice Be?
That’s why I love psychology and helping people “overcome, become, and flourish”—because I believe in growing. No matter how challenging things have gotten in my life, (and I’ve had some challenging times), something deep within has always known there is a greater purpose.
Personal Growth isn’t easy. But I know that everything we experience has the potential to open us, teach us, and grow us a little bit more. Yes, I believe in choosing to grow. What will your choice be?
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow–
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