Personal Growth is a tricky thing. As a mindset, I believe it can be hugely benefical (afterall, that is why i founded Wolkify, a platform for personal growth). It gives you a guideline in life, it offers values to live by and it encourages you to continuously push yourself. These are all features that hopefully result in you aiming higher, striving for greater things, and step by step becoming the best version of yourself. There is however also the other side of the coin. Personal growth has more and more become a goal of itself, without serving a higher goal that is your north star, guiding the way. This is what I like to call personal growth bullshit. And sadly, many fall prey to it.
What personal growth is
Personal growth is supposed to be merely a means to an end. It is supposed to encourage you, motivate you when needed and give you useful tools to keep you going. It should make you ready for the challenges that you will be facing while you pursue your goal. But personal growth should not be your goal itself! Personal growth is the growth that happens along the way, as you overcome obstacles and mold yourself into the kind of person you need to become. But for that you need a clear vision of
a) how exactly that person looks like and
b) what this person is supposed to accomplish.
This should be your goal. Everything that happens between where you are right now and becoming “that person” who does “that thing” is personal growth and merely a by-product.
The personal growth bullshit
However, I increasingly witness people who are drawn towards self development and personal growth without knowing where they are actually going with it. They feel dissatisfied with their lives and want to better themselves, but they lack a higher purpose. They might start working out, or read more (preferably personal growth books), or work on their social skills. And while none of that is intrinsically bad – quite the opposite – many people seem to do it only to check self development off their list and feel a bit better about themselves. They get caught up in the fancy world of personal growth simply because it is ‘hip’. This is the kind of body you need to have; this is the kind of books you should read; these are the kind of people you are supposed to hang out with.
People let self development gurus and seminars and courses dictate what personal growth is and what not. And that’s defeating the purpose.
Find your journey, use personal growth as toolbox
Personal growth is supposed to merely provide you the right tools on a journey that you chose for yourself. Consider the most successful people out there, people who are really crushing it and, ironically, are often stylised as role models in the personal development community: Steve Jobs; Elon Musk; Thomas Edison; Winston Churchill. The list goes on.
What all these people have in common is that they were immensely dedicated to their craft. They put in the hours and worked very hard to overcome all sorts of obstacles. But what they also had in common is that they didn’t get caught up in ‘motivational speeches’, seminars on how to be more productive or fancy performance trackers. They were on a mission and couldn’t be distracted by personal development, they were too busy getting the job done! Now incidentally they did immensely develop as a person along the way, but that was never the main goal. The vision of what they wanted to accomplish and who they needed to become for that came first. As mentioned above, personal development was merely a by-product.
Avoid the personal growth bullshit by having a deeper purpose
The personal growth trap can only be avoided by having enormous clarity about who you are and what it is you want to accomplish. Don’t think that generally ‘becoming better’ is enough. You need to have an answer to “Becoming better at what? And why?”. Learn the skills that bring you closer to achieving your goal, and yes, if it helps even consult personal growth resources. But don’t do it for the sake of personal growth. Do it to get the job done. Otherwise you have fallen for personal growth bullshit.