Life Balance Check, Part 4: Personal Growth
October 29, 2019
by Peter Amsterdam
Life Balance Check, Part 4: Personal Growth
Throughout our lifetime, we naturally grow and improve in various areas of our lives. We gain experience from our positive and negative encounters, our successes and failures, our relationships, reading and studying, etc. Personal growth can be greatly enhanced through intentionally enriching our knowledge and capabilities so that we keep growing and make strides to better our future. However, personal growth can sometimes be hindered by the difficulty of making the needed time or budgeting the finances necessary for whatever program, course, or classes we’d like to pursue. Even if we hit a few bumps along the way, it’s important to not ignore or give up on pursuing personal growth.
Personal growth and development through learning is an ongoing process. Whether in the areas of professional development, increasing our knowledge base, or spiritual growth, each of us can strive to take steps in our personal development. Such growth can bring joy, enlightenment, personal satisfaction, and progress, as well as potential new opportunities.
Joyce A. E. Russell wrote:
With today’s more complex business environment, learning is not just a nice thing to do—it is essential for staying on top of things ... None of us can afford to remain stagnant in our knowledge.1
Personal growth includes professional development, which can help us provide greater expertise and advance in our careers. It can open the door for a job that provides more finances, more challenge and purpose, more witnessing opportunities, or other such benefits for ourselves and others.
Growing in all aspects
Personal growth is not limited to our professional lives and work. It can affect all aspects of our lives, including our emotional well-being and overall happiness. Z. Hereford writes:
When you invest in your personal development you take responsibility for your life, your circumstances and your happiness. … If, on the other hand, you sit back and don’t make the effort to take charge of your life you set yourself up for events to affect you. If you’re unprepared and not proactive you will end up reacting to, rather than affecting, what is going on around you.2
Personal development is not measured by financial, social or external success. Instead it is determined by our efforts to develop our intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects in order to reach our full human potential.
In the process of developing ourselves, we also strive to express our talents and abilities for the enrichment and benefit of others …
Personal development is, therefore, the process of striving to be the best that you can be in order to reach and realize your full potential.3
Personal growth consists of the development of all aspects of our well-being: taking care of the physical aspects of our body, our emotional state, intellectual pursuits, and spiritual advancement.
One constant thread in our lives as Christians is that we are passionate about learning more about the Lord, His Word, and His plans for us.
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge.4
There are many ways to go about this. Here are a few ideas:
- Adopt a structured program that will help you regularly read through and understand the Bible.
- Follow and review sermons by pastors that you find helpful and inspiring.
- Take initiative to build a group of friends who you meet with regularly for fellowship, prayer, and fun. This could be people who live in your area, or an online group of friends and family that you fellowship with via video chat.
- Join a small group in a local church that provides a structured Bible study program with discussion.
God made us to be interested in lots of different things, and there is so much to learn in any number of subjects where we can further develop and educate ourselves. Whether or not a particular field is ever going to become a career for you, it can still be an area of growth and challenge and a source of personal satisfaction.
Besides that, personal growth helps us to feel happy with our development and the direction our lives are going. It can also be a good remedy for boredom. If you’re not sure what to do or where to look for open doors for personal growth, I believe if you pray and keep an eye out for opportunities, the Lord will bring them your way, even through unusual or unexpected avenues.
Be a lifelong learner
When the Lord gives us an opportunity to learn, then the question is: What will we do with it? Here is some insight from John C. Maxwell:
What we do with the learning opportunities that we encounter will determine our success and progress for years to come. We need to be lifelong learners.
Over the years, I’ve concluded that lifelong learning doesn’t just happen. We can’t just “expect” to learn. We need to “intend” to. A little bit of learning happens in every life. But without intention, it mostly happens by accident. If you’ve taken responsibility for your own learning, you need to go after it with a commitment of time and effort. Schedule learning into your calendar. Then spend that time wisely.
Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” Are you getting wiser every day? … If you embrace learning, you’ll keep growing.5
Just like we must be intentional about our health every day, we must also be intentional about our personal growth.
Unfortunately, many people treat personal growth as a by-product of life. They seem to think if they stick around long enough, they will magically accumulate maturity, wisdom, and skill. But acquiring the right seasoning to make a difference in the world takes more than longevity. It takes a commitment to get just a little bit better each day.6
The advantages of reading
If you don’t have time or finances to attend conferences or seminars, take courses, or go to university, a great avenue for personal growth is reading, as you can have hundreds of mentors by reading books.
Reading [is] essential. I have always wondered why people put so much energy into trying to have coffee with some famous entrepreneur when reading a book is like getting many hours of their most crystallized thoughts.7
Over the past eight years, the Lord put a burden on my heart to study and write about Christian theology, the Gospels, the parables of Jesus, and Christian ethics, and this has involved a great deal of reading. I spend many hours a week reading and studying so that I can write on these topics. There are times when I feel tired and the subject matter is weighty and complex, and in a few instances rather boring. When I sometimes feel exhausted or even weighed down by complex content, I’m tempted to give up or at least put the book down until “later.” But thankfully, I have found that when I just keep at it and keep reading and rereading, I get past that feeling of overwhelm and the Lord gives me a breakthrough of understanding. I find a lot of joy at that point. It’s worth the struggle, and in the long run I’m always thankful that I didn’t quit.
I personally prefer to study physical books that I hold in my hands and can mark and highlight. Of course, I can only do that with books that I have purchased. If you have a public library nearby, you can check out books at no cost. If you live near a college or university library, they often let local residents check out their books and videos, even if they’re not students. You might want to look at this avenue of resources in the city where you live. If you don’t have access to a local library, you will probably need to purchase the books you wish to read. If that’s the case, it’s generally less expensive to purchase e-books, providing you have a device on which you can read them. You can also find free books online at some websites, especially older books in the public domain.8
Being a “constant learner” through reading is a practice shared by many of today’s very successful entrepreneurs, as noted in this comment:
Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports. Bill Gates reads 50 books per year. Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks. Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother. Oprah Winfrey credits books with much of her success: “Books were my pass to personal freedom.” Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day. Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reads one to two hours a day.9
Nowadays there are also a lot of open, free university courses and a wealth of information and studies you can access online. It’s worthwhile to take advantage of the many online resources available and keep challenging yourself to be learning something new. A friend of mine recently enrolled in a free online course (MOOC) from Coursera called “Learning How to Learn,” which he found interesting. There are many free online courses of this type that are general, which can be especially helpful for people who aren’t sure exactly what they’re interested in.
When our schedules are very busy, it is often the area of personal growth—expanding our knowledge base and our skill set, and increasing our ability to understand different fields of interest—that gets cut first. It can be a sacrifice to take time to invest in learning, as we usually have to take time early in the morning or cut back on recreational events or other entertainment in the evening or on weekends in order to fit it in. But it’s worth it! Of course, like everything else in our lives, this has to be kept in balance. We can’t put too many burdens on ourselves. We may not have an extended time for learning, but we can be learning throughout our lifetimes.
I think the key is to take incremental steps. Think about where you want to go, map it out, and even if you can just do a little, such as read for an hour a week, do that. If you find it hard to find the time to read, you can listen to audiobooks, seminars, or podcasts while exercising or traveling on public transport or doing house or yard work. Here is more insight on this concept:
If you aspire to growth, you can’t be complacent. Where you are today is a reflection of the education and skills that you brought to your current position. The question is, where do you want to be tomorrow? You won’t get there by coasting on what you already know …
[Many] people feel stuck when it comes to increasing their professional knowledge base. They’re swamped at work, overwhelmed at home, and unclear on how they might manage to squeeze the extra hours needed out of their already full schedules to make time for additional learning.
The secret lies in realizing two things. First, with the easy accessibility of today’s technologies and mobile options, it’s no longer necessary to learn in a classroom—you can bring training tools with you wherever you go. Second, because you don’t need to carve out a big block of time to attend a live class in person anymore, you can approach learning on your own terms and in your own timeframe. If you don’t have a solid hour to devote to picking up new skills, how about sparing 10 minutes?10
Enjoy the benefits
Taking time to learn new things enriches you as a person and can help build your confidence. It can also make you a better conversationalist, which can lead to opportunities to witness. People often look at a person’s ability to converse, and if you can talk with someone about a variety of topics and their fields of interest, it can open the door to build friendships and networks that can enable you to share your faith and minister to others spiritually. In this way, personal growth becomes part of the circle of life—meeting new people, building new relationships, and enriching others and being enriched through them.
When you develop a new interest, the Lord likely has some reason, whether it’s for your own personal joy and happiness, or perhaps at some point down the line it’s going to lead to some opportunity, or some way in which you can glorify Him and help others.
I look forward to the new things the Lord will lead me to study, explore, and learn about, and I hope you do too!
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge.11
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.12
1 Joyce A. E. Russell, as quoted by Aaron Skonnard, “12 Powerful Ways to Grow in Your Career,” Inc., October 14, 2014, https://www.inc.com/aaron-skonnard/12-powerful-ways-to-grow-in-your-career.html.
4 2 Peter 1:5 NIV.
5 John C. Maxwell, “Learning Doesn’t End With Graduation,” blog, May 20, 2014.
6 John C. Maxwell, “The Secrets Of Success: Personal Growth,” blog, January 26, 2016.
7 Adam Bryant, “Drew Houston of Dropbox: Figure Out the Things You Don’t Know,” Corner Office (blog), The New York Times, June 3, 2016.
9 Michael Simmons, “Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey All Use the 5-Hour Rule,” Inc., August 5, 2016.
10 Skonnard, “12 Powerful Ways to Grow in Your Career,” Inc., October 14, 2014.
11 Proverbs 15:14 ESV.
12 Proverbs 3:13 NIV.