This is the final article in my series about how to make personal growth last. In the first article I wrote about how the cornerstone of long-term development is the commitment to constant improvement. I took this idea a bit further by giving my four step process that has allowed me to stay committed to constant improvement. In my second article I discussed the importance of motivation. Being able to maintain a level of motivation over long periods of time can be difficult, but if done properly it can give you the fuel you need to continue your growth.
In this article I am going to discuss the final factor for long term personal growth which is patience. Personal growth is very similar to the weather. In the short term things can change rapidly, and you can experience a lot of ups and downs. In the long term however, personal growth is more like a gradual climate change. Practicing patience can allow us to step over those rainy days to get lasting results.
Don’t Expect Quick Fixes
If you want lasting solutions they won’t be quick fixes. There will be rare instances where you can utilize a new strategy or technique to get dramatic improvements. Usually, however, long-term fixes will come through optimization. If you browse the current set of personal development material promoting a bunch of ways you can change your life instantly, you aren’t there for the right reasons.
Many people hope that with the right technique they can make instant fixes in their life. Unfortunately, learning a new skill, concept or philosophy will never make significant life changes. Consistent application over a long period of time can.
Expecting our lives to change in an instant will only lead to disappointment when the enthusiasm wears off. In my introduction to personal development I mentioned how I never had an epiphany moment that changed my life. My life changed and is changing through many steps taken consistently.
Do the Best You Can
A lot of times people give up when they don’t immediately get the feedback they think they need. This often seems rational. Perhaps they are doing things wrong, so why waste time and effort if you might never produce a result.
Unfortunately many of the things that are critical to our own personal development will not give any feedback to us until long after we have been applying them. I know many business owners that point out that their profits were flat-lining for a long time before they began to pick up. I have heard from many longtime bloggers who inform me that it can often take at least a year before you start to get any feedback that your blog is growing in readership.
So how to we reconcile these two seemingly opposite facts? The first fact is that we might be doing something wrong, in which case a result might never come. The second fact is that sometimes we are on the right track, but feedback won’t come until a lot later.
To answer that question I am going to turn to a quote I am paraphrasing from Steve Pavlina. In it Steve says how ‘time is going to pass anyways’ so even if we don’t succeed we can either spend our time doing nothing, or trying. Time will pass whether you are actively pursuing your growth or not. If I had to choose between doing nothing or doing something, I’d always pick the latter, regardless of the outcome.
Don’t give up on your personal growth just because it isn’t working immediately. Keep at it, because the only other choice is to do nothing at all which will likely lead to far more misery and pain then what is caused by the frustration from a lack of feedback. Just do whatever you think is the best action to take at this time.
Another tool for creating patience when you aren’t getting any positive feedback is to look at others. If you are starting a business and it is struggling, look around at other successful businesses. Many of them had trouble when they were starting as well. By seeing other people who were in a similar situation but pushed through it by being patient, it is far easier to display that patience ourselves.
Take Pride in the Little Things
Many people wait too long before they give themselves a reward for their own growth. Patience can be developed, largely, by just taking pride in our small accomplishments. Don’t wait until you’ve lost ten pounds to feel proud, pride yourself when you choose not to eat dessert. Don’t wait until you’ve gone four months without smoking to feel good, take pride when you’ve gone a day.
Any small amount of growth we experience should be a source of pride. By taking pride in the little improvements that we make it is far easier to see improvement even when it is minuscule. It is far easier to be patient when we are able to see a bit of positive feedback.
Brutal Honesty with Vision
One of my favorite concepts about personal development comes from Jim Collins in the business book Good To Great. In the book, one of the features that Collins identifies as being critical to making a great company is to accept the brutal facts, but have faith in your inevitable vision.
Personal development functions exactly the same way. You need to be brutally honest with your current situation. Trying to act positive and happy when you feel miserable and your life is in shambles isn’t going to change things. Don’t live in denial of your problems, bring them out and accept them no matter how painful that might be to realize.
This brutal honesty, must be balanced by an inspiring vision. You need to have this vision to stay motivated to succeed. Patience can be created simply by understanding that no matter how grim things are right now, or how little progress we are making, we will eventually get out of it. Absolute certainty that we will eventually arrive at our destination can allow us to work at it even when our environment and surroundings are trying to stop us.
If you don’t expect quick results, make the best use of your time, take pride in minor accomplishments and be brutally honest with an inspiring vision, patience is something far easier to maintain. With patience, it is far easier to maintain our own personal growth.
Making personal growth last will create continuous improvement in the quality of your life. Instead of a burst of motivation followed by a sharp decline, you can have constant improvement. Instead of a life of stagnation and mediocrity, you will be excited to wake up each day because you know it is only going to get better than the one before it. Instead of wasting life you will get the most out of it.