You’ll be a different person by the time you finish reading this article.
It’s true. None of us are the same person we were five minutes ago. Our lives are the sum of our choices and experiences, and by choosing to read this article, and experience the words within, you’re growing. Changing. Evolving.
While this is a phenomenon that philosophers have grappled with for thousands of years (literally), an often overlooked part of our personal development is how to identify and appreciate the positive changes we make in our lives.
It’s something I used to really suck at, but since I started tracking my personal growth I’ve not only been more productive, but happier and healthier as a result! In this article I’ll share a few top tips for tracking and celebrating your own growth.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Human beings are weird, and we seem to want to compare ourselves to those around us. From the clothes we wear to the way we perform certain tasks, the world is full of comparison. But is that really helpful when it comes to measuring growth?
Sort of. Every member of every team brings a totally unique set of skills and experiences to their roles. As a line manager, I’ve seen a huge difference in the way that different people that report to me have grown. Everyone joins a team with different strengths and weaknesses, and if I expected each of them to adhere to the exact same path of growth and development I’d be doing them a disservice.
So, how do we marry this human need for comparison with the very real fact that everybody’s journey is unique? By comparing yourself to you!
What are your personal and professional goals? Are you closer to meeting them today than you were yesterday? And - just as importantly - are you giving yourself time to rest, digest, and perform self-care?
I have a reminder in my calendar at 16:00 every Friday afternoon. It’s called “close down the week.” During these 20-minute sessions I ask myself all of those questions and make a note of the answers. I hold myself accountable for my own personal growth, and encourage everyone in my team to do the same on a schedule that works for them.
I personally find the last question - around self-care and time to rest, digest, and grow - the hardest to answer. I find that, particularly earlier in my career, I tried to work on everything at once. Every project I could, every bit of development I could find… and it was too much. We can all only work on so many things at once - and that includes self-development!
What matters the most to you?
If you’re anything like me, you want to do everything at once. I’m a polymath with a restless brain, and frequently find myself with more ideas than time, and while it seems counterintuitive, doing more doesn’t necessarily help you to grow faster.
In fact, doing too much can actually hinder your personal growth as it takes away time you could be spending learning, digesting, and recharging. But how do you work out what to prioritize when you’re brimming with ideas? You can’t do everything at once, and Rome famously wasn’t built in a day.
Create yourself a manifesto. Whether it’s a set of bullet points or a few sentences, clearly laying out what matters the most to you is a powerful first step in ensuring you prioritize the right things for you. Your growth and prioritization transcend your job, too. Don’t think about what your employer wants you to focus on - your growth and development is your own, it goes with you when you leave and stays with you forever!Thanks to Vonage for sponsoring this article
Measure your growth
Okay, so you’ve set aside some time every week to reflect on your growth and worked out what matters most to you personally - but how do you measure this personal growth?
It’s easy to think that, in order to measure your growth, you need to know what your end goals are. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Imagine you’re driving somewhere. Whether or not you know the destination, you can still measure the speed at which you’re going, the distance you’ve traveled since you started, and how much power you’ve got left in the batteries before you’ll have to stop for a recharge and a spot of lunch.
It’s exactly the same when it comes to measuring your personal growth, too.
First, work out what you want to measure. Is it speed? Distance? The number of tasks you’ve achieved? The time in which you’ve done them? Or perhaps how much charge is left in your batteries at the end of the week?
Then think about how you’re going to measure the things you’re prioritizing. Remember when you were a kid and you marked your height in pencil against the door frame? By doing that you were tracking your growth in an accessible, visual way. Every brain is different, and which measurement you’re tracking will play a real part in how to make a record of it. Perhaps your metaphorical door frame is a spreadsheet, or a bullet journal. Perhaps it’s a whiteboard, or a set of post-it notes on the back of your door. Personally I have a OneNote notebook that I paste feedback into and track my mood, satisfaction, and workload through that. Find what works for you!
You can do the thing!
We’ve looked at what personal growth is, why it’s important, and how to prioritize and measure it. But what can you do right now to get started on your journey?
Create a brag journal
Whether it’s a digital journal, a physical notebook, or a folder full of screenshots, capture the positive feedback and successes that you have in both your personal and professional life. Someone sends you an email praising your work? Screenshot it. Someone tells you that you’ve helped them? Write it down. Make a note of every bit of positive feedback you get and - importantly - look back at it regularly to see how far you’ve come. For more about brag journals, check out Gargi Sharma’s talk ‘Making Your Hard Work Visible’ from You Got This 2020.
Build that door frame
Have a think about how you’d like to track your growth, and set something up that you can access wherever you are. If it’s a physical thing like a notebook or post-its, can you carry it around with you? If it’s digital, can you store it in the cloud and access it from home, from work, and on the go?
Set aside 20 minutes for reflection every week
You’ve got the brag journal, you’ve got your tracker, now set yourself a time that works best for you to actually take the time to reflect, to note down your progress, and give yourself a pat on the back
Don’t be afraid to set yourself some goals
Setting targets for the ways in which you’d like to grow is a super helpful way for you to focus your development in the directions that you want to. When setting goals, think SMART: your goals should be Simple, Measurable (see above!), Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It sounds like a cliché, I know, but it really works.
Even if you do none of these things you’ll continue to evolve and change. Take control of that journey, however, and you’ll be able to recognize and be proud of the growth you achieve. Good luck - you got this!Thanks to Vonage for sponsoring this article
Kestral is an interdisciplinary technologist, creative, and activist with a passion for creating experiences that bring people together to learn and grow. She holds degrees in technology, education, and healthcare, and has had a professional career spanning the corporate, start-up, and the education sectors.