As a rule, personal growth should be a lifelong pursuit. No matter what age you are, you can never really reach a moment where you can say that you are complete. Whether you are 35 or 95, there is always more you can do to work on yourself, to reach for higher heights. The best news about this is that in pursuing personal growth, you not only contribute to making the world a better place, but you also make your life happier and better.

I’ve been on a conscious journey of personal growth for most of my life. I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I’d like to share some of those things with you! Read on for a list of 9 things in the area of personal growth that you can do, right away, to make your life a happier one.

Write Down 100 Things That Make You Smile

Go to your keyboard, or take out a pen and paper right now.  Number your paper from 1 to 100.  Think about things you have seen, heard, or done, that made you smile. Bring to mind the people that have made you laugh.  Think of moments in your life when you felt good!  Then start filling in your list.

Thinking of 100 things is hard, you say?  That seems like a lot, you say?  No. Just start.  You will see.  This is easy.  Remember a joke someone told you?  Write it down.  Had a good walk with your dog once? Write it down.  Did your kid do something cute or funny?  Write it down.  How about thinking about soft sheets, the sunset, or a place you visited when you were a kid?  Does it make you smile to think about sailing on a lake, swimming in the ocean, or hiking in the mountains?  How about letting the sun touch your face, or feeling the grass or sand between your toes?  This list is super easy!  It doesn’t have to be something huge or dramatic. Just start listing things that make you smile.  Once you start, you’ll find yourself getting carried away… and before you know it, you’ll have 100 things written down!

Ok, so you wrote your list.  How does this help improve your life?  Well, first of all, think about what you were doing when you wrote your list.  You were smiling, weren’t you?  That right there just improved your life at this moment because it released feel-good chemicals into your brain and body.  At least for the time that you were writing the list, you felt GOOD.  Anytime you can feel good, anytime you can smile, well, that improves your life, at least in that moment!

But wait, there’s more!  You can do this exercise anytime you feel down.  Do you see how easy it is?  You see how the first couple of things you write down start to snowball, how quickly you end up with your 100 things?  Did you notice how time just flew by while you were doing this?  That is called being in the moment!  The more time you spend being in the moment, the better your life is!  Do this exercise anytime you want to feel better and be in the moment!

A bonus with this exercise is that you can keep the list you wrote and refer to it any time you need a pick-me-up!  Let’s face it, there are days that we forget that there is anything to smile about.  Days we forget that we ever smiled in our lives! That’s okay!  On days like that, whip out your list and start reading it!  Before you know it, you’ll be thinking about something that truly makes you feel good, and your day (and life) will be the better for it!

Make a List of Things You are Good at And Then Do Them

Focus on things you do well. 

Everyone is good at something – sports, music, writing, drawing, singing, crafting, or making others smile. Whatever your things are, spend time doing them.  Join a club or take a class, or just practice one or more of them each day.

We often get so caught up in “self-improvement” or “working on things” that all we end up focusing on is our weak areas, our faults, or things we need to do better.  If we do too much of that, we can end up feeling like we never do anything right!  Get off that train right now!

Sit down and write yourself a list of the things you do well. It doesn’t matter what those things are, as long as you are good at them.  Sure, we all have faults and deficits, but we also all have strengths.  There are no exceptions.  I don’t care who you are or what you do, there is something that you are really, really good at doing.  Write it down.  Think of another thing, and write it down too.  Keep going until you have several things you are good at doing written on your paper.

Can’t think of anything to write?  Ok.  Call (or text or message) 10 people and ask them to tell you one thing they think you’re good at.  Subsequently, put those things on your list!

Now, tape that list to your wall – somewhere you can see it every day.  Make it a point to read the list to yourself, at least once a day. Bonus points if you read it out loud.  Then, pick at least one thing off the list (or several), and make time in your day, somewhere, to focus on it, do it, or practice it.  

If you truly want to improve your life, stop spending all of your time focusing on all of the things you think you need to fix about yourself.  You aren’t broken!  Prove it to yourself.  Start doing more of what you are already good at, and you’ll see!  

Buy Clothes You Like and Feel Comfortable In 

Throw out things you wear because you think that is what you are “supposed” to wear.

For some people, this is kind of a big deal.  A lot of people spend their day in uncomfortable shoes and clothes, or things that make them feel self-conscious, all for the sake of style or fashion, or in an effort to “fit in” with the “right” crowd.  If you spend a large portion of your day feeling physically or emotionally uncomfortable, how good can your life ever get?

If you make the decision to honor your body and your own taste and personality and stop trying to “dress to impress” this can really make a huge improvement in your life.  You may still have a certain dress code you have to follow for work or school, or in other kinds of situations, but meet that within your own comfort zone and style.  Quit worrying about what other people think about how you dress.  The truth is other people probably think less about you than you would ever imagine!  They are too busy worrying about what they are wearing, and “fitting in” themselves!

Don’t let the media or corporations or anyone dictate to you who you are or what you should be.  If you can claim your own style, your own flair, and do it in a way that feels physically and emotionally comfortable to you, do it!  Throw out all the other stuff, and be your own unique, you!  Who knows, maybe YOU will be the one to start the next fashion trend!  At the very least, your life will be improved immensely by not spending energy feeling uncomfortable in clothes you don’t even like!

Enjoy and Celebrate Who You Are

Be ridiculous.  Don’t be afraid to look silly or dumb.  Just be you.  If people don’t like it, that says more about them than it does about you. 

Think about how fun it used to be when you were a kid. You didn’t care if you looked silly doing something, you would do it anyway! Dance around, play on the swings, laugh loudly, make silly jokes, and sing silly songs. This can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. The little child inside of us loves to be let out to play. And by allowing that to happen, you automatically bring more joy and happiness into your life, which in turn helps you manifest the life you want to live!

If you have kids, get out there and play with them. If you don’t have kids, borrow some! Ask a family member or friend if they would bring their children and go out somewhere fun. There are great places to play in the world. You can go to a neighborhood park, or go to an amusement park! You might find a “play place” where you can jump on a trampoline or play in a ball pit. Go to a water park and play in the water, or just set the sprinkler out on your lawn and run through it like you used to do when you were a kid. Doing these kinds of things WITH kids will help you to let go a little bit. When you have children to lead the way and show you how to have fun, you tend to feel less self-conscious about it.

Don’t worry about what other people think. Be silly and invite joy into your life, no matter what. The people in your life that that mind don’t matter and the people that matter won’t mind. 

Laughter and joy and having fun are vital to your well-being. There are health benefits to laughter and it’s been shown time and time again that finding joy in your life is a wonderful way to manifest and bring prosperity into your life. Get out there and start acting silly, right now! And if you really find yourself too inhibited to be silly in public, just be silly by yourself. It doesn’t matter how you get started, or what you do, as long as you let your guard down and start having some fun!

Set Intentions and Then Let Them Go

Release expectations. Understand that control is an illusion.

Set your intentions and then release the worry and fear about the “how” and allow the Universe to lead the way. Stop trying to control outcomes and let nature be your ally, instead of working against its natural flow.

A character in one of my favorite books by author J.D. Salinger was playing marbles with his friend. He was trying so hard to win because he so badly wanted the marble that would be his prize. This character’s brother saw how tense and nervous he was with trying to win. He wasn’t even enjoying the game anymore. He then told his brother, “try not to aim so much.”

I’ve thought about that passage so many times in my life. I feel like he was telling the brother to set the intention of taking that marble home, let it go into the Universe, and then to simply enjoy the game. Enjoy the journey. When you stop trying to aim so much, the rewards are often sweeter.

No matter how much we want to control outcomes in our lives, we almost never can. Unexpected and unplanned things always happen. When we accept the idea that control is an illusion, when we release our expectations and our ideas of “perfect” outcomes, life becomes much happier, and more fun, and often we find that we can even reach outcomes that are better than anything we could have planned for, or even imagined, to begin with.

So, try just setting your intentions and then letting them go. Live in the moment a little more. It takes practice and self-growth, but if you do this, you’ll start to see how much better your life can be. You’ll start to see how much happier your life can be.

Strive for Better, Not Perfect

Letting go of perfectionism has been a lifelong struggle for me. Over the years, I’ve learned that striving for “perfect” is not only something I can never accomplish, but it also stops me from accomplishing many of the things I’d like to do. It robs me of my creativity and my joy and often stops me cold in my tracks.

A self-growth pursuit for me, for many years, has been learning to be okay with not perfect. One thing that has helped me is learning to strive for becoming better, day to day, instead of always expecting perfection out of myself. There’s a mantra I learned somewhere along the way that has helped me a lot. I can repeat this to myself regularly and it reminds me to strive for better, not perfect.

“Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”

Emile Coue

If we really want to make our lives happier, learning to let go of “perfect” can really go a long way towards accomplishing that. Letting myself be content with the goal of becoming a better version of myself, each day, rather than trying to become a perfect person has helped me to be happier and healthier and has sparked my creativity and joy. It’s not always easy, but it is well worth the effort.

Ignore Things That are Unimportant in The Larger Scheme of Things

Learn to ignore things that aren’t important or that do not contribute value to your life.

Sometimes stopping ourselves to question whether this thing we’re stressing over, or spending inordinate amounts of time on just isn’t that important can make our lives so much happier. When we learn what is really important in the larger scheme of our lives, we can start to learn to ignore the things that aren’t.

Here’s an example from my own life. I used to get so caught up in making parenting decisions based on what I thought was expected of me and my child. I spent so much time worrying about what other people would think of me, as a parent, if I didn’t do certain things “just right.” I got gifted with a child that had brain differences and because of this often challenged me as a parent, and as a human being. I worried so much about what other people thought of my parenting skills, based on my child’s behavior and abilities.

Eventually, I came to see that the only important thing in my parenting was how my child received me. I came to see that the only important thing was the relationship between me and my child. What other people thought of my parenting skills (especially strangers in the grocery store, for heaven’s sake!) didn’t have any importance at all. Other people’s random opinions, especially that of strangers, did not contribute value to my or my child’s life.

Once I learned to ignore what was unimportant, things got a lot happier for me. And I daresay they got a lot happier for my child, as well. Of course, it didn’t make everything magically perfect, but doing that released so much stress and struggle from my life that I had more energy to focus on my own life and that of my child’s. I know my son would tell you today that he had a lot of negative things happen in his childhood, and he and I certainly didn’t always get along. But, he knew then, and he knows now, that I am always in his corner and that I love him unconditionally. And hopefully, I modeled to him how to focus on the things that are actually important. I think he gets that.

Learning to identify and then ignore the things that aren’t actually important or that don’t contribute real value to your life is absolutely a self-growth step you can take toward making your life happier.

Work on Becoming More Self-Confident 

Explicitly, do something each day that is just outside of your comfort zone.

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that we need to do big, dramatic things to make a change in our lives.  This just isn’t true.  In fact, there is a lot of truth to the notion that doing small things on a consistent basis is the only actual way to make any real or lasting change.  

Working on your self-confidence in small steps over a period of time can be one of the most dramatic things you can do to improve your life.  As a matter of fact, one way to do this is to do one small thing that is just outside of your comfort zone, each day.  Don’t like the phone?  Every once in a while aim to replace one contact where you would normally email with a phone call to that person, instead.  Normally hide in the corner at a party or social event?  At the next event, pick one person in the crowd to initiate contact with and then go introduce yourself to them.  Think you can’t write?  Sit down and write a one or two-paragraph story or a few lines of a poem and then email it to a trusted friend to read.  Want to be a little bolder than that?  Post it on social media!

Little by little, gently push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and before you know your self-confidence will be soaring.  If that is upsetting to you, maybe this will help:  There is a huge difference between a safety zone and a comfort zone. (I wrote about this a little more here: Flying in the Sweet Spot) You can actually push yourself way outside of your comfort zone without ever leaving your safety zone.  The truth is this:  the very best things in life are almost always (99.9% of the time) found outside of your comfort zone! 

Personal Growth for a Happier Life

These are just some ideas for things you might try incorporating into your pursuit of personal growth. You probably have your own wonderful ideas, as well. The important thing, in my mind, is to never stop learning and growing. I think that in the end, it absolutely contributes to creating a happier life.

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