My toolkit for personal growth

April 4, 2021

I'm passionate about personal growth.

This is what I'm writing about, this is why I created this blog in the first place.

Let me introduce you to the ways I use every day to grow, the methods I have found to be of incredible value for myself.

Meditating

Sitting down in silence, listening to nothing but the sounds of your own mind. It may seem daunting to spend some time doing nothing, just embracing who you are, and fore me it indeed was. I wrote before about how I started meditating and how it was torture for me in the beginning.

Meditation may be one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about discovering yourself and growing personally. Yet it's not one of the easiest things to start with, at least for me.

It takes dedication and most importantly courage to start. To choose to spend time just with yourself.

Being a person who struggled (and still struggles) with an urge to be productive every second of the day, purposefully deciding on doing nothing is hard. Sitting in silence is hard.

It took me months until meditation was fully relaxing for me.

But giving it a try despite it being daunting, despite it being awkward and hard was such a great decision.

Today, I'm on my 238th consecutive day of meditating.

I do it every day in the morning after breakfast and after stretching, sitting down in silence for 10 minutes.

It helps me clear my mind before filling it with busy thoughts of work, being productive and achieving things. It relaxes not only my mind, but also my body. It prepares me for the day ahead. Gives me clarity.

Every single day I learn something new about myself. I feel something new, am able to connect new lines. There wasn't one day meditation didn't have a positive impact on me.

It enables me to get to know myself in a way I wouldn't if I just thought about it.

It is one of my most powerful tools for personal growth.

(For those interested: I use an app called Insight Timer)

Writing

I've always been a quiet person. Not someone who enjoys getting all the attention, but rather observes in silence. Being unseen. Listening instead of talking.

I started writing down my thoughts when I was very young, keeping journals where I would scribble down special events that happened at school or in my life. I kept it as a place to store my secret thoughts and dreams.

Later in high school, journaling became a crucial thing for me as I was making a new start at a new school. I wrote down everything that was on my mind, exciting things, worries, struggles.

Every time something caused my mind to be busy or confused, I'd pick up my phone, opened my journal app and started typing.

After I wrote down what was in my head, I felt relieved. Like some tension was leaving my body. Getting it out made my mind feel more at ease.

With time, I stopped journaling regularly. I grew older, leaving behind the teenage stories and struggles.

It wasn't until the beginning of last year that I picked up writing again.

I had time off during semester break, and I started thinking. Pondering about what I want for life. What's my purpose. Who I even am.

In an attempt to rediscover myself, I picked up a paper journal and wrote. Without a clear guide in mind, just writing what I could come up with. What was going on in my head at the moment.

It was hard. Just like meditation, I felt like I was doing it wrong. Not receiving the results I want.

But I knew I had to be patient, I had to keep going, and I did.

As a perfectionist, I had a hard time accepting the imperfection of my handwritten words, the mess in which they appeared on the paper, how they were not well structured.

But this imperfection was exactly what it all was about.

Fast forward today, I've not only come to enjoy writing, I only now realized that it's one of my passions. I love expressing myself through written words, and it has always helped me to deal with things.

Since a few months I journal every day after meditation. I also journal when there's something I want to talk about. Something I want to write down.

And every time I pick up the pen, my phone or my notebook to start writing, I learn something new. Just like meditation, writing is a way to get to know myself better.

While writing, things find their way onto paper that I didn't realize exist in my head.

Writing helps me see myself more clearly, and I would never want to miss it in my life anymore.

(For those interested: I use Notion to store my journal entries and have been using the app Diaro before)

Reflecting

In addition to unguided, unstructured writing, I take some time every day to reflect. I don't write down what I did or what happened this day in particular, but ask myself some questions to gain more insights into what I can learn from today.

Sometimes it takes a minute to answer them, sometimes ten. Sometimes I answer only one question, sometimes I write novels for each of them. It depends on what I have to say.

I do this for every day, every week, every month and every year. For each I have dedicated sets of questions that I use, but that are flexible and I adapt from time to time when I feel like it.

I've been doing this since August 2020, and it's been quite a ride.

Never did I expect a few minutes each day to have such an impact on me. But just answering some simple questions each day has allowed me to gain insights into my mind I never had before.

If you would have asked me what makes me happy before, I probably couldn't really give you an answer that truly included what makes me happy.

Only by reading what I wrote every day after some time made me realize what I truly love, what makes me tick, what makes me sad. And most importantly, what I can do about it.

It's hard to describe, but reflecting has had such a great impact on myself. And there's so little effort to it, spending only one or two months each day writing something down.

Daily questions

Some questions I ask myself every day are:

  • What am I most grateful for?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What made me happy today?
  • What did I learn today?
  • What can I do better tomorrow?
  • What can I do to feel more confident, self-assured, and happier?
  • What would I do if I weren’t being judged?
  • What do I actually want?

Especially the last one proved to be very important to find my life purpose. I'm still in the process of shaping it, but am getting closer every day.

Weekly questions

Each week on Sunday, I answer these questions:

  • What have I been enjoying the most this week?
  • Which moment from last week was the most memorable and why?
  • What was my greatest accomplishment over the past week?
  • What were my biggest challenges, what stressed me?
  • What did I stop or start?
  • What did I learn last week?
  • How did I evolve personally?
  • What’s the #1 thing I need to accomplish this coming week?
  • Who did I connect with this week?

The last question is the most recent addition as I've come to realize how important social connections are.

Monthly questions

At the end of the month, I take some more time to reflect on everything that happened, everything I learned.

My set of questions looks like this:

  • What were highlights from the past month?
  • What was my favorite single day/single event of the month?
  • What did I enjoy most this month?
  • What was my greatest accomplishment over the past month?
  • What did I hate or stressed me the most?
  • What have I learned last month that will stop next month from being a repeat of the same stuff?
  • What am I looking forward to during the upcoming month?
  • What are my intentions and goals for the upcoming month?

After answering those questions, I go through my daily and weekly answers and look for patterns, for insights I can use to grow further.

I then save them for a better overview, categorizing them in these blocks:

  • What did I start?
  • What did I stop?
  • What did I accomplish?
  • What made me happy?
  • What did I learn?
  • What can I do to be happier in the future?
  • What can I stop to be happier in the future?

This is the complete framework I use to reflect on my life and I use since more than half a year. For me, this is of tremendous value.

These are just inspirations and of course can be adjusted as needed. Some questions' answers may be of more value to some than others. But I'm pretty sure that reflecting brings benefits for anyone.

(For those interested: I use the app Grid Diary, which is also where I got inspiration for the most questions from)

Reading

The last tool in my toolkit for personal growth of course is reading books on the topic. Starting with the most important one yet for me, Atomic Habits by James Clear.

I just recently realized how much power books hold, and how much they can influence lives.

It's important to notice that reading books alone doesn't change anything. Actions need to follow.

That's why I'm always taking notes when reading a book, the entire time. When I'm finished, I have a rough summary with the most important takeaways I can further study.

There are hundreds and thousands of really good books on personal growth. Sometimes I don't even know where to start. And in fact I'm just really starting to utilize reading for my growth. But I just bought an eBook reader to facilitate the habit of reading more, and I'm hyped to get started soon.

(For those interested: For reading PDFs on the phone, I can recommend the Xodo PDF reader app. It supports dark backgrounds which is easier on the eyes and has tons of options.)

Summary

So this is where I'm at right now. Meditating, writing, reflecting and reading on a regular basis to learn more about myself.

It's an ever continuing process, and I enjoy it a lot.

At first it was a rough ride, but now it has become an existential part of me as I have come to realize how passionate I am about growing and improving.

I'm always looking for new ways to grow, new things to learn, and am excited to continue on this never-ending, but beautiful journey towards finding happiness.

ジャーニー (Jānī) is Japanese for journey.