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How to Grow As a Person [And Become Your Own Guru]

If you’d like to know how to grow as a person, my compliments.

So few people ever do, lost as they are in the rat race.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

See, if you’re going to grow as a person, you need to catch yourself whenever you judge.

And statements like “rat race” are judgments.

You can make them and that’s fine. Everyone does. Even the Buddha (and I’ll prove it).

But a growth oriented people aren’t bothered by their all-too-human habits.

Instead, they learn to contextualize the fact that they are bothered. Then rapidly neutralize it and be okay with the fact that they were disturbed.

This key difference is just one of many wonderful outcomes you can expect when you grow as a person. It’s what helps you free yourself from needing others quite so much. That way you can draw more upon your rich inner resources and enjoy being who you are at a much deeper level.

So if you’re ready to experience personal growth that lasts, let’s dive in.

How to Grow As a Person: 5 Self-Growth Tips

As we go through this list, they’re not necessarily in any order of importance.

But they are all important.

I’ve included detailed science and some of my own stories as a person who hit rock bottom and rose to a much better self. I’ve managed to reach millions of people through one TEDx Talk, for example, and reach millions more over the years through my work in memory improvement.

These accomplishments are not necessarily examples of personal growth as such. But they are fruits of how I’ve grown as a person, so I’ll focus more on how I made these achievements happen more than the achievements themselves.

One: Radical Honesty

Let’s face it:

It’s so easy to lie to ourselves and others.

But when you commit to looking the truth square in the face, you will grow as a person.

Here’s a way to think about it from the neuroscientist Sam Harris who has written extensively about the negative effects of lying and self-delusion:

Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others.

This way of framing the problem is perfect because the ability to cooperate requires growth.

I used to struggle with this a lot. Back when I was a Film Studies professor, someone who came to my lectures offered to film them and get them on YouTube.

I refused.

It was silly, but I refused and cooked up all kinds of reasons why my teaching was not allowed to be on the Internet.

But this was a lie. The truth was that I was worried about failing, and I was worried that people who would find out about all kinds of inner ugliness I was suffering at the time. I actually wanted to reach more people, but I just couldn’t get beyond a strange and cruel control freak aspect of my personality.

Grow as a Person By Telling The Truth

It took me a long time, but I finally stumbled upon a journaling exercise.

At first it went wrong, but soon it went right.

I was living with a woman at the time, and really wanted to make her happy. So I set all kinds of goals and was doing a “Perfect Present” exercise I’d patched together after listening to self help podcasts and reading some books like 59 Seconds by the psychology professor Richard Wiseman.

The idea is simple: You write 2-5 sentences about your perfect present.

So far so good. The only problem was that I wrote about her ideal life. After eleven days, I realized that I was in effect lying to myself.

I immediately started writing out an honest description of what I really wanted to achieve. Namely, to make my living from my main passion: writing.

Once I’d landed on the truth, I was ready to grow into the person I knew I wanted to become. To make everything much more vivid in my mind, I added a visual exercise to the daily routine known as treasure mapping. I share what it is and how it works in this video:

Two: Find Peace With Your Past

It’s hard, if not impossible, for a boat to sail into the distance with an anchor dragging the ocean floor.

But that’s what so many of us try to do while working on our self development activities.

Although it might not be easy to come to grips with things that have happened in your past, you can learn to stop thinking about things that have happened.

The next best thing is to find peace with disruptive thoughts when they arise. And let’s face it, that happening is inevitable. That’s just one reason why I offer the Mental Toughness guide I share on this site. If you’re fit in multiple areas, you’ll find it much easier to let things from your past go.

And when your mind is free of the head trash of the past, you’ll have space for growth as you go into the future.

Three: Meditation Matrix

I’m sorry, but meditation isn’t for everyone.

In fact, it might not be for anyone.

Instead, I suggest a Meditation Matrix.

That means combining multiple forms of meditation into a “habit stack.”

For example, instead of sitting for hours at a time trying to reach a vague goal you read in an old book (believe me, I’ve been there!), try combining:

  • Sitting meditation
  • Gratitude meditation
  • Walking meditation
  • Laying meditation (shavasana)
  • Standing meditation
  • Breathing meditation
  • Eating mindfully, etc.

I cover a number of different ways I combine this matrix of meditations in The Victorious Mind.

How specifically will you grow as a result of combining meditations? Ultimately, that’s for you to find out.

For myself, it’s made me healthier and kinder. And when I have a conniption or go through a period of dark thoughts, it’s much easier for me to apologize.

Four: Remove Failure

“Fail faster,” many say.

I ask, why fail at all?

See, if you pay attention to what’s going on, everything is a teacher.

Provided you learn from your mistakes, every so-called failure is an opportunity to learn.

Of course, you don’t want to become a perfectionist by seeing absolutely everything as a non-failure.

It’s okay to keep using the word, so long as you have the right attitude. And it’s great when you practice this simple habit because you’ll be able to help others learn from “mistakes” as well.

For example, my wife tries out a lot of things in the kitchen.

“Experiment failed!” she’ll sometimes proclaim.

I always remind her that it’s such a good thing that she tried and to have another go at it. I’ll also ask her why she thinks it didn’t work out and often clues for how to learn from the experience emerge from the discussion.

Five: Out-Buddha the Buddha

The Buddha reportedly said:

Expectation is the quickest path to suffering.

I think it’s a great little personal mantra.

The only problem is that it’s a judgment, one that sets up its own expectation. I mean, if you’re going to learn from that bit of advice, you’re inherently expecting to no longer expect things.

My point is simple, but can be difficult to grasp.

It’s that we need to realize that expectations arise. They’re part of evolutionary forces that drive us to take actions in the world.

In the Advaita Vedanta and other traditions they talk about “samsara,” the concept that the wheel of life keeps turning and turning. Some people say that going against this wheel is like accepting the “jaws of the crocodile” into your life.

The alternative is to let go of expectation and do things without expecting a result. The practice of living your life in this way is often called karma yoga. Helping others selflessly will do so much for your personal growth, and reveal a great deal about your talents. It will exercise your patience too, both with yourself and others.

3 Examples of Growing as a Person

Now that I’ve shared some of my best tips and strategies, let’s look at some additional examples of true self growth.

I often think of these stories whenever I need a boost, even if some of them are kind of weird.

The Old Dream Replaced By The… Old Dream

When I started graduate school, I had a weird reason behind it.

I really just wanted to write, but I figured that I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I figured that if I got my PhD, I’d become a professor, give a lecture or two every week and have tons of free time for my writing.

Boy was I wrong!

When I for my first major professor gig, it took me all week to write my lectures!

If I had just started pursuing my writing from the first place, I probably would have wound up far ahead a lot faster.

All is not lost, however. My years of writing thorough lectures helped me hone my presentation skills and trained me to write on demand.

Plus, I’ve found a way to combine writing about philosophy, self-help and memory with writing fiction that actually gets read.

Lectures Aren’t Everything

I love listening to lectures. I miss university so much, it’s not even funny.

But over the years, a huge segment of my audience has told me that they need a more engaging learning experience.

I grew tremendously as a person through many experiments trying to make this happen. I expect there are more experiments to come, but I finally landed on a way to write a serious novel and combine it with a game for my memory students.

Seeing the engagement on their faces and how much fun they were having felt tremendously rewarding.

Although there’s still a lot to be done, the project has stretched my skills in many ways. And it has made a lot of people really happy.

How to Grow as a Person While in a Relationship

For many years, I had interesting, but ultimately horrible relationships.

No one is to blame for these things. As a friend of mine pointed out, she thought I was trying to symbolically heal my father’s alcoholism through my relationships.

“You mean… I’m trying to marry my father?” I asked.

“No,” my friend said, “but close.”

The instant she said it, I realized she was right. And from that moment onward, I decided to remove alcohol from the equation.

As soon as I was willing to seek someone who did not drink, I found a much better relationship.

Of course, I’ve had to grow in order to be a much better person than I was when I met my wife. And to do that, the process has been quite simple:

  • Constantly revisit shared goals and check that they’re still mutual
  • Spend lots of time doing fun things
  • Work together on projects
  • Give plenty of free time
  • Talk about whether or not you’re being too clingy when you’re not giving enough free time
  • Take trips together, even if it’s just day trips
  • Work on your health, fitness and diet together
  • Discuss the future often, dimensionalizing what it will be like when you’re old

My wife and I practice all of these things and it has made for a very rewarding relationship.

The Wonderful ‘Limits’ On How You Grow As A Person

This is going to sound kind of weird, but I don’t think we are “limitless” as some of the gurus like to put it.

Rather, I think we take more power from exploring the laws that govern reality.

The fact that there are laws for everything from gravity to how the heart pumps blood is a miraculous thing. The only thing more miraculous is that we’re able to perceive and know so much about these laws.

And when we embrace them, truly understand them and set our goals based on our existing competence, we can achieve so much more than when we delude ourselves.

That’s why I started this post with radical honesty.

And I’ll end it that way too.

Think about exactly what you want to achieve and create an honest portrait based on the skills you have, or are willing to acquire.

And understand that this is how you become your own guru. As Swami Chidananda has explained, the word “guru” means remover of darkness.

This relates to the Ancient Greek word for truth, which is aletheia. It is translated quite literally as “unhiding.”

If you follow the suggestions above, you’ll be able to shine light into the darkness and unhide your abilities to become the architect of your dreams.

So long as you test those dreams and surrender to the laws that govern reality, you’ll be able to not only grow as a person. You’ll become the person you actually want to be.

And if you enjoyed this post, please consider going through my Daily Discipline Masterplan guide and video course. It’s free:

Dail Discipline Masterplan free guide and video course


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