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What’s personal development in psychology? Is there any scientific base for personal development?

If these questions come into your mind, then we can help you gain some clarity.

Personal development is the conscious effort to learn, grow and improve yourself by enhancing self awareness, knowledge and personal skills.

You have to actively take some steps to start out with personal development. You create specific milestones to reach within realistic time frames in order to progress in the journey of self growth.

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The Basis of Personal Development

The pursuit of self development lies in the understanding that we have the ability of change ourselves and our circumstances. If our thoughts, abilities and behaviors were all determined by just our genes and the way we were brought up, then there’s no way people would have been able to undertake personal development to improve themselves.

Personal development has grown to become an entire field of professionals. As a result, people have made a career out of it. It goes to show that human beings have the ability to take charge of their lives, circumstances, opportunities and moods.

If you are willing to strive towards growth and betterment, then nothing can limit your capabilities. You can change yourself and your life dramatically.

The four stages of competence that represent personal development journey

Make the Unconscious Conscious

The first step towards understanding personal development and growth is becoming conscious of how we really function on the inside.

In the beginning, for any new learning, we are completely unaware of where we stand or how much we know. As we make progress, we finally reach a stage where we are said to become competent.

In psychology, this process is represented by the four stages of competence.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

This is the very beginning where you don’t know what your problems are or how you can detect them. Because you don’t know what it is, you also don’t know how to get it fixed. You will feel that something is missing in your life but won’t really pay attention to it. You just plod along.

2. Conscious Incompetence

In this stage you start becoming aware of your issues. Self awareness is key to personal success. Therefore, this marks the beginning of your journey.  You begin to realize you are unhappy or dissatisfied with yourself, your social relationships or your career.

You will understand what’s needed but will probably feel overwhelmed with how much there is to learn or lack confidence as to how to go about it. You know you have to do something but the question, “How to get it?” still remains.

3. Conscious Competence

Once you make up your mind to take action, you will start correcting your problems. It will not be easy and may seem like a daunting task. But if you show commitment, willingness and focus, you will be able to get there.

It will be time to get into the act of doing rather than just thinking. Naturally, it will feel foreign and something that lies outside of your comfort zone. But a little bit of stretching and growing will make your life more productive, enjoyable and purposeful.

4. Unconscious Competence

This is the final stage where you are done acquiring a new skill or overcoming a weak area. In fact you have gathered enough experience with it that it now comes naturally or unconsciously. So, you know longer have to think about it.

For example, by incorporating positive habits, thinking and behaviors, your life has now become a lot less difficult. You have overcome your struggles and challenges and are now on a progressive journey. Moreover, you consider obstacles as learning opportunities and think of ways for tackling them.

How Your Mindset Impacts Your Ability to Improve

Generally, there are two kinds of perspectives that are deeply rooted in our society regarding a person’s potential for self development. One says that we can change and the other believes we cannot.

The foundation of our education system lies in the concept that through diligent study, we can train ourselves and our minds to be more intelligent by means of promoting creativity, analytical skills and logical reasoning. That’s the notion based on which the education system runs across the world. 

In the same way, sportspersons, gymnasts and athletes practice tirelessly on the courts and in the field, in order to perfect their skills that will make all the difference. Similarly, artists also learn and practice new techniques continuously to improve their art and performance.

We have all experienced a similar process of transformation in our day to day lives. We saw ourselves evolve in every area of life whether in our relationships, career, school etc. From our very first day at work to holding a presentation in the boardroom, we continuously expanded our capabilities and changed our perspectives.

Having said all of that, we’re also into the habit of labeling ourselves and others. Even though we invest so much in academics and education but within our schools, students are given labels like “gifted”, “slow learner”, “learning disabled” etc. We call some artists as “naturals” while some “lacking talent”.

Moreover, we often view ourselves in a certain way using words like “smart”, “lazy”, “weak”, “unorganized”, “resilient” and what not.

These thinking patterns hugely limit our capabilities and restrict us and others from growing out of the box. This is where psychologist Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset and fixed mindset has emerged.

Mindset can greatly influence a person’s ability to learn and improve

The Growth Mindset

People who are growth minded have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can be increased with time and experience. They view their skills and attributes as characteristics that can be learned via determined effort.

They aspire to modify themselves into becoming something better every time. Therefore, they believe that they can get smarter, more intelligent, and more talented through putting in time and effort.

The growth minded view failure as part of a path towards victory. It’s a chance for them to identify their lacking and look for opportunities to correct them. So they try harder, put in extra effort and show greater resilience, leading to higher achievement.

The Fixed Mindset

As opposed to growth mindedness, a fixed mindset assumes that abilities and traits are mostly set and cannot be changed with time. They do not believe that intelligence can be enhanced. For them, you either have it or you don’t as far as talents and abilities are concerned.

Such people document their intelligence and talents rather than developing or improving them. They also believe that talent alone can get you success whether you make any efforts or not.

Thus, they stay away from taking risks or chances to learn with statements like “This is just not for me” as an excuse for not trying. Similarly, they are quick to quit when they find something difficult and choose the easy path instead.

Why Is Having a Growth Mindset Essential for Personal Development?

· Having a Growth Mindset Will Make You Do Your Best In Learning and Improving

People with a growth mindset are always on the lookout for new learning and opportunities to improve. Although they do all that to achieve higher results, they derive just as much happiness and satisfaction from the process as the outcomes or the goal.  

· Growth Minded People Find Motivation in Their Setbacks

You’re not terrified of losing and even if you do lose, you don’t feel devastated. While a fixed mindset, affixes their identity to the result, a growth mindset understands that a one time performance does not determine who they really are or what they can become.

· A Growth Mindset Lets You Take Full Charge of Your Own Learning and Growth

According to Carol Dweck, people with a fixed mindset believe that they already have all the abilities they’ll ever have, so they don’t see a point in investing in processes that can expand their skill set.

Alternatively, the growth mindset knows that each one of us is fully responsible for their own learning and improvement. Thus, they need to develop mechanisms to continue their self development.

Adopting the Growth Mindset

Luckily, the growth mindset can be learned with time. Here are some of the ways you can achieve this.

· Challenge Yourself and Take Risks

Search and try your hand at things that are challenging and out of your comfort zone. You cannot come out of a fixed mindset unless you take risks and learn new things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something big. Pick something simple and devote yourself to practicing it every day for a few minutes. 

· Anticipate Failure and Learn from It

A shift in mindset takes a lot of time and consistent effort. It’s going to be a bumpy road. You will face many failures and unpleasant experiences that would discourage you, but take all of it as part of your learning.

Record the entire process and link each struggle with the adventure of learning.

· Reward Yourself from a Growth Minded Perspective

Always reward and praise yourself for staying committed to the process of working and learning, not just the outcome. Additionally, use phrases that reward your ability to keep working hard.

In the same way, look for growth minded encouragement from others as well. Stay away from people who praise you for your “inborn talent.”

You should now understand personal development in psychology and why personal development is important. So start training your mind to become open to continuous learning and growth.

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