Personal growth and development is about understanding and developing yourself in a way that helps you reach your highest potential. It plays a significant role in contributing to your maturity, success and overall happiness. Seeking out growth opportunities is essential as it helps you reach beyond your comfort zone and extend yourself into new areas.

But how does one grow? You grow through intentional behaviour change. Intentional behaviour occurs when a person consciously or unconsciously tries to bring about a particular consequence. It is all about planning and self-regulation. And it is hard. It requires grit and control, many tries and many nudges.

It starts with a description of your ideal self. The ideal self is a primary source of positive affect and psychophysiological arousal helping provide the drive for intentional change. The ideal self serves a mechanism linked to self-regulation; it helps to organize the will to change and direct it, with positive affect from within the person. The result harnesses the will or drive for self direction, intentional change, and desired future accomplishments, or in selected cases providing the energy to maintain and sustain current ideal states in life and work.

The ideal self contains imagery of a desired future. This image is the articulation or realization of the person’s dreams, aspirations, and fantasies. The ideal self is emotionally fuelled by hope and is the person’s core identity. But the images of a desired future is also a function of a person’s career and life stage. What you consider a noble and worthwhile aspiration when you are 21 is typically different from what you dream about doing or being when you are 58.

In addition, a person’s discovery of their purpose, or calling, also feeds into the dream. Being aware of your own passion, that which makes you feel life is worth living and you are fulfilling a promise of some higher being or life force, is your calling.  (Boyatzis and Akrivou, 2006).

The ideal self intervention consists of a brief writing exercise in which you imagine your best possible self in a potential future when pretty much everything has gone right. Your business is flourishing, your family life is going great, you have a healthy bank account. Take a few minutes to visualize that life and write a description, in as much detail as you like, of how that life would be.

When you define your ideal self and the gaps with your current self, it is important to understand your growth edges and looking for “ahamoments. A growth edge is an area of life you are working on improving that is uncomfortable and requires some vulnerability and courage. It is often your agitations and blind spots. An “ahamoment is a moment of sudden insight and discovery.

Intentional change is hard work and often fails because of lack of sufficient drive and the proper intrinsic motivation for it.  Dean Anderson writes that the 4 Steps to Lasting Behavioural Change typically include:

  1. Observing your own actions and their effects.
  2. Analysing what you observe.
  3. Strategizing an action plan.
  4. Taking action.

In the observation stage, the core skills are self-awareness and self-monitoring. Shifting your focus to internal factors is the only way to get the information you need to make necessary adjustments.

In the analysis stage, the core skill is critical thinking about yourself and your behaviour. This requires that you adopt a certain attitude towards yourself, one that’s similar to the attitude a scientist has towards the experiment she is conducting. That attitude must be open in the sense that you are willing to see whatever is there—not what you want to see to confirm your pre-existing assumptions.

In the strategy stage, the core skill is creative thinking. If you decide that something needs to change, the most effective way to determine what kind of change will work is to imagine what things will be like after you have made the changes. Work backwards from there to figure out the particular steps you need to take in order to get from where you were to this new imagined place.

In the action stage, the core skill is process thinking, an often-neglected aspect of effective problem solving. deciding that a particular change is what needs to happen isn’t the same thing as successfully making that change. To follow through may require knowing how to find the extra time needed, digging a little deeper to find the motivation and perseverance to get through the discomforts, and changing your priorities and values, if necessary.

Another tool I have found extremely helpful for sticky growth edges is the Immunity to Change map developed by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. In a 2001 HBR article, they write that the real reason people do not change, is because of a psychological dynamic called a “competing commitment”.

Overcoming immunity to change starts with uncovering competing commitments. Competing commitments should not be seen as weaknesses. They represent some version of selfprotection, a perfectly natural and reasonable human impulse. Once people have identified their competing commitments and the big assumptions that sustain them, most are prepared to take some immediate action to overcome their immunity.

It works like this:

  1. Choose a specific area in which you want to grow.
  2. Identify contradictory behaviours — things you’re doing that are at odds with your goal, or things you’re not doing that would support the goal.
  3. Identify competing commitments, and personal worries that you have about committing to that growth.
  4. Identify the core assumptions that are at the root of all your behaviours.

With consistent reflection and action, you will continue to work towards your ideal self which is ongoing journey.

If you want to learn more about Growth, you can work through Marianne’s learning journal Knowing Your Superpowers Is The Key To Your Success In A Changing World available on Amazon or complete her self paced learning program on Personal Agility at https://marianne-roux.mykajabi.com/Online%20Programs.

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