The Biggest Mistake I Made in Personal Growth
For many years now, I have made reading a personal priority and placed myself in a position to maximize my learning and growth. Where I went wrong was that I equated exposure with growth—and that was the biggest mistake or misconception I had about growth. In this article, I want to share with you the three steps of growth, beginning with exposure, but not ending there.
Step One: Exposure
Exposure is the inevitable starting point of growth. Exposure to new ideas, principles, and perspectives is at the very heart of personal development. If we do not garner thoughts from outside of ourselves, then we begin to rely only on what we learn through our own life experiences. That may be the best method if we lived 1,000 years. We could spend the first 100 years going through the variety of experiences, and then we could draw lessons from that. The next 900 years would be a breeze—full of success!
But we don’t live 1,000 years. In a few short years, we are to learn the wisdom required to navigate life, people, and ourselves. So to be effective, we must rely on the lessons others have learned from their mistakes and successes and the principles we can squeeze out of them.
If we are to grow as people, we must be exposed to thoughts and ideas outside our own consciousness. We must read, talk to mentors, go to conferences, listen to recorded lectures, and seek wisdom from God.
Step Two: Marinating
I live in Texas. Here, we have some of the best cattle and best steaks in the world. So, how do we marinate a steak? You let it soak in tasty seasonings. You give it time to sit still and absorb all that goodness. That is what we must do with knowledge and wisdom.
What do I mean? When we hear great ideas, we may write them down. Some people, like myself, even file them away so they can retrieve them later. We think about them in the moment, and we think we understand them and that they will stay with us. But the reality is that they don’t always stay with us. We are exposed to so much in life, we get distracted and we forget. More importantly, we do not stop to analyze what these new ideas really mean to us and how to apply them in our lives. Therefore, we must marinate our minds with new thoughts and ideas.We must create a method which allows these thoughts to soak into our conscious and subconscious minds.
This blog post is a case in point. I met a person recently who talked to me about the idea of marinating and action (versus only reading). I wrote it down, then I reviewed it almost daily for weeks. How did I do that? I have a computer file that I call “Personal Growth” which I place in Dropbox. At the top of the document, I have thoughts I want to marinate on and think about. When I am waiting anywhere and have a few minutes, I open this file and start reading these thoughts. When I feel I have had my fill from juicing the idea down, I remove it from this list.
So I want to challenge you today, whether you learn something at work or read it in a book, find a method to review it for a period of time to let it seep into your mind.
Step Three: Application
This may seem to be an obvious step, but it is often overlooked. Without it the first two steps are useless. We must have the right balance between what we are exposed to, what we marinate on, and what we apply. One feeds the other.
How do we ensure that we are applying what we learn? How do we measure how much we are changing and growing? There are no easy answers here. Some areas are easy to measure; others are not. For example, six months ago I wanted to lose 25 pounds. That was easy to quantify and track. Other areas like becoming more patient, more gentle, more decisive, more passionate, happier, or closer to God are not as easy to measure and monitor your rate of application and progress.
If you are a conceptual thinker like me, you know that it is pure fun to learn something new and marinate on it. But my friend we must not stop there. Application takes courage, insight, and focus. I know so many people who know so much, but fail to practice what they know. I love the maxim, “Applied knowledge is power.” It’s not that, “knowledge is power.” Application is! We must put what we learn into practice.
If we don’t apply what we learn, we are not growing. We are merely learning. Let’s stretch ourselves beyond learning into growing.
For Further Reading: