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The Five Practices of Personal Growth

I can still remember reading John Maxwell’s early leadership book, Developing the Leader Within You, and thinking, “This is the best leadership book I’ve ever read.” Suddenly it occurred to me: “This is the only leadership book I’ve ever read.”

For years, personal growth wasn’t anywhere on my radar. I hated reading and throughout most of college, I only cracked half my textbooks (nothing like spending dad’s money to buy books you never read). Turns out, I wasn’t alone. Only 45% of Americans over the age of 13 read a book in the course of a year.

After graduating college with all the answers, it took me a couple of years to realize how little I actually knew. Eric Hoffer’s words described me well:

“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

I was well-prepared for irrelevance. That newfound humility forced me into a learning mode. In the years that followed—mostly out of necessity—I developed a habit of reading. But more importantly, I stumbled upon five practices of personal growth that transformed my life. The first three practices maximize growth within us and the last two practices leverage growth in the people we influence.

Practice #1: Growth TRACing – Creating, implementing, and monitoring your personal growth happens through the process of Growth TRACing (pronounced “tracking”). A Growth TRAC is like a personal growth plan that provides the framework and direction for your growth. It includes four ingredients: Target, Roadmap, Accountability, and Check-Ups.

Your Target is your personal growth goal—a carefully crafted statement that articulates in which area of life you want to grow. Your Roadmap includes the training, resources, coaching, and experiences you’ll leverage to reach your target (in other words, “how” you plan to grow). Accountability gives you the support to stay the course. And Check-Ups are the periodic evaluations where you measure progress and make midcourse corrections. Growth TRACing gives direction to your learning and ultimately produces growth traction.

Practice #2: Reflective Thinking – Reflective thinking is the habit of processing what you learn as you implement your Growth TRAC. It helps you mine for the gold in what you’re learning and typically requires three things: time, questions, and takeaways.

Setting aside think time is often perceived as a waste of time, yet it’s essential if you want to assimilate your learning into daily practice. This process begins by asking questions that help you make sense of what you’re learning. Your questions should then lead you to specific takeawaysfor application. While your Growth TRAC sets the course for your learning, reflective thinking helps you make that learning personal, applicable, and meaningful. Reflective thinking ultimately results inmental maturity.