Personal Growth: How to achieve it

With the start of the new year, personal growth is a central focus. “I am going to eat healthier, drop those ten pounds, and meditate daily.” “I will receive that job promotion and be a better friend.” Making such resolutions is the first step to obtaining personal growth. However, understanding the emotional processes involved is imperative in continuing the process of personal growth. Learn what is personal growth, the different areas of personal growth, emotional processes and how it affects the brain.

personal growth
Personal Growth

What is Personal Growth?

Personal growth is intertwined with the concepts of personality. To grow personally, one must grow in personality. Personality encompasses what makes you, you and me, well… me. The term personality describes the distinct characteristics that cause human beings to differ. Attitude, mental knowledge, intelligence, social skills, and strength are the key components of personality that guide personal growth.

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Positively shaping personality is accomplished through bettering our behavior, actions, and reactions, or habits. The process begins at birth and lasts throughout the entire duration of life. It is affected by environmental factors like parenteral upbringing, teachers, or friends, as well as socioeconomic status that contributes to the trials and tribulations which incites the desire to improve.

Areas of Personal Growth

As already implied, personal growth is multi-faceted. It presents in multiple areas of life.

Social Accomplishment for Personal Growth

Humans are social creatures. Interactions with other people are displayed in personality. Positive interactions indicate a higher social standing, which leads to success in all personal growth areas. Similarly, negative interactions with others interfere with healthy relationships, restricts employment, and generates poor self-esteem. Personal growth from social accomplishment is centered around expanding the skills that facilitate positive interactions.

Examples are:

  • Verbal communicationCommunication is the bridge to growing with other people. Polite, effective communication is the only way to exceed in life (i.e. school, occupation, etc.) and meet our social needs of friendship.
  • Positive body language—We are not restricted to verbal communication to improve socially. We communicate with body language. While communicating, it is important to be aware of our gestures and ensure that they support what our words are saying.  
  • Active listening—Talking without listening is futile. Communication requires a partnership. You cannot expand your beliefs and knowledge without input from others, nor can you resolve conflict without truly hearing the other person.
  • Accurate interpretations—Listening contains the ability to interpret the communication of others, which is imperative for growth.
  • Open mindedness—Without an open mind, there is no possibility for growth because you cannot accept ideas that differ from your own.  
  • Becoming a better friend—Friendship is the basis for furthering relationships. Putting effort into friendships demonstrates prime characteristics of growth to expand on.
  • Find a hobby—Reading, sports, baking, and alternative hobbies broadens knowledge and introduces opportunities for new relationships.


The cornerstone of what forms a personality is intellect. Intellect is the ability to reason, understand, and learn. Doing so requires enhancing the skills that allow the brain to retain information. Skills like critical thinking, reasoning, speed-reading, improved memory, analytical thinking, and a faster rate of learning are conducive to personal growth. Emotional intellect is divided into two separate categories determined by how the skills are applied to real-life situations.


Examples of personal growth from a psychological standpoint are:

  • Gaining Confidence—Boosting confidence entails accepting the flaws you cannot change, as well as feeling confident in your abilities and appearance.
  • Practicing gratitude—If you are living to your fullest potential, you feel grateful for what you do have.
  • Controlling emotions—We all feel angry, depressed, anxious, or scared on occasion, but true personal growth is not letting these overwhelming emotions take over.
  • Reducing Procrastination—Stop putting assignments or work off until later. An absence of productivity negatively effects your confidence.
  • Face your fears—Growth frequently involves going out of your comfort zone. Remaining complacent provides few opportunities.
  • Adopting a healthy attitude—Your attitude effects your perception of self. It also determines how receptive others are to your interactions with them.


Characteristics sought in the process of personal growth, like patience, empathy, compassion, charity, honesty, and peace are refined by spirituality. Whether practicing mindfulness, religion, or meditation, spirituality allows personal growth while separating the fact that the world should not revolve around ego or self. Instead, it promotes self-growth through the focus on other people.

Professional Success for Personal Growth

Professional success is a portion of personality. Many agree that our jobs contribute to our identities. Professional success is not solely going to work and back home. It includes managing finances and even how we manage life stressors.


Managing finances is definitely an addition to personal growth. That is not to say that earning loads of money is of utmost importance. However, personal growth in your finances is using what financial resources are available to the best of your capability.

Examples of this type of personal growth:

  • Budgeting—It is good to treat ourselves occasionally, but frivolously spending does not yield the experience of personal growth. To truly make the most out of your money, forming a budget shows financial maturity.
  • Saving—Living in the present is at the core of personal growth. We cannot focus on reaching goals if we are stuck in the past. Still, that does not mean you should not prepare for the future by allotting an amount of savings each month.  
  • Investing—Smartly investing money raises the chance of increasing financial resources, which offers more opportunities for personal growth.

Work-Life Balance

Aside from money, the type of work projects one chooses to participate in

  • Work and social balance—Balancing work with the relationships you have with your family, friends, and partner is intrinsic to personal growth. Life areas outside of work cannot continually suffer without sacrificing the skills which drive growth.
  • Volunteer—Paid work is merely a fraction of the work that advances professional success. Volunteer work counts too. Although lacking payment, unpaid volunteer work molds perspective and develops personality characteristics like empathy, charity, and love.
  • Organization—Perhaps part of balance, but organization is a characteristic of growth because it is a tool in balancing multiple responsibilities.
  • Managing stress— A stress free life is not going to happen; therefore, a sign of personal growth is effectively managing stress when it is present.


The state of our physical bodies inevitably affects personality. For instance, exercising releases endorphins that improve attitude. Growth is just as much mental and emotional as it is physical. If personal growth is your goal, you must adjust your unhealthy tendencies and replace them with healthy habits.

Examples are:

  • Consuming a balanced diet—The body requires a wide range of vitamins and minerals to function optimally. You cannot expect to have the energy for growth without providing your body the fuel it needs.
  • Exercise—Partaking in frequent exercise increases stamina and equips the body for the conditions for personal growth.
  • Challenge physical abilities—A brisk walk is nice, but pushing the limits every now and again is necessary to train yourself to persevere when life is difficult.
  • Rest—While physical fitness is vital, the body also demands adequate time to recharge. Trying to conquer growth in all areas at once without giving yourself a recuperation period is overwhelming. The burnout is potentially damaging to mental and physical health.
  • Limit or omit addictive substances—Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco products, and other drugs hinder your goals. They inhibit personal growth when used in excess by distracting your mindset from growth priorities.
  • Schedule regular medical appointments—Avoiding the doctor like the plague is easy to do. Medical appointments are not pleasant, yet regular check-ups ensure your physical body is healthy enough to function at its peak potential.
  • Self-care— Self-care is recognizing what you need at any given moment (i.e. taking a nap, journaling, or planning a spa day) and keeping those needs a priority.

Emotional Processes in Personal Growth

Personal growth does not “just happen.” Rarely does someone wake up with a random desire to make difficult changes in personality that redirects the course of their life. There are complex emotional processes involved in personal growth. These processes provoke the notion for self-growth and allow the development to continue.

Self Doubt

Typically occurring after momentous life events, comprehending the need for personal growth is a monumental step. Beginning personal growth is not easy, as it always starts with self-doubt in some area of life great enough to spark a desire for change. Self-doubt multiples in the stage of the process because the results are not immediate. Personalities that are not headstrong and committed are liable to give up.

Acceptance and Fear

Acceptance surfaces once the need for change has been established. As we are involved in self-growth, we acknowledge we have room for improvement. However, we are fearful of moving forward to initiate personality development.

Courage and Happiness

There is an interplay of courage and happiness in the personal growth process. Courage lies in the first steps to overcoming fear and progress throughout the growth process. Happiness is acquired once the transformation has occurred.

Happiness and Personal Growth
Happiness and Personal Growth

How Personal Growth Affects the Human Brain

Personal growth is not solely based on psychological factors. The human brain in its physical form is affected. Various cause emotional processes lead to personal growth.


Mood and personality are controlled by chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Since neurotransmitters regulate mood characteristics, they have a role in personal growth. Some people are more prone to positive emotions and pursuing a path of personal growth simply because of their neurotransmitter makeup.

Each neurotransmitter has a specific function on mood. Regardless of its effect, personality is altered. And being that personality is related to personal growth, the entire growth process is either assisted or hindered.

Dopamine and Serotonin

Dopamine and serotonin are the two main neurotransmitters that work together to regulate happiness. According to the Journal of Public Health, serotonin mediates “satisfaction, happiness, and optimism” (Dfarhud, Malmir, & Khanahmadi, 2014).


Norepinephrine is directly and indirectly related to happiness. Neurons in the brain with sufficient norepinephrine stimulate the release of the other neurotransmitters.


Endorphins are opioid peptides that act as neurotransmitters in the body. They are released during exercise, sex, eating tasty foods, laughter, and pleasurable experiences such as personal growth. They are associated with reducing pain and inspiring positive feelings.


Melatonin is commonly known for its function in the sleep cycle. It is a hormone created by the pineal gland in the brain. The hormone is connected to happiness levels, which is proven by the decreased levels of melatonin in patients with depression. Personal growth comes into play with melatonin by its function on mood, but also its improvement in restful sleep.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the behavior that results from internal rewards. It is a conscious choice to behave in a certain manner because the outcomes are personally appealing. When present in increased amounts, neurotransmitters such as dopamine increase personal growth behaviors.

fMRI findings reveal that growth mindset and intrinsic motivation share two common brain areas—the ACC and ventral striatum (Ng, 2018). Thus, experts agree there is a correlation between neurotransmitters, intrinsic motivation, and personal growth.

Genes Associated with Personal Growth

Genetic factors leave some more inclined to seek personal growth. The neurotransmitters discussed above are coded for various genes.


DRD2 is coded for dopamine. While mutation in DRD2 are associated with Parkinson’s disease, it causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder, executive dysfunction, pathological aggression due to its function in brain metabolism.


DRD4 is coded for serotonin. Financial risk taking, drug abuse, impulsivity, emotional reactivity, and stress are repercussions of mutation in this gene.


Coded for norepinephrine, VMAT2 is also related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a stronger connection to spirituality.


Dfarhud, D., Malmir, M., & Khanahmadi, M. (2014). Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors- Systematic Review Article. Iranian journal of public health, 43(11), 1468-77.

Ng B. (2018). The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain sciences, 8(2), 20. doi:10.3390/brainsci8020020

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