Keys to Growing Personally and Professionally
It’s all about taking action and getting uncomfortable
Sometimes I feel like an anomaly. I work a 9-5, run my own business, and spend my free time learning. I listen to world news podcasts, devour personal and professional development books, read up on the history of countries around the world, and spend my television time on shows that stimulate my brain.
Suffice to say I end up scratching my head when I hear someone tell me they want to experience more of the world, but they won’t leave their city or state. Or perhaps they want to earn more money or grow, but in the next breath tell me that they don’t want to have to do any outside work for it.
*Insert shrugging emoji*
If you want to learn, to grow, or to find your place in the world, you can’t just sit back and let things come to you. No matter how much visualization you do, there’s still work involved. Hard work and dedication at that.
Growth is Hard Work
I grew up with the mentality that I had to work hard for what I wanted. Yes, I grew up in a middle class family with a level of privilege others aren’t afforded, but nothing was handed to me on a silver platter. I studied hard for A’s in school, practiced my instrument to gain a spot in the selective pit orchestra, spent hours at the farm riding multiple horses and working my tail off for the opportunity to show around the state, and attended graduate school to further my career.
I didn’t stop there though. After graduating with my Master’s degree, I stepped into the realm of entrepreneurship and experienced a whole new level of education and working hard that I didn’t encounter in my formal education. I stepped into professional development to learn more about business, marketing, client relations, and the music industry. I found personal development to learn about mindset, human connection, history, and the world.
Without taking these steps to understand myself, my industry, fellow humans, and the world, I would have never started my own business, received a promotion and raise, received awards and accolades, and joined a community of female entrepreneurs.
Keys to Growth
My personal and professional growth came from a combination of steps. I didn’t just go looking for a quick fix by way of a book or online course, but I found that my growth came from really putting forth effort in multiple areas of my life:
Observe and listen
I’m a complete introvert. An INFJ on Myers-Briggs and a blue and green on Insights Discovery scales. I often sit back, listen, and watch what’s going on around me. I learn a lot about situations and people by just observing and listening.
The problem in communication today is that we listen to respond instead of listening to understand.
What the heck does that mean? It means that as we’re listening to someone speak, we’re actively thinking about how we’re going to respond to them instead of actively trying to understand. We don’t take the time to observe body language, to take in the situation around us, or to find the true meaning of the communication.
Do you catch yourself doing that? Do you catch other people doing that to you? Don’t you hate it when someone cuts you off and you have to repeat yourself because they didn’t understand your meaning? If you’re ready to respond to someone before they even finish their thought, then you’re listening to respond.
I find myself doing this on occasion, but more often than not I won’t respond until someone is finished. I think about what they’ve said, and respond accordingly when I’ve heard them, understood their position, and can formulate my thoughts.
This keeps communication moving, saves time, and keeps you (or the other person) from repeating yourself.
My business mentor, Amanda Boleyn, has a quote that resonates with me, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.”
If you’re content punching the clock every day, doing what you need to do to make your current salary, and going home at the end of the night, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing.
But if you’re looking for more money, a higher position, something new and different each day, then you have to take a risk. You have to take a leap of faith, and let me tell you it’s not going to be comfortable.
You have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to see any kind of professional and personal growth. Yes, that leap or risk may not produce the results you want, but as long as you take what you learned and move forward with it, you’re growing.
Seek out development
Personal and professional development comes in countless forms, and I am constantly on the lookout for new opportunities for education and experience.
I have stacks of books in my bedroom and living room. My podcast app is lined up with downloads from news to life coaching and music industry. I attend local networking events and travel across the country to conferences. I enroll in online courses and attend webinars.
Yes, some professional development can cost a lot of hard earned money.
For one, there are free options out there including podcasts and blog posts. You can always get a library card (yes, libraries are still out there!) and borrow business books or read through magazines. And sometimes business coaches will offer a free consultation, but just be prepared for them to pitch a service at the end.
But I see professional development as an investment in me, my career, my business, and my future. If i stayed home instead of traveling to an entrepreneurship conference once a year, I wouldn’t have a circle of female entrepreneurs to lean on, my business would look completely different (or may not even exist!) and my career might be going down a very different path.
You can listen to podcast all day, read every professional and personal development book on the shelves, and work your way through thousands of dollars worth of online courses, but you have to take action to see the results.
If you don’t actually take those steps and lessons and put them into action, where will you be? Where will your business be?
Schools are implementing experiential learning for a reason. You gain experience by doing, by learning from your mistakes. From trying and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
I could have said “no” to spending hundreds of dollars to fly to Chicago for that first entrepreneurship conference. I could have spent my evenings and weekends sitting on the couch watching mindless TV.
Would I have a circle of female entrepreneurs to lean on? Would I have a podcast, a blog, or a business? Would I have the knowledge and experience to build a business I’m proud of?
No. Everything I brought into my life in the last few years came from taking action.
Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
In fact, I don’t even like or use the world “failure.” I’ve erased it from my vocabulary.
What do I use instead? “Learning experience.”
I see it like this: failure happens when you make a mistake or something doesn’t work out, and you come to a complete halt. Learning experiences happen when you make that mistake, you correct your action or make necessary adjustments, and you move forward.
If you learn from your mistakes, make note or change the action, and can move forward, then how is it a failure?
You can also think about it this way: Do toddlers give up on learning to walk after their first fall? No, they pull themselves up and try again. Pretty soon they’re cruising around, eventually learning to run, ride a bike, or take up another sport or skill.
We had a saying when I rode horses, “If you’re not going to the hospital, then you’re getting back on."
So, let’s get back on. Let’s get back up. Learn, apply the change, and keep moving forward.
All the observing, taking risks, seeking out education, and taking action does absolutely nothing for you if you don’t stay committed to your actions.
Establishing a routine around what you learned isn’t easy, especially when you can so easily fall back into your comfort zone. Keep getting uncomfortable, keep looking for opportunities, keep implementing the lessons learned so this entire process becomes a habit and eventually a daily routine.
Heck, you may even get comfortable getting uncomfortable. Imagine the potential growth from getting uncomfortable, expanding your knowledge, taking action, and staying committed to it every day.