The Story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree
The story of the Chinese bamboo tree is almost unbelievable when you think about it. The bamboo tree has a seed that is so hard that when planted, it will do nothing for five years. Think about putting in the effort of growing a tree and literally nothing happens for five consecutive years. Carefully watering the tree and tending to its needs for all those years, seeing no results from your labor. That is, until the fifth year.
In the fifth year, the seed breaks through the soil and begins to grow into a tree. Not just grow but grow at an unprecedented speed in plant terms. In fact, the Chinese bamboo tree has been recorded to grow upwards of 3 feet a day, almost 90 feet in a month. It has been timed at approximately one inch of growth every 40 minutes which means you can stare at it and watch it grow.
During that five-year period, if the person who had planted that seed had stopped watering it or taking care of the surrounding soil, the seed would have died. You will look back five years from today and you could have either progressed from where you are today or done nothing. Or even worse, regressed.
So, what does this have to do with personal development?
Why is Personal Development Important?
Personal development is important because, if you’re not growing you are dying.
But there’s a key motive behind personal development that’s even more inspiring than that. It’s the idea that personal development puts you in control. When you are actively striving to improve your mindset, your skills, and your life overall, you don’t have to rely on talent or luck. Instead, you work hard and succeed on purpose, not by accident.
Personal development bridges the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It’s the vehicle that leads you to your goals. When you commit to personal development, you enter a unique journey of self-discovery and high impact realizations about life.
Perhaps the simplest way to explain why so many fail when it comes to personal development can be communicated in a story that has been replayed millions of times around the world.
Dan is out of shape and wants to get fit. So, Dan (like many) decides to workout. Dan struggles with his workout because his body is not used to being stressed by physical activity. It’s an uncomfortable experience that leaves Dan feeling exhausted and sore. He looks at himself in the mirror immediately after his workout and to his chagrin, notices no difference in the physical make up of his body. Perhaps the scale will tell a different story? Dan steps on the scale and of course notices that his weight has not changed in the slightest.
But Dan is determined to keep going. Sore from the previous days’ workout, Dan is less motivated on day two of his journey, but soldiers on and completes his workout. Results? None.
Dan continues this path for a few more days or maybe even a few weeks. At some point Dan will give up because the results that he achieved (if any), pale in comparison to the pain and discomfort he is putting himself through. So, the excuses begin to pile up. Too busy, too sore, too difficult. Dan ends up like millions of people all over the world. Giving up on being fit.
The problem lies in our immediate gratification society. We want results instantaneously and without effort. Like the bamboo tree, if we want to get fit, we need to consistently workout for months or even years before we begin to see tangible results. But most quit before they see results. In every case, if we just kept going just a little bit longer, the results would have begun to show and that is often all the motivation we needed to follow through on our goals.
The example of working out is a simple way to visualize this method but the reality is that the same thing happens in other areas of our lives. We want to become wealthy. After buying the books and courses, we end up reading a couple of chapters and then move on to something else. This plays out repeatedly.
The problem is we are too focused on the goal instead of being focused on our habits or process. The goal should not be “physically fit”. The goal should be working out consistently. When we focus on the end goal, it’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t see immediate results. But when we focus on the habit, we can check off the box that we achieved our goal for that day. This will provide us with the motivation we require to keep moving forward because we are accomplishing our goals daily.
This subtle shift makes an enormous difference.
Definition of Personal Development
If you imagine that the obstacles in your way are big walls, then personal development is a way to break through these walls so that you can create a better more fulfilling life.
Personal development is not just a way of solving problems in your life, it is a path towards growth. It is your way to a better life, and an improved version of yourself.
The 5 Areas of Personal Development
There are five key areas of personal development that most people’s goals fit into:
Health is a key area of personal development because it provides the foundation for peak performance in every aspect of life. Within this area there are further categories such as physical health, mental health, and emotional health. At a high level, most people aim to be fit, think clearly, eat well, and sleep well. I look at this category as the foundation for all other categories. Without health, everything else in life becomes more challenging.
Developing financial literacy is an important part of personal development because you make better decisions when you are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to manage money effectively. Ownership is the true path to becoming wealthy. Ownership can be in stocks, bonds or a business. Relationships
Close relationships are a source of happiness and fulfillment in life. Most people want to improve their relationships with others, whether it’s family, friends, acquaintances, or a romantic partner. Common topics in this area include improving communication, finding a partner, dealing with relationship anxiety, and maintaining strong friendships. Spirituality
Spirituality is an area of personal development that focuses on a higher purpose. For people with faith this can include improving one’s relationship with God. This element of personal development can also involve helping others and becoming more at peace with the world. Career
Career development is often a key part of personal development for many people. It involves developing talent and potential to advance in a career. It can also involve carving out a career for oneself through entrepreneurship and self-employment.
How to Improve Your Personal Development, Starting Today
You can enhance your personal development skills by taking classes, learning from the people around you, gaining new talents and improving upon existing ones. Follow these guidelines to develop yourself personally:
1. Overcome your fears. Fear can prevent you from growing and progressing. If you are afraid of public speaking, for instance, take a class or join a group such as Toastmasters that helps people become better public speakers. If you are afraid of taking risks, find a mentor who can help you make good decisions and build your confidence. Grow and learn by trying things you might not be comfortable doing. Get outside your comfort zone. If you are shy, try starting a conversation or introducing yourself to new people at an event.
2. Read. Learners are earners. Reading can expand your knowledge and vocabulary and keep you informed. It can also stimulate your mind and improve your critical thinking skills. Set a goal to read at least one educational or motivational article a day, or one book a month. This may sound like a lot to some people but keeping a book beside your bed and reading just one chapter when you wake up in the morning will easily achieve this goal. Make reading a habit.
3. Learn something new. Learn a new skill or topic, whether you do it yourself or sign up for a class. You could take courses to learn another language, a new program or how to write a book. Consider watching a webinar on professional development topics such as entrepreneurship or social media marketing.
4. Ask for feedback. Approach a family member, friend, or colleague, and ask them to give you feedback on a recent project or accomplishment. Use their positive comments as well as their constructive criticism to find ways to improve. Sometimes you need an outside, unbiased opinion to get a different perspective. Be careful of dream stealers that look to tear you down. You need to keep these people out of your life.
5. Observe others. Watch and learn from the people who inspire you. This could be someone you know, or a leader in their field. Identify the qualities you admire in them and try to replicate those in yourself.
6. Network. By interacting with many types of people, you can learn new ideas and understand how to communicate and work with different personality types. You can also meet people and develop relationships that might help you in the future. Network through industry organizations and shared interest groups, or attend conferences and events on topics that interest you.
7. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal every day or week can help you gain self-awareness and reflect on recent events, decisions and conversations. You might keep a hand-written, private journal, or you might choose to share your thoughts and experiences by blogging.
8. Meditate. Many people meditate to gain clarity and awareness and to reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation can help you focus on your self-development and goals in a healthy, positive, and calm way.
9. Get a mentor. If you need help identifying ways to build your self-development skills, talk to a mentor. This individual could be anyone you admire or look to learn and expand your knowledge in a specific area.
The grass is greener where you water it
In life, we find ourselves constantly looking around for something better. Better job, bigger house, nicer car. It starts to seem like we are standing in weeds, and everywhere else, there is lush green grass.
We spend hours lamenting "what if," and all the while ignoring what is. As this vicious cycle continues, we assign all manner of causes to our plight, and the most common is blaming other people, circumstances, or just bad luck. But the primary cause is us.
Our personal growth needs are like gardens. They are fragile and require attention and nurturing. The moment we stop tending to them or take them for granted, they begin to wither. The decline happens slowly at first and often goes unnoticed in the early stages. Choosing cake over an apple seems innocent enough, and it is. But making a habit of choosing cake over an apple will lead to dire consequences in the long run.
The weeds we see in our own backyard are green fields to others, and vice versa. We are often at a good starting point and all we need is to pay more attention to our own gardens and begin to take steps and develop habits that get us moving in the right direction. There is nothing wrong with seeking new pastures and bigger and better opportunities. The mistake is not recognizing that the greatest opportunities are often right under our feet. The grass is always greener where you water it.