Personal development is a process that involves many steps. It’s a life-long journey. This article outlines the six main stages of personal growth.
These stages of personal growth are naturally recurrent and can become cyclical with more growth, goals, and obstacles in life.
It’s worth pointing out that these stages do not always occur in a linear fashion. The stages are also often reciprocal of each other.
These stages can apply to you or your life as a whole or certain areas of your life as well as new obstacles and goals that come up. For example, you may be at stage 4 in the career area of your life, but at stage 1 with your relationships.
Also, remember there’s no need to rush the process. It’s important to start small and take baby steps along the way.
Embrace, enjoy and accept each stage. There’s always something to be learned and gained from each stage.
Stay kind to yourself and others in the process. Everyone progresses at different rates. It’s not a race and being unnecessarily hard on yourself or others will only hinder growth.
Here are the six main stages of personal development:
In this phase, there is unawareness and unconsciousness of life. This is the pre-personal growth phase. Some people and problems don’t make it out of this stage. Denial, willful ignorance and naivety are common in this stage.
When we refuse to acknowledge our problems, our blessings, our faults, and our strengths, we stay stuck in this stage. We may also tend to self-destruct, not feel fulfilled when we reach our goals, and remain rigid in our ways when we are stuck in this stage.
Keep in mind that while you may not be in this stage as a whole or for everything, you can be at this stage with certain things in your life that you lack full awareness and consciousness of.
This stage is not entirely negative though. This is the beginning stage for any new thing that happens to us or any new thing that we learn. We can easily move through this stage with an open mind, curiosity, and learning. We may feel lost or a sense of misdirection at times. Going through this stage can be fun for some, but scary for others.
A lot of mistakes can be made in this phase, but that also means that a lot of learning can take place.
Confidence can be high in this stage, but not for a good reason which can also keep us stuck in this stage. Overconfidence can stop us from learning and gaining awareness.
This stage is similar to the first stage in the Dunning-Kruger effect which is a cognitive bias when it comes to learning something new. Sometimes the less we know, the more we think we know which can hold us back in this stage.
Here is where personal growth starts to happen. Once we reach this stage, we awaken to reality and come to our senses. We face the facts. We become aware of the truth at this stage. We learn and realize things about ourselves and our lives.
Our knowledge of ourselves is realized, rather than dismissed.
We become more open to learn, know, perceive, and feel, even if it can be tough at times.
Awareness allows you to discover and gain a deep understanding of yourself and the life around you.
We face our problems head-on rather than ignoring them or pushing them away.
We also pay attention to our abilities, our ideas, our knowledge, our successes, and potential rather than downplaying them.
Doubt, fear, uncertainty, self-hatred, and self-distrust, however, can keep us stuck in this stage.
Acceptance is what happens when there is true personal growth. You can have change without acceptance. The acceptance makes any change become personal growth.
Acceptance is a deep and healthy sense of self-love. If we attempt to lose weight without self-acceptance, not only will we have a hard time, but we also will probably not feel happy or fulfilled with our results regardless of achieving the goal.
Acceptance can seem pleasant and positive, but it can be scary and uncomfortable for some especially for things that are hard to accept about ourselves and situations in our lives.
To have acceptance means to have a healthy sense of love as well as respect.
Acceptance is similar to forgiveness in that it’s not necessarily liking certain facts about our life or things about ourselves nor necessarily condoning actions and decisions we’ve made. The point is to stop resisting with anger, hatred, contempt, and disgust. We learn to let it go and be on our own side. Self-acceptance allows us to be a friend to ourselves.
We can choose to accept what is with neutrality and love and make changes for the better or we can choose to waste our energy fighting ourselves and beating ourselves or the world up for it.
Someone struck with self-doubt, guilt, anger, and self-hatred will have trouble with acceptance.
At this stage, we learn that we have to take matters into our own hands to evoke personal growth rather than relying on others to save us or some lucky random chance to come to us.
We decide and learn to live proactively rather than reactively.
When we gain responsibility, life happens for us rather than to us.
You realize that no one is going to save you. No one is going to solve all your problems. It up to you to make change possible. This stage is both scary yet freeing. It may seem like a burden, but it’s empowering.
We are responsible for our own lives and our personal happiness. No one and nothing else is. Once we realize that and take full of that, we can move onto the next stage.
Most people can get stuck at this stage. It’s an exciting stage, but once motivation wears off, we give up or get sidetracked. Obstacles can also get in the way, especially unexpected ones. At this stage, we start learning, setting goals, making plans, and taking action on those plans.
The three keys required at this stage are:
- A strong ‘why’ (motivation)
Self-discipline is vital at this stage as well as making an effort to stay motivated. What’s also important is to prioritize whatever it is we want to achieve and then focus on why we want to achieve what we want to achieve.
We are emotional creatures and act on how we are feeling at the moment. Putting our strong values and purpose behind our goals makes this stage easier as well as keeping our goals in front of us. We need to be emotionally driven by our goals.
It’s important to gain and have clarity in this stage as well rather than just having vague plans and goals.
Getting stuck or stagnant or slacking in this stage can bring us back to previous stages.
At this stage, we learn to live with purpose and intention. We make sure to keep going strong and do some maintenance at this stage.
We don’t just stop growing once we’ve achieved our goal or we’re ‘happy.’
We continue growing and learning. Habits and mindset are strong in this stage which allows for greater growth.
We embrace, accept, and seek change and growth in our lives.
At this stage, we willfully bring ourselves back to earlier stages of personal growth with other goals, obstacles, and areas of life.
When we live with purpose, we constantly and actively do our best to live with awareness, consciousness, acceptance, responsibility, application, and purpose with our lives, ourselves, and others.
We also continue to become better at living our lives that way by continuing to learn and grow, but not letting adversity dull our light.
The journey toward personal growth continues.
Personal growth is not necessarily easy, but it is rewarding. Once we learn the necessary stages of personal growth, we can then bring more growth, success, enrichment, and happiness into our lives.
Isabella Gura is the author and creator of ReachingSelf.com She writes articles to help people reach their goals, become their highest selves, and live their best lives.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.