David Strittmatter

10 signs of personal growth – how to avoid getting stuck

The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible – Richard M. DeVos


  • Fundamentally, we witness growth when we do something we’ve already done in the past and can do it with more ease
  • Personal growth allows us to grow and enhance every aspect of ourselves
  • Yet, growth isn’t inherently good. What we actually want is meaningful growth

Practical advice:

  • Once a month, ask yourself: “What were you doing this time last year? Do you progress? Why/why not?”
  • Growth requires the realization that we aren’t good yet and growth comes at an expense
  • Only if we’re willing to leave our comfort zone, we will be able to set our own growth agenda and pursue goals successfully

Dear friend,

This week was freshmen week in Mannheim. My flatmate, a second-year student, let me be part of it by taking me with him and his friends to a freshmen meetup at the Neckar river. This endeavor reminded me of my time as a freshman 4 years ago. So much has happened since I arrived in Mannheim, and it’s absolutely stunning how much I’ve grown personally.

Like me back then, the freshmen were curious about what they have to expect in the upcoming months, how they could prepare best, what they need to do in order to succeed, … Funnily enough, quite a few freshmen remembered me from my YouTube channel and therefore knew that I was successful in Bachelor’s (finished as the second-best of my cohort). So, many of them asked how I made it.

I told them it’s actually straightforward. As my favorite writer Mark Manson says, success is determined by what pain we’re willing to endure: “Everybody wants something. It’s easy to want something, but how far will you go, how much pain are you willing to endure?”

I told them that I had a really great time, but if they want to follow my path, which might seem glorious to them, they have to work hard for it and personally grow. Moreover, they have to come to the realization that (1) they have to be obsessed with improving (2) and they aren’t very good yet.

In today’s blog article, I want to dive deeper into the topic of personal growth. What is personal growth, how is it triggered, what are signs of it, and how can we avoid getting stuck?

What is personal growth?

Fundamentally, we witness growth when we do something we’ve already done in the past and can do it with more ease. The first time I wrote a university exam was a real pain. I was freaking nervous and had no clue how much stress I had to expect. 3 years later, though, I wrote my last exam – no stress, no nervousness, just another 90 minutes in which I wrote down what I learned.

Personal growth occurs when we try out new things and challenge ourselves. Thereby, at first, the easy things are difficult, and suddenly by growing personally, the difficult things become easy. The more often we do something, the better we will become.

That’s true for everything in life. Personal growth allows us to grow and enhance every aspect of ourselves, such as our self-esteem or social skills. On my growth agenda, there are 3 large buckets: (1) Career, (2) Health, (3) Social. Each of those comprises multiple growth dimensions, such as (1.1) Conventional Career, (2.2) Sports, or (3.1) Family. And each of these dimensions comprises concrete growth goals, such as job promotions by a certain time (1.1 Conventional Career), preparing for a marathon until 2022 (2.2 Sports), or making time for multiple weddings this year (3.1 Family).

Personal growth occurs either proactively or reactively, i.e. we either choose our growth ambitions and grow by pursuing them or face rather random challenges to which we react, inducing personal growth.

Since we will always face problems in our life, and thus will always have to grow to a certain extent, I choose them rather than let life face me with problems I don’t want to face. For instance, I wanted to write good grades in high school, so I forced myself to start learning early and not few days before an exam. So, I choose the problem to overcome procrastination. The alternative was to have some terrible days right before the exam, learning as much as I could, and hoping that it was enough to score the grade I wanted.

10 signs of personal growth

Sometimes, we have these “aha”-moments in which we come to crucial realizations, such as realizing that we have grown. Sometimes, though, we don’t have these realizations even though we made substantial progress.

I regularly reflect on various things, including my personal growth, allowing me to become more conscious of changes. In the following, you can read a list of observations I made in the past and identified as signs of personal growth:

  1. You know better what you want, e.g. what you seek in a partner
  2. You can more easily go against the crowd, e.g. don’t drink alcohol if you don’t want to
  3. You believe more strongly that you are in control of the outcomes in your life, e.g. set more goals
  4. You’re more selective with your time, e.g. your time is only spent on things that truly matter to you
  5. You’re more conscious about what you eat, e.g.
  6. You speak up more often, e.g. be the initiator in a group
  7. You less frequently compare yourself with others, e.g. with your fellow students or colleagues
  8. You seek challenges more often, e.g. by trying out a new hobby and set an ambitious goal
  9. You can better control your emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or envy
  10. You make compliments more often, e.g. because you genuinely want the best for others

Practical advice to avoid getting stuck

We cannot not grow personally. Either we proactively grow by setting up our own personal growth agenda or life confronts us with various challenges that will let us grow. Yet, growth isn’t inherently good. Becoming a better drug dealer is also a type of growth but that will make your life even worse. What we actually want is meaningful growth, i.e. growth that will make our lives better.

There 2 things that greatly allow me to grow personally and have an even better life:

First, the right mindset. Growth requires the realization that we aren’t good yet and growth comes at an expense. Only if we’re willing to leave our comfort zone, we will be able to set our own growth agenda and pursue goals successfully. It’s great to have desires and wishes, but they are worthless unless we make a conscious decision to pursue them and pay the price of obtaining them.

Secondly, regular reflection. Once a month, I ask myself the following questions: “What was I doing this time last year? Do I progress? Why/why not?”, “5-year plan: What can I do to achieve my goals/projects?”, “What are the main 3 goals for the upcoming month?”, and “Am I still consistent with my core values and mission statement?”. These questions help me to make myself more conscious of my very own growth agenda, re-evaluate decisions made and goals set, and steer my life towards a future I want to live in.

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