By my definition, personal growth describes the process after which higher personal life quality has been reached. In economic theory, we assume that individuals behave in such a way as to maximize their own utility. By this, society benefits as common wealth enhances. Common wealth is measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But the “World Happiness Index”, a survey measuring peoples happiness and its sources, clearly indicates that GDP is not the only factor that matters to people.
The freedom to take actions to evolve personally is one of those factors. You might have read my previous article “How I plan two full-time degrees at once”. The incentive for studying two degrees was personal development by knowledge and a rather unusual study experience. And it is also the reason for most of you, whether you want a new study experience, to broaden your horizons or advance your career while having a full-time commitment to your family. In the following, I will establish some underlying principles which affect personal growth.
Knowledge definitely enhances your future salary if it is related to your field (maybe, sometimes, even if it is not). But, it also contributes greatly to your personal views and hence growth. Consider the following example. Friedrich A. Hayek once famously said that nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist.
The political view of an economist influences his economic view and his school of economic thought influences his political view respectively. Knowledge about economic thoughts and political ideas is crucial in that perspective. If exploring all this as a student is not personal growth, I do not know what is. I hope to meet some of you at the LSE summer school 2017 as I will take a course about political ideas that shaped the world (economics student).
Experiences that force us to think and behave differently. You may also know this as “leaving the comfort zone”. It can be a new job, a study abroad program or a personal project, for example engaging in entrepreneurial activities. Having this kind of life experience gives you a better judgement of future situations which you have already experienced.
Challenges which challenge you more than your current commitments enable you to surpass yourself. This is a more general point which can be applied to any other factor. But unusual challenges deserve special attention. These include for example, as mentioned above, studying besides having a family or starting your own business while studying. These situations require enormous discipline and if you do not have it yet you will have to develop it.
Great challenges can lead to stress. Appreciate stress! It means you are not bored. When I wake up, I usually have so many things to do, that I don’t even know where to start. This attitude towards stress will allow you to separate the good from bad stress. Good stress is the one that contributes to your growth and you can notice it if, at the end of the day, you feel you have accomplished something worth your time. I think, the moment you are unchallenged is the moment you are stagnating.
These factors are obviously not mutually exclusive and have specifically one thing in common – they enable you to push your limits. Sometimes you will fail because it simply was too much. But if you pursue further you will eventually succeed. That is what counts in the long run. The graph above illustrates that and might remind you of the business cycle. What matters for economic growth in the long run, is productivity growth (also called technological progress). In our case, productivity growth represents personal growth. Little failures (e.g. an unsuccessful application) should not influence you negatively. That is the essence of my personal growth model.
There might be more principles that contribute to growth but I will leave it to you to explore them further.
Arnold is studying BSc Economics and Finance by distance learning in Germany.