Thursday, August 8, 2013

Personal Growth: How to Upgrade Your Skillset

In the past, people lived with their extended families, spending time speaking with and observing their elder relatives, and did not need a formal education on life skills. But in today’s society, where we do not spend as much time with our extended family, we often enter adulthood not having learned basic skills, which can lead to underachievement and interpersonal problems.

If you do not have access to elders from whom you can learn life skills, four books on this topic to consider are: What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith, How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. (There are many other books on life skills, including those written from a Jewish perspective, e.g., Alive! A 10-step guide to a vibrant life by Mordechai Weinberger (click here for a sample chapter). These four though, are more likely to be in your local public library. If you generally do not read secular works, start with books written from a Jewish perspective and see if they are adequate for you.)

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book, he discusses how to overcome 21 harmful habits, which hold people back in their relationships and from progressing in their careers. Underlying many of them is a lack of humility. To enhance your humility, see, “You’re Not Arrogant, But Are You Truly Humble?” After deepening your humility, select the habit which is your biggest issue. To discover which one that is, you can email the list of the habits to your family members, close friends and/or colleagues. Ask them which habit – on the list or not included – do they think you will gain the most by addressing. Then focus on the one which is most commonly mentioned or resonates with you.

Choose someone to give you monthly feedback on how you are doing in addressing the habit you selected; see if they have any suggestions, in this area, how you can improve even more. Do not argue with them, just thank them for their feedback and give their comments serious consideration. Between feedback sessions, ask them (and anyone else who knows what you are focusing on) to give you encouragement and positive reinforcement. Ask them not to mention other areas to work on, unless time sensitive. Once you have sufficiently improved in an area, move on to another one.

After you have addressed your most destructive habits (or if you are among the select few who do not have any of those habits), consider the other three books, which focus on healthy habits and mindsets. A summary of Dale Carnegie’s book is available here. Before reading The 7 Habits, consider taking the free assessment quiz to determine your “Personal Effectiveness Quotient” and which habits to focus on. Before reading Crucial Conversations, consider taking the free assessment to determine which areas to focus on.

Another book to consider, if you feel stuck and unfulfilled in your career and/or personal life, is Marshall Goldsmith’s Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It.

A book that can be helpful in identifying and addressing the areas you need to work on is, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin. Here are the 13 things: “They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. They Don’t Give Away Their Power. They Don’t Shy Away from Change. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks. They Don’t Dwell on the Past. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure. They Don’t Fear Alone Time. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results.” If you do any of those things on a regular basis, that issue may be a key stumbling block in your life.

Part of personal growth is letting go of bad habits and forming healthy ones. Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, discusses how to do this. On his website, he has a number of free resources and guides. Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book is on this topic, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be.

When you read a technique in any of these books which resonates with you, write it down and preferably, try it out before reading the next chapter. With life skills, it is not how many you know, it is how often you use them.

For specific issues, read books/articles targeting that area. One publisher of self-help books is New Harbinger Publications. For emotional issues that are not of a severe nature, one resource is the self-help treatment website available here.

Write down which area of personal growth you have chosen to address. Consider the following practice: Every morning, read your goal or mentally state your intention to improve in that area, and ask God to help you. State your intention in the positive, what you want to do and not what you want to avoid. If there is something practical you can do daily or at least weekly to move you closer to your goal, schedule that into your calendar. With God’s help, upgrading your skillset will assist you in achieving your goals and enhancing your quality of life.
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