What are the best self-development activities? The ones that work consistently, reliably and give you the results you desire. In this article, you will learn 12 of the best activities to improve yourself quickly and effectively.
I start by explaining what self-development is and what it isn’t. I’ll then briefly share my self-development journey with you. This will help you understand what is possible when you consistently apply self-development activities to your life.
I’ll then uncover the 12 best self-development activities for an awesome life. Don’t feel you have to do them all! Just pick the activities that resonate with you. The ones you feel are most helpful right now.
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What Is Self-Development
Self-development is about becoming more and wanting more in life. It’s having greater success, happiness, or being more effective and proficient. It’s about developing your talents and potential and achieving your goals and dreams.
A key part of self-development is becoming more self-aware. This is understanding yourself and why you do things. It’s knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It’s being clear on your life’s purpose, mission and values.
The self-development industry in the US is worth $11 billion. Every year $500 million is spent on personal development products, courses and seminars. It’s a vast market!
What Is Not Self-Development.
Self-development is not being “fixed” by someone or something else. The power to change ultimately lies within you, not someone else.
It’s not learning personal development without applying it to your life. It’s not a dopamine hit. This is consuming self-development content purely to feel better now. This often leads to becoming a personal development junkie.
If you want self-development to be more than a hobby or entertainment, then it’s essential that you apply what you learn.
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My Self-Development Journey
My first experience of self-development was attending a seminar on stress management whilst at university. This was fascinating and encouraged me to learn and practice meditation.
When I moved to London, I became interested in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and was actively involved with the NLP practice groups in London.
There were three books that I read that had a massive impact on me. There were.
- Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins
- You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
At this time, I wanted to improve my social confidence and dating skills. I used self-development activities to help me do that successfully.
I had a wonderful life in my 30s. I got married, had many friends, a brilliant career and lots of opportunities to travel. So, I lost interest in self-development.
In 2010, we moved to Sydney Australia and continued to have a wonderful life. However, I didn’t feel happy or fulfilled in my career, despite changing jobs several times. Now, in my 40s, I also had some niggling health issues that influenced my state of mind. I became more interested in natural health. That then led me back into self-development and especially mind-body healing.
The 12 Best Self-Development Activities That Will Change Your Life
So now you know what self-development is, lets dive into 12 of the best self-development activities that have changed my life and I’m sure they will do the same for you too.
Affirmations are short, positive statements about what you want in life. You repeat these statements as often as you can. Repeating them out-loud is most effective, but silently to yourself is good too.
Affirmations help replace those repetitive negative thoughts that keep you stuck. You’re already saying negative affirmations to yourself, so you’re simply replacing these negative affirmations with positive ones.
An alternative to affirmations is Lofty questions. You can learn about these here.
Meditation is highly effective for reducing stress and anxiety. Meditation helps you gain a greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings. And when you’re meditating, you can change those thoughts and feelings, or let them go.
The easiest way to meditate is to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and focus on breathing in and breathing out. Whenever your mind wanders (and it will frequently, especially if you’re new to this), then accept that this is fine. It’s completely natural.
Then as soon as you notice your mind wandering (and this could be a few seconds after your mind wondered), gently bring it back to your breathing.
Another option is guided meditations. This is listening to a recording of someone giving you relaxing suggestions. You then focus on the words being said. There are thousands of guided meditation recordings available and also guided meditation mobile apps.
3. Creative Visualization
We naturally use our imagination. However, it’s typically for worst-case scenarios or things we are afraid of. Just like thinking negatively, we imagine negatively too.
Creative visualization allows you to counteract negative imagery by vividly imagining what you want instead. It’s seeing situations and activities going the way you want them to go. Creative Visualization is often known as mental rehearsal, especially in sports and athletics.
Creative visualization is much more than seeing the positive outcome in your mind. It includes hearing and feeling it too. You want to engage all the senses, even smell and taste if you can.
Olympic athletes use creative visualization all the time. It’s an essential part of what they do to become the best in their sport. They might not consciously use creative visualization, but they definitely do it unconsciously.
Self-hypnosis is like guided meditation. However, it’s more goal oriented. People use self-hypnosis to increase motivation or confidence. Or to stop a bad habit such as smoking, overeating or drinking too much alcohol.
The easiest way is to listen to a self-hypnosis recording. There are thousands of those available and some are more effective than others.
You could learn how to hypnotize yourself without using self-hypnosis recordings. I cover this in one of the related articles below.
When we keep thoughts in our head, this can lead to overwhelm and confusion. It’s very easy to blow things out of proportion. To make it much bigger than it really is.
Journaling is writing your thoughts on paper (or in a computer file). When you do this, you gain a fresh perspective, a calmer mind and greater clarity. Writing can help release emotions too.
For the best results, write your thoughts on paper. However, if you prefer to type your thoughts on your computer, tablet or smart phone, that’s fine too. The most important thing is to do it!
6. Setting and Achieving Goals
Most people use self-development activities to improve or change their life. This starts with setting goals, so you’re clear on what you want to achieve and by when. Goals provide a focus for all the other self-development activities.
I encourage you to set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
Start by setting goals for this year, and then smaller quarterly or monthly goals. Equally important is reviewing your goals regularly, at least monthly. Check that you’re on track and make any adjustments to maximize your chances of achieving these goals.
A one-on-one coaching session is a highly effective form of self-development. An excellent coach will ask you direct, dedicated and personalized questions to help uncover your blind spots.
They will help you expand your beliefs about what is possible for you. A professional coach will also identify and help you change any limiting beliefs.
An important benefit of coaching is goal setting with accountability. It’s much harder to wriggle out of a goal that you have shared with a life coach. You are accountable to the coach. If you fail to achieve the goal, you will need to explain your reasons (and excuses) to your life coach.
In the same way as a Personal Trainer will drive you to do 30 push-ups, when you only feel like doing 20, a skilled coach will spur you to achieve your goals faster and expand on what is possible.
Therapy differs from coaching. It helps heal past events that stop you from moving forward in your life right now. Therapy helps you deal and resolve traumatic events. Or childhood events that shape your beliefs about what is possible for you right now.
There are different types of therapy. These include counseling and various forms of psychotherapy. If you see a psychologist, they will often use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
There is also hypnotherapy, which is what I specialize in. Hypnotherapy can help deal with, heal and resolve past events. Or it can be more solution focused, which makes it similar to coaching.
If you would like me to be your therapist or coach, then this page provides further details.
9. Overcoming Fears
One of the best self-development activities is overcoming your fears. I believe that fear is the biggest barrier to success. It’s fear that keeps people stuck. One of the fastest ways to grow and improve yourself is to overcome fears.
Do things that scare or frighten you, especially those that won’t affect you physically. For example, public speaking, talking to strangers, tough phone calls or recording videos.
Perhaps it’s having that difficult conversation with your partner or boss that you’ve been putting off for weeks.
Rather than tackling your biggest fears head on, you can start gently. Break down your biggest fears into smaller action steps. As you complete each step, your confidence and experience will grow and you’ll feel more able to overcome the bigger fears.
Another way to strengthen your fear muscle is to do something new, unfamiliar or a little uncomfortable each day. This could include going to a new café, trying a different food or exploring a more efficient way of doing a task at work.
10. Completing Challenges
A challenge is when you invest a significant amount of time and energy to achieve something monumental in a relatively short space of time. Here are some examples.
- Training and then running a marathon
- Starting a business
- Changing jobs or your career
- Losing a significant amount of weight.
When you set challenges, it forces you to step up and become more. Challenges help you prove that you can do something, that you thought was difficult or even impossible.
Challenges are fantastic for overcoming habits and for achieving the more important and meaningful goals in your life.
For challenges to work effectively, you want to specify an exact amount of time. This could be 30, 60, 90 or 100 days. For me, 100 days works incredibly well. I started Self Help for Life and my Hypnotherapy business in 100 days. You can achieve so much in 100 days when you put your mind to it. It’s also long enough to make it a habit.
I do a 100 Day-Challenge every year and I use Gary Ryan Blair’s 100 Day Challenge program to motivate me, inspire me and keep me accountable during that time.
11. Taking Action
I touched on this earlier, but it’s so important! Learning a new self-development activity, tool or technique is useless if you don’t apply it to your life. Or a Stephen Covey says “to know and not to do is not to know”.
So here are some examples:
- Reading and learning the most effective dating techniques versus going on dates
- Researching the most effective ways to speak in public versus speaking in public
- Learning all the different ways to make money on the internet versus starting an internet-based business.
Knowing is easy. You can gain the knowledge by going to university or surfing the web. All the information you need is readily available.
Doing is applying what you’ve learned and testing it out. You’re not fully committed at this stage.
Living is taking consistent action on what you’ve learned. You improve through repetition. This leads to consistent and predictable results. The action becomes a habit and perhaps even part of who you are.
12. Expressing Gratitude
The key reason for doing self-development activities is to achieve something that we don’t already have. It’s easy to become focussed (even obsessed) about achieving goals and major life changes. This can lead to unhappiness and frustration, especially if the goal takes much longer than you intended.
It’s easy to forget what you have now and the good aspects of your life. Therefore gratitude and appreciation are so important.
Take a few minutes to be grateful for what you already have. Write all the things you’re grateful for and that you appreciate. Create a gratitude journal and list additional things each day.
Focus on simple things such as having enough food, good health, a safe and comfortable place to live or enough money. Be grateful for waking up and experiencing another day of your life.
So now you have a list of the 12 best self-development activities, including many of the ones I do regularly. If you want to crush your goals, be happier more fulfilled and more successful, then apply some of these self-development activities to your life and reap the benefits.
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