THE BLOG
11/28/2014 09:33 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2015

Personal Growth Doesn't Tickle: 10 Tips to Make It Easier

Olivia Bell Photography via Getty Images

If you're going to make your life brilliant, you're going to have to grow and change, and that means facing opposition -- sometimes fierce opposition. But don't let that stop you or derail you. If anything, let it sharpen your vision and fuel your resolve.

A few examples of personal growth: Changing jobs -- or careers. Pursuing a promotion. Going back to school. Starting a business. Writing your memoirs (if you don't write them, who will?). Taking up a challenging hobby. Doing volunteer work that takes you out of your comfort zone. Being the first in your family to do any of these things.

10 Tips to Smooth Your Path

  1. Embrace the difficulties. My friend and former boss Shawn used to say, "If it were easy, everyone would do it." Sometimes what holds us back is not others' opposition, but our own.
  2. Remind yourself, "This is just a stage." As an example, when I moved from Michigan to southern California to start graduate school, I could not have been more in love. What's not to love about year-round great weather, a campus that overlooks the ocean, and fish tacos?

    Without knowing it, I was in Stage One(the honeymoon phase) of Oberg's Stages of Assimilation. Here's a tip I learned the hard way: The honeymoon doesn't last -- but fortunately, neither does the crisis stage. Best not to take either one too terribly seriously.

  3. Get selective about whom you share your news with. Some folks have it in them to share your hopes and fears, and some just don't. More precisely, some encounters will leave you nourished, and others will leave you chronically depleted -- or annoyed. Accept it, even if you don't like it, and keep going. Which leads us to our next point:
  4. Take nothing personally. When you change, the people around you have to shift--mentally, emotionally, or in some other way. This isn't always fun. Sometimes it's not even possible. After all, other people have their own agendas, their own timetable, and their own limitations. Allowing for these differences, without trying to change or refute them, makes life easier for everyone. For more information on this topic, check out Bruce Van Horn's post, "Do Not Take Anything Personally."
  5. Lovingly hold your ground. For example, when you're asked some version of, "What if your plan doesn't work?" you can explain, if you would like. But if it's just too much -- or you suspect the other party is seeking not clarity but consternation -- you can simply smile and say warmly, "Let me worry about that." Repeat as necessary. In reality, though, you're not worrying (or, with any luck, you're not consumed by worry). You're doing what needs to be done and letting the rest go.
  6. Surround yourself with positivity. Which isn't to say put blinders on. Only that when you're taking noble risks and moving forward, you need and deserve all the allies you can get: positive thoughts, positive words, positive music, positive people; that is, those who can bring out your best and challenge you when necessary.
  7. Celebrate your new direction, even when you don't have it all figured out. As my friend Rick said when we were both starting grad school, "I've never been more clueless about where I'm going to be two years from now, or more excited about where I'm headed." Why not tape that to your wall?
  8. Talk to people who are further down the path. For example, if you're starting a business, seek out and meet with those who took a similar risk and are now thriving. The world is filled with courageous people who are willing to share their stories.
  9. Be willing to let some relationships drift. This is easier said than done, and I am not advocating for divorce. But as you grow and change, some relationships are naturally going to diminish or disappear, while others grow stronger. New relationships will be formed on your new and higher plateau. I have never met anyone who allowed this process to unfold and later regretted it.
  10. Trust that growth and change benefit everyone -- including the naysayers. I have seen this with my (graduate) students and in my own family. You've probably seen it in your own life. The first one in the family to go to college, start a business, or otherwise break new ground ends up inspiring other family members, up and down the generations.

Personal growth takes constant courage. Trusting that the results are worth it, even when you can't yet see them, makes present difficulties that much easier to endure and overcome, especially in the face of fierce opposition.