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The No-Bullsh*t Guide to Self Growth

The No-Bullsh*t Guide to Self Growth

By Kelly Nickels

Self Growth is typically tied to the desire to be a better person. But what if you don't need to be?

When I was tasked to write this article, I initially wrote a very clinical article about self growth regurgitating words I've heard other spiritual gurus and some of my favourite authors use. But ironically, I found I was writing something about "finding your authentic Self" from a very inauthentic place. I've written from an inauthentic place before, and that’s okay. Maybe this is the first time I'm actually tapping into my authentic voice as a writer. That’s okay too.

That's the thing about Self Growth. It's the gratitude of writing from an inauthentic place because without it, you wouldn't have found the awareness of what writing from an authentic place is. What if this could be applied to every aspect of life? What if what really grows is your appreciation for and awareness of who you are now? Not seeking to change anything about yourself, but rather a daily acceptance of the person you are regardless of what is going on around you. Send a little love to who you've been too while you're at it. Can you do that? It's actually really hard to practice despite it actually being an incredibly simple concept because it requires you to extract all external and internal "I'll be happy when's."

I'll be happy when my credit card debt is paid off.

I'll be happy when I'm in a relationship.

I'll be happy when I’m rich and famous.

I'll be happy when I'm married.

I’ll be happy when I’ve traveled more.

I'll be happy when I'm "successful." (whatever that even means)

I’ll be happy when I’m enlightened.

(Extra credit: Put a “Why?” at the end of each of your own “I’ll be happy when’s”)

a paddle close up above a lake

What is Self Growth?

So let's rebrand Self Growth.

Self Growth is, now and forever more, the nurturing and fostering of the most important relationship in your life: the one with yourself. 

Why is Self-Growth Important?

The more you appreciate who you are now, the more you appreciate your entire life. The more you see life through rose-colored glasses, but not in a naive way. More so, in an innocent child-like remembrance of a life you had forgotten to appreciate in all of its complexity and duality. 

Self Growth is the way back to living authentically. But like my first version of this article, you have to live inauthentically to even know how! When you can accept where you're at today, without all the bells and whistles of some carefully packaged self-improvement itinerary with a future destination of peace, you begin to have the same acceptance towards life.

This doesn't mean you sit idly back while injustice happens or people walk all over you, but you appreciate the delicate unfolding of life, even if it wasn't what you expected. Because without all the “I'll be happy when's,” you're just happy.

Ways That You Can Focus on Personal Growth and Development

Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to assist in your personal growth and development:

1. Self-Love

Most relationships problems are a self-love problem. So most self-relationship “problems” stem from, you guessed it, a lack of self-love as well. I truly believe our capacity to love, despite experiencing pain from doing just that, is our super power. But rarely do we extend that infinite abundance of love to ourselves. Why is that?

Making the shift to prioritizing loving myself first and foremost was the greatest decision of my life. But it did not happen overnight. After 27 years of loving everything but myself on full blast, I didn't know where to start. Start small! Can you love the way you snort laugh on occasion? Can you love that blemish on your face? Then work bigger. Can you love who you are right now despite not changing anything at all? 

Love is the quickest way to understanding who you are. It is the language of the Soul. It is the undercurrent of the Universe. So if you truly want to meet who you are at the core of your being, my best advice would be to get a full heart-on for yourself. Because the more you open your heart to love, the more you will find inwardly and the more will manifest outwardly. You will never fear loving too hard again because you will find the more you love yourself, the more love naturally exudes from you to everyone and everything around you. You are capable of infinite love. That is what building a relationship with yourself will consistently reveal to you. 

(Someone please start #getahearton on social media)

2. Mindfulness and Yoga

a man sipping coffee out of a camp cup with lake in the background

These two techniques seem obvious and tend to induce eye-rolling to those who do not subscribe to their teachings, but as someone who erred on the side of the scoffing category, I can tell you now I’m a born-again mindful yogi.

I thought yoga was for the spiritual elite or the most flexible gymnast types of the world, but it is for everyone. Sabrina Wu, one of our incredible writers, breaks down the benefits of yoga and ways to incorporate it into your everyday life (even on the go!) in ways you wouldn’t have thought of, in her article “The Best (Simple) Yoga Poses To Do On The Road.”

Mindfulness is a multi-faceted technique to help you be where you are. That means when you are driving to work, you aren’t thinking about the assignment you have to do later that day. You are instead looking around at the cars, listening to your radio, and being fully present. 

Commuting is one of the easiest times to unconsciously reside in our minds. It’s like auto-pilot. You’re like “okay cool, been there done that, time to think about literally everything possible.” But one of the beautiful things about life is, no two commuting trips are the same. You could miss a beautiful interaction, or a billboard that sparks an idea that changes your life, all by allowing life to be lived in auto-pilot mind land. Mindfulness is a stepping stone to living life more consciously and starting that beautiful relationship with yourself. Be sure to read “The Ultimate Guide to Mindfulness Practice” for a list of simple mindfulness practices to add to your daily routine.

3. Read a lot

When you trust the Universe, things will manifest to help you. Sometimes it’s a book that randomly calls to you from a shelf. Sometimes it’s an article on Wakeful Travel finding you at the right time.

Some books that found me at the right time were:

Learning to Love Yourself by Gay Hendricks

100 Days of Solitude by Daphne Kapsali

The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

There’s a funny story around how the book 100 Days of Solitude by Daphne Kapsali found me at the right time. I was in an acting class in San Francisco about 3-4 years ago and my teacher suggested to another student in the class to read a book. I jotted down the name of the book in my notebook and ended up purchasing it later. I read the book and it ultimately inspired a spontaneous decision to go on a solo-trip to Scotland which unknowingly became the catalyst for the next chapter of my life: pursuing my music career in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I texted my acting teacher thanking him for the book recommendation of 100 Days of Solitude. He responded “This is a bit awkward. I recommended 100 Years of Solitudes, not days. But it seems the right book found you.” I had jotted down the title 100 Years of Solitude in my notebook but when I went to purchase it I didn’t pay enough attention and bought 100 Days instead by accident. The right book did find me. One might look at this as a coincidence. But when coincidences happen that change the course of your life, you start to wonder “Am I really in control at all?”

4. Ask Questions and Let the Answers Find You

The whole premise of philosophy is asking questions that cannot be answered. So one may think, why ask them at all? But I ask you, what is the cost of not questioning anything? When you ask questions that seem unanswerable, you may be surprised to find there is more to your life than you could have ever imagined. But you never would have found that out if you didn’t ask. Even if you never receive an answer, the direction your life takes as a result of asking said question, becomes the most powerful unfolding answer of them all. 

There is a great power in letting things unfold as they may and simply existing in the moment you currently are in. That may sound scary, but like any relationship, trust will form over time. All you need is a willingness to open your heart, admit when you’re wrong, or better yet, that you don’t know what the f*ck is going on at all. Just blast “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar a few times and you’ll get the gist. 

How To Create A Simple Self Growth Plan

Alright, so I’m promised this to be “the No-Bullsh*t Guide to Self Growth” so it would be unfair for me to try to condense such an individual, personalized journey into a one-size-fits-all kind of plan. 

So below when I break the unbreakable down into a few steps, please understand these refer to my unique experience. Please use them as guide posts, but never as your guide. The only guide you ever need is inside of you. Trust that beyond anything else, including this. 

1. I Want to Change

If you are reading this article, you are probably at step one or step two and that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change something about yourself. 

My example: Two years ago, I left my marriage because I felt I couldn’t love someone properly until I learned to love myself. From the moment on, I wanted to change in order to love myself.

2. How Can I Best Change Myself?

Self-love, mindfulness, yoga, reading, and asking questions and let the answers find you. These are all different avenues you may venture down when attempting to change yourself. 

My example: During this stage, I literally tried everything. I went to therapy. Replaced bad habits with good habits. I read A LOT of self-help books. I consulted psychics and tarot card readers. I turned to the stars. I meditated until my bum hurt. I was like an archaeologist dusting off already found relics in a national museum: looking in the right wrong places. I wanted to do the work, but not the dirty work. The dirty work being asking myself the hard question of “Why do I feel I need to change at all?”

3. Why Do I Even Want to Change Again?

My example: At a certain point, I got exhausted and frustrated. “I’ve done all these things, so why don’t I know how to love myself?!” I tried to think about it from every way I could, but there are some things you just can’t intellectualize. There are some things you just have to feel

One day, I found my answer and it wasn’t through thinking about it. The book Learning to Love Yourself by Gay Hendricks found me and helped me have an epiphany. It hit me like a ton of bricks. All of those things I turned to were based on the belief that loving myself was a future place to land. All of those seemingly helpful things I turned to were based on the belief that there was something that needed to change to be deserving of love. Woof.

Can you love who you are right now despite not changing anything at all? Asking yourself that question and being willing to say “yes” may just change your life.

We believe we have to change in order to love ourselves, because we don’t think the person we are now is good enough. But when we extend love to ourselves no matter what is happening within or without of us, something incredible happens. We become the love we extend. 

But I wouldn’t have realized any of that if I didn’t stop thinking about it. When I let go of needing to know the answer, the answer found me. 

4. Let Change Find You

The irony of the whole thing is at the end of the plan, you end up throwing out the plan and just living. Because if you’re good enough as is, that’s all there’s left to do. 

You trust that letting go of needing to know is actually the way to free yourself and paradoxically, the way to the answers themselves. You just have to trust them to show up when they’re meant to. And the way you do that is to not worry or think about them. That is the biggest act of faith one can do. 

“Don’t be afraid to start over again. This time, you’re not starting from scratch. You’re starting from experience.”

So rewrite that article. Pick yourself up again. Rise into love fearlessly. You may cycle back to step one and work your way back to step four many times in life.  But each cycle brings you something new. That is Self Growth.

the inside of the tent, looking out at a campfire

How Do You Know When You Achieve Growth

Self Growth is the most important journey you’ll ever depart on, and I say depart, because it isn’t somewhere to arrive. One of the quickest shortcomings of my personal growth I ran into was assuming as I learned something or felt something indescribable, that I have “arrived.” Spoiler alert: I hadn’t.

Achieving growth may simply manifest as acknowledging that today I feel better than I did yesterday and I’m seeing shifts in my internal and external worlds as a result of this unfolding journey of confusion. Some days you may even think you’ve gone backwards or that you don’t have the self-discipline to continue on. But it is so important to recognize, it is all growth. It is all leading to getting to know who you are at a deeper level.

When it comes to the realm of self growth and the internal world of who you are, the only real expert is you and your personal experience. I can sit here and try to explain the intangible and what I’ve personally experienced, but at the end of the day, it is you that holds the key to understanding your personal growth on the only level it exists at: the individual level. Because what I write may be true to what happened to me, but it does not guarantee and I highly doubt it will be exactly what happens to you.

a man's hand holding three playing cards with a woman in the background

How Can The Mindful Travel Journal Encourage You to Support Your Own Self Growth

The Mindful Travel Journal can help you on your journey to Self Growth because it provides many carefully curated journaling pages for your personalized self-reflection making your journey more tangible and digestible. 

Think of Wakeful Travel as a personal travel companion wherever your journey may take you. Mine took me to a completely different continent as a result of following my heart and where my intuition guided me. I found solo travel to be a great form of self-love and clarity throughout my journey to understanding who I am. While traveling alone, you take a step out of your comfort zone and come face-to-face with fears and false beliefs that no longer serve you.

Although traveling is not necessary to find yourself, it can be a very helpful tool to understand what the heck is going on in your head by removing what is known externally, leaving only what is known internally to focus on. It could also be the Universe giving you a nudge to be in an environment that will foster the life you actually want instead of the one you thought you wanted. 

The thing that is important to emphasize is that because of this crazy journey I embarked upon some odd years ago, I’ve had some of my best life memories and experiences. So despite how impossible and scary it may seem, the Universe does provide some of the highest highs of your life to counterbalance the unavoidable lows along the way. But that’s the funny thing, the lows become less low as you go. And the highs become less high.

It all just melds into the beautiful complexity that is life and, at the end of the day, I hope you find you wouldn’t have it any other way. I sure wouldn’t.

All images photographed by the talented Ali Kazal.


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