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Today I want to share a 3-part framework that I use to help people who are working toward personal growth. I use this model in my own life, as well as with clients I’m trying to help. The model involves three key areas of focus: (1) freedom, (2) values, (3) action.

Key #1: Freedom

The first key area is freedom. I believe that we each have an inner longing to be free to live our life as we choose and direct our own path. However, there are a lot of blocks to freedom. Sometimes the block is external. We still have people in our world who live in literal slavery. Also, many individuals have to deal with prejudice and discrimination based on their skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. We all have a responsibility to work to end these blocks that our society places on people’s freedom.

Other blocks to freedom are internal. For many people, anxiety holds them back from being the people God created them to be. Others struggle with depression, feeling the weight and heaviness of sadness and hopelessness that robs their joy and keeps them buried. Often, we develop a certain way of being and interacting that is rooted in our experiences as children with our primary caregivers. Even though we are now adults and technically free, we can’t seem to break free of the patterns that limit us.

How are you doing with freedom? Do you feel free to be the person God created you to be and live the life God has called you to? Or do various things hold you back from your full potential? If you were to do some freedom work, what would that work be?

Key #2: Values

The second key area is values. Sometimes people struggle because they can’t decide on the direction they want to go in life. They are aimless. Sometimes they go one way for a while, and then shift gears and do something completely different. Sometimes, because they don’t have a clear direction to motivate them, they waste their time on activities such as television and video games.

If you don’t have a clear direction in life, it is a signal you might need to do some work around your values. Values are the things in life that are most important to us. Values are different from goals. Goals are something you can accomplish and check off your list. Values are ongoing patterns of behaviors that you can do your entire life. For example, losing 10 pounds is a goal. Living a healthy lifestyle is a value.

Values must be freely chosen. Sometimes people struggle because they feel like they need to conform to a particular standard set for them by their family, religion, or society. For example, the person who goes to medical school because their parents want them to, even though they really want to be an artist. A value isn’t conforming to an external standard. They must be freely chosen.

How are you doing with values? Are you crystal clear about what is most important to you? Do you have a life direction that is motivating for you? If you were to do some work around your values, what would that work be?

Key #3: Action

Many people struggle to take effective action in their lives. They might know the direction they need to go, but they struggle to actually do it. Maybe they are struggling with a bad habit, such as smoking or drinking. Or maybe there is something good that they know they need to do, like exercise, but they can’t seem to get themselves to do it.

There is a set of principles that work to help people make changes in their lives. They are easy to remember, because they all start with the letter S:

  1. Adjust Your Surroundings: Don’t forget the power of your environment. Make your environment work for you, not against you.
  2. Start Small: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with something you are confident you can do. Once you get some success, build up from there.
  3. Be Specific: Don’t have a general goal, like “get healthier.” Instead, be specific. What exactly are you trying to do, and what would constitute success?
  4. Schedule It In: Changing something doesn’t feel natural at first. In the beginning, you need to schedule the activity into your calendar like you would an appointment.
  5. Find a Support Team: It’s tough to change alone. Invite other people in on your change process to help keep you accountable.

How are you doing with your actions and behaviors? What is one thing you are trying to change right now? How could the 5 S’s help you be more effective in your change effort?

Discussion

What do you think of the 3 keys to personal growth? Is there one of these areas that you feel is most important for you to focus on right now?

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