People who’ve worked on themselves mentally are just different. Their actions and words betray the work they’ve put in themselves. You always get that feeling of ‘this person knows who they are and what they’re talking about’ right away.
It’s almost as if you can smell their confidence. They’re smart, good conversationalists, goal-driven, and purposeful. These are people who’ve achieved psychological growth. You can tell they have wonderful minds.
What have they done differently that makes them psychologically mature?
The short answer is: They’ve fed their minds with the right things. They’ve taken the time to work on themselves and have become good thinkers, talkers, and problem-solvers. They know how to use their minds well.
Why wouldn’t you, though? We navigate the world with our minds. It makes sense to grow it, sharpen it and have it ready to do important things. Mental growth is that meta-ability that makes all other abilities happen. It’s the skill behind all skills.
I don’t care what field you’re in. No matter what you’re doing in life, you’re using your mind to do it. The better you use your mind, the better you’ll do what you do. If it makes so much sense to sharpen your mind, why don’t many people do it?
Education =/= Mental growth
Most education systems throughout the world pay little to no attention to psychological growth. They equip students with the skills required to land a job. Most of what is taught is redundant and no longer applicable to the highly changing job market, anyway.
The self-help industry fills the gap left by the education system. But if self-help books aren’t directly going to help a student land a job, why would they bother reading them? And that’s exactly what happens.
Most people don’t take the time to develop their minds because they simply weren’t taught to do so. They think learning technical skills is enough and skip developing their minds.
So, you have people who can’t think on their feet. They want their employers to tell them what to do. They want step-by-step instructions for everything.
My sister works in a research lab at a premier institute in the country. She was saying that her lab mates took one year to solve a problem that could’ve been solved easily in a few weeks. They kept repeating the experiments despite getting incorrect results.
They thought repeating the experiments over and over would magically lead them to the desired results.
This ‘magical thinking’ is a symptom of stunted mental growth. Sure, these are some of the best students in their field- research scholars. They’re highly knowledgeable about their areas, but not about how to use their minds. They lack thinking and problem-solving skills.
The education system relegates these topics to fields like psychology and industries like self-help. That’s a valid categorization, but it makes the problem worse. People are like:
“Why should I learn how to think? I’m not a psychology student.”
Dude, you need to learn how to think. Because by doing that, you’ll do what you already do better. If you’re going to use your mind to do anything, you have to know how to use it.
Achieving mental growth
Developing your mind will not only help you succeed professionally but also improve your relationships. The better you understand yourself and others, the fewer problems you’ll face in life. A large chunk of our problems stems from a lack of self-understanding.
While mental growth takes time, there are some key principles to remember:
1. Garbage in, garbage out
If you put garbage into your mind, your words and actions will reflect it. People can take great care in trying to eat healthy, but hardly give a second thought to what they’re putting into their minds daily.
You internalize what you repeatedly expose yourself to. So, it’s important to try and filter out all the unhelpful stuff clamoring for your attention.
2. Becoming a better thinker
It’s easy to correct your actions but hard to correct your thoughts. Once people are set in their mental ways, it’s hard to move them mentally. The more you catch yourself saying, “I’ve been thinking about it all wrong”, the more psychologically mature you are. It tells me you’re constantly refining how you think.
Many problems occur because we’re thinking about things the wrong way. Take feedback from reality and be willing to change your thinking if required.
3. Becoming a problem-solver
The best way to hone your thinking skills is to get good at solving problems. Take on more challenging problems frequently. See how far you can push yourself. I know it’s much more convenient to seek help, but don’t do that at the cost of your own mental growth.
If you’ve exhausted all your mental resources or don’t have time, then you can seek help. You want to be able to depend on yourself to a certain degree. Avoid rushing for help at the slightest inconvenience.
4. Becoming a good decision-maker
Adult life is filled with making important decisions- decisions that can have a significant impact on our lives. Yet, did they teach you decision-making in school? Exactly.
Decision-making is a skill like any other, but a critical one. Poor decisions can be very costly. So, it makes sense to learn how to make good decisions. We have several biases that make us susceptible to making poor decisions. It’s important to learn about these biases.
If you’ve been lucky and haven’t made a bad decision yet, who’s to say you won’t in the future? Prevention is better than cure.
5. Developing emotional intelligence and maturity
Developing emotional intelligence and maturity is one of the most important aspects of mental growth. Being mentally strong is all about managing your emotions well. When you become emotionally intelligent, you understand your own emotions and the emotions of others.
It’s always refreshing when someone gets you on an emotional level. It’s highly satisfying and lets you develop deep connections with people.
6. Helpful mindsets and values
Mindsets can be helpful or unhelpful. Beliefs and mindsets are precursors to behavior. When your head is in the right place, the right actions follow naturally. Having the right mindset will allow you to overcome the most challenging obstacles.
We humans tend to absorb the mindsets of people in our social group. Someone has rightly said that you are the average of the five people you most hang out with. Having the right kind of people around you is probably the easiest way to speed up your mental growth.
7. Gaining knowledge
Knowledge was, is, and will be, power. There’s just no way around that. Whatever progress humans have made, and will make, depends on our collective knowledge. The same is true for individuals. The more we know, the more we grow. If you want mental growth, you have to keep gaining more and more knowledge.
The more truths you can know and understand about the mind, the better. The challenge is- it’s hard to know the truth. It can only be known by digging the pit of knowledge deeper and deeper.
The more knowledge you gain, the more patterns you can see. Over time, you’ll find that the truth emerges and converges out of these patterns. You keep seeing the same things over and over. It’s because you finally get it. You’ve stumbled on the pure, unadulterated truth.
This is true for every endeavor, including mental growth. Growing mentally requires overcoming some universal human weaknesses and biases to think better. Once you get it and practice it, you attain psychological growth.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve published one book and authored 400+ articles on this blog (started in 2014) that have garnered over 4.5 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.