I’m A Psychologist — Here’s How To Adopt A Healthy Mindset Toward Personal Growth

A big question I get repeatedly as a psychologist is, What does one do after a substantial surge of growth?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself over and over again, too, after my own bouts of growth. So, after refining this process for years, here’s my answer. (And, spoiler: It involves straddling that balance between growth and gratitude.)

So you’ve grown—now what?
People often fall into two camps, or a combination of them both, the first being a false sense of security now that you are a new(er) version of you, the second, wondering what’s next and feeling guilty for not being exclusively grateful, or worried that you will regress.

Both are valid. Let me explain why.

First, you have indeed become a new(er) version of you, and that is absolutely worth celebrating. Zooming out and witnessing your progress creates momentum, and the dopamine rush from motivation urges you to continue.

However, the caveat is in thinking that’s it, and you no longer have any work to be done.

For example, one thing a lot of us can relate to is losing weight. There’s a saying that all diets work until they don’t. This is because many of us have a false sense of security and think that once we’ve lost the weight, we can go back to our old habits that got us needing to lose the weight in the first place.

Been there, done that—many times. And I assure you, just like no one can beat the laws of biology when it comes to health, we can’t beat the laws of nature when it comes to our growth.

In other words, if you keep doing the same old things expecting a new outcome, that sets you up for failure.

Second, of course you are allowed to be grateful for what you have today, as well as your strength that brought you here, while also wondering if there’s more to be done. Your 2024 self isn’t enough for your 2025 self—that’s just real life and has nothing to do with how grateful or not you are.

How to adopt a healthy growth mindset

1. Continue to reinforce your gains
Tying back to the idea of the false sense of security that can settle in once we’ve grown, it’s important to continue to reinforce the growth and gains you’ve created for yourself.

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

What are the nonnegotiable actions I need to do?
How often do I need to practice them?
How will I reward myself?

2. Know that regression can (and often does) happen
Regression happens. When it does, you can ask yourself these questions:

What situations/mindsets make me regress?
What behaviors/thoughts count as regressing to me?
How does it benefit me to regress?
The last one is particularly important. Sometimes performing our old behaviors is comforting—and consistent with how we see ourselves (i.e., after three years of committing to fitness, I still see myself as “hedonistic” and “undisciplined” on autopilot).

And sometimes, our old behaviors and their consequences can lead us to feel self-pity, which we might enjoy, or allow others to take care of us.

But most importantly, just don’t make one bad day, two.

3. Give yourself grace over “bad” behaviors
Here’s the deal. Not everything is regressing. Like in fitness, you are allowed to have some days of fun food that others may call unhealthy or “bad”—that is just life, especially if you enjoy these things.

Or for another example, just because some people advocate for digital detoxes doesn’t mean social media is unhealthy for you if you use it for some enjoyment and curate your feed. So if you enjoy it, do it within limits, but if you don’t, then don’t do it to punish yourself.

Also, take heart that when we are actively changing our lives, we go all-in and are more strict with our regimens. I might commit to breathing deeply more in a day, or walk more when I am in the depth of a growth phase, for instance. After that, I will have to take my foot off the accelerator and learn to live in the real world.

Your brain will be anxious to do this, and that’s normal. Learn how to self-soothe in these instances, or lean on those who can talk you out of “should-ing” on yourself when you “mess up.”

4. Keep staying grateful
I love the idea of the Jar of Awesome, something you can use to track progress and build momentum. On a digital or physical list, write what you’re grateful for starting or continuing to do.

It doesn’t matter how easily it comes to others as long as you’ve shown up for yourself. This way, you can grow and stay grateful.

5. Figure out what your next self needs
One of my biggest epiphanies in 2022 was reading a quote on how growth for growth’s sake is what a cancer cell does. It anchored me, and I committed to growing thoughtfully.

In that way, think about where you will be in the next year or next five years. Who would you like to become? What values are you aligning yourself with that can be your guiding North Star, especially in darker and more uncertain times?

This will help you plan where and how you need to grow next.

6. Embrace the “suck”
On an episode of Andrew Huberman’s podcast, David Goggins speaks about self-growth beyond just checking things off your to-do list.

“Sometimes the things we push ourselves on enhance our career or athletic ability or relationships,” he says, “But sometimes it’s the mere action of pushing ourselves to do things that we don’t want to do that most grows our self-perception. In other words, the work becomes the goal, and we become stronger by virtue of it.”

In his own words, this is to “embrace the suck.” So, if there are things you don’t like to do but want to do, how can you remind yourself to #embracethesuck?

7. Let your habits grow with you
I love checking in with myself and reviewing my new habits because it allows me to test out new behaviors and mindsets without second-guessing myself. That way, my brain is at ease.

Some questions you can ask yourself are:

What has been going great with this process? Why?
What can be improved? Why?
When will I check in again?
Any other thoughts?

8. Gift yourself high-level accountability
Most people overestimate motivation and what they can do on their own with a generic framework. Life’s demands inevitably get in the way, so for that, I like to work with experts to help get me where I need to be.

The accountability of trusting and confiding in another person throughout my growth journey makes me want to show up more and more. And hearing the stories of others whom I respect, and contextualizing my journey that way, is also reassuring.

The takeaway
Every January, we all get particularly inspired to grow—whether it’s to heal from something standing in our way or to optimize how we live our lives. And the truth is, it’s in the throes of this excitement that we really want something—but when January winds down and daily life sets in, we forget.

This is why I urge you to remember that regardless of a new calendar year, growth is something that pays compound interest for you. In contrast, bad habits pay compound interest against you.

So take heart in all the growth you’ve undergone to date, and remember to keep giving yourself space and guidance to continue your climb.