Self-growth seems like a modern invention, but in fact Western society alone has been practicing some form of self-improvement for many centuries. Beginning with humanism in the late 15th century, the European Renaissance placed a good deal of emphasis upon personal growth, self-improvement through reading and thinking, and in the way that people behaved towards each other. A second flowering of this self-improvement began with the Enlightenment, which again turned the focus from family and society towards the inner development of the person. Although some of the ideas might seem old-fashioned, traditional methods of self-growth can still be used if you are concentrating on self-growth in the 21st century.
Improving the mind
Historically, the greatest emphasis was placed upon improving the mind of the person, usually through self-education and the enhancement of learning. Studying the writing of authors from the 16th and the 18th century can give you a greater sense of what is important in your education, including the example of Benjamin Franklin, who read extensively and indiscriminately while working at a family-run printing shop. This helped him to develop his mind, and this was honed when he travelled to Europe, broadening his mind and increasing his knowledge. Forming a like-minded group also helped him to explore his ideas and exchange information in a supportive and motivating atmosphere which strengthened his self-confidence. These are all useful tools which will help the modern self-improver to increase their personal growth.
Improving the body
Another popular area for traditional self development was the physical body. Many members of the Enlightenment were keen advocates of physical fitness, including Immanuel Kant, who lived an austere life where daily walks were such a part of his routine that neighbours claimed that they could set clocks by seeing him. These were not philosophical walks, but instead were described as solely for exercise. Other leading thinkers of the period were noted swimmers or participated in labouring work. There were also some who chose to eat in moderation, including eating vegetarian meals. These methods can be adapted in order to help you improve your fitness. While you don’t have to be so precise as Kant, a daily walk both helps you to increase physical activity, and gives you time to step away from daily stresses, ensuring that you can relax more and that you are better able to sleep after a busy day.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to modern self-growth is the importance it places upon taking personal responsibility for your actions, and the way that these affect others. In the past, a lot of emphasis was placed upon morals and codes of behaviour, in part because the times were more formal, but also because these codes encouraged self-control. Renaissance and Enlightenment philosophers placed a great deal of emphasis upon honesty and integrity, and also about avoiding gossip. These codes can also be applied to modern lifestyles, and can form the basis of personal growth and self-improvement.