10 Thinking Habits for Unlimited Personal Growth

At all times and all places our mind is constantly thinking, interpreting, and trying to make sense of what is taking place, but just because we have immense experience with thinking doesn’t mean we are experts in our ability to think effectively.

This is because much of our thinking is automatic and beyond our awareness.

What and how we think becomes an ingrained pattern that has been developed throughout our entire life.

We adopt beliefs, thoughts, and expectations from society, our family, friends, and the media, which may or may not be true, and may or may not help us reach our goals.

Simply put, out thinking patterns and responses become a habit with which we navigate the world.

So, starting to regulate what we think about and making a plan to improve our thinking habits is the first step to changing our life for the better.

Here are 10 valuable thinking habits and how to develop them.

Think about your thinking

Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, allows us to uncover our thinking patterns and how these impact our emotions and behavior. When we begin to notice our thoughts we can start to reprogram limiting and belittle thoughts with thoughts that motivate, inspire, and support our aspirations.

Learn to reflect on your thinking and be aware of what you contemplate. Contemplate what you desire to become and connect with this image as if you are already this ideal.

Remain open to continuous learning

The more I learn the more I realize how little I truly know. There is so much to be learned whether from experience or education. The more versed we are in a topic the more growth continues to occur. With expertise we are more likely we can think creatively and expand on our current understanding.

Find new topics of interest and learn new skills. Make a plan to learn something new and develop in your trade. I personally break my learning and personal development into emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual (EPMS) domains.

Think flexibly

One of the most damaging thinking habits is to be judgmental and overly critical of ourselves and others. Being judgmental leads to close mindedness. Overcome this by identifying different perspectives and opinions.

Purposely seek out different and opposing viewpoints. Explore them impartially and take new ideas into consideration. Adopt ideas you feel will be beneficial and that match with your values.

Find humor

Humor is a catalyst for positive emotions and expansive thought. We don’t want to get in the habit of being excessively serious and over-thinking minor issues. This can stifle our creativity and ability to make important decisions.  Humor can be very helpful in many situations that lighten the emotional load and stimulate more productive thinking. Use humor on occasions to deal with stress and frustration.

Be understanding and empathetic

Connecting with others and getting to their level is a skill that requires we relate to what others are thinking and feeling. This isn’t always natural but can certainly be developed.

Empathy and understanding comes from fully listen to others. Identify personal barriers to listening and connecting with others, and work on your ineffective strategies. To grow as a compassionate person we must want good things for others even more than we want them for ourselves. 

Think independently

Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t believe everything you think, at least until you have decided you really want to believe it. It can be difficult to think outside of the box when we have been told there is a “right” way to do something our entire life. We learn not to question things or think critically, and instead we go along with the group and take whatever is being said at face value.

The next time you disagree or feel your intuition telling you something different don’t be afraid to speak up and take a stand. To make real change in the world and to expand as a person we must learn to think beyond conventional ideas that are out of fashion.

Use imagination and create

One of the greatest gifts we have is our creativity and imagination. When you were a child you may have had an imaginary friend or created your own personal language, or any number of imaginary games. Get back in touch with you ability to be imaginative and don’t let society squelch this tendency. As we get older it can feel like we have to “grow up” and so we stop dreaming and fantasizing.

Take up a project to practice using your creativity. Get in touch with this capacity through art, music, writing, or speaking and continue to cultivate it. Practice creativity and get to know this part of your being.

Respond with wonderment and awe

Learn to appreciate the great mysteries of life. When we are able to find inspiration, purpose, and meaning it opens up our mind and we can see things in a new way. Connect to something larger and be a part of something that makes you feel amazing and passionate.

Make a list of 5 things that elicit wonder, awe, inspiration, or deep gratitude for you. Seek these out and be open to these moments when they occur.

Take responsible risks

In order to expand and grow as a person, we must be willing to take healthy risks. Change is a constant, so the least we can do is look for opportunities during these moments. When anxiety and fear run rampant we will cease to grow or step outside of our comfort zone.

Risk taking doesn’t have to be a complete gamble. Set goals that are realistic and believable, but that are also meaningful and stretch your limits. Think big and bold, but have a practical plan.

Meditate and pray

Developing a consistent habit of focusing on spiritual growth and transcendence offers great peace and insight. Meditation and prayer are two practices that help us become more mindful about what we are thinking and offer us wisdom that we can incorporate into our decision making.

Mediate and contemplate on great spiritual teachings and recite and memorize these insights. I will suggest the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Developing greater efficiency and effectiveness is a daily process. Much of our effectiveness and advancement comes from personal growth and developing the way we think. Recognize some habits of thoughts that are holding you back, and take time and effort to change the way you think.

Photo credit: Photo Extremist

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  • http://www.poweredbyintuition.com Angela Artemis

    All great tips and tools! To have a great life we must keep our mind’s open keep learning. An older person who is young at heart is still flexible and willing to learn and not fearful of change. That’s where I want to be someday – young at heart.

  • http://twitter.com/thebridgemaker Alex Blackwell

    Sage advise Joe – thanks for a thoughtful list.

    I do believe in the power of compassionate thinking, What you write, ” To grow as a compassionate person we must want good things for others even more than we want them for ourselves” is so true, and healing.Thanks,Alex

  • http://Mazzastick.com Justin

    Hey Joe,
    It is true that most of us go through life on automatic pilot, basically like a software program . What works for me is to become conscious and then choose my responses and reaction, thoughts and words consciously. Of course, this is easier said than done. ;)

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    I believe we every year we get older we have the opportunity to build greater mental habits. We don’t have to get set in our ways but can continue to think in creative and innovative ways. This certainly requires learning new things and being willing to always grow and expand. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Becoming more compassionate is something I am really working on. I believe by growing in generosity and wanting good things for others, I will ultimately find greater contentment and peace of mind, which will ultimately connect me to our creative and abundant source. A very healing goal that I suggest we all approach.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Justin,

    Yes, this is a valuable point. All of these things, particularly greater awareness of thought is easier said than done. The sooner we begin to practice this awareness the sooner our ability to manage irrational thinking will improve. Each day we can make small steps to greater awareness and little by little we can become wiser and more adept at empowering thinking. Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

  • http://100percentchampions.com John Sherry

    Brave post Joe, pushing personal growth into the unlimited stage. Not many go for that, great stuff! For me if we’re going to skyrocket our growth we have to drop the mind and the thinking which is limited only to that which we know. And that has to be linear and limited. We need to welcome and embrace intuition, taking on massive challenges, continually expand beyond our comfort zones, and look for, be drawn, and surround ourselves in the amazing, the divine, the awe inspiring (as you say), and the unbelievable. It’s making the impossible very possible and ultimate reality. Like your originality Joe and, after all, writing the post is the very theme of it itself!!

  • http://www.meanttobehappy.com Ken Wert

    Hi Joe!

    You have put together an important set of principles whereby we can live a much more meaningful life of profound growth. There is so much out there that can help us improve and overcome if we would only be open to the methods and strategies and techniques and principles of growth. We limit ourselves when we tie ourselves to exclusively to some program or narrow list of steps for improving ourselves. That closemindedness, as you say, places artificial limits on our own progress.

    Thanks for this guide as we all explore better ways of experiencing that personal growth that will lead to a more amazing life.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your wonderful input and feedback! You really emphasize what it takes to pursue continual growth. It is about being completely open and essentially free to explore whatever is possible. A drive to push beyond our comfort zone, finding inspiration, and looking through the lens of possibility and positive change gives us a connection to our true potential.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your insight! It is a devastating thinking trap when we have all-or-nothing type of thinking. As you mention being able to think more broadly and without confinement of what we think “should” be or “ought to” be allows us a chance to pursue positive change and transformation. Growth can become a daily experience that gets us closer to living beyond our immediate reality.

  • http://mindadventure.com/ rob

    This is perfect, Joe “just because we have immense experience with thinking doesn’t mean we are experts in our ability to think effectively…”  Indeed, for so many folks, automatic negative self-talk is all they have known their whole lives. It is jolting to know that we have another choice. We are not at the mercy of our environment, but we are at the mercy of our opinions about ourself and life.

  • joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Thanks for your comment and insight! Its an interesting consideration that by thinking we are T the mercy of our situation and environment, we are actually the victim of mental excuses and at the mercy of our thinking. My belief is that our thoughts and beliefs are the core of our emotions and behavior, and without committing to personal growth and thinking more effectively we are only going in circles. Changing our thoughts and beliefs is the central issue.

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  • Kevin Peter

    You be in demand if you are a good thinker. Cultivating strategic way to minimize errors, engaging to impact move, explore big opportunities, questioning oneself about everything, focus to concentrate with clarity and collaborate to hear what other people are thinking.