Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin on Unsplash

We’re now well into 2019 and I love the optimism that people have about their goals. There’s still plenty of talk about making those resolutions stick. Social media posts abound of people hitting the gym or making other changes to their daily routine in order to make this year different from last.

I love this time of year because people are so intentional about goals, and one of the greatest shifts any leader can make is moving from goals to growth. In fact, it’s one of the 11 shifts I teach in my upcoming book, Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, which releases on February 5.

I want to capitalize on this “new year, new you” momentum to share one of the secrets to sustained personal development: a teachable spirit.

It may sound hokey, but the truth is that growth is only possible when we are willing to adapt a teachable spirit. That means having a passion to learn, possessing an intention to learn daily, and reflecting on what we’re learning to know how to apply it.

Picture your personal growth as a garden—nothing that grows in a garden springs to life on its own. Gardens require planning, cultivation, and the right environment. As the gardener, you must be willing to prepare the soil, sow the seeds, water, feed, mulch and weed. It’s an intentional process—and it must happen every day.

So how can we cultivate a growth environment, our own development garden?

By adapting a teachable spirit. When we’re willing to seek out and learn lessons from others, from experience, and from reflection, then we’re able to increase our capacity for growth.

Here are five practices I’ve adopted to help me keep a teachable spirit:

1. I Make Growth My Number One Priority

After forty years, I’ve come to understand that everything I do is predicated on my personal growth. Every opportunity I have is the result of my commitment to stretching and growing myself every day. A day without growth is not good for me or for the people I lead—so I put growth at the top of my priority list daily.

2. I Look for Growth Possibilities in Every Situation

When you’re intentional about growth, you come to realize that you’re surrounded by growth opportunities every day. George Bernard Shaw said, “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” That’s so true—when you get intentional about growth, you discover that good or bad, up or down, there are opportunities for you to grow in every situation. The key is looking for them.

3. I Ask Questions That Will Help Me Grow

Growth doesn’t come looking for you—you have to go and find it. That means being willing to step outside yourself by asking questions of the people and situations that surround you. The fastest way to find out what we don’t know is to ask questions. The best way to deepen our understanding is to ask questions. Questions are the keys that open hearts and minds—especially our own.

4. I Keep Track of What I Have Learned

In my book, Leadershift, this actually says, “I file what I have learned”, but not everyone is a fan of filing the way I am. But whether you file, journal, or record memos, the point is the same: if you don’t create a system for capturing what you’re learning, you’ll lose it. My filing system allows me to access what I’ve learned repeatedly so I can layer my learning and expand my growth.

5. I Share What I’ve Learned with Others

It’s one thing to glean a truth, it’s another thing to teach it. When you pass on what you learn to someone else, you make that lesson your own. It also multiplies the impact of what you’ve learned because it helps someone else…and they can use your words to add value to others.


If you’re fresh into this year and are finding the goals you’ve set have given you an appetite for more, then this post is what you need.

You’re ready to make the shift from goals to growth—and you’ll find a teachable spirit a reliable way to make that transition one that lasts.


  1. Robert W. Bernard on January 16, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Growth should be a daily occurrence. it’s not always easy and sometimes takes you out of your comfort zone but I have personally found that the results and opportunities are always worth it. Thanks John.

    P.S. My daily growth comes from reading books, and listening every day to Minute With Maxwell

  2. Nitin on January 17, 2019 at 12:25 am

    Very good, expecting more

    • Gangadharan. Sankaradoss on January 19, 2019 at 2:18 am

      Wonderful postings regarding growth.I learn the truth that some time we need to leave comfortable zone to achieve the growth. Thank you. By Gangadharan. Sannkaradoss

    • Jacqueline Zonicle on September 9, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      I have a open mind and spirit always open to learn more always gleaning trying my endeavour best to make the most out of life.and getting the most out of life i take nothing in life for granted to me everywhere i go in life , its a classroom a learning expetience. I learn from a baby , i learn from children, i learn from animals, i learned from books , i learned from nature . I honestly believe everything God made is significant to our growth and development is there to teach us when ever the opportunity arises. Learn how to seize the moments in your life , there will always be teachable moments but we have to have eyes that can see and recognize and know how to apply the lessons to our daily lives. Be a person who think outside the box think big , dream big , do not allow people to limited you . Learn how to expand yourself, aim high belive in yourself, love yourself , love others , celebrate othets and encourage others and remain teachable. Let God tranform you into a valuable treasure in your generation.may God bless you.

  3. Celestine on January 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Proverbs 12: 1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”

    • Taryn on April 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      Love that scripture

  4. Muñeca on January 18, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Looking forward to more. I’m am hungry for knowledge.

  5. Kristie Darden on January 23, 2019 at 4:58 am

    Growth has become an extreme passion flared up in me to a point of no words for expression. John, all of your teachings on growth and leadership, that I have read, are the reason for the passion inside of me. My life journey has taught me to be able to have child like faith and I believe that child like faith gives simplicity to a teachable spirit. The amazing group of people I work with daily demonstrate that a teachable spirit is not so simple to maintain. This in no way discredits how incredible they are as individuals and their contributions to life in general. What it has done, is help me come to understand that the easiness to be teachable, at most moments in an entire day, is my greatest gift. John, like you stated above, I too, enjoy sharing with others everything that I learn. My hearts desire is to be able to help everyone around me live to their fullest potential and be the best they can be, and that is what drives me eagerness to share all that I learn. Bringing out the best in others is the sole reason behind my passion to grow. My motives do not include authority, financial success or even a title. Every book of yours, John, that I read, bleeds the true expressions of my heart.

    I am on a venture to find out what it is going to take for me to someday live out this passion burning inside of me just as you have. Starting college is my plan for this 2019 year. I very excited to look back, even 6 months from now, and see how far I have come.

  6. Barbara on March 23, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    I’m 70 years old and growth is what keeps me strong and eager to face each day. Knowing that I am going to learn something new each day is an ongoing goal. My desire to teach others what I have learned makes me feel useful and helpful. Your article on growth came at the exact moment I needed it. Due to growth I realize that tomorrow I will be doing something new. Thank you very much.

  7. Taryn on April 27, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    This is a great an absolute great message as a leader and life. I did not know how much I needed to grow until after my divorce in 2009. God came in and moved me from one end of the city of Atlanta to the other to be placed in a new and growing environment for emotional healing, as well as spiritual, mental and physical growth and healing as well. I continue to learn and I share with my small group that I host. Thank you for this blog.

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