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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

19 Career Women on Personal Growth & the Life Lessons That Have Mattered Most

And the 3 psychological needs behind every inch of progress

Compass and paper that says "grow"
Photo courtesy of Lum3n

Growing within your career is one thing, but have you ever stopped to take a look at your journey of personal growth? 

Personal growth can be described as a process that takes place over the course of your life to help you evolve into different versions of yourself. 

According to Psychology Today, personal growth comes when you allow it in. Meaning, there has to be an intellectual approach of improvement by creating awareness and gaining perspective so one can let go of things like destructive thoughts, or instinctively reacting to triggers. The article goes on to say that personal growth happens in the moment, as you experience life, and through being mindful. “When we’re in touch with that place within ourselves, when we can begin to apply this quality of awareness to every single aspect of our lives, especially our relationships with others (personal or professional), then the world begins to look different.” 

Personal growth is an ongoing process that requires the desire to improve, change, and the motivation and willingness to do so. Let’s talk about how to achieve personal growth and what career-driven women have learned on their own personal and professional journeys.

Read more: 25 Professional Development Goals You Can Pursue Right Now

How to achieve personal growth

There are plenty of self-help books that will get you on the right path to learning how to achieve personal growth, but beyond literature, there are steps you can take on your own to facilitate growth.

The first is to actually want to grow. Then it’s figuring out what personal growth means for you and what area of your life you want to focus on. Is it your career? Your thoughts and beliefs? Specific qualities that you are lacking or character traits that you are missing? It’s not enough to just read books and articles like this one—you also have to put it into action. 

There’s an idea called Self-determination theory or SDT that maintains that pursuing three goals or needs is important to contributing to personal growth. Those three basic psychological needs are competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Here’s a look at how they can contribute:


The need for competence is for one to feel capable and effective. If you don’t feel competent, then you may feel unworthy and even unmotivated. 


This relates to the desire to connect with others and be treated as a valuable member of a group or even society. This need helps you feel connected to others. 


The need for autonomy is the desire to experience being in charge of your own actions. Entrepreneurs may experience this because it allows them for more flexibility versus working as an employee. 

To achieve personal growth and get these needs met depends upon the individual’s desires. You can discover your own through tactics like meditating, which empties your head of noise that might be distracting you from your own wants. You can also use visualization or affirmations.

“Write your goals down and post them where you will see them everyday. This will keep you accountable as well as motivated to stay focused,” says certified life coach and author Chelley-Cheyenne. Start asking yourself those hard questions of exactly what you are wanting out of life, your fears, what you are grateful for, and even how to face challenges and bumps along the road.

19 career women on personal growth and the life lessons that have mattered most

Marina Khan

Customer Success Manager at Pendo

“My greatest life lesson personally and most importantly in my professional career has been that there is no substitute for hard work. I may never have been the smartest person in the room but I learned quickly that my strong work ethic and drive would help contribute to my overall growth and success. Learning, working hard, failing, and then doing it all over again with the mind set that life / work and everything in between is a marathon and not a sprint has helped me not only achieve balance within my personal life but has attributed to optimizing the time I have to its' full potential and capacity when I am 'on the job.'”

Monica Montenegro

Human Resources Generalist at Boats Group

"’If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.’ This phrase is one that I have ingrained in myself over the years. It's easy to do things we're naturally good at; whether it's personal or professional, we enjoy instant gratification and the feeling of confidence when we excel in something. Therefore, we naturally only want to stick to those things. However, when we challenge ourselves by doing something that isn't necessarily our strong suit, we might feel unsuccessful if we don't succeed at first, but the gratification that comes after is much bigger! There's so much beauty in challenging ourselves and exceeding our expectations. We develop new skills, we push ourselves to new levels, and we become stronger and better! This approach has helped me always push myself outside my comfort zone and not be complacent with where I am in life. It's a constant motivator to continue growing and making myself proud.”

Read more: How 6 Women Made Their Greatest Career Comebacks

Natalie Shawver

Content Marketing Manager at InfoTrust

Shawver says her greatest life lesson has been this: “I try very hard to ‘assume positive intent’ when it comes to my relationships (personally and professionally). People generally aren't out to get you—and just because their approach to something might not be the way you would have done it, doesn't mean they are trying to upset you. Reminding myself that we all are doing our best and we're human helps me keep things in perspective.”

Jenna McLaughlin

Sr. Manager, Technical Account Services at Pendo

“My greatest life lesson (so far) has been to first embrace the chaos of life versus fighting it. We have A LOT on our plates between work, family, and just trying to be a healthy, happy human. Flowing with it all and focusing on what is in my control has helped me become overall brighter and happier on a daily basis,” McLaughlin says. “This mentality has also allowed me to grow beyond what I thought I was capable of in my personal and work life. The idea of focusing on what is in your control allows you to tackle things head on while continuing to move forward. If you stay focused on what is happening too much around you or behind you, you can become stuck or paralyzed. This year, I was able to take on a new role at an awesome new company while figuring out life with 1-year old twins. I also recently was accepted to a nonprofit board. Old me would have likely stayed where I was, uncomfortable to take on these new challenges. This new mantra is helping me to push through all of this with a smile on my face and excitement for the challenges ahead!”

Shina Hall

Senior Account Partner at Boats Group

“My greatest life lesson that I have developed over the years; is how to be patient. From where I was, to where I am now I have grown tremendously in this department. I had very little to no patience when I first came out of college, and now people compliment me on how patient I am. Working at Boats Group, I have to continue working on this department because this is something that you have to continuously work on. This is valuable when you work in the technical support and customer service industry”

Meghan Hodge

Account Executive at InfoTrust

Hodge shares her greatest life lesson here: “The most influential, loving and kind people I've known have all been generous of spirit. Generous with their time, patience, compassion, and mentorship.  Be in the moment, really listen and share your generosity of spirit.”

Stephanie Jean Sackman

Sr Program and Enablement Manager at Pendo

“Someday your kids will be grown, and you will wish fervently you'd held them on your lap instead of your computer,” Sackman says of her greatest life lesson thus far. “Most of my career I took my job so seriously it crowded out everything else. I had no balance. I was so afraid of failing or being perceived as a failure I worked myself to the bone. These days, I still work hard and I am still afraid of failing, but if one of my kids calls, I put my work down and answer the phone. They are the most important thing to me and I want them to always know that.”

Frankie Gonzolas

Product Manager - Engagement at The Zebra

“The greatest lesson I learned as a team leader/people manager was that it’s not enough to be great at strategy and creating execution plans for your team to work on to achieve goals. As a leader, you have to actively bring your team with you on the journey. It’s important for their growth to be part of the process and to feel true ownership in their work. It seems obvious but finding the balance of when to take the lead and when to step back and let others lead, takes trial and error.”

Lisa Bettin

Field Marketing Manager, EMEA at Markforged

“Perfection can be misleading. Being flawless doesn’t mean everything. We are taught that we have to win first places, that we always have to smile. That’s tough and doesn’t necessarily make us happy. I learnt the hard way that imperfections are part of our everyday personal and professional lives. And I realized that dealing with imperfections makes us who we are. We can be sad and frustrated or we can actually learn from our imperfections and transform them into something positive. It’s all about that.”

Allie Brandwein

Client Success Manager at InfoTrust

“Be adaptable and flexible—its important to be organized and have a project plan, but always allow for flexibility in the plan, as expectations and internal/external needs can change.”

Stacey Shirling 

VP of Client Success at InfoTrust

“My dad would take us to malls, parks, different cities and have us people watch. We would talk about what we noticed about people and questions we had. He was big in psychology and sociology so he wanted us to have a curious mind that would seek to understand and not judge. I still love to people-watch, especially when I am traveling. You learn more from a persons actions than you do what they say.”

Elizabeth Gaffron

Commercial Account Executive at Pendo

“My most recent life lesson (as greatest life lesson is a loaded question!) is to advocate for yourself. I'm just coming back from maternity leave and as I'm in sales, instead of accepting the terms of my maternity leave and return, there are areas where I pushed back for what I thought was fair and my company actually agreed! As my hip hop dance instructor always says, "A closed mouth don't get fed." You never know what is possible and the changes you can make within an organization until you ask the hard questions and aren't afraid to advocate for yourself and others.”

Ultimately, what works for one person with developing personal growth may not work for others, you have to have an open mind to discover what will aid you best in your personal growth path. 

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