Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to an interview with a prominent businessman in front of a group of 250 attendees. One attendee asked him, “Do you think college is worth it anymore in today’s workforce, with the rise in tuition loans?”

Without hesitation, he answered, “Yes!” He went on to ask the group how many had college degrees, and about 235 of the 250 people raised their hands. The interviewee went on to share that college is great. It is a structured environment where people learn and, whether they realize it or not, are learning the process of personal growth.

He asked the group, “How many of you have read a business book or self-growth book over the last few months?” About 10 percent of the group raised their hands. He went on to share that this issue was the real topic for discussion. College, in many people’s minds, is a means to an end. The degree, to many, signifies opportunity. Many believe that it awards them this opportunity or that opportunity and that they don’t have to continue the personal growth structure they learned in college. The interviewee explained that the real issue is that many people have taught themselves they don’t have to continue learning on their own after formal education. The reality, though, is that we must continue to grow in pursuit of opening doors.

Thankfully, we live in a time where growth and development has never been easier and more cost-effective. We can’t stop investing in ourselves after high school, college or certification. Here are three ways to create a lasting model for personal development.

1. Reading Books

Many of the world’s most successful business leaders have noted the importance of reading regularly. Warren Buffett once said, “Read 500 pages … every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” He has also shared that he reflects on what he reads. I, too, can personally attest to how powerful this growth and development process is. Last year, I read 56 books and learned like never before, when in past years I was reading 20 to 25 books a year. Some may say this could be a costly process, but with reading subscription services and vast up-to-date public library offerings, reading is an affordable growth habit.

Challenge yourself to be consistent in reading. If you can invest your time in reading 20 pages a day every day, you’ll have read 7,300 pages over the year. That’s a lot of compound interest!

Here’s a quick tip: Search out growth and development podcasts. They often have guests who share their knowledge and learning, which is often equivalent to an hour-long learning opportunity in a classroom. The guests are often on the podcast promoting their new book, offering the opportunity for you to stay up to date on what’s new for your reading material.

2. Growth Goals

Having deliberate planning in your growth process is a formula that has a high likelihood of return. So many people fail to lay out what they want to accomplish from one year to the next, which leaves them stuck in a routine of missing out or not being ready for opportunities. Start to think about your growth goals like physical goals. Many workout programs are chunked into intervals with smaller, achievable goals. This process helps people create a lifestyle of planning for and hitting small goals and staying motivated to reach larger goals.

Think back to college. Formal education has quarters and semesters on the way to achieving the larger goal of earning a degree. Find a structure that works for your goal-setting, and create a lifestyle habit that bypasses the thought, “I’ll get to it eventually.” From this point, bring in an accountability partner or coach.

3. Work With a Coach

College students have an adviser to help ensure that they are on track to graduate when they want to and provide them with information they may have overlooked. Similarly, we can benefit from this type of help in our continuous growth process with a coach. The International Coach Federation (ICF) describes coaching as being all about helping people make positive changes and reach their full potential. A coach is another way to invest in yourself by having someone with a focused and invested interest in your goals. A coach will partner with you to explore the areas where you want to grow and develop while guiding you to places you might not have discovered on your own. Working with a coach also provides a structured, consistent time and focus to work on your goals and develop action steps to keep the growth process moving.

The growth and development process only stops when you choose for it to. True lifelong learners have worked to structure processes that allow them to maintain consistency and discipline in their growth and achieve their goals. Reflect on what is working well for you, what isn’t, and how you can apply these three methods to create your lasting model for personal development.

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