I have a confession to make. I think personal development is the most badass thing you can do with your time. Most people wouldn’t agree, but I truly believe that every person on this planet should be consciously engaging with it. Every single day.
But there’s a problem. It’s not yet seen as the cool, hip thing it should be (Though I can guarantee this will change). Something is slowing it down.
Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like Some Snake-oil with that?
The self-help scene is overflowing with hyped up claims, snake-oil sales people and ‘me-too’ content. This is what makes the loudest noise. We’re told “Manifest your deepest desires with one simple mantra” or “You can have material success NOW. Just step on the little man and dominate your way to victory.”
These oversimplified and recycled concepts miss the real value and depth behind the ideas that actually matter. It’s no wonder people are turned off by personal development. But, if you’re willing to dig a little, there is gold to be found.
We can trace the roots of ‘personal development’ back to the times of Buddah and Socrates, which was quite a long time ago (400-600BC). These two chaps represent two sides of the same coin. United in their mission to understand the self, and live meaningful lives. As a young boy, I remember stumbling across the well known quote ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, and it struck a chord with me. Especially when I found out that Socrates was executed for his thoughts. Some of the most influential thinkers the world has ever seen gave their lives to this movement. So we need to look at personal development for what it really is, which is a search for the Truth, what it means to exist, and how we can utilize that existence in the best possible way.
I mean, you’re doing it already. Whether you know it or not, you already ‘do’ personal development. Any time you give (or listen to) advice. Any time you make a decision with your future self in mind, create some goals, or read a non-fiction book. Anything you do to get more money, sex or popularity. It’s all personal development. We all need to wake up to this and take complete ownership of our thoughts, decisions and direction in life. We only come this way once.
So what is personal development without all the hype, and grandiose claims?
- It’s a process of self discovery.
- A mindset that seeks more awareness and understanding of yourself and the world
- Building of unique strengths, and working around or negating weaknesses
- Living in a way that when on your deathbed, you can look back and smile.
- Peeling back the layers to uncover your most authentic self
- Working towards a big picture vision for your life
- The striving towards your greatest potential
It’s a long, slow and often frustrating path with many twists and turns. But even moving 1% closer to any of those things can bring immense joy.
Inside The Journey: 5 Core Concepts
It’s going to look different for every person, but there are some fundamental ideas that everyone should explore. This isn’t a complete list, but its a good place to start.
Take ownership of your physical and mental health.
One of the reasons I like to focus on this is because it can create a domino effect.. It starts a healing process, and creates a good foundation to explore from.
figure out what matters to you, what you love to do, and how can you do more of it.
If you have nothing right now, look back to your childhood for clues. Spend a month to learn a new skill every week, which ones do you feel naturally drawn to? The thing is, a lot of people know what they love but don’t, out of fear or doubt. Oftentimes the things we have most resistance to, are the very things we should be doing.
If nothing could hold you back, what would be the ultimate vision for your life?
Its easy to let life tell you what you should or could do. History is full of people who took their aspirations and dreams into their own hands. Why should you be any different? The only thing that separates you is belief, which can be built!
Create big goals using your vision as a map to help steer you in a direction.
In reality it’s not completing the goals that’s important, even if it seems like it it. What’s most important is that they orient you in a direction. Over fixation on completing goals can cause us to rely too much on external circumstances, which ultimately are out of our control. What we can control is our direction and focus.
Expand your awareness by doing things that you would ‘never do’.
Our biggest limitations are usually our own lack of knowledge, preconceived ideas and judgments. Research with an open mind and don’t fall into the trap of blindly subscribing to yet another belief system. Be your own compass and experiment. If something works, or is useful then use it!
A Bittersweet Reminder
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
– Richard Feynman
This is a lifetimes’ work. There is no end-point, no magic pills or quick fixes. It’s a mindset. A lifelong commitment to fulfilling your potential. And it all starts with good research. I’ve spent years barking up the wrong tree, because of ineffective research.
Belief systems, ways of thinking and your models of reality, though useful at first eventually trap you. As you become more dogmatic and rigid, your focus narrows and growth slows. If you’re lucky you receive a flash of insight that steers you in a new direction, but there is no guarantee. You should always aim to disprove yourself. And if you hold strong beliefs around a subject, make a real effort to look from the other side. Only from here can progress continue.
My Promise To You
Over the last 7 or so years of researching and experimentation, I’ve come to realize the truly life changing effect this work can have. And I’m a terrible student. Partly because I didn’t have a community, but mostly because I’m too stubborn.
I promise, if you take this work seriously and spend a bit of time every day on something I mentioned here, especially the things you’re really bad at, then over time good things will start happening. This is a given right? You get better at the things you practice. The trick is finding the ‘right’ things to practice. As I mentioned before, lack of results usually come from not knowing what to do. So research!
Pick one of these you know little about, or you have an emotional reaction to (Fear and resistance is a compass.) Find a few books with good reviews and see what happens. After all, it only takes one to change your entire life.
- morning routines
- goal setting
- self esteem
- emotional intelligence
- spiritual teachings
My best advice for anyone, at any stage of this journey is to find the one thing that will have the most impact on your life, and do that. This takes a bit of detective work. I started with nutrition because I was starting to look like the Michelin man (not a good look).
You could find the thing that gives you the most stress, anxiety or headaches. Or you could choose something that inspires you. Regardless of what you do, find at least two experts in that area, read some books on the subject and take action. Give it a few months, and if nothing changes, change your approach.
Please like and share to bring awareness! Every little counts.