Recently I was cleaning the room I grew up in and I found a list I made over 10 years ago entitled "Ways to Improve Myself" (funny story, it actually included "Watch more TV" because I felt like I wasn't understanding my friends' references).
You can tell my interest in personal development runs deep - at the same time, though, I've never really liked the associations that come with saying out-loud that I'm someone interested in 'personal development' or 'self-help'.
This past couple years, as I've seen more fruits of my labors and realized that I connect so deeply with others that have a similar affinity for personal development, the following thought has crossed my mind on multiple occasions: "Personal development is so fucking awesome!"
As a result, I've been trying to understand why it is that there's this discrepancy between the sheer awesomeness of someone truly taking steps to improve themselves and the common image of personal development.
I want to understand because I believe that once we do we can make legitimate improvement more palatable to ourselves and to others.
I had an epiphany while watching a talk my buddy Dane Maxwell gave. He's insanely passionate about teaching people how to start software businesses that give them the freedom to live as they would choose and says the following at the very end of his presentation:
I don't care about [software], it just produces the freedom that I like - and, [teaching it] gets people to sign-up so I can actually teach them how to reverse limiting beliefs. If I could just say, "come to me, I'll help you reverse your limiting beliefs", I would.
What Dane made me realize is that there's an important part of personal development that's missing in the way that it's often pitched: "Do X simple thing and in just Y days you'll achieve success."
But he knows it doesn't work that way and that in order to have a meaningful impact, he needs to teach those fundamental concepts in the context of something greater - in his case, business.
And that is what made me realize that personal development is important but that on it's own it just goes in one ear and at the other, with nothing to latch onto. It requires something more.
You need a pursuit, a project, a vision, a mission, a genuine goal. You need a medium with which to apply your explorations in personal development.
That's what makes it real and that's what makes the development possible.
Dane teaches people how to reverse limiting beliefs while starting a business because a person going through the business-building process is finally forced to constantly push themselves out of their comfort zone, shedding light on all the dark, negative parts of their mind that have gone unchecked for so long.
Without the burning vision of their new business pushing them forward, those same negative parts of their mentality would try to protect themselves as he teaches: "This is so silly, it probably doesn't even work!", "Why am I wasting time on this when I could be watching TV?"
But, in the context of business, he has a track record. He can help students imagine an attainable future enticing enough for their brains to buy-in and invest in making something new possible.
It's the medium of your personal development, whether building a business, writing a book or running a marathon, that allows you to turn concepts into actions so that you have your own observations and your own philosophies that you'll internalize along the way and take with you for future pursuits.
These new beliefs are what reshape what you imagine is possible. They are the development.
Perhaps you'll, like me, have the undeniable realization that those voices that say, "This is silly, I look stupid", "I probably can't do this, anyway.", "This isn't the sort of person I am." - are just flat-out wrong and cannot be trusted.
Or that enduring temporary struggle that others won't is the source of value and unimaginably worth it.
Or you'll get addicted to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone once you notice it's where true living lies.
Of course, the lessons from adopting a mentality of personal development are near endless and you find yourself in the following cycle:
- Pursue a goal, learning and becoming more capable along the way
- Achieve your goal
- Integrate your new beliefs about what's possible in life
- Feel an attraction to even more challenging visions, return to step 1
Notice that the goal is where everything starts and the personal development is simply a by-product of getting there.
Personal development can't happen in a bubble. The bad impressions I had of it all those years were from seeing people spinning in the gerbil-wheel of self-help books. The books were never the problem! It's the idea that the books were all they needed - that progress can be made without something to progress to.
The power to craft our lives is an incredible one that goes unused to often.
Experiment with actively evaluating and improving yourself starting from where you are but with a tangible project, goal or mission that shines light on a distinct direction to progress in.
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