One of my focuses in everything I do is the journey of neverending personal development. I believe the biggest growth that can be gained from undertaking any effort in life is experiencing oneself in newer and greater forms.
With this mindset, we are always learning. Life becomes richer with each new passion and goal. And the resources out there that are available to guide the modern ‘seeker’ are extensive – endless hours of books, videos, courses, workshops, events, newsletters, groups, leaders, and other sources to follow.
That being said, the industry of personal development in and of itself as an endgame can come with its share of pitfalls. The overarching mindset that comes behind one’s reasoning for seeking self-improvement can become dysfunctional when not coupled with realistic perspective.
I am definitely recovering personal development junkie.Any guru, diet, belief, practice, or mindset you could name – I’ve either lived it myself, experimented with it, or know the concepts it’s reinterpreting.
What I’ve discovered is this: Personal development has NO power until it is lived. You could fill your brain with endless thoughts about how to strategize your way to a better self, and yet satisfaction can STILL continue to elude you.
Here are my 12 invitations for all you smart thinkers out there. This is in the form of UNLEARNING, not learning. I think we could all use a little unlearning.
Step 1: Stop trying to fix yourself.
Here’s the secret: There is nothing to fix because YOU ARE NOT A BROKEN PERSON. Anything that would tell you otherwise is a lie or a perceived limitation that is blinding you to your true nature.
The purpose of TRUE personal development is not to create, rationalize, or cultivate more problems and then make lots of new medicines and modalities to resolve them.
We have now replaced addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping (hey, what’s wrong with that?), and other compulsive habits with new “societally prized” and “spiritually advanced” or “health conscious” ways to do the same thing – try to “FIX” ourselves.
It’s like – from one drug to the next.
It is a regurgitation of a form of authoritarian religion, except the proper nouns and verbs have been replaced by new ones in new contexts, that still have the same energy of “should” around them.
You can meditate daily or eat raw food or write affirmations or attend meetups or watch lectures or listen to “coaches” until you are blue in the face, but these things alone are not going to transform your experience if you are not getting to the heart of the matter.
At the same time, there is no need to be ascetic. If you enjoy your energy work, great. If you love reading self-help books, fun. See them for what they are – tools to empower. Not a band-aid to “fix”.
Step #2: Stop trying to look for the missing key!
Here it is, I found it, I’ll give it to you RIGHT NOW . . . and for free!
“The missing key is that there is NO missing key.”
Read that 3 times. It is paradoxical and true.
No one thing can ever fully give you what you are looking for. You are not missing out ANY ONE THING that is keeping you from becoming a happier person. It is through a lived process of continuous improvement that you upheave, recreate, and expand your life.
Step #3: Stop trying to “think” your way out of shame or unhappiness.
If you find yourself in a dissatisfying place in your life, understand that nothing will change until you do. Thinking differently is a start, but new action in ALIGNMENT WITH THAT THINKING is the only thing that transforms your daily experience.
The best way to be sure of whether to take action on something or not? ACTUALLY DO IT and find out for yourself!
Pick something and be stalwart in your decision to get a specific result, even if it seems artificial at first. Only then, say, after a minimum of 6 weeks (probably more like 6 months) of doing something new with embodied effort can you know whether it’s true for you or not. The right answer is the one YOU discover.
Step #4: Stop trying to manage what other people think.
I used to get so angry by the mere thought that there were people in this world who did not think how I wanted them to. How could they not see what I see?H Why don’t they agree with me once I explain it? The truth was so clear!
(I am talking about that scream-from-the-mountain-tops type energy that no one really enjoys.)
Even when it’s honest, though, it’s not respectful. Here’s why: You are stepping out of your own business into someone else’s, and trying to convey a level of consciousness that someone may not be ready or desirous of receiving. The best you can get is an illusion of managing their mind. This attempt can backfire in very invasive ways for both of you.
For example, many people get very obsessed with the idea of “authenticity” – and then end up viewing this in a narrow way, and start hating on people who don’t fit their “mold” of “authenticity”. This is rampant in vegan circles as well, or any ideology which espouses that the consumption of a certain type of diet is the ultimate thing for all people.
You know, maybe someone else’s version of “authentic” is being really loud and outgoing and showy, instead of being “mindful” or conscious or spiritual. Or, maybe their version of “healthy” does not mean wheatgrass or no overt fats, but instead having a more relaxed approach to eating. All is well – and up to your choice.
Step #5: Stop non-generative “intellectual” complaining.
I find it very uninteresting when the endgame of a conversation is in some way that things should not be the way they are in reality. You know – the internet is the end of this generation, the country is burning to the ground, world is going to end, this person is stupid and shouldn’t be famous, people should be more X…
It’s all very old. Looking for something else? Try loving reality instead of resisting it. Make it work to your advantage. Do something awesome and actually help real people.
Step #6: Stop blaming “the world”, “humanity”, and “society”.
The world is what you believe it to be. There is really no such thing as “society”. Individuals may exist, events may occur, sensations may arise, but it is NEVER what “HAPPENS” – BUT, instead, how you RESPOND TO WHAT HAPPENS that makes the difference.
Otherwise you are just a thing in a world of things, and life is happening TO you. If you think something outside of you is the fault of your unhappiness, then your thinking needs a check.
I don’t believe people “SHOULD” do anything. How can you know better what’s right for someone than they do?
If you have something you want out of the world, why not try turning that around and living it yourself. See the problem? Show us your solution. Have something you want different? Put your alternative into action. See how it ripples outward – you will influence a lot more people this way.
Step #7: Stop assuming it is your job/right to save other people or “save the world”.
Besides the fact that “the world” is a construct, the world does not need to be saved. The world is doing just fine. George Carlin is a master at this one. The planet is going to flick you off the face of its surface FAR faster than any efforts you would need to do to “SAVE” it…
The world cannot be saved because it does not experience the need to be saved. Even if was, that’s not somehow your sole divine task anyway. 🙂
What happens is become so intense and conscious and we want other people to come along for the ride with us so we chase them down despite us asking if they want to join us or not. WHICH IS GREAT – however, quite ineffective…
The best way to sum this one up is with this: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If you’ve found water, get to that first before trying to bring everyone else along the ride with you even when they don’t ask you to or don’t even want to.
Your example is the best way to change the world. Try BASKING in the hydration and taking a refreshing drink or bath… and then see how many come knocking at your door ready to learn from you to get the same in their lives.
Step #8: Stop expecting other people to agree with, like you, or understand you.
There are people in this world who genuinely do NOT want to change and there is nothing you can do one way or the other to change that. This is not doom-saying, it’s just true. Some people just do not want anything more out of life!
On a personal level, it boggles my mind too how someone could not be interested in growing as a person – but if I am asking someone to respect my path, my responsibility is to reciprocate the same.
Not everyone is going to think your interest is interesting.
That is okay. That is GOOD! If “humanity” were all the same, we’d be right back to the days of thought cleansing that failed every regime in history.
SO, get over it when those people don’t respond to you! They’re not your people anyway. Focus on the ones who do, and serve THEM with all your heart. Be there for the ones who are there for you.
I truly believe that people ALWAYS have exactly what they want in their lives. Everyone is living from a certain set of mental structures that guides each every decision to create the physical “circumstances” they are in.
No need to tell your life’s story to everyone you meet. You’ll drain yourself out. You know I tried… 🙂
They’ll come to you if and when they are ready. So be ready.
Step #9: Stop trying to enlighten/cleanse yourself of all problems.
No one likes the person who becomes a complete hologram of themselves because they think they have “cleared” everything in their life. We all have a shadow side and parts of ourselves that are counter-aspirational.
The question becomes what you will do with those dysfunctionalities, and if you can make them work FOR you instead of drag you down into inaction.
People have tried for centuries to get rid of the “stuff”… but for truly powerful people, the task is NOT to get RID of the “stuff” – but to see it with clarity, and develop strategies to deal with it, instead of trying to push it away. (Because that works so well.)
For example, if you are extremely competitive and have got something to prove because you feel your family never paid attention to you as a kid (I don’t know, random example), instead of arguing with that experience, go out there and channel your rightful rage into AMAZING THINGS!
Rather than sitting there and worrying about some psychoanalytic reading about why you are screwed over for the rest of your life, acknowledge those thoughts, and then step into your power and change in SPITE of it all – which brings me to the next one…
Step #10: Stop trying to analyze “reasons” before actually fixing real problems.
Personal development junkies LOVE to find MORE AND MORE reasons why problems (that may or may not exist) persist.
Here’s a suggestion – let’s take action on it first before agonizing about the reasons.
You could read 1000 different books with 1000 different “reasons” why something is just not right. Or, you could go out, take new steps, get new results, and have something to share from the journey that’s actually yours.
It’s so much more fun ACTUALLY HAVING even 50% of the success you could imagine but never do. I’d rather have $100,000 than TALK about having $1,000,000 – and it’s the same with this reason-finding game. Just go make the change and enjoy the benefit on the other side!
Step #11: Stop giving yourself a hard time for what you feel (or, stop confusing your thoughts with feelings).
If something in your flavor of personal development requires you to PUNISH yourself in order be successful, then it’s time to take a closer look.
You will NEVER be better off to do anything (except, maybe, give away more of your personal power to your guru or ideology) when you are giving yourself a hard time.
One that gets people going with this is the “victim” thing. People get OBSESSED with this concept of “victimhood” to the point where it becomes a form of self-sabotage and self-shaming.
You are not a victim for feeling sadness or anger or frustration.
You are not a loser for falling off the wagon with your “rituals”.
You are not a failure for not getting results right away.
Thoughts are different than feelings. When you separate them, you can give emotions their own clock, and put the thoughts up at the chopping block for genuine inquiry. Which brings me to the last of the 12 steps…
Step 12: Stop believing everything you think, and step out of the dreamtime/”urgent mission” narcissism.
It’s okay to just take a step back for a minute and gain some perspective.
If your ideas are not globally applicable and you can only talk with people inside your little posse – is that really transformational work you are up to?
If you want to make a difference in your life or others, stay grounded in doing the things that actually make change, like being able to communicate your ideas in a way that reaches people wherever they are.
AND – stay critical. You can hear something and not immediately believe it. Same think with what you think or read. It is possible, and very useful, to separate the thought process from what you take in as core belief.
Often the stories we believe about ourselves and what is around us are what keeps us in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. If you’ve always thought the same thing, try another option to see what you can find.
So it’s like – okay, so you’ve spent 10, 20, 30, 40, 50…+ years believing this thing, why not try giving equal consideration to the other option – even if just for the heck of it!
Or, just stop thinking so much and try DOING more.
Bonus Step #13: Turn off the noise!
Another option is to just shut off EVERYTHING except the sources of insight that you actually enjoy and that are actually helping you!
Get really honest with yourself about what input (books, videos, practices, etc.) actually energizes you vs. drains you or feels like drudgery.
The goal should be to go in and learn what you need to learn, then MOVE ON and live your life. Go into the system to get out of the system. Take over the world so you can be free.
This is because when you build your toolbox of personal development ideas, you are in control. You can precisely design the exact formula you need to masterfully move forward in whatever experience you want to create.
You take what resonates and leave the rest.
Here’s Why All This Matters
What I love about people interested in personal development is their passion, desire for truth, and commitment to themselves.
My invitation is to use those things for very REAL transformation. To actually become empowered by your own self-empowerment instead of constricted by it.
In my life, the gap between “reality” and “dream” has grown closer and closer. I am grateful for the self-work I have done, all the grappling included, and I am proud to say that who I am is who I want to be.
I have come to a deep peace about the ideas and practices that guide my daily actions. I embody them as authentically as possible, communicate myself openly and clearly, and live out my goals with effortful action.
I have also come to see information and inner work alone is not enough to live an effective and creative life.
You could be the most intelligent person in the world and until you question your thinking and are LIVING in alignment, through action, with the vision you know is true for you, then you may always find yourself falling short from the life you really want, like everything is just somehow outside your grasp.
There are DEFINITELY undisclosed secrets about personal development that no one ever tells you outright, that are difficult to boil down from all the noisy and often conflicting advice out there.
But, fortunately, these truths are very sensible and easy to apply once you really see them on the other side.
My goal is to a lighthouse to share the “meta” or “post” side of personal development so you can hone the tools that are best suited to helping you become the most authentic and self-expressed person you know.
Isn’t that what all this is for anyway? 🙂
This content was originally published here.