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Five Mistakes I Have Made With Personal Development Information


Five Mistakes I Have Made With Personal Development Information
Image by Helder da Rocha (license).

I have been reading, listening to and watching various personal development information for a few years now. I have noticed a few mistakes I have made. And so I have made a few adjustments to how I take in and use this information. These adjustments have helped me make more practical progress.

The five mistakes are pretty obvious things really. Maybe you’ve already changed things to avoid them. Maybe you are at a different place and have a different experience and don’t need to avoid doing these things because they work for you.

But anyways, I thought I’d share them and hopefully these pointers will be of some use to some of you.

1. Taking in too much information.

Up until about six months ago I took in lots and lots of self-help information from all kinds of sources.

It helped me but it also often made me a bit confused and I tended to forget quite a bit of information that could probably help me.

So I decided to trim down. Instead of reading a few books simultaneously I started to just read one at a time. Instead of reading 10-15 personal development blogs I now read 2 or 3.

The last few weeks I have taken this a bit further and delved into just one author. I have used almost all my study time listening to/watching stuff by Eckhart Tolle to both pick up his vibe of presence and to gain a deeper understanding of his work. I will probably do something similar with other authors later on (possibly Wayne Dyer next month).

Having this narrow focus has helped me get a clearer understanding of Tolle’s thoughts and just “being in his presence” a lot has made it easier for me become and stay present more of the time.

2. Just reading through things once.

I have found that by rereading information from time to time I have been able to gain a deeper knowledge because my overall knowledge and experience has grown. So one chapter of a book that once had one meaning can have a pretty different meaning once I reread it. And things that I first half-ignored while reading now seems so much more important.

3. Not applying or testing the information.

I believe that this one ties into the first mistake. When you have a continual information overload in your mind it becomes hard to determine what to try next. Or you may fall into a common self-help junkie trap where it feels like you are making progress in your life just by reading about self-improvement. This is however mostly just a sort of emotional high that you can get hooked on.

4. Not reinforcing it.

Maybe it’s just me but I have a tendency to forget what I should do. So I need to post external reminders – written notes on the fridge etc. – to reinforce what I am striving for and what changes I am working on right now. If I don’t use such reminders then I tend to slip back into old thought patterns pretty quickly. You can read more about this topic in How to Keep Yourself on Track: Using External Reminders.

5. Go looking for magic pills.

A book will not change you. You change you. You have to put in work. A book may be just perfect for you at the right time, when you are ready for it. But you still have to follow the advice given to change your life.

I believe that the search for magic pills is one of those thing that can drive someone to make the mistakes above over and over and make little actual progress.

So if you know that you may have spent a bit too much time looking for magic pills I suggest that you focus on fewer ideas, actually applying them and reinforcing them.

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  • Doug Rosbury February 8, 2008, 8:09 am

    “Believe nothing,no matter where you read it or who has said it,not even if I have said it,unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense”— BUDDAH

    That’s what Buddah has said. And I say follow it. I also
    say, mind your own business and leave others the hell alone. Do your own thinking in conjunction with your intuition and never question your self worth. As you are, you are worthy of all the love god can and does bestow on
    you. follow your own inner guide. It will protect you from
    others who would control you and tell you how to live.
    THINK FOR YOURSELF. Respect other opinions but make your own decisions. Be happy first and have your success later. Happiness is an attitude. success grows out of it. happiness comes first and by itself it is success.
    Have I said enough? Go for it and good luck.—Doug

  • Bartjan February 8, 2008, 8:34 am

    Agreed. In order to take in less information and actually DO something with it I decided to use Steve-Pavilina’s suggestion of 30 day periods. Today is day 28 of getting up at 7 o’clock for me. I now know what’s it all about, what it can do for me and how to maintain it. I also practised discipline, and with that self-confidence (or ‘choice-integrity’; the next 30 day period will be a lot easier for me because I know I can go the distance).

    I noticed that almost all self-devolopement books have loads of wisdom, and almost all the websites as well. Even the movies :-) The thing is that you have to follow up on it to actually change your life. For this purpose I now included in my daily routine to visualise actually making the changes, and to ‘open’ my day to look over my goals and being busy with self-devolopement so that I don’t forget what I’m trying to accomplish. I found Microsoft OneNote to be a perfect program for this.

    I still take in new information, but mostly for inspiration, for when I’m actually looking for something specific and because it makes me feel good and confident about the world (and the ability to change one self). I know that reading something without actively integrating it into your life is the same as seeing where a deep-sea treasure is. It’s cool to know that it’s there, but in order to get it you will have to go for it, and go the distance :-)

    It just takes time to re-wire your brain.
    But; like Mahatma Ghandi said: “The great thing about humanity is not our ability to re-shape the world; it’s the ability to re-shape ourselves.”

    (quote translated myself from dutch, don’t copy it :)

  • GreatManagement February 8, 2008, 2:17 pm

    Very thought provoking post!

    I remember many years ago attending a 10 day management course. 10 days of learning, discovering with some exercises as well.

    Came back to the corporate world and didn’t know what to do or how to start – there was just far too much information.

    Many years later, I attended another management course. However, this time it was split down into several modules over a one-year period. So you completed module one, which had one main outcome, put that into practice for 6 week, make it become a habit and then you attend module 2 and so on.

    It worked extremely well and got rave reviews for its new approach.

    Andrew

  • Phil February 8, 2008, 4:50 pm

    Very good observation. As a Self Improvment junkie I could not figure out why so many books…Now I do.

  • Mike King February 9, 2008, 7:40 pm

    Good analysis of what you’ve NOT done well with your development. I think your #1 about too much information is obviously going to be a different scale for each person. I find that I have to be taking in more than one subject at a time to push myself to analyze what’s important, to get results. If I have only one area I’m reading or studying, then I loose track of other areas for my goals and progress related to them, since I get single tracked on something (and its not always worth spending time on). The variety is what drives me and helps me to learn and explore new things I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. So, this depends how far you take it I guess.

    I think you’re #3 and #4 are the key, focus in changing things and practicing areas of what you learn and it makes the biggest impact.

  • troy February 10, 2008, 3:40 pm

    Such a very interesting blog and the comments were wonderful also. Thru the troubled times I am currently experiencing I think this might help me to “narrow my focus” and improve the situation at hand.

  • GreatManagement February 11, 2008, 10:45 am

    I have chosen this post for my weekly GreatManagement Inspirational Articles – The Best Advice From Around The Web. (www.greatmanagement.org). Andrew

  • bevel February 12, 2008, 6:14 pm

    I do agree with the overload of information…I am a fanatic when it comes to self improvements and you would most likely dread to take a peep at my emails…hundreds it seems I have to either keep/delete..the many options of resources of improvements,etc. I have become the worst “hoarder” and sure enough all this accumulating info. is sending my mind into “over-drive”….Everything I have sounds great, however, I’m reading material from various authors and various view points….I have become so tangled up in the maze until…until it actually does seem as if I have no view point of my own….I’m in totally agreement of al the great stuff and not actually absorbing the fundamentals of nothing…..it just sounds so good momentarily and not sticking enough for the implementation…the only implementation is the habit forming hoarding/reading and time abuse….so guess,I’m back where I started from….

    Thanks for this article, I realized exactly how…too much info. can really hurt and damage ones progress ….

  • bevel February 12, 2008, 6:24 pm

    I do agree with the overload of information…I am a fanatic when it comes to self improvements and you would most likely dread to take a peep at my emails…hundreds it seems I have to either keep/delete..the many options of resources of improvements,etc.

    I have become the worst “hoarder” and sure enough all this accumulating of info. is sending my mind into “over-drive”….Everything I have accumulated sounds great, however, I’m reading material from various authors and various view points….I have become so tangled up in the maze until…until it actually does seem as if I have no view point of my own….

    I’m in total agreement… of all the great stuff and not actually absorbing the fundamentals of nothing…..it just sounds so good momentarily to absorb it all… the self enrichment material but it hurts mentally when I’m more busy hoarding/abosorbing rather than executing some form of implementation …the only implementation is the habit forming hoarding/reading and time abuse….so guess,I’m back where I started from….hun.

    Thanks for this article, I realized exactly how…too much info. can really hurt and damage ones progress ….

  • Robert February 13, 2008, 12:42 pm

    Another danger with reading personal development books is that you can forget to put your own personal spin on it. By that I mean adapting the information to suit your own personal circumstances, rather than following the information to the letter. Personal development is a deeply personal thing so you must remember to take on-board the advice that works for you and ignore that which has no relevance to you.

  • Charlie Gilkey March 4, 2008, 7:06 pm

    I suffer from No. 4 as well. I’m a great planner, have reasonable, effective goals, and write everything down…until the rubber hits the road.

    I struggle to find that fine balance between chasing muses and getting done what I need to. I try to rationalize that some of the best things I have done were following muses, but I also have to recognize that a lot of the things I don’t get done are a result of chasing muses. Sigh

    Great work, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  • Venky September 17, 2008, 1:00 pm

    hey Henrik,
    great article ..! it showed me exactly where i was faltering. esp points 1 and 5 .. brilliant ! Thanks !