Personal development is a wonderful thing. It can help you improve your health and body, your social life, your happiness and financial situation. But there are also a few pitfalls. A few, pretty serious problems I have run into myself. Stuff that can really hurt you and your life instead of improving it.
Here are three such sneaky traps.
1. Personal development information becomes a place where you can hide.
There are many ways to escape reality and the suffering/pain/uncomfort you may be experiencing. Drugs or too much shopping, TV, exercising or World of Warcraft can be such ways. So you may realize that and have started to get interested in personal development material to leap out of such escapist behaviour and improve your life.
Just be careful so you don’t jump from one such way of escape into another.
If you are reading a lot of personal development book but are not taking much action to improve your life or if you feel a sort of high every time you read a about a new, exciting idea that you think will “fix” your problem then you may be using personal development as an escape. Just like WOW or shopping each new article or book may give you a temporary high that you start chasing. Instead of a tool that you use practically in your own life.
Now, I think a lot of people get stuck in reading for some time when they first start learning about this stuff. That’s pretty natural since you’re new to it all and perhaps a bit confused. But at some point you have to review what you have done with what you have learned so far. And become aware that you may have to start reading less and doing more.
2. You take in too much information and can’t focus on anything.
This problem can come from reading too many personal development blog or books at once. You get all these great ideas and tips all the time and want to improve everything right now. So you focus on improving too many things at once.
The problem is just that your mind isn’t really built to focus on many things at once. And change is slow. If you try to improve many areas of your life at the same time it is very easy to get emotionally and mentally drained from that process. It may work well for a week or two but at some point – in my experience – it just becomes too much and you start slipping back into your old behaviour or start rationalizing why you don’t need this change right now anyway. After a month you are pretty much back to your old ways.
A better – but less exciting – way is to for instance focus on one thing each month. That may sound too easy and simple on paper but it’s better to use this month to get one thing right instead making little progress in three or four areas. The main focus is to actually improve something in real life, not how many things you can fit into your schedule.
For instance for me, January was about focusing on what I’m eating and my new workout program. For me, the eating – portion sizes and what I eat – is now is now pretty much on auto-pilot and nothing I have to think about that much. The same goes for my workout combination of weight training and bodyweight cardio circuits.
Putting this stuff on auto-pilot and as something I just do just – like brushing my teeth and taking showers – leaves me with more energy and available focus for more interesting things right now.
3. You create problems that weren’t even there.
Or overcomplicate every issue and make it an intellectual discussion instead of a solution.
Yeah, personal development books or blogs can help you solve problems. But if you read too much you’ll just wind up with 25 different ways to help you solve your problem and get confused.
Also, this is of course a business so people write long books on different topics. Now, some may have great points all the way through. Other books may overcomplicate problems just to fill the 400+ pages in the book.
The thing is, the more you read about a topic the more complicated it seems in your mind and is also becomes “heavier”. What may have been pretty straightforward in real life becomes this huge struggle, where you are Rocky Balboa taking slow painstaking steps uphill against horrific odds. Yep, it’s a real inspiring thing as you struggle as the heroic underdog.
It’s also a great way to make things so much harder for yourself. It’s you putting up imaginary obstacles in your own mind that aren’t even there in reality. The Rocky way of thinking about these things is very seductive. But life becomes so much lighter and easier when you just let that stuff go.
So make things simpler and less “heavy”.
And be careful with the time you spend online. Hanging around blogs or forums is a great way to learn and get to know people that are similar to you. It’s also a way to discuss, discuss and discuss around in circles, have new “INSIGHTS!” every week and not getting much done.
This is of course just my opinion, but I think your time is better used if you cut down on that and do more things and gain understanding of how things work for you from real life experience.
In the end, we all learn the quickest and best from making our own painful mistakes and failing. But I hope at least some of you can learn something useful from the mistakes I have made.
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