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5 Sneaky Ways That Personal Development Information Can Screw with Your Head

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”Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.”
Miguel de Cervantes

In many ways personal development material can help to change a life for the better in a big way.

But like pretty much anything, if used the wrong way to it can stop you from growing and instead create more problems for you.

So here is, from my personal experience, five ways that personal development information can screw with you head if you let it. I believe these are very common problems for people who get into this stuff and some stage or another. I hope you can learn something from some of the mistakes I have made.

1. It helps you to overcomplicate stuff.

You and your friend have the same problem. While you look for answers in personal development books and on blogs your friend don’t really knows what to do. So he tries something. He fails. But he learns something and does some other things. And so he starts to solve the problem while stumbling around a bit and realizes that it isn’t such a big deal and that he can probably figure it out.

Meanwhile, you have looked in books and on blogs. You haven’t found perfect answers so you look a little more, just to be on the safe side and to avoid failure and the pain that comes with that. And so the problem becomes bigger and more complicated in your mind for every book or article you read. Taking action becomes something you start to fear more and more because it all seems so huge and complicated now.

2. It gets you emotionally hooked on reading more and more.

And so little action is taken because that is uncomfortable and scary. While getting another hit from some personal development source feels pleasurable and safe.

It kinda feels like you are making progress and going somewhere as you read that awesome book. But shortly after you have read it that feeling diminishes. And so you read another one to get a rush of those positive feelings again.

Just like you can hide from life, reality and the inevitable pain, embarrassment etc through shopping too much, playing too much video games or through drugs these personal development books can become just another addiction. You feel good in short bursts. But over the months or even years of time you don’t really move forward that much at all.

3. It leaves you confused.

One problem with the information overload age we live in is that you can get more than you can handle. For free.

And it’s not always easy to move forward if you take in too many perspectives at once. Tony Robbins may say one thing. Eckhart Tolle might say another thing.

Taking in various perspectives over time can help you to increase your understanding of your world. Taking in advice from 10 people at once can confuse you and lead to paralysis analysis.

4. It makes you feel like you aren’t ever ready or good enough.

This can become a big problem. When you get hooked on reading this stuff you may start to feel that aren’t quite good enough yet to start taking action. That you aren’t good enough to succeed with something you’d like to do. In part it can be a form of protection from the pain and effort that comes with action. In part it can be because knowing more and more but not using it keeps a low self esteem in its place (or makes it sink even lower).

And so you study, study and study. And it is never enough. Until one day you just make a decision to tell yourself that you are good enough. Because reading more will not take you to that point when you feel that you are enough.

When you make that decision for yourself it’s doesn’t mean that you have to stop studying. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop growing. You can feel good enough and still feel that it is fun to explore and grow in various ways.

So you become more relaxed and not so desperate anymore to solve your problems. And when you feel like you are good enough then taking action and succeeding becomes less “heavy” and complicated. When you are good enough instead of desperate then, in my experience, life becomes lighter and doing becomes easier.

5. It makes you think that things will be perfect and you will be too.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of looking for magic pills. That basically mean you look at something – a book or a just a tip – as a complete and quick solution for your problem. You think that this thing will “fix you”, just like a pill from the doctor could.

But this is self improvement. Sure, someone may make a lot of money or lose a lot of fat really quickly. But for many any improvement will be gradual. It will be slow sometimes and quicker at some points. It’s a process that takes months or years.

But little by little you improve yourself. Never to perfection. Life and progress will still be messy. But over time all those small steps forward really start to add up.

So what do you do?

How can you avoid these problems? A few tips I use:

  • Keep these things in mind. Just keeping these pitfalls in mind and being aware of them helps me to be a bit careful about how I think and behave.
  • Set limits. It is useful to set limits for yourself so you don’t overconsume personal development material. For example, make sure that you are consistently taking action towards your goals 80 percent of the time. And then you read and study 20 percent of the time. And not the other way around.
  • Take some action immediately after having learned something. Don’t wait, then you just want to read and prepare even more. Jump in instead and do one little thing to get started.

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  • Jason Shick September 15, 2009, 5:46 am

    I stumbled upon your site today for the first time and you make a lot of key points. I have thought about how personal development is great but can limit action but have never heard it written down. The #2 reason you had about being hooked on reading was me for sure. I have always been a voracious reader. I had heard that “leaders are readers”, though I was always reading fiction and wondered how that made me a better leader. Then it happened, in search for an answer, I read a book about personal development and it shifted almost 100% of my reading to self-improvement topics. Before I knew it I had numerous books and had so much knowledge in my head, but it dawned on me that I wasn’t doing much with it. From that point on I decided to take action on whatever went into my mind. I just wanted to compliment you on your perception. You really nailed it with this article.

  • Paulineh James September 1, 2010, 4:01 am

    “self improvement is a process that takes months or years”, i agreed with that. people can’t change over time, they need time and support from people around them.

    great information. thanks for sharing this one… keep it up :)

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