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How to Use Personal Development Information in a Better Way

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zarajay/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Chinese proverb

“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own”
Bruce Lee

Personal development books, blogs and videos can be a wonderful resource to help you improve your life. Over the last few years I have learned a couple of things that helped me to make better use of that information to get actual results in my life.

I would like to share those things today.

1. Use your own common sense.

It’s easy to be drawn into thinking that gurus or teachers know everything. But a book or blog can’t know or understand exactly what you dream about and all the positive and negative experiences you have been through. No one can know you better than you know yourself.

So it is important to use your own common sense with any advice you are given. Sometimes it may mean that you rely on what someone knows and so you take a leap of faith. Sometimes it may mean that you recognize that something does not live up to the grandiose hype but still has useful things to offer. Sometimes it may mean to dismiss something because it just doesn’t sound right.

Friends and family that aren’t that into personal development can be a voice of common sense. They can ground you if you become a little too lost in theories. So listen to them. But of course, use your common sense here too. Be the highest authority in your own life.

2. Find what fits you, let go of the rest.

There is a lot of advice floating around. I recommend using the advice from Bruce Lee at the start of this article and finding what works and fits you the best. And then you can let go of the other stuff that you have tried.

You may for example find an article with 25 procrastination hacks. Knowing them all will just make you confused. Find the ones that worked the best for you. I personally only use three or four strategies when I get struck in procrastination and want to get moving again.

3. Know that it’s the doing and experience that really changes you.

Don’t over think it. Do it.

Don’t hang around on blogs or online forums all day. Use the free time you have for experiences, no matter how small they are. Because you gain experience, confidence in yourself and real results by doing things. Not by over reading or having endless theoretical discussions.

4. Don’t think that it has to be complicated.

When you have a problem that feels big or have been there for a long time then it’s easy to think that you need a complicated solution. And that your problem is really complicated.

By actually doing things, failing and learning you need to expose yourself to pain and discomfort. By overcomplicating things and over thinking them you can create a helpful excuse to not take action.

By making things more complicated than they need to be you can also make them feel very important. And since you are involved in these important things, well, then you have to be important too, right?

This way of going about things can make you feel good or OK in a strange kind of way. It also stops you from making progress.

One simple way to feel more positive and reduce negative thoughts and inner tension is for example to work out a couple of times each week. A very simple activity with many positive benefits. One simple way of freeing up more time is to set time-limits for activities and to stop doing the irrelevant stuff. Don’t dismiss solutions just because they sound too simple.

Also, one tip is to look at what other people who are doing what you want to achieve do. It may not be the answer you are looking for or want – because it is not an easy magic pill or some secret supercomplicated solution – but it is simply what actually works.

5. Be patient.

I think it took me four tries to establish a workout routine that stuck. It is common to have to start things over a few times before they really stick.

So things may take longer than you hoped for. Life is most often messier than the plan you had. Don’t let that stop you. Be patient, learn from your mistakes and keep moving.

6. If you have a really serious problem, seek professional help.

There is a difference between getting a bit nervous before a meeting at work or a date and having a big panic attack and feeling like you can’t breathe or are about to faint.

If you have a serious problem, then please seek professional help. A book or blog can only go so far. The advice on this blog is for small or medium sized problems (at least as I experience it). If you have a really bad problem then the advice here or on other blog or in books may still help you a bit.

But still believe that best option in such situations is to seek professional help. Perhaps one on one counseling with someone with vast experience, someone that comes highly recommended.

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  • Srinivas Rao January 29, 2010, 6:17 pm

    Very great points Heinrik. I think it’s easy to get caught up in information overload when you get into personal development. I know I’m guilty of exactly that. It’s only when I started get a but more selective about the information I chose to use and get more action oriented that all of the personal development efforts I’ve done started to pay off.

  • Zen Choices January 29, 2010, 8:19 pm

    This message is right on. It reminded me of my About page. I realized a long time ago that you need to distill personal development information, not just assume it’s worthy of taking.
    I’ve been questioning and challenging personal development ideas for years to carve my own path – dedicated to conscious choices.
    I’m glad to see you taking the same approach.

  • Sibyl - alternaview January 29, 2010, 11:37 pm

    Great post and list. There is so much information out there that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Creating your own user’s manual is really great advice because in order to really find the change and development we are looking for, we have to kind of make our own plan. Different things click and some things work better than others. You can read so many recommendations from so many people, but at some point you have to in a way become your own expert of your plan. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • aDeeb January 30, 2010, 1:16 am

    Some very obvious yet great points there.
    Specially points 1 and 5.
    Trusting one’s instincts and being patient can go along way.
    As for seeking professional help, nothing beats that.

  • Richard Shelmerdine January 30, 2010, 11:50 am

    That first Chinese quote is brilliant. Makes so much sense. I am starting a workout routine that I will blog about in March too. Tabata intervals daily for a month. I’m kinda scared :)

  • rusaer January 30, 2010, 1:42 pm

    I like the Chinese proverb, and you list is alos very good, i think i have learned something from this post. Thank you

  • Russ Stiffler January 31, 2010, 4:46 am

    Thanks for a great blog post. If people would just continue to do as you suggest, they would be able to easily and continually make small adjustments and improvements in the way they run their lives. The results would be awesome.

  • Hilary February 1, 2010, 10:31 am

    Hi Hendrik .. so much is as you say being sensible and letting things fall into place while you work towards your goals – doing, learning, listening and being patient ..

    Your time will come as long as you are actually doing something along your path .. Thank you

  • Michelle @ Following Your Joy February 1, 2010, 6:09 pm


    I have so many great personal development books, too, and have found myself overwhelmed in the past. Your first two points are exactly what I have made a habit–trust my own inner guidance (because after all, I am the one who knows me best!) while taking bits and pieces of what “works” for me from the books…and leave the rest behind.

    And it’s fun as a Professional Coach…I get to help my clients take the nuggets of information that do work for them–from books, seminars, etc….and then develop a personalized custom action plan to put it all into action. As you said, it’s the “doing” that really leads to change.

    Thanks for the insightful post!

  • Jane Plass February 3, 2010, 4:35 am

    Being selective by determining what’s important to you and then focusing on that is important. I’ve also found it useful to start small and to be open-minded about trying strategies before assuming they won’t work for me. For example, for years, I assumed that morning exercise wouldn’t work for me because I tend to be a night owl. However, exercising in the morning and starting with short sessions turned out to be the keys to finally developing an exercise habit.

  • Henrik Edberg February 3, 2010, 7:08 pm

    Thanks for all the added thoughts and insights, guys! :)

  • NinaRiley February 9, 2010, 1:22 pm

    Great Post. I also think it is important to trust our own judgement. You control your mind. Yes, it is good to turn to others for advice and guidance, but this should be used along with what you consider best for you and your lifestyle/family. The first Chinese proverb for example- “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”- I don’t think for most of us is that we hear and forget – what we need is a combination of hearing, seeing and doing, all three reinforce learning and all three take into consideration different styles of learning. So you see, even a Chinese proverb cannot give us the full answer!
    Nina Riley

  • BalRam Bandhu February 11, 2010, 4:21 pm

    If I’m not wrong….Chinese proverb is by Confucius….

  • Christopher March 9, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Well there are so many personal development blogs as well as articles in the web, we get pretty confused. But there are some few good points to follow. But all the above it is a very good post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Christopher March 18, 2010, 5:27 pm

    Thanks for a great blog post.
    Unquestioning one’s instincts and being tolerant can go along way. As for looking for expert help, nothing beats that.
    ~Christopher Duncan

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