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How to Make Personal Growth More Fun (and Easier)

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeacid/ / CC BY 2.0

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
Dale Carnegie

When you read this blog, other blogs and books on personal development it’s easy to get drawn into an atmosphere of this being really serious business.

And for someone who needs help it can be. If you are really out of shape or have a huge debt or haven’t had date in ages or just don’t know what to do with your life then it’s no fun.

However, as usual, I want emphasize what works here. And through my own experience these last few years I have discovered that taking this as deadly serious business makes things harder than they need to be.

So today I’d like to suggest a bunch of ways to make personal growth and achieving what you want more fun.

Think of it more as light and breezy fun rather than going to war.

No, you are not going to war. Thinking that you are can help you to ramp up enthusiasm and aggressiveness in the beginning. It seems to help you.

So you make any personal development goal – or just anything you want out of life – in to this epic struggle. Perhaps just in your mind or also by reading more and more about a topic.

The more you think and 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.

It’s a bit counter-intuitive and it took me quite some time to understand this. You think that an overly serious attitude may seem like the right attitude to help you achieve your goal.

But a more relaxed and fun attitude where you tell yourself that what you are doing isn’t really that complicated, epic – millions of people have probably done what you want to do in last 1000 years or so – or super serious is often more effective to get the result you desire.

Of course, sometimes things will suck but I think that if you can approach things this way you’ll get more enjoyment on your path to your goal and you won’t put up extra obstacles on that path.

You can bring awareness to what you are thinking while on the daily walk on that path by asking yourself questions like “Honestly, am I overcomplicating this?” or ”Am I taking this a bit too seriously?”.

Find out what you have fun doing.

If you don’t like jogging don’t do it. Not everyone has be a runner to get exercise. Be curious and explore different options, perhaps soccer or table tennis is a better option for you? Finding what works and feels good for you makes it a lot easier to stick to the plan and be consistent each week rather than feeling like you have drag yourself to the gym again.

Detach from the outcome.

This is one of my favorite tips for making it easier to take action and to do so consistently. It makes the doing more enjoyable and there is less inner resistance or projections into the future that can screw things up.

I first got this tip from the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. It says:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction”

This tells me to understand that I cannot control the results of my action. I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say or what I do. And that I should do what I do just because it is something I want to do rather than because of some outcome I’d like. But at the same time I should not let these two ideas lead me to become passive and get stuck in sitting on my hands and not taking action at all.

Basically, I do what I think is right and that is my responsibility. And then the rest (the possible results), well, that is not up for me to decide about or try to control. I let it go.

Now, I apply this when I do something. I can get motivated by future results before the doing the activity. But when I start doing any those activities I detach and change how I think. I just focus on showing up and doing. This may sound a bit weird or hard but after a while it gets easier and easier to do that shift in your mind and to not start projecting into the future while you are doing.

You can apply this to:

  • Working out. By focusing on just showing up and doing the workout you won’t get discouraged when you haven’t lost x pounds after a week. You become more patient and more emotionally stable when you don’t think about losing that weight all the time. If you just show up and work out – and control what you eat – the pounds will come off.
  • Blogging. If you don’t have to worry about what people may think about your next post then it becomes a lot easier to calmly write what you want instead of getting stuck in some kind of writer’s block.
  • Social interactions. If you detach from an outcome such as someone liking you at a party or on a date then you’ll be less nervous. You won’t try to impress people. You will be more like how you are with your closest friends, relaxed and easy going. Just being yourself is an often cited and sometimes criticized piece of advice. By detaching from outcomes – while still of course using your common sense – it will be a lot easier to just be the best version of yourself.

Focus on the positive things from the past.

It’s easy to fall back into the common habit of focusing on your past failures. Doing so can make you feel like giving up. Or like this is a war. Or like getting out of your comfort zone is just one big hassle.

So I suggest changing your focus. Remember when things went well.

Awash your mind with positive memories.

Realise it can be fun to get out of your comfort zone despite what your mind and feelings might be telling you before you get started. Think back to the previous times when you have broken out of your rut. Focus on the positive memories, when you got out there, when you took a chance. And you’ll recall that it wasn’t so bad, it was actually fun and exciting and something new to you.

A lot of the time we automatically play back our negative experiences – or negative interpretations of events – in our minds before we are about to do something. And we forget about the positive memories and our previous, positive achievements. Avoid that trap. Let the fun and good memories flow through your mind instead and let things become easier.

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  • Steve-Personal Success Factors March 12, 2010, 5:14 pm

    Great advice. Having fun is so key: maybe that’s why I’m playing so much Tennis Wii! I also stumbled into running, and have found it to be quite fun and relaxing. Detaching from the outcome is also a great way to continue to persevere in good habits.

    • Jeffrey March 21, 2010, 5:57 pm

      You can totally tell you are an internet marketer when you say that you “stumbled into running.” Made me laugh.

      Anyways, Henrik, great article and I really like the quote for this one. It goes with just about everything. School, work, and even personal relationships.

      Regards,
      Jeffrey

  • Srinivas Rao March 12, 2010, 5:59 pm

    I think one of the most important points you’ve made here is detaching from the outcome. When we can finally do that as you said, we bring out the best in ourselves because ironically we’re no longer trying to bring out the best.

    • Clinton Skakun March 14, 2010, 9:46 pm

      That’s what I got from this as well. I’ve been feeling really depressed this week because I’ve been focusing on the outcome rather than the process. At my age, the outcome doesn’t matter a whole lot just yet anyways, basically because I’m going to make mistakes anyways and the outcome isn’t going to be anything to whistle at for a while.

      I’m glad I read this. Thank you. Detach from the outcome. Just learn from and enjoy the process.

      Clinton:)

  • Self Improvement Explained March 12, 2010, 6:47 pm

    I whole heartedly agree with this post. Personal Development when treated as another “job” or “have to” can become counterproductive. All that striving to “fix” ourselves. We’re not broken!

    Sorry got a little excited there…

    Cheers,
    Rishi

  • Matt March 12, 2010, 8:29 pm

    That picture is terrifying!

  • Marko March 12, 2010, 9:50 pm

    Hi Henrik,

    Playing the “serious business” card might feed the ego for a short while, but as you said, in many cases is counter-productive.

    I don’t know if you’ve already seen it, but there’s this really cool video on YouTube demonstrating the positive impact a little fun can have in changing people’s actions.

    “Stockholm Piano Stairway” video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJMOI5_FKwg

  • Marc March 13, 2010, 5:36 pm

    Right you are, Henrik. Making your self-transformation fun can ease your mind, take the pressure off, make it more interesting. Remembering that you attract what you think is an important part of your personal growth, because positive or negative energy originates in the mind, and what we promote within ourselves becomes reality, in time.

  • aDeeb March 13, 2010, 9:47 pm

    Detaching from the outcome is the first step to being a bad-ass.
    And bad-assess rule. :P

  • Stefanie March 14, 2010, 6:16 am

    I continually try to “focus on the positive things from the past” and I really have trouble with that one. So when I get stuck in the crud from the past, and have trouble coming up with positive things from the past to consider, then I focus on my positive goals for the future and that seems to help turn me around a bit.

  • Boris March 14, 2010, 3:32 pm

    Henrik,
    Excellent post, you share here great advices that allow anybody to get more relaxed in the pursuit of his/her goals.
    All the best,
    Boris

  • Vlad Dolezal March 14, 2010, 3:35 pm

    Funny, I just wrote an article on the exact same topic recently (and offered it to someone as a guest post).

    Aside from all the things you mentioned (great advice btw, I fully agree), I’ll throw in one more:

    Treat personal development like a game.

    Just experiment with different things for the fun of it. (Try tacking on different habits just like you would tack on different bits when building a lego house, then take some off and keep some, depending on what strikes your fancy).

    And as you said, this helps you detach from the outcome and enjoy the process :D

  • Nimit Kashyap March 14, 2010, 5:06 pm

    blogging is good for me..and yes i dont think what people would think about my post :)

  • Mars Dorian March 16, 2010, 1:04 am

    Fun all the way !

    Focus your mind like a laser cannon, aim – fire- let go
    and have a blast doing it. Sorry, but I’ve just finished watching Star Wars.

    Cool article BTW.

  • Ryan March 16, 2010, 6:45 pm

    Hi Henrik,

    A powerful post. To remedy the Rocky syndrome I take a break every hour without exception. I drop what I’m doing, head toward my window and remember how free I am NOW.

    This keeps me present, balanced, and calm. Which allows negative feeling in my being to be released.

    We create our heaven or hell. Lighten up and smile. No sense going to hell :)

  • Kim March 17, 2010, 2:33 pm

    Great ideas! It’s so true that it’s easier to stick with positive change if you make it fun.