How to Overcome Maybe the Most Common Problem People Have with Personal Development

by Henrik Edberg

Image by yopuz (license).

“The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.”
Madame Marie du Deffand

Maybe the most common issue people have with personal development is that it stays a daydream. That they get excited and inspired. But then as those positive emotions fade nothing really happens.

Life continues as usual.

It is very frustrating. I know.

I used to read about personal development in pretty much all important areas of life. But it probably took me months or years to get going with making any of those positive changes.

Why? It was uncomfortable. Making the changes felt so big that is was easier to just kept dreaming about it as frustration built up within.

So what can you do if you get stuck in daydreams? The best solution I have found for starting to make your dreams into reality is to go smaller.

Because grand changes and huge ambitions sound so inspiring and motivating. But they are also scary. So the most important step to get started and to keep going, especially when you are new to personal development, is to remove as much pressure and expectations as you can.

That is at least what has worked and still works best for me. In this article I’ll share how to do it.

Go for just taking a small step.

I have mentioned this many times. With good reason. It is one of the most effective ways to reduce the pressure and the expectations you may put on yourself and to start moving out of standing still or procrastination.

Now, taking just one small step and focusing on that is for instance a great way to become productive at school or at work once again.

But it can be used in just about any area in life. If you want to become kinder and improve your relationships then just take one small step by giving someone a genuine compliment. If you want to become a better listener have just one conversation today where you focus as much effort as you can on learning more about the person in front of you. And truly be there as best as you can and nowhere else in your mind.

If you like, then tomorrow you can take the same small action and just focus on that.

If you want to take a first step and get started with something then take that small step today. Someday so easily becomes never or at least a day several years into the future. Don’t make that mistake.

And if the first small step you come up with still seems too big to take then think of an even smaller step. Be kind to yourself in this way and make the start as easy on yourself as you can.

Go for just taking care of today.

When you feel overwhelmed, tired and just want to quit or relapse into your old and more negative habits then sit down for a minute.


Then narrow your focus greatly. Don’t look forward because then you’ll see all the things you have to do to reach your goal or to create a new habit.

Instead, go smaller and focus on just taking care of today.

Nothing more. Tomorrow will come in time. And then you will take care of that today too.

I highly recommend keeping this narrow focus daily. Sure, you may have to do some planning. Do that early in the week or day. Then shrink your focus again to make your work and life lighter and more effortless.

Focus on just the small steps and today and soon you will have traveled quite a distance.

Like what you've read? Then get email updates (it's free)

Join over 59,426 awesome subscribers who receive exclusive happiness and personal development tips every week!

Click here to get started!

Print Friendly


Clay November 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm

You are so right! Some people I’ve been coaching were really pumped about the whole personal development concept, but were also so confused about what to start with that they were stuck in this “daydream” perception of it. It also requires a lot of commitment and motivation to keep working on it, which can seem scary in the first place. But once I helped them taking the 1st small steps, they realized that it wasn’t such a big scary deal and that they were actually able to do so. Once they pass this step, they usually just enjoy and can’t stop setting higher and higher goals!

Max November 10, 2012 at 1:42 am

“Focus” has actually been my daily mantra for the last 2 weeks. With the busy life that we live, even with a good will, staying focused can be pretty difficult. We often feel overwhelmed by all the things we “must” do, but I think we sometimes forget the essential things.

Another mantra that I use, and I think that can conclude well is this : “Think big. Do baby steps”

Thanks Henrik for this good point!

Joanna November 10, 2012 at 7:26 am

“Then narrow your focus greatly. Don’t look forward because then you’ll see all the things you have to do to reach your goal or to create a new habit.”
This is a very daunting thought for me. It hinders me from even taking the small steps. The narrow focus makes sense.

Thanks for yet another great article.

Jo Casey November 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

You’re right (as usual!)
We can totally overwhelm ourselves with the size of our goals so they become just too exhausting to even think about starting. Baby step, baby step, one foot in front of the other is a great technique I use a lit.
Another is imagining I’ve already achieved what I want & work backwards highlighting the steps I ‘took’ to get me there. It’s a bit like imagining you’ve already climbed the mountain & seeing the view from the top in all it’s beauty rather than looking up at it from below & thinking how hard it’s going to be to climb,

Justin November 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm

So true Henrik. Many personal growth ideas that I learned many years ago are just now taking place. This year I became a vegetarian and also an early riser.

meditation guru November 11, 2012 at 9:26 am

Thank you Henrik, great advice! Your post remind me a quote of Lao Tsu, “The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step”. Taking the first stp is all you need.

Lisa November 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Great advice. I always tell myself as long as I’m making progress that’s all that matters.

Natasha November 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I find that if I take smaller steps, I actually achieve my goals much faster and I feel about myself. Thanks again!

Mike Alt November 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

I completely agree. I believe that we have to create small daily goals that works our way towards the bigger goal. By successfully fulfilling these goals we give ourselves instant gratification that will propel us to further accomplish our goals. Thanks!

caretakerray November 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Taking that first step is the hardest. Thanx for the help on that

Andrew November 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Great post. I found it very helpful. Sadly these aren’t good things, but we can influence others into self development. If you want to find out more about self development, check out my new blog:
I have new stuff to share with you.

Harry @ GoalsOnTrack November 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Great post. I find what works in wonders is to set a 5-minute goal: simply choose to do something that you think will make a positive change in your life, for only 5 minutes a day, such as meditate for 5 minutes, visualize your success for 5 minutes, write down your goals for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes, etc…

KarenYvonne November 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Taking one small step at a time makes a huge difference in the grande scheme.. just put one foot in front of the other! Thanks for you post

priyanka November 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

thanku so much…… its really helpful…..:-)<3

xlrdev November 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

Thank you Henrik, for the wonderful advice.
I have been stuck for years, starting with great gusto, hardly progressing beyond the planning stage.
will act on this for one week…

Jamie Wolf November 18, 2012 at 4:08 am

I heard an observation recently that said a big problem entrepreneurs have is that no matter how hard they push themselves, they only focus on how much left they have to do, how far they have yet to go. In summary, all they ever do is “mind the gap!” Once you can recognize this, you get better at being more in the present, celebrating your daily or small successes, and acknowledging how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown without realizing it. You are so right, Henrik, that breathing and narrowing the focus to today is a great way to cover that ‘gap’ with no fear or overwhelm. Thanks for an important article!

markus November 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Well my biggest problem is thinking of the future. Thanks for the great article !

AJ November 19, 2012 at 9:35 am

Very true! I have noticed in my own life that I often look for excuses not to do something instead of finding reasons to do it. I also think every life changing exercise starts with small steps, but small steps cause you to gain momentum and once you start jogging, running is around the corner. I wish sometimes I would listen to my own advice:)

Cool Post!

Geraldine November 20, 2012 at 6:01 am

Great article! I can relate…

I remember thinking to myself, if I keep waiting for the “right” moment, it might never happen. And what an unsettling feeling that was; the thought that what I truly wanted might only exist in my imagination. I’m no daydreamer! I finally launched my blog! I’m glad I did because doing so has allowed me to look at my goals from a different perspective. I’m trying not to look at ‘ALL the things’ I want to accomplish. Instead I’m looking at them one by one, little by little (but not too slow because I’m no daydreamer– lol). Doing so has turned out to be a more effective method.

Akshay November 21, 2012 at 2:21 am

Love this. Its all about action. That’s the number one differentiator between success and failure. For the people I work with, I like to make the now extremely painful and set structures to remind them of the pleasurable future. Nothing drives us forward more than creating disturbance on our current conditions. Feel the fire and you will leap out of it!

MSLEE November 26, 2012 at 2:43 am

I totally agree! I just ate a bowl of oatmeal. The last time I had a bowl of oatmeal was over 17 years ago. Some people might not think this is a big deal. But to me it’s a personal victory. I was able to eat a bowl without puking all over myself! Hooray! I really hated oatmeal with a passion. I hated the smell, texture, flavor and everything you could possibly imagine. I had a very bad experience anchored to it as a child. Anyways, my point is that for me it was mind over matter. This will encourage me to keep doing and trying things that scare.

Trevor November 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Agreed. If we only ever focus on what remains to be done, we’ll be too overwhelmed to get anything accomplished in the first place. We need to focus on taking action in the moment — most just plan and plan and plan with nothing to show for their “efforts.”

Starting small is key. Accomplishing little tasks one at a time will eventually accumulate into goal achievement. So pay attention to the immediate needs of each task and take action to see them through. This is the only surefire way to achieve success.


Jorge Blanco November 30, 2012 at 2:42 am

Starting out small and taking small steps is indeed the way to go if we want personal development to work. If we take on big things right away, we might become overwhelmed and bite off more than we can chew.

kent December 22, 2012 at 10:49 am


Great article – I for years have been read self help books and had not started to even make small changes then get frustrated when years down the line nothing happens!! Its taken me a while but I realised I need to, as you mentioned, to take one small step at a time – this will all add up over the months/years


{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: