What The Heck Is Personal Development?
We enter this world as a cute, innocent, squirmy ball of flesh.
Our mind is a blank slate with no concept of identity, the world around us, or who’s looking impressive this year on America’s Got Talent. We emerge as a brand new human being, our only unconscious concern being that of survival.
Then we begin to learn.
Our parents take care of us and we learn how to be taken care of. We learn how to interact with the world around us. We watch, smell, taste, hear, and touch everything we can. We mimic the people around us. We internalize what works for us and discard what doesn’t. We become a product of our environment and adapt in a way conducive towards our continued existence.
Unfortunately, our environment – i.e. the people around us, the information we’re presented with, the things we’re exposed to – isn’t perfect. People are weird, flawed, and generally crazy. The world is constantly changing. Our brains are still, in many ways, wired for primitive survival and have not yet adapted to the rapid evolution of culture and technology.
What I’m getting at is that as soon as you’re born, you’re fucked.
You’re going to pick up some bad habits. You’re going to have a limited and incomplete view of the world. You’re going to have physical, psychological, and emotional fallacies. You’re going to have thoughts and beliefs that don’t really serve you. You’re going to be imperfect.
Before I begin to sound like an asshole, I want to assure you that it’s okay because we are all, to some degree, flawed and crazy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you have some things about you that are not ideal. It’s the price we pay for existence. Welcome to the show.
Despite our shortcomings, we inherit the amazing capacity to continue learning and evolving over the course of our entire lives. Our brain can process complex ideas, create and strengthen neural pathways, visualize outcomes, and adapt to better serve us. Because we have so much cognitive capability and potential, we possess the ability to become a little better and a little less worse over time. It’s this idea of improvement that forms the basis of personal development.
Personal development is, in my opinion, the conscious act of bettering oneself.
To illustrate, I want you to picture the first time you learned something – let’s use riding a bike as an example.
The first step was being exposed to the concept of bike riding. You had to learn what a bike is, believe that you could learn how to ride a bike, and understand the potential benefits of learning to ride a bike (after all, they are hella fun).
Next, you had to acquire the tools and education necessary to ride a bike. You needed the bike itself, a helmet, and if you’re as injury prone as I am, some knee and elbow pads. You needed to see how people rode bikes so that you could begin visualizing yourself doing it using similar mechanics. You began to conceptually understand how to ride bike and had the tools necessary to begin, but you were missing two vital ingredients: application and practice.
All the bike riding ideas and tools in the world wouldn’t have helped you if you didn’t actually apply them. You had to learn how to balance, how to gain momentum, how to move the pedals, how to steer, how to break, and how to put all of those things together. You probably fell down a lot and had to bail a few times, but you slowly began to get it as your body and mind adapted to the act of bike riding.
Eventually, you became proficient at riding a bike. It became natural. You weren’t the best bike rider ever, but you could happily pedal along.
Personal development follows a similar course.
Look, life is hard and can really suck sometimes. I get it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a victim of your circumstances – you can improve your life to some degree. This could be physically, psychologically, intellectually, emotionally, financially, etc. You won’t necessarily become a god amongst men in the area you’ve chosen to focus on, but you can get better.
What’s the point you might ask? Well, for one, we are all going to die (at least until we can freeze ourselves until the technology exists so that we can live forever – anyone else up for having their brain put in a robot?). I know, not the most romantic reality but it provides the context and motivation necessary to grab life by the horns (I really resisted putting in a different 4-letter word) and make the most of our limited experience.
This can manifest in the form of more genuine and rewarding relationships. It can take the appearance of improved self-confidence, better health…anything you can think of that, if improved, would elevate your quality of life and levels of fulfillment.
Now in order to actually execute upon improving one or more areas of your life, you’re going to need education. This is primary role of this blog – giving you thoughtful and practical solutions to some of life’s challenges. There are also other great resources out there such as books, videos, and people.
Once you believe you can improve your life and have the education to do so, you can begin applying and practicing what you’ve learned. This is where a lot of people, myself included, fail.
We understand that it takes time and effort to get better at playing a sport or instrument, but for some reason generally believe that relationships, self-acceptance, confidence, etc. can all be solved by intuition alone. I vehemently disagree.
Personal development requires a lot of conscious effort and hard work. Certain areas of your life will be easier to improve than others. You’re probably going to fail a lot. Overcoming some challenges will be painful. There’s no single solution that works for everyone or under every circumstance.
You’re going to need to experiment and adapt and continue to learn, apply, and practice. Ultimately, you’re going to need the will to improve and the flexibility to adjust so that you find a strategy that works for you and your goals. If you’re patient, persistent, realistic, and flexible, you stand a good chance at succeeding in this game of personal development and becoming a better version of yourself.
I want to end by suggesting the following:
Personal development is not a way to get what you want – it’s a way to improve your life to some degree.
You’re probably not going to be the next Steve Jobs or Usain Bolt, but you can be a better you, reach your potential, and feel more fulfilled and comfortable in your own skin.
Personal development is an individual endeavor. What’s important to you? What do you want to get better at? What do you want your legacy to be?
By understanding ourselves, our goals, our desires, and so on, we can take conscious action to begin making life our bitch. Welcome to the Matrix, you just took the red pill.