Personal Development Myths… and Advice To Move You Forward
There is perceived to be a magic pill for personal development.
The purpose of this article is to prove that process and habit are key to personal development success and nothing else matters. Over the years I’ve tried numerous types of different ideas, concepts, and strategies, from all the leading individuals in the space.
I’ll dig into three specific personal development myths. This is speaking from experience and my opinion what works for myself, I’ve used each one over the years and they just failed to deliver, for me.
Here are a few myths I’ve discovered.
Myth #1 — Daily Journal’s fix your problem
Everyone recommends having a journal. People should write why they’re thankful.
I read a fantastic book many years ago by Richard Wiseman called 59 Seconds.
At the time I was searching for something that would be quite inspiring on a day-to-day basis. In his book he introduced a simple process for the structure of your daily journal.
At first my thoughts were ‘WOW this is going transform my approach…’
Premise was that each day has a theme:
- Monday — Thanksgiving: Write down three reasons to be grateful.
- Tuesday — Terrific Times: Describe a great experience from my life.
- Wednesday — Future Fantastic: Write down your perfect future after visualising what it will look like.
- Thursday — Dear…: Write a letter about one important person in your life.
- Friday — Reviewing the Situation: Write down three things from the last seven days that went really well no matter how trivial they were to help maintain a positive outlook.
The thing I learned about doing this process was that it really it starts off strong. Certainly first couple of weeks it was. It was nice to get a little buzz and some endorphins flowing from writing in this structure every day but it didn’t really have much impact. Beyond 30 minutes or a one hour post, overall the process just gave me the instant gratification from writing.
The problem was that it didn’t really propel me towards much focus on action nor did it link to my wider worries and goals (really based on feeling like I was making progress at work or getting better in general, it just gave me an internal perception I was doing the right thing!).
- So my advice here would be: this is not necessarily a bad strategy to use if you’re struggling with well-being /depression, happiness overall — it gives you a kick-start.
- It’s a good way to snap out of some sort of negativity and bad habits but in the long term it didn’t really connect the dots with performance.
- If you do this in isolation without some sort of connectivity to some simple goal setting or all kind of outcomes type approach that you’re trying to get to it doesn’t really do much, or help you move the needle from your business perspective. It doesn’t really carry through during the day.
Myth #2 — Your breakthrough is to focus on contribution and growth
Tony Robbins has this concept of your six human desires or needs overall. And if you can create an environment where you’re hitting all six of these needs on a daily, weekly, or ongoing basis then you’re going to be much happier and generally more successful.
After reading about the 6 human needs I wanted to devise a system that took action on each area. I’ll describe below.
The needs are:
1. Certainty/Comfort. We all want comfort. Much of this comfort comes from certainty, or being able to know or predict what comes next. Of course there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we want certainty the car will start, the water will flow from the tap when we turn it on, and the currency we use will hold its value.
2. Variety. Although we need certainty, at the same time we also crave variety. When things are unpredictable and new they generate excitement, anxiety, and wonder. Paradoxically, there needs to be enough UNcertainty to provide spice and adventure in our lives.
3. Significance. Deep down we all want to be important. We want our life to have meaning and significance. To many, there is no worse death than to get to the end thinking life didn’t matter. Significance can come from intrinsic or extrinsic signals that you’re important, unique, different, and/or loved.
4. Connection/Love. Love and connection with others is so much a part of significance that it is its own separate need. Humans are innately social creatures and require connection. It would be hard to argue against the need for love. We want to feel part of a community. We want to be cared for and cared about.
5. Growth. Growth and forward progress is the human condition. That is what we do through advancements as a society and individually. Though there could be some people who say they don’t want to grow, I think they’re simply fearful of doing so — or perhaps NOT doing so. It is a basic need for all of us, even those who don’t know it or show it.
6. Contribution. The desire to contribute something of value is another innate need. It is in our nature to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it, and to contribute. That is where the saying, “it is better to give than receive” found foothold in the first place. Our contribution helps us connect, feel significance, promote growth, and feel better overall.6. Contribution. The desire to contribute something of value is another innate need. It is in our nature to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it, and to contribute. That is where the saying, “it is better to give than receive” found foothold in the first place. Our contribution helps us connect, feel significance, promote growth, and feel better overall.
- I broke down the six into a weighted system each day of exercises tied to the six activities. To do this I created a google sheet with each item at the top row mapped out and then every single day. Then at the end of the day I added notes and ratings in a quick google form sent to myself in a Google Calendar.
- The good thing about the daily accountability here was it really made you think hard about the growth and contribution angles. Realised, most days pass you by without really contributing much to other people. This was super insightful and made you more thoughtful.
- But, as with Wiseman’s journaling strategy, it got stagnant after three or four months. Or in the words of Robbins, it no longer had enough variety to meet my needs.
- There was no real underlying habit towards real results at work. It depends on your intrinsic motivation but my overall goal here was to be “better” at work (you may have different versions of work) and it only really just focused on your mental well-being/ happiness side.
I do believe in the breakthrough around contribution and growth. For me, there needed to be more or it needed to wrap around some form of additional process.
Myth #3 — Don’t follow one “guru” (there is not one-approach)
There are a lot of professional personal development options out there!
But if you do all of them all of the time you can get too consumed. When you’re working so much on personal development and trying to “find happiness”, you might not have time to actually take action or build good habits.
Greatness is a list of small things done well. Turn pain into greatness (believe it was Eric Thomas who said this…)
The best thing you can do is read A LOT from all the best ‘thought leaders,’ in each respective category from wellbeing, productivity, happiness, process, energy and health. Not one individual has figured out the ‘magic pill’ — it’s a problem I believe will never truly be solved (that’s why we should not obsess so much about it but that is human nature after all!).
- To really drive my own personal development, I used each individual “guru’s technique at one point in time as experiments, for example early in my career I used Brian Tracy, then Zig Ziglar, then Tony Robbins, then Tim Ferris and many others… the breakthrough for me came when I started reading more from James Clear and Brendon Burchard.
- In the book High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard promotes including six specific, actionable habits into your life to see progress move at a faster pace.
- He promotes the concept of process and the routine / habits you need to develop with action at the heart of it all. When you think about that underlying foundation, and put in all the good stuff from Tony Robbins and others, you start having something that works.
Action is obviously key but you can’t have action without process or habits.
My advice is to use the great things you can learn from all “thought-leaders” but don’t copy them verbatim. The starting point should be keeping it very narrow with habits, process and routine that you want to create. Get that going and build momentum.
Next step, is to layer in all the different perspectives but in a way that fits your personality and vision/ goals.
To keep momentum I fill out a google form called “My Accountability” at the end of every day (originally saw this from Noah Kagan in relation to marketing accountability).
Think of your ten actionable, short things every day that will move the needle and create the momentum that will then enable you to become much happier because you’ll be hitting your goals and your outcomes.
This form has a mesh of all the different ideas above but just a way that works for me. It has to connect to you or else it will not work. Be honest and define personal development.
Advice to move you forward
Overall, knowing what personal development you’re seeking will help you to hone in on a strategy that works for you.
Read every book you can, and be curious how the different methods can attach to each other.
- Know what you want
- Then, find a process and habit-driven approach to getting it
- Keep it simple
- Do again, and again, and again
- Feel good from doing
- (NOW, layer in all the extras like contribution, visualisation, meditation and everything else that’s recommended — but don’t go overkill).
Think simply around the most important things for you that will help create momentum.
Momentum is the fuel that will drive all of the needs Tony Robbins discusses, to engage in the habits Burchard suggests, and to feel good about the things you’re writing in Wiseman’s journal.