Is there a secret to personal development? I don’t think so. There’s a simple plan to follow though….
I was in my local library the other day and noticed how many ‘personal development’ books were in there (hundreds, by the way) and it’s a small public library in an East Cheshire village. I did a quick search on Amazon for further research – there are over 100,000 books on the topic at Amazon alone (I didn’t get an exact figure, Amazon just told me there were over 100,000 search results).
Let that sink in.
Over 100,000 books on personal development. Crikey. That’s a lot.
A lot of the topics and titles seemed so vague, which leads me to believe that the content is too (although we’re told not to judge a book by it’s cover, naughty me).
It suggests a couple of things…
- There’s a lot of people out there who are desperate to change their situation.
- There’s a lot of people who claim to have a lot of answers to the secret of personal development.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bought plenty of books that fall under this umbrella too, but typically with a goal in mind. I bought The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, but I did so on a recommendation from a personal training client when I told him I was looking to streamline my business.
Another client suggested I read Money: Know More, Make More, Give More because of my interest in personal finance and economics. I’m reading personal development books with an aim in mind, I’m not looking for a metaphorical cuddle from them.
I’m a contributor to the personal development space…
I’ve written this blog about developing your health and fitness for over a decade – both elements of personal growth. It means I’m contributing to this space as well, both as a writer and as a personal trainer. I help people to grow – they grow fitter, stronger, healthier, more dynamic, more robust. Again, I’m giving tools and tactics away, not just a pep talk.
Nearly two decades helping people create change in their lives. Personal development with purpose. I don’t claim to have the secret to personal development though, I just use tried and tested methods to help people.
Here’s a picture of me from 2009 having helped Lord Dave Goddard lose 48lbs in 3 months for charity – that was a huge development for him. We used tactics, not pep talks to achieve the goal.
Across my time in fitness I’ve learned an awful lot about human nature during times of change and when they encounter physical and mental stress.
I’ve learned how different people react to stimulus, how we all have different ways of dealing with fatigue, pain and difficult circumstances. In the gym we are pushed to our limits every few minutes, so you build up a big data set of human reactions to stress quite quickly.
I believe you can learn a lot about a person by observing them in the gym. You can find out how mentally tough someone is by how they react to fatigue. You’ll see how they face up to a challenge, how they adapt to a change of circumstances. It’s a unique environment that will teach you a lot if you know what you’re looking for.
With best part of two decades in fitness, I’ve learnt the so-called secret to personal development is as simple as this….
Challenge yourself. Do progressively harder things. Do them often.
We do this all through life – as babies first we learn to roll over. Then we learn to crawl, then walk, then run. Each step is a progression on the last.
In school we learn progressively harder and more complex topics. Your GCSE’s are harder than your SATs. Your A-Levels are harder than your GCSE’s. Your degree is harder still. Throughout the process, you are growing, developing and becoming more.
When learning to drive it’s the same. When learning a sport it’s the same. When learning to cook it’s the same. Do progressively harder things. Build on those skills.
The picture below was taken during the John O’Groats to Lands End cycle ride I did with Rachel and a friend Jake in 2009. It’s a 1000 mile bike ride completed over 6 days. If you tried to do that without any training, it would have been impossible, so you don’t – you build up to it. We started with 30 mile rides, building up to 150 mile rides.
When you can ride 150 miles, you do it for consecutive days and so on. You do progressively harder things.
The patterns are there – we’ve got the blueprints to growth and development. We just have to implement them.
Personal Development Has a Foundation Stone
The discipline to perform positive actions is the foundation stone of personal development.
Without the discipline to perform positive actions or behaviours on a regular basis, your efforts to force change in yourself are obsolete. If you want to lose weight, you have to have the discipline to eat well, exercise regularly and stay consistent over a long enough period of time to see these behaviours bear fruit.
It’s largely linked to avoiding complacency.
I have a personal hatred of complacency. I don’t mean solely towards health and fitness, I mean in regards to aspects of life. I have friends who have gotten complacent in relationships, leading to their partners leaving them. I’ve seen people lose jobs through their complacency and I’ve seen people lose friends over it.
Complacency is a silent killer. It’s what stops growing as a person. If you get complacent with your health, you’ll inevitably pile on the weight, potentially leading to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease etc.
If you get complacent with your work, somebody with more hunger will learn more, develop quicker, be better than you and cause you to lose out. As a self-employed person it’s a huge motivator for me to grow, to develop, to challenge myself, to bring about new offerings in what I do.
Stop Looking for the Secret to Personal Development
There isn’t one. It’s a simple formula – do progressively harder things. Do them often. That’s how you grow, how you learn and how you develop.
You won’t always be successful, you won’t always find change easy, but if you’re consistent enough, driven enough, willing to sacrifice enough you can create real difference in your life.
If you direct your personal development efforts towards something you’re interested in or want to do, you’re far more likely to succeed. If I think back over all of the things that I’ve achieved versus the things I’ve failed at, the common theme for success was that I gave a shit about the things I achieved.
My degree, learning to drive, buying a house, building businesses, various physical challenges – they were all important to me. The things I gave up on, such as doing a marathon, setting up a t-shirt company, improving my swimming stroke just weren’t important enough to me to carry on with when the initial enthusiasm wore off.
Remember that as a fundament aspect to personal development – you’ll only succeed if you care enough. If you don’t, direct your focus towards another aspect that you’d like to work on. It’ll make the process far easier for you.
There’s no secret to personal development, just challenge yourself to do progressively harder things.
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