- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Personal Development Myths

Investing your time, energy and money into improving the quality of your life is probably the best thing you can do with it. Those investments begin to give you huge rewards which you can then use to help others improve their lives as well. That is the essence of personal development.

Unfortunately, a lot of misconceptions and myths have been pegged onto personal development. As a result people avoid improving themselves and avoid anyone who seems like they might be trying to help. I want to help clear up some of these myths associated with personal development right now.

Myth No. One

I’m stressed out and tired all the time. Personal development just means a lot more stress and work than I already have.

Where do you think all that stress and fatigue came from in the first place? Personal development means working to improve all areas of your life. Just taking a little bit of time to correct minor problems and you will actually lower the stress involved. This statement is as bizarre as someone who refuses to take medicine because they are sick. If you are stressed out and tired all the time this is the exact reason you need to involve yourself in personal development.

Myth No. Two

I’m happy with what I have already. Personal development means I am constantly working and I can never really enjoy life.

The first statement is incorrect. We can never be truly happy with what we have, we can just be content. Remember, happiness comes from expanding ourselves, not from our current situation. True happiness and fulfillment can only come from constantly seeking to improve, to grow. We should always be grateful for what we have, but that never means we should just settle down and give up.

Secondly, personal development doesn’t imply adopting a workaholic attitude. Personal development means trying to improve all areas of your life. Workaholics tend to be the people who neglect their personal development, not improve it. I wrote extensively about this in this article about vertical and lateral growth [1].

Myth No. Three

I just don’t have the willpower needed for personal development.

This is probably one of the biggest myths around. I constantly hear about people who continually fail to succeed in their diets because they say they didn’t have enough willpower. Permanent changes cannot come from willpower alone.

The problem isn’t the diet. Most of us already have a fairly good idea about what is healthy and what is not. In order to make a permanent change we need to link pain to the foods that are unhealthy and pleasure to the foods that will make us healthy. Once you make a change like this, there are even more techniques for conditioning yourself to make the change permanent. I’ve done this with many habits that now just run on autopilot without any need for willpower to maintain. Many people are astounded that I am able to keep up many of them, but to me they are completely natural.

Willpower and self-discipline are skills you can build, but they aren’t the essential ingredient for personal development. For most of us, having the right strategy to take on our personal development is more critical than the need for more willpower.

Myth No. Four

Personal development is for ambitious people. I’m really not that ambitious.

Everyone deserves to live a life filled with passion. We all need to have something that we want to strive towards, something to motivate us and to give our life energy. Just because you aren’t interested in becoming powerful or rich doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you can become passionate about.

Too often people don’t develop themselves personally because they don’t see the point. I truly feel sorry for these people because they are missing the essence of life. You need to find something to get really passionate about. This could be starting a company, tackling humanitarian efforts or even raising children. We all need to find meaning in our lives. Ambitious people are just those that have truly found that compelling purpose to be passionate about.

Myth No. Five

Nobody ever really changes.

If you believe that then I think you need to look around. The fact is, nobody ever stays the same. It’s impossible. Whether we like it or not we are always changing and growing as human beings.

Unfortunately some people have been conditioned to believe they are trapped with whatever life has handed them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We always have the ability to take control of our own change and improvement and direct it. Too many people have taken a few failed diets as a sign that change is far too difficult for ordinary people to pull off.

We are always going to change. Take control of that process so it doesn’t take control of you.

Myth No. Six

Personal development is a terrible struggle filled with pain and hardships.

Personal development does require work. There are moments when it will stretch you, I’m not going to deny that. However, too many people give up on personal development because they feel there is more pain in that route then happiness and pleasure. If that were the case I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you now.

There is ultimately far more pain in not taking action then there is in taking action. Although you will definitely encounter some pain in your personal development, that pain is minor compared to the overwhelming pain of guilt, depression and anxiety caused by giving up. Furthermore, personal development will ultimately lead to our greatest feelings of triumph, fulfillment, enjoyment, confidence and self-worth.

Myth No. Seven

Personal Development is a zero-sum game. In order to improve one area you need to subtract from another.

This is completely ridiculous. Personal development when done properly should almost never require you to subtract from one area to add to another. Unfortunately, this myth about personal development leads many people to make incorrect decisions when starting with it.

When people try to start a diet they brace themselves for hardship, refusing to eat all of the foods they like and prepare for difficult and boring exercise routines. No wonder most people can’t stick with it! Making a change this way is like trying to do heart surgery with a baseball bat. Proper personal development techniques allow you to make changes that strengthen, rather than weaken the other areas of your life.

Myth No. Eight

Personal development is for people who are too desperate to handle life. Most personal development is just common sense. Personal development stuff is just sold to scam desperate people.

This is the most toxic myth of all. I know this because this was something that I personally used to believe [2], and I cannot believe how ignorant and wrong I was.

The fact is, the people that use and read personal development material tend to be far above average in terms of overall levels of happiness and success. Some authors tend to write in a style that appeals more to people who are in desperate circumstances, and others write in a style that focuses on people who want to take success to the same level. Even people with good lives deserve to have great ones.

Most personal development material is not common sense. In hindsight a lot of it may seem like common sense, but unfortunately most people don’t practice it in their lives. Often months after reading or listening to a new idea or concept I really start to notice how differently I am now able to approach my problems than I was before. Believing that we already know everything is the greatest way to assure our ignorance. Don’t be one of these people.

There are going to be people with less than perfect moral standards who will try to rip you off in any area of life, from car salesmen to investors. Personal development is no different. The good news is that I have found most authors have a genuine interest in helping people. The risk is fairly low too. If you buy a book or product that gives poor results then you’ve just lost a bit of money. But if you read a book and find an idea, concept or philosophy that helps you, then you can change your entire life.

It is my hope that one day our culture will become more interested in genuine personal development. No flashy fads for quick gain at no cost, but genuine, gradual improvement over time. The kind of improvement that doesn’t just cover up a problem but increases the quality of our lives. Until then, keep working on your own personal development and get the most out of life!