Why Should YOU Pursue Personal Development?

It is my personal conviction that everyone should pursue personal development. I don’t believe that our own improvement and growth should be treated as a hobby or interest reserved for a select few. Secondly, I don’t believe that personal growth should be a side-activity. I treat my entire experience of life from the perspective of personal development. For me, personal development isn’t just something I do, it is how I live.

Even though I have a strong conviction in this area, few people actively pursue personal development. Sure, some people will read a few inspirational articles, go to some seminars or browse the self-help section of their bookstore, but how many of those people actually take action and do the things that they read about?

First of all, I’d like to address the top three reasons I feel people choose not to pursue personal development. These excuses will ultimately create massive limitations in your life and really cut you off from enjoying the life you deserve.

Excuse Number One: Drowning in Life

How many of you wake up every morning bright and early, filled with passion and enthusiasm. How many of you feel like dancing, running or skipping when you are walking around. Who here walks around with a permanent smile on their faces?

I think the biggest reason people don’t pursue personal development is because they are drowning in their own lives. These people get up each day just wanting to sleep. They drag themselves to work and back to their homes. Every second of the day they aren’t working they feel like flopping in front of the television, eating junk food or drinking. Who has the energy and time to pursue personal development when you don’t even have the time or energy to cope with life?

There is an old quote I’d like to paraphrase for you at this point. A man once said, “Every day I pray for an hour before I go to bed. If the day has been particularly difficult, frustrating and draining, I pray for two hours.” The fact is that the people who say they don’t have time or energy to pursue personal development are the people who need it most. Even if you can only devote 1% of your energy to personal development, that small investment will give you more to use in the future.

I wake up at six in the morning every morning, including weekends. When I do this, I sometimes get odd looks from people. I mean, sleeping in is the best part of their week, so why on earth would you choose to wake up early? The answer is simple. Because my time awake each morning is worth more to me than sleeping extra, unneeded hours. If sleeping in is the best part of your week, then perhaps you need to reevaluate how you live your life.

I recently made a habit change to give up television. While I normally watch very little television, I found that this trial would make it easier to avoid getting sucked into watching an hour of mediocre programming. I can always buy the DVD of a particularly good show or watch a movie instead. If television is the best part of your day, then perhaps you need to start looking at your true values.

Personal Development isn’t all about sacrifice. Ultimately, it is about increasing your quality of life rather than just your level of “success”. If you don’t think you could wake up early every morning, give up junk food or television then perhaps you need to look at the quality of the activities you pursue. Even 1% can make a difference. Don’t tell me you are too busy!

Excuse Number Two: Fear

Fear is a huge barrier in personal growth. Many of our biggest obstacles are created by our own fears. Breaking these fears doesn’t take a magnificent leap of courage. I believe the key to building courage really lies in two attributes, acceptance and persistence.

In order to overcome a fear you need to accept it. Don’t feel bad because you have a fear you think might be irrational or uncommon. To accept a fear you have is better than to live in denial. Denial only strengthens the fear, while acceptance gives you the position to face it. If you want to start public speaking and you are afraid, then accept that, don’t deny it or make it wrong.

The second factor in building courage is persistence. If you can’t handle your fear in its entirety, break down smaller and smaller fears until they are manageable. The main idea is that once you have accepted your fear, be persistent in slowly destroying it. Don’t let fear be your reason for not pursuing personal development.

Excuse Number Three: Misconception

Misconception about what personal growth is can be a big reason for avoiding it. Most people have some incorrect assumptions about personal development. While I think there are many myths associated with it, I think that it is important to state the purpose of personal development:

The purpose of personal development is to increase the quality of your life and the lives of the people around you.

Interpret that message to be anything you want. Personal growth covers a large area, from spirituality, goals, change and consciousness. I like to separate it into vertical and lateral growth, but there are many other ways you can organize it. Interpret that message and find your own way to act on it. If you live for the purpose of personal development, who cares how people define it?

Now that I’ve gone over what I feel are the three biggest excuses for not pursuing personal development, I’m going to go over what I feel are the three biggest benefits to making personal growth the philosophy you live your life.

Benefit Number One: Happiness

Western culture makes a grossly inaccurate connection between happiness and pleasure. We talk about “happiness” coming from being successful or doing enjoyable activities. This is the kind of culture that believes that, yes, money does buy happiness. Or if money doesn’t buy happiness then surely a relationship, a nice house or great friends do.

Happiness doesn’t come from these things. In my experience, some of the most genuinely unhappy people have lots of money, friends or achievements. On the other end, I know people who are cheerful and happy who lack many of these things.

The truth is that happiness comes from growth. We are only really happy when we are increasing the quality of our lives or the lives of others. Happiness doesn’t lie in the achievements, it lies in the achieving. If you are wondering what constitutes growth, look back at my purpose of personal development.

Don’t make your happiness rely on things, or the environment. Happiness isn’t attached to your wealth, achievements, relationships or any external factor. Happiness is attached to your own sense that you are working towards increasing the quality of your life or the lives of others.

Benefit Number Two: Control

The amount of control we have over our lives is directly attached to our focus on personal growth. Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, illustrates this point so concisely. In the book, he talks about the Circle of Influence. Anything within this circle is under our control. Anything outside this circle is beyond our ability to control.

The key, however, is that the circle doesn’t remain constant. If you put your focus and attention within your circle of influence, your circle expands. By focusing on what you can control, you increase your ability to control. By focusing on what you can’t control, your circle decreases. It is my belief that depression is largely caused by people who put so much focus outside their circle of influence that it has shrunk to a point where they don’t feel that they have any control whatsoever.

If you focus on personal development, then you naturally focus within your circle. By taking responsibility for the outcome of your life, you gain the power to decide where it will go. Will you be a leader or a follower? Will you live a life of incredible happiness, joy and contribution or will you live a life of desperation, misery and pain?

Benefit Number Three: Contribution

The more we have, the more we can give. This extends to far more than money. By being a believer in personal development, you serve as a role model to others. By overcoming obstacles you can help other people overcome those obstacles as well.

Improving yourself creates ripples outwards. These ripples disturb the natural state of other people until they too heed the call of growth and awareness. Steve Pavlina says it so eloquently when he asks, “Are you a bear or an eagle?” Do you soar above the clouds or hibernate in a cave?

By increasing the resources you have the more you can share. The more money you make, the more you can give to others. The more effectively you manage time, the more you can use it to volunteer. The more energy you have the more you can devote to projects that benefit humanity.

Ultimately, this has to be one of the primary reasons for pursuing personal development. The pursuit allows you to benefit others. Don’t you deserve to leave the world with more than you entered it?

For me, personal development isn’t an activity I pursue. I don’t devote a certain amount of my time to it as a hobby. Personal development is the compelling obsession by which I live my life. The ability to grow, expand, experience, improve and enjoy every second of life compels me forward in every moment. I frame all of my experiences in terms of how they allow me to increase the quality of my life.

Don’t be the person who reads a self-help book, tells a bunch of their friends about how great it is and then fails to use any of it in your life. Don’t let my words today go ignored. Even if your life is so out of control that you can only invest ten minutes a day towards your improvement, invest it. Even if you are so crippled by fear that you can’t see how you can ever overcome your goals, take the most minute steps today. Frame personal development into your own personal definition of its purpose.

Get the most out of your life!

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  • Steve Moore

    Interesting and valid points you made here. Personal Development has been a part of my life so long I think I forget that it may not come as naturally for everyone else. Something clicked inside me many years ago during college when I shifted from an attitude of complacency and occasional depression, to finally realizing I had to take personal responsibility if I was to have a happy life. Perhaps one of the hardest parts in personal development is simply making the decision to do it?

  • Scott Young

    Pursuing personal development requires a higher level of consciousness. To many people are living at such a low level of awareness that the concept of personal development doesn’t seem too attractive. Then you have others who are on the edge, people who like to gather information and then don’t do anything with it.

    In my experience, the biggest hurdle in personal development has always been the difference between knowing what to do and doing what you know. Many people already know what they need to do, but don’t seem to make the leap into action.

    So I think you are absolutely correct, actually deciding to do it, is probably the hardest step.

  • Mark Ott

    Wow, this speaks so much to the way I live my life now. Mine was an event that totally changed the way I lived and saw the world, detailed here:
    I changed my relationship with everyone. I finally figured out what I should do, not what society told me to do.
    I wake up at 5am every day of the week and go to bed at 10:30 every day.
    I watch very little television
    I make the most of every moment I am awake, trying to make myself better.
    I look out for me first, keeping me happy as I know that I cannot make anyone else happy unless I am happy.

    Your site is very inspirational to people like me as it represents a support group, sortof. I sometimes feel so alone in my ‘lifestyle’ of constant improvement as I am surrounded by people I call ‘sheep’, those who just wake up and go through the motions. I have decided that I need to avoid those people as they just drag me down.

    Thanx for the online support group 🙂

  • Scott Young

    Mark – I know what you mean. Recently I presented my “icebreaker” speech for my local Toastmasters club, where you are supposed to introduce yourself. In this speech I talked about my own passion for personal development and listed a few of the, arguably minor, things I have overcome in my own life. While Toastmasters are naturally very supportive, I think I saw a few grimaces when I mentioned giving up television.

    Don’t use the fact that you are different as a reason to go back to everyone elses lifestyle. Be a rolemodel for others to show how great life can really be if we decide to make it that way.

    I remember hearing on one of Anthony Robbins audio programs about his trip to his highschool reunion. In the tape, Tony said how going back to highschool reminded him of how he had been so different as a kid and had lacked confidence. As he points out, however, look at where being different has gotten him.

    I don’t want to live an average life with an average amount of experience, an average amount of happiness with an average contribution. I want to live an exceptional life. If that means that I get a few odd looks from my behavior, so be it.

    Decide to be one of the few that takes control of their own life, their own happiness and their own growth.

  • willyoubemyfriendGodfather

    I think that life in these times is not unlike the clueless masses observed in the movie “The Matrix”.

    How many times have I thought to myself,

    “Well, my life’s not great but I’m better off than 5.5 billion other people! Right?”

    Am I?

    By what criteria? Money? Health? Food and Shelter? Family Future and Security?

    “At least I’m not living in a rock quarry in Afghanistan…”

    Let’s see…I owe over a million in mortgages, my daughter plans to attend USC next year. And, I’ve been unemployed for over a year, now. My wife and I have been on the “blame-merry-go-round” for the last 5 years; now we hardly talk…

    A rock quarry may be a step up!

    How did this come to pass?

    I did everything I was told to do! Got my MBA. Worked 60 hrs/week for years on end. Invested in stocks and real estate; no fancy cars and split-level homes for me, no sir! I worked with absolute pricks for bosses and bit my tongue at every meeting. I amassed ‘000’s in stock options because I was such a good leader…Was the ISO-9000 King! Continuous improvement…Corrective Action…100% Customer Satisfaction!

    Why didn’t it work? I’m 52. Instead of comfortably easing towards retirement, I’m starting all over. WTF????

    There’s a conflict taking place. People are conflicted. I’m conflicted.

    Why doesn’t it work?

    Could it be we are forced to lie to ourselves?

    Could it be our education system is so outdated and irrelevant?

    Could it be we make such cavalier choices on such crucial matters as where we live, who we marry, and what’s for dinner?

    All my friends talk of stress and high Blood Pressure, sugar counts, cholesterol…Gotta lose weight, let’s go jogging! Shall we meet at the track tonight?

    Why is it, no one talks of happiness? Am I better off than 5.5 Billion others?

    Maybe not?