This is the fourth and final article in my series entitled, “Patterns for Success”. The patterns we use for installing changes in personal development are critical to ensure that we can have continued improvement and growth in our lives. A haphazard method of installing new ideas for our growth only rarely results in permanent change and success. In trying to identify my own pattern for installing personal development ideas into my life I come to the same three fundamental keys: ideas, implementation and review. In “Ideas” I outlined procedures for generating new ideas for your own improvement. In “Implementation” I discussed methods for implementing those ideas more effectively and the potential barriers to that implementation. Now, I will illustrate the third and final key in my pattern for success, review.
Patterns for Success
Most people intuitively understand that you need ideas in order to have improvement. From this spot, most people also easily recognize that you need to apply action and implement these ideas in order for them to come into being. Review, however, is an aspect of personal development that is often neglected and, as a result, many people miss this essential aspect of the pattern for improvement.
Review takes the ideas you have implemented and allows you to really learn from your mistakes and successes. By reviewing your progress you can gain understanding into the details of why something turned out the way it did. Review ensures that you only have to learn a lesson once. If we go back to our tree analogy, ideas are the seeds, implementation grows them strong then review roots those trees firmly in place so they won’t blow down when a storm passes by.
Really being able to learn from your past growth allows you to replicate it again more easily. If you have to restart back at square one every time you want to set a goal or reach an objective you will spend your whole life running in circles. Taking time to review the things you have already learned and solidify those details in your mind ensures you only make steps forward in your own growth.
If I were to answer the question as to what single factor has really propelled my own personal growth it would have to be starting this blog. Although I have pursued personal development for awhile now, starting this blog has been like throwing gasoline on a fire as my own personal growth has risen at an explosive rate. The major reason I feel that this has occurred is because blogging is a form of review. By writing down the lessons I have learned I really start to define those lessons inside my head and they become solid. Writing my ideas and experiences has allowed me to fully understand ideas that were once vague and sketchy.
The reason review needs to be a separate step from implementation is pretty clear. While myself and many other have pointed out that you learn by doing and through your own experiences, this isn’t technically true. You don’t learn from experiences, you learn from your evaluation of those experiences. Because most of us do this process at a subconscious level for all of our significant experiences, we don’t usually need to make this point distinct. Let’s say that an infant touches a hot cooking element, the child will immediately recoil from the intense heat. Afterwards the child will evaluate that touching hot burners means pain and will avoid it in the future. In this case the learning came from the evaluation period after an action, not the action itself.
Although we will invariably learn from our experiences at a subconscious level, the learning produced by these quick and simple evaluations is generally very fuzzy and vague. If you are unable to articulate the lessons you have learned, it will be very difficult to utilize them. You probably have noticed this phenomena just from reading my blog. There are likely many entries you have read where you felt a certain familiarity with an idea I presented. I think this is because your experiences had already taught you that lesson beforehand, but you never moved from that vague familiarity into the ability to articulate your thoughts on the issue.
As anyone who actively sets written goals will certainly understand, there is a marked difference between having a desire or impulse for a certain objective and actually having a written down goal staring back at you. The difference in clarity is very noticeable. By being able to articulate your desires and phrase them in terms of goals you gain enormous clarity and insight. This is the exact same reason review is such a crucial step. Gaining precise clarity about the lessons life has taught you ensures that you never have to learn a lesson more than once.
In a past article on dealing with frustrations I mentioned a minor, yet frustrating, computer incident I had over the past few weeks. Recognizing my own frustration, I realized this would be a perfect time to really lock in my process for handling frustrations in life. Writing that article helped me clarify and specify the steps I use for handling frustrations. Now when I face another frustrating situation I know I will be far better equipped to handle that situation.
Now I want to ask you a question. How many times in your life have you become really agitated, stressed or frustrated? Chances are you have experienced this emotion more times than you can count. Now let me ask you another question. Do you believe it is possible to effectively manage frustration so that you don’t get into a negative state when you encounter a problem? Now I think if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you would have to answer yes to that question as well. So here is my final question. If you have experienced frustration more than once (considerably more) and you understand there is a method for handling it, why do you still get really frustrated when you handle problems?
Most of us incorrectly assume that we learn lessons after our first experiences, and in my experience this is rarely true. For most of us it takes a very special event to really take those lessons in. Most people encounter the same problems over and over again and never really internalize a method of solving them. Review processes allow you to internalize those lessons. Now I’m not going to say that it is possible to master frustration after only experiencing it once, but each time you do a review process you should be able to learn from those mistakes and gain better control over your improvement.
Do review processes just apply to emotional problems like frustration? Of course not. By writing about goal-setting, habit changing or organization I really gain a lot more insights and clarity into my own behaviors so that I can utilize them more effectively in the future. Although writing and blogging are just two ways to do review, any method of review you use can give you a greater level of clarity.
Zig Ziglar, famous author and speaker frequently points out his belief that, “everyone should write a book, and the title of that books should be ‘What I Think You Ought To Do To Get the Most Out of Your Life’.” Because by writing the book you would be able to really understand and articulate your own thoughts on life. Later Zig points out how writing his best-selling book, “See You at the Top” really allowed him to fully understand the ideas that he believed but was never able to articulate.
Another example of the importance of review processes is to look at Steve Pavlina. After starting his own personal development writings, Steve noted that he has experienced tremendous personal growth. Why? The answer is simple. By articulating your thoughts and reviewing the lessons he has already learned, Steve is solidifying the foundation he has already laid.
Forms of Review Processes
Do you have to blog, speak or write about your experiences in order to do a review process? No, there are many methods for conducting reviews of what you have learned in your own life. Just remember to do some form of review. Don’t spend your time spinning in circles, ensure that you carefully review anything that your experiences teach you so that you don’t have costly setbacks. Here are a few methods of review I find helpful.
Writing down your thoughts in a journal is an excellent form of review. By going over your thoughts on paper you can externalize any problems and gain incredible clarity. Unlike many of the other approaches I will recommend, this approach doesn’t require any other people to be effective, so it is probably a great place to start with your own review.
As I’ve previously mentioned, blogging my own thoughts has been immensely helpful in my own personal development. Writing to an audience really takes the process of journaling to another level. Although writing to a journal can give insights into your own processes and allow you to learn lessons, by being accountable to an audience, the standards are much higher. Instead of just randomly writing about various musings you are now required to have even greater clarity about your thoughts.
The best way to learn something is to teach others. I can understand that experience both from this blog and when I have taught first-aid and lifesaving courses. The amount of knowledge you gain from helping others is almost an order of magnitude greater than you receive through doing the processes yourself. Finding a method of imparting the experiences you have had onto other people is one of the best methods of review that I know of.
Meditation can be an excellent method to think and learn from your experiences. By sitting with quiet and reflecting on the ideas you have implemented in the past. Meditation can be a peaceful and relaxing way to review and improve. There are many different types of meditation and I am not an expert. If you are interested in this form of review I would suggest picking up a book on the subject.
I’m sure if you’ve spent any length of time on this blog you will know that I am just a little fanatical about doing weekly reviews. A weekly review basically takes the process of reviewing all of your implementations for the past week and dissects your progress. Far more thorough than daily journals and off-hand review processes a weekly review can be an excellent method for locking in all of the lessons the past week has taught you.
An instantaneous review is a review you do mentally immediately after experiencing something. This review requires the most discipline and can often be an inconvenience if you are in the middle of something, but it is probably the most efficient. Whenever you learn anything from your experiences, finding a method of remembering and locking that lesson into place immediately after the experience can ensure no ideas fall through the cracks.
Review allows you to utilize the experiences you have had and use them to your fullest capacity. Without review you are likely to have to repeat an experience dozens of times before a concept really sinks in. While review can often seem time consuming, carving out even a small slice of time for it can have tremendous benefits.
It is the pattern we use for any improvement that determines the effectiveness and efficiency of that improvement. A strong and constructive pattern will allow us to experience growth rapidly, while a vague pattern without a clear aim will only show repeated failures and obstacles. Generate ideas, implement those ideas and review that implementation. A simple but essential pattern for success.
What can you do with this information? From the all the information I have given you on my own pattern for personal development, I think there are really three major things you can do to improve your own pattern for personal development:
- Become more curious, enthusiastic and stubborn in finding ideas. Ideas hold the seeds for future growth and development. They have the potential to rapidly improve our lives if we can implement them. The quality of your action will be based on the quality of your ideas, so gather and select carefully.
- Start being more systematic, thorough and focused in your implementation. Use goals, trials and conscious practice to ensure that you can successfully implement the ideas you have collected. Don’t try to implement everything at once, but take an ordered and careful progression.
- Introduce more methods for accountability and review into your pattern for personal development. Whether this means journaling, mentoring or mediating, adding more review ensures that you don’t have costly setbacks and that every part of you is directed forwards.
Start looking at your own patterns, does it show similarities to the one I have used? How might you be able to improve your processes to ensure faster and greater results. Take a look at your pattern of success and get the most out of life!