In looking around at very different ways people pursue personal development, that is the act of attempting to get more out of you life, have lead to feel there are several distinct styles to pursuing that growth. Recognizing these different styles has helped me determine what types of personal development I like to pursue, along with the strengths and potential weaknesses involved. By being aware of the strengths and weaknesses associated with each style, you can compensate for those weaknesses and emphasize the strengths to get even more out of your life.
Chances are you will recognize aspects of each of these styles in your own behavior can give the ability to see your potential pitfalls and strengths. Also, by being aware of a different style you have the ability to try that style out. Purposefully trying a different style can give you a completely different perspective to your own growth. The four major styles of personal development I tend to notice are the Explorer, the Builder, the Innovator and the Optimizer.
The Explorer is the person is insatiably curious, driven by the exploration of his or her environment, relationships or consciousness, curiosity is the primary motivator for this individual. Explorers will likely be willing to try out completely different ideas on a whim just for the new experience. An explorer will also be more inclined to pursuing lateral growth as it contains the new ideas and experiences that he or she seeks.
A great example of an Explorer would be Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek. An explorer to the extreme, his entire life is dedicated to the pursuit of new experiences and discovery. This driving for discovery allows him to discover new things, ideas and people (in a convenient one hour format). Most of the members of any episode of Star Trek approach their own pursuit to getting the most out of their lives and the lives of others as explorers.
Scientists are usually explorers. Pursuing a greater understanding of an idea through a heightened level of curiosity and passion is the essential drive of the Explorer. The thrill of new discoveries, new opportunities and novelty are the greatest joy of someone who is an Explorer. With these sets of personality traits, however, there come both strengths and weaknesses.
The strengths of the Explorer foremost is that they have a higher ability to be able to live in the moment. Velocity based thinking is something that comes more naturally to an explorer and with it, greater levels of satisfaction, happiness and success. Another benefit of this style is that they can often operate through intuition spontaneously. This makes an Explorer ideal for pursuing new ideas. With the only thought in discovery and not in trying to maintain their position, Explorers tend to have happy lives.
There are weaknesses to an Explorer mindset, however. Explorers are far more prone to straying aimlessly as they pursue anything that catches their attention. Building discipline and purpose into their actions will allow them to stay directed towards objectives that have meaning. Explorers also have a harder time appreciating the things they already have in life and the life that exists around them. In the constant pursuit of discovery, it is easy to lose gratitude for the quality of experience they currently enjoy.
If you think you are primarily an Explorer I would start by considering adding more purpose and discipline into your lives. Goal setting and purpose are excellent ways to help temper that drive to discover into a meaningful mission. To utilize your strengths I would focus on building more enthusiasm and passion into your life. By creating a greater emotional connection to your daily events you can really take advantage of your ability to focus on the joys of the current moment. Some recommended reading for Explorers:
The Power of Goals
Goals! An Interactive Guide (this is a free full version program)
The builder, in many ways, is the opposite of the explorer. Builders tend to focus themselves on creating, amassing, collecting and training. A builder will focus his or her efforts on creating something. This can be manifested in a body builder who builds a fantastic figure, the businessman who creates empires or the artist who spends months agonizing over the details of his or her craft. Builders focus on creation.
If you want a great example of a builder mentality, you are reading from one right now. I am a classic builder. I love to create things, spending hours and months working on a new project. The act of creation for me is what gives me incredible joy. Although I can utilize and relate to all four styles, this is my primary one. My ultimate manifestation of the desire to build is in building the best life possible. This work is really just a result of that desire. Changing habits, learning, studying and philosophizing are all just outlets for me to build the best life possible.
Entrepreneurs are usually builders. The desire to create a business has an almost unnatural appeal to this person. Building an empire has immense appeal as it is a function of their personal style. Artists can often be builders as well, focusing their efforts on building great works of art. Here is a hint to know if you are a builder. Do you constantly find yourself involved in some long-term project? Chances are if you refer to your goal as a project you have a bit of builder in you.
Builders have many strengths and weaknesses. The primary strengths of a builder is that they are able to become incredibly successful by our modern standards. Success, whether it is money, status or even having an excellent life often require us to invest in large projects of creation. Builders usually are able to connect purpose to what they are doing as well. The creation of anything requires a purpose, so builders intuitively ask themselves the meaning of what they are doing. Builders more quickly recognize and appreciate their current position in life.
The biggest weakness of a builder mentality is getting focused on a positional mentality. This is a suboptimal form of thinking that reduces your growth and increases unnecessary comparison and competition. Builders can often live too much into the future as they focus purely on achieving goals, without really experiencing the joy towards them. To a builder, life isn’t usually thought of as a journey but one monumental project. Builders are also less suited for lateral growth, which is based more on discovery then achievement. So careful attention needs to be made to ensure this aspect of growth is maintained.
My suggestion for builders is to start focusing your life on the joy you get from creation, not the end result. Goal setting can be abused by a builder mentality if they focus solely on their objective and not the path. Lateral growth also needs to be consciously developed. Although the skills of spontaneity and discovery are less given by default, they can be developed through conscious will to ensure the best life possible. Some recommended reading for builders:
Balancing Today and Tomorrow
Goals! An Interactive Guide (specifically reference the chapter on velocity based goal setting to ensure your goals stay on track)
The innovator is the creative maverick. They are the first to discover unique solutions and are always able to come up with those piercing insights to solve problems. Often mixed with either builders or explorers, innovators come in many different types. Innovators with a more building bias often focus on creating new things never seen before. Innovators with a more explorer bias are in continuous search for those, “Aha!” moments.
A perfect example of an innovator would be the great Leonardo DaVinci. DaVinci was an eccentric man who invented many new things and was far ahead of his time. He was a talented artist and many of his sketches showed magnificent inventions that he could not realize during his time such as the helicopter. Credited with painting the famous Mona Lisa, he is probably one of the most notable examples of an innovator to have ever lived.
Innovators are also those people who constantly try to find new ideas that make things better, faster or greater. Building on their skills of non-linear thought, they don’t look for the obvious solutions but brand new ones. If you’ve ever listened to an Anthony Robbins tape where he makes small descriptions of himself you start to see Innovator biases in him. He frequently states how his focus has been on discovering those ideas that can make changes faster and more radically. Referring to new idea as tools or technologies demonstrates his bias towards innovative solutions to problems.
The strengths of the Innovator are many. Their latent ability to find completely original solutions and use creative ideas allows them to operate on levels no one else has done before. These people are often pioneers, willing to push the boundaries of what is capable, including in their own lives. In more modest capacities, Innovators are those people who tend to focus their efforts on finding original and novel solutions to their problems.
The strengths of the Innovator are usually fairly obvious. Their natural talents for creativity, originality and uniqueness benefit them in finding solutions to problems others see as insolvable. Instead of relying on the past they can create completely new routes. This innovative capacity is an incredible resource in problem solving. Tapping this latent ability and putting it to work can be an immense source of power.
The weaknesses of the Innovator are more subtle. In a search for that creative jump to a new level of excellence, they can easily miss the fact that optimization is necessary for results. Many things require no more than continuous and efficient action along with patience. Innovative leaps certainly help, but if they are your sole source of improvement it is hard to build a lasting foundation of excellence and mastery.
My suggestion for Innovators is to try to utilize your innovative nature on minuscule attributes to allow more optimization in your life. Things like communication skills, physical health and business often require a large amount of continuous and minor improvements. By focusing your innovation down to making minute, creative changes can make you a better optimizer. Secondly, utilizing your creative bias can allow you to make significant improvements provided that innovation is directed properly. Finding a purpose and meaning in the work you do is critical for this. Here is some reading I suggest for Innovators:
Optimization VS Innovation
The Optimizer is the fourth style of personal development. Optimizers tinker with things and focus on creating small and continuous improvements. Builders with a bias towards optimizing often pursue goals that involve creating something, little by little. Optimizers focus their efforts on making continuous and gradual improvements. This bias for optimization can be incredibly powerful as to be successful for many things the most necessary component is continuous improvement.
Someone who displays a large Optimizer bias would be Steve Pavlina. A popular personal development blogger, Steve has built his focus and attention to the process of steady and gradual improvements both in his personal development and in his business. In his discussion about what makes a successful blog, he makes reference to his optimization of ads, continuous building of content and constantly improving the details. When Steve was in the shareware gaming industry most of his pointers for success involved patience and constant improvement.
Although the Innovator may seem flashier and more exciting, the Optimizer will often have a more consistent level of success. Whether it is blog traffic, physical fitness, finances, business, relationships or communication skills, the ability to be patient and focus on a continuous flow of little improvement is often the primary ingredient for success. The ability to have patience, work consistently and improve steadily is the Optimizer’s biggest strengths.
The weaknesses of the Optimizer is that sometimes complete shifts in thinking are necessary to facilitate true change. Innovation is often necessary to break through barriers when additional optimization won’t do anything. The Optimizer is also far more likely to get caught up with improving things mindlessly. Having a perfectly structured time management schedule is useless if it can’t provide you with the flexibility to pursue opportunities.
My suggestion for Optimizers is to practice your creative skills and become more attuned to points in your life where gradual improvements won’t lead to a higher standard. Optimizers should also involve themselves in careers, activities and hobbies that unlock their latent ability for getting continuously better. Learning to set proper goals can also ensure that the optimization you pursue is useful. Suggested reading for Optimizers:
Goals! An Interactive Guide
Back to Basics
Altering Your Own Style
I don’t subscribe to the belief that says your ingrained personality traits are set in stone. You are free to modify your personality style or make subtle alterations to it. But I suspect that most people will not want to do a complete shift from their old personality, but a slight adjustment to compensate for weaknesses and highlight strengths.
The foremost power is awareness. By being aware of your personality style you can more easily recognize the pitfalls that this style can fall into. By learning to recognize when to use their innovative capacities, Optimizers can break through what are often seen as impossible barriers. Innovators can also recognize when the solution is patience, not a new idea, in order to consistently see results.
Chances are you have elements from all personality styles. You may possess a bias for exploring, but there are probably times when you enjoyed creating things as well. You can leverage small hints of one personality trait and expand it to expand your potential. Recognizing a completely new perspective can give you the ideas and resources to look at your own life in a new way.
Whether you feel you are the Explorer, the Builder, the Innovator or the Optimizer, you can use those built in strengths and weaknesses to build a better quality of life. You may also discover a new perspective for looking at reality that is completely different to the one you’re accustomed to. With this knowledge, you may also gain a better understanding of why you are experiencing the challenges and success you are in life.