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Personal development is simple – but it is not easy January 25, 2007

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Personal Growth Books.
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I suspect that if you are like me, your house, your apartment, or your record of books taken out at the library is full of self-improvement, or personal development books of one kind or another. I can probably not look at one bookshelf in my home that does not contain a personal development book of some sort. And they are not just in the subject of “personal” development – I have “improvement” books on virtually every topic I have ever been interested in – right back to my university days. One of them at that time was “How to write Better Examinations in College.” And it actually worked – my grades went up when I applied its principles.

One of my hobbies is art, particularly painting. Many of the books I have on painting are invariably “how to” do a better job in painting a particular type of picture such as a still life, or how to do better at an aspect of painting such as “better composition.”  In my other hobbies as well, I have a many books explaining how to become better at that particular hobby. In fact, the act of reading in itself is a subtle self-improvement or personal development effort.

What drives us to be so interested in self-help or personal development? I know that for myself, there are a number of factors at work. In the first place, many of the books on this subject, and likewise with good material on the Internet, is simply interesting its own right. I found Wayne Dyer’s Books to be fascinating reading as they related to a particular approach to life. I think too that we are also searching for the perfect system for solving the many problems or “opportunities in disguise” that we are faced with throughout our lives.

We read and read and read, only to discover, at least in my case, that there is probably no perfect system for dealing with all of life’s challenges. For those who have faith, however, their religion may offer a system with many solutions. Even in the case of religion however, there are books and study classes on how to benefit more from the particular religious system or the belief system, sometimes embodied in texts, that the religious system is governed by.

While, in my mind, there is in all likelihood no “perfect” system for meeting everything thrown at us, some personal development materials such as certain books and Internet sites have been more effective for me than some others. The real key, I have discovered, is that while reading this material on personal development is helpful and interesting, at some point I have had to really make a strong effort to put some of the principles into action and not just continually study and absorb them. To read and read and read and not act is to be in the ready-aim, ready-aim, ready-aim, mode all the time. At some point you have to “fire” and enact some of the principles you are becoming so familiar with.

It sounds simple, and it is. But, it is not easy. It is fairly simple, for example, to understand the meaning of the Law of Attraction, but it is not easy to implement its principles. It is simple to understand Tony Robbins’ principle of the need to take “massive action” but again it’s not easy.  It is simple to understand Richard Carlson’s idea of not sweating the small stuff, but not becoming aggravated at the many things that can go wrong in our daily lives is not easy – we do get worked- up about these things. So much so, that I gave up on the small stuff and bought his book “What About the Big Stuff?” In other words, the concepts of personal development are essentially simple to grasp but they are tough to enact on a consistent basis. And I haven’t found an easy way to enact or put into perfect practice all the self-help advice I have consumed.

So, the approach I took, and I am still working on it, is to continue reading voraciously in the field of personal development (because I do like reading this material), but I decided to concentrate on one major approach or concept/discipline for an overall strategic attack on personal improvement while using pieces of other systems as tactical weapons. For example, Tony Robbins’ idea of taking massive action and making a commitment may be imperative to enact, but there are many means or methods by which to take those actions and these methods are embodied in the writings of many other good writers on the topic of personal development. I might for example have to take massive action to stop procrastinating, but I could well turn to another expert for good ideas on how to do it. I might take massive action to solve a financial problem, but the “how” might be found in the writings of someone discussing personal financial management.

I’ll close this with a comment from David J. Schwartz, in his book, The Magic of Thinking Big: “Nothing stands as a bigger challenge than making the most of yourself.”

A technique or program to discover our life purpose January 22, 2007

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Purpose.
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Discovering our true life purpose can be a major advance in putting our personal development efforts on a higher level beyond just our everyday personal responsibilities.

Many of us go through a large part of our lives with that vague feeling, that although we are achieving various life and career goals, we may not be doing “what we were really meant to do.” That’s one of the reasons we are interested in personal development.

Although I have had what I would call a successful life in terms of providing for my family and having an interesting line of work, I always kept searching for that elusive commitment to a larger purpose. I was meeting my responsibilities but I felt I might not have been living “my real purpose” in life.

Hence, my reading of many books in an effort to perhaps discover what I was on this earth for. Books on various topics such as just do what you love and the money will follow. The problem, for many of us, in fact, is in discovering what we really love to do – making that determination is harder than it sounds.  Another book, whose title grabbed me and which I have dipped into is: “I Could Do Anything If Only I knew What it Was.”

My favorite, when I was longing to get out of corporate life and into what I considered the freedom of self-employment, or working for myself was: “Breaking Out of A Job You Don’t Like and the Regimented Life.” Many such books line my bookshelves.

At one point in my life, I was looking for a new career direction and a counselor gave me a book by Arnold M. Patent, titled: “You Can Have It All.” At the time, despite reading the book several times, and underlining it copiously, I really didn’t understand it. What it was basically, seeing it in hindsight, was a book about the Law of Attraction, but it didn’t come right out and say that, perhaps because at that time, the term may not have been in vogue. Patent’s book focuses on the abundance available in the universe and how through various techniques we can appreciate that abundance and bring it into our lives. I picked up the book again a few days ago, and I finally started “to get it.”

Right now, I want to talk about an interesting small section of the book in which the author  advises us on how to discover our life purpose. I have read a number of authors’ techniques on this topic, but right now I’d like to concentrate on Arnold Patent’s approach.

Essentially, here’s what he suggests, and I am paraphrasing:

(1) List two of what you consider to be your unique or special qualities. In my case the two were (1) knowledge-seeking and (2) creatively communicative.

(2) Then you write down two ways you enjoy expressing these qualities when interacting with other people. So I wrote down (1) help inform people of what I have learned and (2) encourage people in their efforts.

(3) Then you are supposed to describe your ideal universe as follows:
What does it look like?
How is everyone interacting?
What does it feel like?
Remember that the ideal universe is a fun place to be.

(3) Here are my answers about my ideal universe
It is peaceful, grateful and motivated
Interactions are based on wisdom and win/win in developing solutions to common problems
There is an overriding appreciation of the concept of abundance

Then you combine the three subsets above into a single statement, and that is your life purpose.

Here’s what I have come up with, and remember, this is my first attempt, so I’m going to have to refine it – right now I think it sounds a little presumptuous:

“My purpose is to utilize my knowledge, skills and communicative abilities to inform and encourage people and thereby help them in a meaningful way to be happy, confident and secure within a universe that they regard as having abundance for all.”

It may sound somewhat grandiose, but I consider it an “ideal” life purpose. It’s something to work toward. Moreover, my personal view is that one’s ideal life purpose is not necessarily something they can do to earn their living. It can be for a fortunate few. But it having a stated ideal life purpose is a way that we can live our life through principles.

We all have a main area of responsibility in our lives. For me it is to ensure the well being of my family. But I can bring my life purpose into that responsibility. Also, because my self-employed business involves a lot of writing, I think I can work part of my purpose into that as well.

If you are interested in reading Arnold M. Patent’s book, You Can Have It All, the copy I have is the seventh edition 1988, in a large paperback format, from Celebration Publishing, New York.