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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.”

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