I spend a huge chunk of my spare time searching for information that is going to improve my life. I’m the dream customer for any self-development guru because I want to believe – the strange things is I’m not sure if any of this material has ever led to a substantial improvement in my life.
Does Richard Branson Read Himself to Sleep with Personal Development Books?
I’ve a sneaky suspicion that successful people don’t bother much with personal development books unless they are writing them. It seems to be mostly those of us who are struggling to be succesful that consume this material. I sometimes worry that all this content can ever do is teach me how to struggle.
I’m not saying personal development books contain bad information – I’ve read some amazing stuff, and I’m sure at least fifty per cent of it it reasonably true. The real problem is there is so much shit already in my head that adding new compost to the heap isn’t such a great solution.
Reach Your Potential by Dumping Beliefs
Reaching my potential means becoming the person I’m meant to be. I know the term ‘person I’m meant to be’ sounds a bit airy-fairy, but it simply means the ‘me’ that exists when I remove all of the shit that has been holding me back in life.
Reaching my potential is not about becoming somebody else – it is about becoming me. Steve Jobs didn’t become successful by learning to become somebody else – he succeeded by being himself, warts and all.
All of the real personal development in my life has involved jettisoning existing beliefs. I can’t think of even one occasion when things improved for me by taking on new beliefs.
I’ve benefited far more from failure in my life than any advice from a self-help guru. The impact of hitting one of these rock bottoms is always to shatter some of my beliefs. My journey is easier after one of these dark episodes because my load has been lightened.
Knowing is Not Enough
If having good information was enough, we would almost all be in peak fitness and living in castles. The problem isn’t usually a deficiency of knowledge but an inability of this wisdom to penetrate our belief system.
I wasted many years of my life to alcohol addiction. I entered my first rehab at nineteen and read tons of self-help books but none of this information helped me. This is because the real problem wasn’t lack of information – it was my beliefs about life that were keeping me trapped.
My Continued Obsession with Personal Development
Perhaps my cynicism towards the personal development industry is a bit unfair. I do benefit from a boost to my motivation after reading some of this stuff. It might also be the case that reading this material plants a seed in my mind that can later blossom when the conditions are right.
How to Use Personal Development Material Safely
• Understand that you become successful by being yourself and not by becoming somebody else.
• Remember that it is more likely to be your beliefs that are holding you back and not lack of information.
• Try to figure out if there are any self-limiting beliefs holding you back from success.
• Don’t become too dependent on personal development books to sort out your problems – as John Lennon could have said, life is what happens to you while you’re busy reading self-help books.