It’s hard to describe how I feel about personal development becoming the new black. On the one hand it is obviously pleasing to see people paying attention to becoming better by the day, while on the other, seeing how personal development alienates one person from another, as a concept, it easily becomes less than savory.
Personal development starts as an inchoate process, developing by degrees into what ultimately becomes a way of life – you are not doing improvement intentionally any more, but it’s a part of who you are.
The thing is though, that once we start trying to reach higher we often forget about one seemingly naïve fact; and that is that we cannot survive as in island. Personal development is hence worth nothing if we don’t learn how to implement it into our interpersonal relationships and thus bring more out of us as to offer to the world.
Personal development is not only about you
At least it shouldn’t be. You see, becoming preoccupied with adding more to your daily routine just for a good measure can easily become a burden on the long haul.
What is personal development aiming for? What is the main purpose?
Rhetoric questions. I know, boring.
Let me skip the rhetoric thought and address the elephant in the room – why we all engage into self-improvement is more than evident; we want to improve our circumstances through improving ourselves. But ultimately it all stems down to being accepted, fitting in into a certain circle, connecting with people and adding value to the surroundings.
What personal development can do, and I’ve witnessed it over and over nowadays, is making us too much preoccupied with the “self” factor. This is devastating at a number of levels.
Not only do we fail to improve these relationships with people around us, but neglecting them, we even tip the scale in the wrong direction.
Focusing excessively on oneself defeats the purpose
Having the restraint and discipline to draw a line here and there, detaching from other people as to pay attention to your goals and routines is almost common sense. But avoiding people, or neglecting the ones close to you can easily sent up red flags suggesting that your personal development efforts have in fact crossed the line and are, in a way, counterproductive.
And no matter how hard one is trying to provide a rationale on why he is measuring the grams of protein in his bowl, or how long is he trying to explain why instead of going out with friends he “must” go to bed at ten o’clock, it all feels like common sense suspended.
Just read these motivational athlete quotes and try to find where they exclude other people. You’ll be surprised when you realize that there is no need for exclusion, nor isolation. Athletes, the most dedicated people on earth, can find time for others, can socialize, and interact with people. What is this telling you?
That is the reason I sense the obvious duality about the very progress of personal development as a dispersive idea. People get the essence wrong, and thinking that they are doing well for themselves, they are in fact creating an ever growing anchor holding them back from enjoying the lifestyle they deserve.
We are social creatures; and forging any strategy that will detach us from this innate nature of ours is worth addressing upfront.
Balance, sure, but how?
I can preach different words that provide some context over and over, but trying to detach from the habit of focusing too much upon yourself overnight is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It simply won’t work.
The whole concept of personal development should in fact be thoroughly rethought. Start with the social vertical in mind. Go on from there.
And not that I don’t know how it is like to mistake personal development for egoism. If you take my example, I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to it.
Measuring minutes on the track, obsessing over dieting, cherishing a good book over a night out… It becomes quite addictive. You are upping the ante and constantly finding something else as to feed your narcissism.
This results with decreased interest over what others have to say; what happens around you that not necessarily targets your life nor your circumstances becomes increasingly boring and notoriously hard to pay attention to.
If you catch yourself saying “just this one more time” you are only deluding yourself and delaying the inevitable – personal development will finally intersect with egoism. And once this happen you must rethink your priorities.
Here is a more tangible set of examples on how to achieve balance and give personal development the right aim.
- Set aside time for your significant other and friends and family. Never compromise on this one. “If you are improving yourself you will have more to bring to others”- this is true, but it becomes a complete fallacy if you make neglecting others a habit of yours. That way even if you improve tenfold, it will always be a chase around the maypole.
- Never think about personal development as if it must bring results tomorrow. This way it only makes you more obsessed with your resolve to focus upon yourself. Think of your self-improvement journey as something that will last. In this regard it is way easier to imagine such a lifestyle coexisting with your family life, social life, responsibilities towards others.
Here is an example – instead of hitting your head against the wall, trying to figure out how to lose 10 pounds in a week, you can adopt a more holistic approach and go slowly, stretching your deadline further in the future. That way, when you are asked for a night out, or go to see a movie, a bag of popcorn won’t really make any difference. And if you catch yourself thinking how one day can mess up your entire schedule, then ask yourself what is wrong with the big picture. Even celebrities can have a day off, and even fitness legends can have a cheat meal – why are you any different?
- Find at least one person that will want to improve alongside with you. That way it is way easier to pay attention to interpersonal relationships and not focus entirely upon your thing.
Personal development should be a part of your lifestyle, and not a sacrifice to get the lifestyle you want to have. It should interlink with every other aspect of your life and hence coexist. Any other way around that is simply going to be an exercise in frustration and defeating the purpose.
Improve yourself so you can bring more to others. But remember, making a habit to first improve while neglecting others would make the first statement notoriously hart to materialize. Once you focus extensively upon yourself and detach from others it is a long way back. Often times it never happens.
Your personal development journey should not be an island, in the same regard that you are not one.