I’m a guy who is rather interested in self-development, and in fact spend the majority of my time engaging in one form of it or another. For my day job I write about self-development, health and money making, I also run a website on the subject for fun, and my other main pass-time is bodybuilding – which of course is a form of self-development in itself.
As you can imagine then over the years I have come up with a plan for my own personal development and this has been informed and adapted over the years as I’ve learned from experience and from research. Here I will share my own personal development program, but of course you may find that a different plan works better for you – so take from it what you will and reject what doesn’t apply. The more you read the more you will be able to develop.
One thing that of course will differ between people is their goals and what they want to accomplish which is right away why one person’s plan won’t apply to everyone. My personal goals are very much based around physical and mental performance and what I’m primarily interested in is increasing my potential so that I can run faster, hit harder and think quicker. My real reason for this is that I think it will open up more opportunities and generally increase my freedom. I also wanted to do this so that I could be in some way pioneering – so that I could be somewhere new or come up with a new idea that would be remembered. And lastly I want to be some form of inspiration to people around me before I die. These might be lofty aims, but we all have to aim for something and I feel it’s the journey that’s actually more important than the destination. Going after these things makes me happy, gives me structure and is an adventure in itself.
However for me coming up with my goals itself is part of the plan and actually arguably the most important part of it – as without your goals you aren’t going anywhere fast. And the good news is that coming up with your goals is something that applies to most people and is mostly universal. Your destination will be different but the same strategy may work equally well for you.
So step one of the plan is to formulate your goals and know what it is you want from life. There are various techniques you can use to accomplish this, but one I like the most is the ‘fivefold why’ in which you ask yourself something five times. Ask what it is that you want to achieve and then consistently ask yourself ‘why’ which will ultimately will help you get to the route of what you really want. So if you want to be a footballer, then you might find that what you *really* want is the fame that comes from that, and what you really want the fame for is so that you can feel a sense of recognition. Suddenly you realize that it’s recognition itself that will make you happy, and that will then be your aim instead. Other ways I have addressed my goals are to look at the accomplishments that have brought me the most satisfaction in my life so far, as well as to look at my role models and the stories that speak to me and to see what they have in common. Another technique I have heard of is to write down your eulogy as you would like it to sound, and then aim to live the life that would result in that account – if you want to live life as a family man then you suddenly know to spend more time with your family.
From here you then need to take your more abstract goals and you need to create a set plan for how you intend to achieve them or at least work toward them. My personal plans were to be self-employed so that I might be more free to work where and as I choose, to write about subjects that interested me and that I found helpful myself, and to build a physique that would give me more authority to talk on subjects of health and fitness and that would better aid me in activities like rock climbing that give me that sense of freedom. I also have given myself various other short term goals – such as recently learning PHP coding.
All these goals aim towards my more abstract aims, but are more concretely achievable, and I have then broken them down into goals for my lifestyle which is the crucial aspect: to get into shape and build muscle you must not create a goal to ‘gain five pounds of muscle’ as that is not directly within your control. Instead you should make a goal such as to ‘attend the gym without fail four times a week for a month’ or in the case of programming ‘to spend an hour a night creating a content management system in PHP’. Each of these shorter term goals are things that are entirely down to your own dedication and so they are much easier to stick to – and because they are working towards the things that bring you the most fulfilment you should be motivated to carry on regularly.
I also make sure that the balance of life always remains right. Though I’m very body conscious I still go out drinking with friends and enjoy cake after my meals, and though I love writing and learning I make sure I spend plenty of time relaxing too. Try not to take on too many of your ambitions at once, but instead pick two or three things to focus on at a time – ultimately you’ll be more likely to stick to them that way.
Changing Your Brain
Only sometimes it doesn’t work out like that, and even with the right plan set out, you still don’t have the ability sometimes to stay motivated. Don’t fret – you’re just like everyone else. What you need to do then though is not to move on to a new resolution and forget your plans, but to instead look at the mental blocks that are preventing you from continuing. Often this is a matter of changing your thinking using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, whereas sometimes it’s a matter of using discipline (I don’t get to check my e-mail until I have achieved certain tasks), of giving yourself more energy, or of simply reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing (if you are dieting, try pinching your flab next time you reach for a cupcake… ).
In many instances you will find that fear of failure is what’s holding you back in which case you need to do some soul searching to overcome that and use some self talk to talk yourself into it. Ultimately though you need to take full responsibility here for any failure and you need to find ways to train your own thinking. The thing that worked most for me? A simple rule that if I didn’t have the time or the energy to do a workout, I still had to do three sets of 100 press ups (there’s always time for that). This worked perfectly because after doing those first 300 which never seemed so bad, I would often get more energy and find myself doing a whole workout – showing myself that really I did have the time all along and was in fact just making excuses. The best way to achieve ANY goal? To repeatedly work towards it and not take excuses.
Improve Other Areas
There are other factors though that might be holding you back. This could be the fact that you don’t have time to work out because of work, or that your social life is leaving you drained and depressed. In other words then, you need to improve not just one area of your life – but to make an effort in all of them because you will find that they all have knock on effects on each other. This means improving your diet, getting up earlier, sleeping better, putting time in with your friends and changing your career if it’s not bringing you fulfilment.
And to do all these things you will need courage. You will need the courage to take risks in your career, and to stick to your guns and to go after what you want. And this courage must come from really wanting to develop yourself in the ways you are aiming to, and from knowing that life is about trying to seize the day, about learning from mistakes, and about taking those risks. It’s better to be trying to move forward and making mistakes than it is to be staying exactly where you are. Really understanding that is the best way to get yourself on the path to development.