Many people have good intentions when they take up personal development.
But most people give up on personal development too soon, because:
- They started for the wrong reasons,
- They picked the wrong course of action,
- They avoid experiencing their negative emotions,
- They lacked true support, or
- More than one of the above
1. Starting for the wrong reasons
Too often people pursue personal development for a quick fix rather than the hard work of actually fixing their problems in the long-term.
In those situations, personal development can actually harm you.
Here are some examples of quick fixes contrasted with long-term goals:
- Losing ten pounds is a quick fix. Improving nutrition, exercising regularly, and accepting your own body are long-term goals.
- Being more relaxed is a quick fix. Improving your relationships, being able to work through conflict more quickly, learning how to manage stress, and accepting yourself just exactly as you are — they’re all long-term goals.
- Finding a romantic partner is a quick fix. Having a solid relationship with yourself so that you’ll be emotionally mature enough for romantic intimacy, figuring out what you need for a relationship to work, accepting yourself even if you are single, and finding ways to be happy by just being you… are long-term goals.
Quick fixes mask your awareness of deeper problems — problems that usually center around not loving or accepting yourself.
Get into personal development for the right reasons, not the superficial ones.
Get into personal development for those long terms goals.
You may not be clear on those goals in the beginning, and that’s okay.
Just work toward getting more mindful of them. It’s an ongoing process.
2. Picking the wrong course of action
Most of the time, people pick the wrong course of action because they lack clear goals in the beginning.
Dieting is not the same as eating healthy, for instance. It may in fact be the opposite. It’s also not the same as being happier with your body. It’s probably perpetuating disapproval.
There are so many opportunities to pick the wrong course of action, because the personal development field is saturated with superficial advice, like:
- Be happy all the time just by breathing,
- Fix your relationship problems with meditation alone,
- Think positive and you will turn your world upside down,
- Share your love with the world and all will be well, and
- Just ignore the inner critic and you’ll be on your way to success
- Just say no to ego
If it sounds too easy or too good to be true, listen to your gut.
If love or bliss or happiness or success or goodness are overly simplified, made abstract, or ill-defined — that’s marketing doing it’s subliminal magic. Don’t fall for it. It will just mystify your problems further. And keep you in the dark.
3. Avoiding negative emotions
If you embark on personal development, there will be challenges — if you expect to make any lasting changes in your life.
For many people, it’s much easier to cling to a dysfunctional belief system that serves as an emotional crutch. Like meditating to avoid having to experience negative emotions. Or believing that karma makes everything in the world okay, of divine order, to avoid getting upset with the problems of the world. Or thinking that men are from Mars and women are from Venus to avoid having to actually face the opposite sex and work out relationship issues.
An emotional crutch is something that continually gives you an excuse or a reason to avoid experiencing your true (negative) emotions. It ultimately keeps you stuck in dysfunctional habits that prevent you from truly knowing yourself (a big part of which, is learning from your emotions) and actually being mindful of what’s going on in your life.
People who cling to an emotional crutch aren’t really ready to change. Denial is a natural defense for an individual who’s not yet ready to risk a new way of living. To make the conscious choice to change.
4. Lacking true support
And sometimes, people are ready to risk a new way of living.
But they don’t have enough of a support system in place to ensure their safety as they experiment with new ways of relating.
Ideally, an individual can provide their own support system — have confidence no matter what happens, not care about what others think, set boundaries even if it pisses other people off, etc.
But it took years of life experience for that individual to develop an unhealthy pattern.
Realistically, they’re going to need some real-life practice relating to others in healthy ways — that goes beyond just the reading, seminars, sessions, and positive intentions.
Personal development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We support each other in risking new and healthier behaviors.
It’s easy to give up on personal development when you lack social support. So share your goals with at least one person you trust. Or at least start practicing new skills in a social setting. If you can maintain your new skills out there in the world, then you’ll have a much better chance at succeeding at those long-term goals.
Don’t give up on personal development
If you want to make continual, meaningful, lasting growth and development a natural part of your life, focus on four things:
- Start for the right reasons. For any reason to be right, it must come from a place of self-compassion, not judgment or dissatisfaction.
- Choose a course of action that involves real work and acknowledges potential challenges (because growth comes with a price).
- Be willing to acknowledge your own dysfunctional beliefs that keep you from experiencing pain and other negative emotions — integrating those aspects of yourself is necessary to the healing process.
- Set up robust support systems. It could include daily journaling or blogging, or keeping in touch with a friend. If you want accountability, you have to be willing to try out new behaviors in social situations.
Most importantly, persevere.
Personal development is a lifelong journey. There’s continual room to grow and improve your life.
And your life is always changing.
Don’t ever give up on yourself.
How do you persevere?
Feel free to share your experiences below.
Want to learn more about long-term personal development? The free 10-part e-class, Your Life is Your Construct, will get you started. Learn more about it and sign up today.