I could feel the distance between where I was and where I wanted to be.

This was always obvious to me. But apparently not as obvious to my friends, whose patience was running thin.

I would express my challenges as they arose. Because I thought that would be the best way to process and overcome them.

Clearly, my friends didn’t agree. They were done trying to encourage me. They were also done being my friends.

Where Should Personal Development Begin?

For me, personal development began with Dr. Robert Anthony’s The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence (affiliate link).

And I honestly could not have asked for a better place to start. Even though I basically just picked it off the shelf at the bookstore because it looked interesting.

One of the key things I still remember from this book (which I’ve read twice), is Dr. Anthony suggestion that we are all doing our best at any given moment. It is only possible to do better by raising our consciousness.

I believe this is where every personal development journey should begin. It should begin with the acknowledgement that there’s nothing wrong with you and you are already doing your best based at your current level of awareness.

There’s nothing wrong with you and you are already doing your best based at your current level of awareness. Click To Tweet

If we start with the premise that there’s something wrong with us, inevitably, we will feel miserable. And instead of improving, we will follow a trail of misery to deeper misery.

Gustavo Razzetti speaks eloquently on this topic, explaining why personal development can make you feel miserable, something I will elaborate on throughout this post.

But I Didn’t Know That

So, when I first started getting into personal development, I consumed everything I could get my hands on, be it Steve Pavlina, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, or otherwise.

And much of it was helpful.

But somewhere along the line, I succumbed to many of the traps Razzetti describes – pursuing unrealistic expectations, getting stuck in what’s wrong, comparing myself to others, and more. Alienating friends and family can be another downside.

My friends, in fact, told me that engaging in self-improvement wasn’t helping and that I should give up on it altogether.

Even at the time, I probably would have described what I was experiencing as “growing pains”, and I knew I would eventually find myself on the other side of it.

Apparently, it wasn’t happening fast enough for my friends, who ended up leaving me. So, I went to see a psychologist, who equated the pain I was experiencing with a breakup.

It was challenging. Because I hadn’t just lost friends. I had lost my band, too.

My Efforts Started Paying off

Following these events, I floated aimlessly for a year or two.

There was no way of knowing at the time, but because of the financial crisis of 2008, I was starting to go through a financial crunch, too. And that gave me a sense of purpose and urgency I had never had before.

Those were difficult times, but the work I had put into self-improvement started paying off in droves. Because in 2011 I went from having a rather disastrous year to finding a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life.

Things started turning around in just six months.

I joined two network marketing companies. I invested in a music industry tech startup. And I began creating new connections and finding opportunities for myself. Some of that worked out and paved the way for where I am today, though much of it didn’t work out.

Either way, I am richer in experience for it.

I don’t like the idea that I was putting all this time and effort into self-improvement merely to be prepared for what was to come, but in a way, that’s exactly what ended up happening.

Was I Crazy For Engaging in Self-Improvement?

No, I don’t think I was crazy for doing what I did.

Yes, personal development did end up digging up underlying challenges and emotions. It did set me up for unrealistic expectations, getting stuck in what’s wrong, and the comparison game too. I even alienated many friends and family members.

Which probably had something to do with the choices I had made – including getting into two network marketing companies around the same time – something virtually no one in the industry advises.

That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t come out on the other side better off. There’s a great deal you can learn from holding up a mirror to yourself.

There is value in challenge. I like what Ralph Martson had to say:

The value of achievement is in the achieving, in the overcoming of the challenges, in the person you become as a result of going through the process. To have the reward without the effort is to have no reward at all, nothing but an empty and meaningless token.

Start with You – You Are the Only Thing You Can Improve

Self-improvement is holding up a mirror to yourself.

But if all you see are flaws and shortcomings, then you are ranking yourself unfavorably. And if all you see are your positive qualities and strengths, you are deluded.

So, while self-improvement can lead us down some dark paths, we must begin to act as the filter to the information we’re consuming. Because we can easily buy into everything that’s being said without thought or further examination.

It’s the reason so many people buy into gurus who get you on their webinar, sell you their course, and follow up with endless upsells (because you didn’t get the secret the first time around).

By the time people have realized they’re being scammed, they already have too much of themselves invested in the program to back out.

True self-improvement is marked by a deeper evaluation of what’s true and right for ourselves, where we can honestly see ourselves going, what we can see ourselves accomplishing, how we can become a better version of ourselves and not a better version of someone else – including our teachers.

The only comparison that’s worth making is who you are now to who you used to be (but please don’t compare how you look now to how you looked in the past – that isn’t fair to yourself).

Not Giving a F*ck

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (affiliate link) tackles the issue of misery in personal development head on and it’s one of the best books I read in 2019.

Manson argues that we tend to focus inordinately on the extraordinary, assuming that one day we will be like the extraordinary. When it’s probably less that 10% of the world. I argue that it’s probably closer to 2% of the 2%.

But what’s wrong with that? Knowing your place in the world allows for honest self-assessment. It liberates you from the need to be the 2% of the 2%.

And if you think you know everything, then there is nothing to learn or to be curious about. No point in engaging in self-improvement. And Manson says being curios is the main thing we should aspire to, so that we can keep learning.

Ironically, Manson’s book isn’t anti-personal development at all. It’s a personal development book that helps you understand, first and foremost, that nothing is wrong with you.

When you understand, not just at a head level but also at a heart level, that nothing is wrong with you, you will give yourself permission to celebrate even seemingly insignificant victories. And you should.

Final Thoughts

Neel Raman says:

One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to focus on our personal development.

I agree. But it must be done consciously. And that is also at the foundation of self-improvement as I understand it – making conscious choices. That was a breakthrough concept for me, because up until the day I was 25, I basically believed that life is whatever happened to you!

If you find yourself going down misery lane, it could just be growing pains. But it could also be unrealistic expectations, getting stuck in what’s wrong, or comparing yourself unfavorably to others.

Don’t compare someone’s highlight reels to your bloopers.

Don’t compare someone’s highlight reels to your bloopers. Click To Tweet

If you’re going to improve you, work on you. Let go of whatever you cannot control, including what others might think.

There is nothing wrong with you. But if self-improvement interests you, it’s because you desire more out of life. And it’s perfectly normal to desire more.

Assuming you set your sights on what’s obtainable, you can embark on a journey, enjoy the adventure, and get to your destination in good time.

But I promise you the meat of it is the journey itself, and if there is no joy in the journey, it’s just a means to an end.

If there is no joy in the journey, it’s just a means to an end. Click To Tweet

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