Personal development. Type the term into Google and you get 115 million results, give or take a blog or two. That’s not surprising. The personal development industry is worth billions of dollars. And that number will keep growing now that the global economic downturn has left millions out of work, reconsidering what they want to do with their lives and looking for new ways to get ahead.

But there’s a problem. With hundreds of programs, thousands of books, and what sometimes seems like millions of blogs, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And, much like Barry Schwartz discussed in the paradox of choice:

“…with so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.”

Analysis Paralysis

And it gets worse. “Even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice,” Schwartz continues, “we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from.” In other words, we end up blaming ourselves because we feel we could have done better.

Breaking through the noise

Fortunately, there’s a way for us to solve these problems:

  • We need to focus on timeless principles. After reading dozens of books for my research on The Monumental Life, I noticed that the same basic ideas came up over and over again. That’s why I don’t get the big deal with EFT, NLP, LOA, or other confusing self-help terms. We don’t have to chase the latest and greatest techniques just like those silly magazines that come out with the “best ever” ab routine every single month. Instead, we should focus on what’s been shown to work over the long-term.
  • We need to focus on taking action. Be honest: How many times have you read a great self-help book or gone through a brilliant personal development program only to soon forget all the principles you learned? I’ve lost track of how many times this has happened to me! It all turns into a waste of time because what we learn doesn’t make a difference in our lives or in the lives of anyone else. And isn’t that the point? That’s why we need to focus on applying what we learn. Unless what you’re taking in isn’t going to be applied in some way, you might as well not even bother.

Great Expectations

Schwartz concluded his TED Talk by saying that the key to happiness is lower expectations. What do you think? Should we expect less from personal development? Or should we simply make better choices when it comes to our inner growth? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

(Photo credit: Stressed Businessman via Shutterstock)

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