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How To Save Thousands on Personal Development

How To Save Thousands on Personal Development

    Crossing the Line

    In life, there often seems to be a line where many things move from being a positive to a negative. From a healthy part of our existence to an unhealthy one. From a functional and normal process to a dysfunctional and abnormal one. From something that should be life-enhancing, to something that becomes potentially life-destroying.

    Food

    Take food, for example. Over the years, I’ve worked with many people who have turned their healthy eating habits into completely unhealthy eating disorders. Somewhere along the way, they went from being focused on eating well, to being totally obsessed with, and preoccupied by, food. Something which is fundamental to human existence and survival (eating) somehow becomes their biggest challenge in life. The very thing that will sustain most of us, might well destroy them.

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    Exercise

    The same thing happens with exercise. The unfit person becomes fit. Before long, they feel better, look better, function better and get lots of approval and recognition – all highly desirable (and potentially addictive) outcomes. So, they decide to get a little fitter and leaner and train a little more. And more again. They reason: “Well, if one hour of exercise is good, then two hours will be twice as good and three must be amazing!” Before long, they train whenever and wherever possible. They begin to lie about their exercise habits. They experience anxiety and even anger when they can’t do their workout. They start planning their life around their exercise regime. It affects them mentally, emotionally and socially. They lose perspective and the healthy pursuit of exercise has now become an unhealthy obsession.

    Money

    We see this type of unhealthy behaviour in a range of settings and wrapped around a plethora of everyday issues and responsibilities. For some people, making money will transition from being a normal, everyday responsibility and necessity to a complete obsession. They will eat, sleep and breathe it. Money will become their identity. Their self esteem. Their sole focus. Or should I say, soul focus? And, in the middle of their fanatical pursuit of the almighty dollar, they will become physically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. They will lose themselves. Their success will not be success at all. Their practical and sensible goal (to earn and save money) will have become an unhealthy and destructive obsession.

    Religion

    And speaking of destructive and dysfunctional habits, behaviours and beliefs, I guess I could play the religion card… but do I really need to? Thought not.

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    Personal Development

    So, let’s talk about the potential dangers of personal development instead; the reason I started this long-winded monologue. “But Craig, surely immersing myself in personal development can’t lead to any kind of undesirable or negative outcomes, can it?”

    Er, only about a thousand.

    Like anything else that we might focus on, the pursuit of personal growth can produce a myriad of negative outcomes when we go about it the wrong way. Some people will become quite fanatical and emotional about their new-found insight and reality. Which might compel them to evangelise their un-impressed family, friends and colleagues with an ever-expanding range of theories, ideas, stories and shonky research. And, naturally, that’s always well received.

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    For the most part, being excited, educated and passionate about something is good, especially when it leads to some kind of positive behavioural change and desirable outcome. When the information (like the mountains of stuff on this site) is the genesis for practical application and lasting transformation, then personal development is serving its intended purpose. It’s positive. It’s practical. It’s transformational. It’s a valuable resource.

    The Reality

    But when we step back from all the motivational language, the theories, the mantras, the affirmations and the emotion, can we honestly say that personal development products, programs, services and resources typically (that is, most times) result in significant and lasting transformation for the individuals who partake? Of course, there is no independent data or research to answer that question accurately or quantitatively (to my knowledge) but if I had to take an educated stab my answer would be… no, most people don’t create significant or lasting change. That’s not to say that they can’t but, rather, that they won’t.

    Life Ain’t No Theory

    For some people, the answer will be yes but it’s my experience, observation and opinion that far too many people delude, delay and deny themselves in the theory of transformation (yes, even people who frequent this cyber-classroom) when they should actually be rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves in the practical, messy, uncomfortable reality of the change process. The doing part.

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    Stop listening, watching, reading, researching and studying, and start applying what you’ve learned.

    After decades of teaching, coaching, learning, studying and watching this stuff in action, I’m of the opinion that, for personal development to be a genuinely effective transformational tool – in a practical, measurable and experiential way – the change process should be somewhere in the vicinity of ninety percent doing stuff (the practical) and ten percent learning stuff (listening, watching, reading, researching, studying). Of course, the percentages might need to vary a little depending on the individual goal and what stage of the journey we’re at with that goal but, for the most part, I think 90/10 works.

    Sadly, for many people, the percentages are more like 1/99. That is, one percent doing and ninety-nine percent… not doing.

    What are your percentages?

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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