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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 September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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