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April 29, 2022

How I Misunderstood Personal Development

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Earlier this week I reached 4 years of podcasting here on Self Improvement Daily and with millions of downloads and countless relationships established, I’m fortunate to have become an authority on the topic. However, last week I had a conversation with my good friend Chase Chewning and we deconstructed what personal development is meant to be, not what it’s purported to be, and it really broadened my perspective. I realized that I’ve actually misunderstood what personal development actually is and I think maybe you have too.

Personal development is known to be about maximizing your potential, stretching yourself to grow and experience new things. It’s about applying yourself fully to what matters to you and improving your skills and mindsets so that you can find personal success. While I still do believe all of that to be true, we’re missing one fundamental piece. Why? Why maximize your potential? Why do the things that matter to you?

At the end of the day I think it all comes back to happiness, and I don’t know that we connect personal development with being happy. What I described are the building blocks of what have become for me two primary objectives of personal development - Self-awareness and self-acceptance.

First on the self-awareness side, we need to know who we are and what makes us happy. Not what we admire about other people from a distance, not what we are told will make us feel good if we get it. This is your authentic, unbiased, deeply rooted happiness.

Then second is self-acceptance. Once you’ve become aware of who you are and what makes you happy, you need to be at peace with that. We all have an ego that constantly places us relative to others, and we live in a culture that further encourages us to fit into a certain mold. When we remove the judgment we place on ourselves about who we feel we’re supposed to be and accept ourselves for who we are, we feel empowered to lean into the things that make us happy.

Reconciling all of this for me, not much changes. I genuinely believe that being disciplined helps me do the things that make me happy - Building, creating, discovering. Making healthy choices supports my ultimate happiness because I find joy in being proud of the life I’m living. Leaving my comfort zone forces me to grow and develop, which I find fun and exhilarating. This isn’t meant to completely derail the identities you’ve built around personal development but instead add an extra lens to see your decisions through so that you can confirm that you’re serving yourself in the most meaningful ways.

So let’s wrap by reflecting on this simple yet difficult question - What makes you happy?

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