In my more reactive moments I often wonder why people let circumstances get the better of them. I have uncharitable thoughts, such as:
- Why would someone languish in such awful job?
- How does someone let themselves get addicted to drugs/booze/food?
- I wish people had more ambition.
The harsh reality is that self-development is hard and it’s difficult to break out of the frameworks we’re raised with. When I look at the educational systems that I was exposed to, I see that they were laughable. Pathetic even. I went to some relatively amazing schools, but none of them taught me anywhere near enough of the life skills that I find so valuable now. Schooling did teach me to say “difficult” instead of “hard” but even that didn’t work.
My parents are pretty progressive people. My father introduced me to Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie, but didn’t explain the bigger picture, didn’t tell me what was in it for me, so I had no idea how important those books would be and paid little attention. Even writing that seems ridiculous. How could I not have seen the importance of being rich and well liked?
The simple fact is that like most people, I didn’t. I bought into the paradigm that is delivered parrot-fashion to children; go to school, study hard, get a job and there you go, that’s the secret. Sure, I believe in that, hard work gets your places, but what about the rest of the puzzle? What else does our society teach us?
- Your personality is set. That’s just who you are.
- Your feelings are at the mercy of other people.
- You are the sum of your history.
Those are just three things of many; volumes could be written about this but those three things are some of the most insidious falsehoods of our day and age.
What Makes Self-Development Hard?
Our brains are habit forming machines. They love the path of least-resistance and will automatically go to tried and tested methods of operation. The value of habits, and we can really benefit from knowing this, is that our brain loves them as you don’t have to think about them, freeing your brain up to think about other things. That’s why our comfort zones are our default; our brain is constantly moving us towards the familiar and the easy.
Changing the neural pathways of your brain, the way it thinks and operates, is incredibly difficult and needs constant repetition and practice, bolstered by motivation and inspiration to keep us striving for our new and better ways. One slip and the brain will try to go back to old habits.
Our brains will trick us in many ways, wanting us to return to that cozy place of familiarity. Ever try giving up something addictive? Cigarettes? Sugar? Your mind makes your body feel bad so you want to go back to the thing you’ve given up. I’m no science guy so I’ll leave it at that, and there are so many more erudite people talking about this very thing if you’re interested. I don’t even need to prove this to you; you’ll have experienced it when you’ve tried to adopt a new habit or give up a bad habit, so you know how difficult it can be.
The thing is, from a learning perspective, that hard is:
If I contrast something reportedly difficult to achieve, like giving up smoking, with self-development, let me tell you that giving up tobacco is a walk in the park. We know that smoking is shitty for us, we’re bombarded with this information almost constantly; every time we smoke it’s on the box, it’s in the disgusted glances of your friends and the disdain in the looks of passersby when you’re huddling outside a restaurant getting your fix. Social pariah-hood, the health implications, along with the exorbitant cost of it should provide all the motivation a person will ever need.
What’s the ongoing motivation for self-improvement? So many of my personal clients find that whatever motivated them to start a self-development journey can wane over time. This is part of the reason that a working with a coach is so important; he or she will help keep those levels of desire and focus going even when the client isn’t feeling it. There is very little social pressure in these situations, which is a shame. I’d much rather live in a society where there is an expectation of success from every walk of life. And I don’t mean just getting a job and having some kids, I mean overachieving, reaching potential and really driving forward. Achieving dreams, pushing boundaries. The sorts of expectations that successful people might have of their children. It might not necessarily be financial abundance, but certainly something other than mediocrity or insignificance. People with really low expectations for themselves make me sad (I know it’s my choice to be sad) and is the reason that I left my comfort zone to coach. I want everyone to feel like they have the potential to live their dreams.
There is a genuine divide in society where a majority just don’t believe they can be something great and this is one of the things that makes self-development hard. There’ll rarely be friends egging you on, infrequently will there be family members encouraging you, although if you do have a loved one that supports your journey you are blessed. You’ll have yourself, and if you’re lucky, a mentor and if you’re fortunate, or extremely pushy and/or smart, a coach. But those are enough. Even if you have no one but yourself, that’s enough. You are enough.
That cognitive dissonance that follows someone telling you that:
- Your personality isn’t set, you can be who you want to be. Instantly.
- Nobody can make you feel any way you don’t want to feel, you are in charge of your emotions.
- Your past doesn’t have to matter right now.
is something to behold. It’s uncomfortable. Even now people who know me and have heard me say dozens of times, “They’re not making you feel that way, you’re making yourself feel that way,” still shake their heads in disbelief. The fact that I am always calm, in control and self-possessed is just who I am, people think. They refuse to believe that I’m that way because I choose to be. Even when I tell them. This makes self-development hard. It goes against what you’ve been taught for years.
People don’t want to admit they can be better, they can control themselves. They would have to admit that they aren’t perfect and we know that people will do almost anything to protect their beliefs about themselves. This makes self-development hard.
You’ve got to ask the question though, “Why isn’t everyone ‘into’ self-development?” You wouldn’t play a video game if there was no hope of getting better, it would keep your interest for about five minutes. Surely life is what we have, it is literally the sum total of our existence, so why would anyone not want to be better at it? A thought for another day.
What Can We Do About It?
There’s a lot we can do about it. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to doing something about it. If you’re finding it hard, or if you’re just starting, here are some things you can do straight away for little or no money.
- Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I can’t express how important this book is, it will change the way you treat people. Understand that you influence other people by changing yourself. Also understand that if you buy through this link, I get a small commission from Amazon. I’m not big into affiliate marketing, but I sell my own books through my page, why not sell others and it’s rare that I’ll do so.
- Watch a shit load of TED Talks on Youtube. Watch Simon Sinek. It’s free.
- Listen to some podcasts, they’re free. Brooke Castillo has an amazing 200+ episode podcast that will blow your mind.
- Set some goals for yourself. I offer a free goal setting manual. Get it now.
- Start admitting the truth about yourself. Recognize your flaws and then research how to get better.
- Reach out to me for a Discovery Call. There’s no charge for this and people find that even half an hour with an experienced coach can really start broadening their horizons.
- Start looking on social media for other people in the same position as you, talk to them and see what they’re doing. Remember, you are the five people who you hang around with the most. Review who those people are.
There is an unlimited amount of self-development ahead of you and it’s extremely exciting.
The most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be easy. Easy isn’t your birthright. You’re not entitled to easy.
The truth is something better. The truth is that it’s possible.