Seven Steps to Stopping Personal Development Overwhelm
How many different types of personal development programs are you “working on?”
If you were to ask me that at various times in my life, I could have told you that I was working my way through the 12 Steps, completing a Simpleology course, trying to keep up with all of the material available through the Wealth Beyond Reason program, doing the exercises in Ask and It Is Given, going through Rebecca Fine’s Science of Getting Rich for Practical Geniuses Course, trying to integrate the principles from Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, working through the Master Key System, slowly increasing the time spent in meditation, as well as having at least 3 or 4 paper books and ebooks going.
My Brain’s Locking Up!
If you run a Windows based computer, what happens when you have too many windows open with programs running?
Your computer will start running really really (really) slowly. It takes longer and longer (and longer) to accomplish the simplest task.
And if you REALLY have too many going, the computer will finally say “Well, that’s IT!”, and it’ll freeze up on you.
Your brain works the same way. Every time you pick up a book, start a course, download a podcast… you’ve got a new window open in your brain.
A little bit more of your mental resources are being used. Whether you consciously recognize it or not, you’ve got another of what David Allen of GTD fame refers to as “open loops” – stuff that’s taking your attention.
If you aren’t making progress, could it be because you’ve simply got too much going on between your ears?
And if so, how do you deal with it?
Here’s what I’ve done when I realize that I’m doing a lot but getting nowhere when it comes to personal development:
First – do an inventory of all of the courses, books, lectures, etc that you currently haven’t completed.
You’ve got to know what you are dealing with. It’s not necessary for it to be perfect, but you should have a good idea. When things that you forgot about pop up in the future, they are automatically going to go into a “maybe later” file anyway, but we want to have as much choice as possible at the moment.
Second – select a program/discipline/book/seminar that you think will be the most beneficial to you.
What would have the most impact on your life, and bring you closer to reaching your goals? Is there an addiction you need to get rid of? A specific skill you need to learn? Do you want to deepen your relationship with your god? It’s really important to select something for you, not for your parents, your spouse, your children, your boss, or anyone else. Since we don’t live in a vacuum, of course people close to you will be considered… but this is about your life.
Third – take all of those other programs and put them to the side.
Consciously say to yourself “There is value in these [you wouldn’t have signed on for them in the first place if you didn’t think so], but I’m working on something else right now. They aren’t going anywhere, and I can pick them up again later.”
Fourth – focus exclusively on completing your selected program, developing that skill, or integrating the habit that you’ve chosen.
I did this with AA. For a long time, it was all about the 12-Steps and going to meetings. I didn’t go out of my way to avoid other truths, but my focus was on staying sober, and only on staying sober. My mantra was “If I didn’t drink, it was a good day.” And there were some really bad days in there. While “it’s a good day if I don’t drink” isn’t true 3 years into sobriety, it sure is when you’re in your first 30 days.
Fifth – when you are tempted to pick another ebook, program, seminar, whatever, remind yourself of your decision.
Work the current program you are working! And do not walk away from it until it’s finished, or until it’s integrated into your life in such a way that you feel that you are ready to move one (see the next step for the only exception). If you’ve done what you planned on doing for the day, go ahead and do whatever you feel like – but don’t start another 16 week course, no matter how much the marketing tells you that it’s going to change your life! That may well be true, but it will still be there when you finish the one you are on.
Sixth – while I’m not a proponent of giving up, sometimes it is smarter to stop beating our heads against a wall and move a little to the left where there’s a door.
But be careful with this one… just because you didn’t get the results you wanted in a week doesn’t mean that what you are trying to do isn’t working. Really consider your decision by meditating on it or bouncing it off of someone else – you may just need more time with it.
Seventh – when you have gotten what you can from your current program, only then is it time to move on to another.
Close the window on it. Take what you’ve learned and keep it integrated into your day (such as with Simpleology’s Daily Target Praxis). Then start your next course, book, or whatever it is that’s going to bring you closer to your goals in life. You’ll be able to focus on it with much more ease and enthusiasm than if you’d just dropped that previous one.
Personal development can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. By keeping your focus on a single area, you will experience such tremendous growth there it will spill over into other areas of your life… and you may find that you are no longer as interested in that latest book or ecourse that you just had to buy.