Personal Development Fundamentals To Help You Succeed In Life

A growth mindset is something that takes awhile to cultivate. When you enter the area of self-help and begin your personal development journey, it is very easy to feel like you are being flooded left right and center with fascinating concepts and ways to gain success in life. There is clearly no shortage of resources, but it is important to narrow your focus when you start learning new concepts, or else you will get what is commonly known as analysis paralysis.

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Over the course of my early personal development journey thus far, I have consumed information from a number of resources (probably too much), but I have noticed that there are a lot of recurring themes. I have read and watched self-improvement content on improving confidence and self-esteem (which is my main focus in life right now), living a healthier lifestyle, creating a successful business, and finding a state of happiness and fulfillment. In each of these areas, the fundamentals to success are universal, and when you read the ones below, you will see how they can be applied to virtually any area of life where you have goals that you want to achieve. So let’s get right into it…

 

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT FUNDAMENTALS:

 

1) HAVE A CLEAR PATH

If you don’t know where you are going in life, then how will you get there? If you have a goal that you are trying to achieve, it is important to write it down so that it is well-structured. My go-to method for fleshing out my goals is the SMART criteria. The SMART acronym is described below:

S – Specific

It is important that your goal is Specific so that you know exactly what you want, why you want it, where you will work towards it, when you plan to achieve it, and who could potentially help you along the way.

M – Measurable

It is important that it is Measurable so that you know when your goal is achieved and so you can monitor your progress. Seeing progress is what will keep you focused on the end result and start to build the confidence it takes to get to the finish line.

A – Attainable

It is important that it is Attainable so that you know that it is within your grasp based on your current skillset. Note that you should be fair with yourself. Acknowledge that you have a long way to go, but be confident about your self-worth and what you are capable of achieving.

R – Realistic

It is important that it is Realistic so that you know that you have the necessary resources (or are willing to find them) to achieve your goal, and have the positive mindset that you will need to keep you grounded during the difficult stumbling blocks.

T – Time-Based

It is important that it is Time-Based so that you know how much time you have to achieve your goal. Having a time block to work with will create a sense of urgency within you and hold you accountable to making progress. It will also help you measure your progress along the way.

Using the criteria above will help you structure your goal so that it is clear and easy to follow. I will also note that going through the SMART criteria can make your goal seem quite intimidating. It is completely normal to be intimidated by a large goal. That is why I recommend breaking your goal down into manageable steps. For example, if I wanted to be a good hockey player, my steps might look something like this:

  1. Learn how to skate
  2. Stickhandle a puck
  3. Pass and shoot a puck
  4. Move the puck past a defenseman
  5. Make a play (ex. Scoring on the PowerPlay)
  6. Play well-rounded offense and defense

Of course, my steps are vague for the purpose of showing an example and should be expanded on using the SMART criteria.

 

2) STUDY FROM AND SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE BEST

When you are tackling your goals, why re-invent the wheel? Most goals have already been achieved by others that have written and spoken about their experience with personal development. To get better in a certain area of life, research the most helpful books, courses, and live events related to that area and learn the material. You will arm yourself with the mindset needed to become successful and learn useful strategies that you can apply to your SMART goals. Just feeding your mind with this useful material will have a positive effect on your self-worth and change your perspective on what kind of life you can live. I am constantly reading books, listening to podcasts, and reading blog articles that I feel can benefit me. In doing so, I have completely changed the way I see life and my ultimate potential. However, I will emphasize that you should try and learn from one person at a time in a given area of life, or else you will absorb different perspectives and possibly spend time overanalyzing.

 

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find people that compliment your goals

It is also important to surround yourself with people who can help you reach your goals. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” 

Personal development can be challenging, and it is important not to unnecessarily allow yourself to be influenced by negative people with lifestyles that don’t match up with what you are after, as this will make things even more difficult for you. Instead, find the people that will help get you there. You can pay to get personal coaching, join a club through your school or neighborhood community, or even go to Meetup.com to find a group that is tackling similar goals. Never sell your time short. Always be mindful of who you are letting into your life.

 

3) TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR EMOTIONS

We have about 50,000 thoughts per day and 70 to 80 percent of them are NEGATIVE (Lambersky, 2013). As humans, we are hardwired for survival, not happiness, and our life is naturally guided by emotions that are not positive. But the truth is that we don’t have to let them guide us; we can guide them. One of the best ways I have found to become more conscious of my emotions is by practicing Mindfulness. By doing so, you learn how to live in the present, as opposed to the past or future. As a result, when a series of bad emotions hit your body (which is inevitable and normal), you will naturally choose to observe them and see them for what they really are (chemicals moving through your brain which is affecting your mood), instead of getting absorbed by them and ruining your day. A good place to start is to practice mindfulness of the five senses (meditate quietly while only focusing on seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling). For example, Ph.D. Christopher Germer has a good one called Mindfulness of Sound on his website.

 

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BE GRATEFUL

Another thing that is critical to your personal development and has helped me have a better grip on my emotions is by feeding my mind with blog posts and talks on GratitudeI take 5 minutes out of my day before I go to bed to focus on what I am grateful for, looking at the positives from the day and some of the smaller things that deserve gratitude (ex. water, light bulbs, oxygen). By doing so, I condition my mind to find the positives when those negative emotions hit my body. It is not easy at first, and I encourage you to practice a little bit each day.

Finally, I try and support my body with energizing foods that put me in a positive physical state. It is not rocket science but I am surprised by how many people do not get this:

What you put inside your body affects how you feel 

A good question to start is: How much water do you drink per day? We should be taking in about 2 liters of water every day. If you are not hydrated, you can start to feel sleepy and de-energized and your performance will go down. If you are not at your best physically, how do you expect to tackle your goals? I would also recommend eating a lot of raw foods, particularly hydrating ones (I love a nice juicy apple).

Each of these suggestions will support positive thinking and keep you focused on your SMART goals, making you more resilient against the fear and challenges that will try to bring you down in the process, helping you with your personal development.

 

4) BECOME A MASTER OF YOUR CRAFT

Self-help guru Tony Robbins says:

“Repetition is the mother of skill”

It is impossible to get good at something without taking action and doing that action repeatedly. What stops a lot of people from personal development is that they start working on a goal they are excited about (often called the Honeymoon Phase), but once they realize that the goal requires hard work and persistence, they come up with limiting excuses. These could be along the lines of This isn’t for me or My life is too busy right now, I’ll come back to it laterA couple weeks later, they start working on something else, only to go through the exact same process. To have success in life, you must trust your plan of action. When you generate your SMART goals, be confident in your progress and recognize that success is a process. If you are looking for a quick fix to something that has been a problem for awhile, then any useful strategy you learn from a book, podcast, or blog post will not help you. You must be willing to do the following things:

  1. Accept short term pain for long term gain
  2. Master your productivity; free time is time that could be spent working on your personal development
  3. Take action consistently
The importance of consistency

The reason that taking action consistently is so important is that our life is centered around habitsLeadership expert John C. Maxwell says:

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine”

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Doing our habits daily means they become who we are. They are ingrained within us and we are programmed to follow them. Thus, it takes a lot of work to undo this programming, and so when we come up with a new habit that will support our personal development, we must practice it consistently so that it eventually becomes our default state of being. In my case, I am trying to get rid of my fear of rejection by going out and talking to people. Although my life is busy, I acknowledge that if I want to become better, I must practice multiple times per week. If you accept and truly believe this reality, you’ll be surprised to what length you will go to find the time to work on your goals. I used to tell myself: I just got home from work, I am too tired to be productive but now putting in the time has become the norm.

 

I BELIEVE IN YOUR PROGRESS

If you internalize these 4 key fundamentals, you will lay the groundwork for a strong year of personal development. If they are too overwhelming, focus on one fundamental at a time. A small change can go a long way, and you’ll often find that when you make a small change in your life, everything else can start to change for you as well.

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