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Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
Personal growth lesson #1
No one can do for you what can only be done through you.
Everything needs to be available faster. People expect immediate results. We increasingly rely on technology to do our work and thinking for us.
You cannot outsource your personal growth. No one can do for you what can only be done through you.
I’ve been to many seminars where many people somehow think the people organizing the event are responsible for their progress. They’re not.
Participating in a program or event can be a stimulus for your growth journey, but no one can grow for you.
You are leading your own life and in charge, whether you like it or not.
You are the only one responsible for your growth.
A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.
Personal growth lesson #2
Think strategically, about first principles and causes instead of outcomes or effects.
The overload of available information overwhelms people and will increasingly do so in the years ahead.
We are constantly bombarded with new tactics and trends but fail to recognize and master the root causes or principles.
Strategic thinking has always been important but will only become more relevant in the following decades.
Tactical living means that you always look at the effects of things and not at what is causing them. You are always searching for that bit of information that will make all the difference in your life or career but are totally overwhelmed by everything you need to learn.
If this is your default operating mode, you will always remain dependent on someone doing your thinking.
But if you start to think strategically and look for the big truths or principles behind phenomena, you will also begin to understand the different outcomes.
Wisdom lies not in knowing all the manifestations of a principle or cause but in understanding the law or the principle itself. Read that again. We have written a separate article on this topic.
There is a reason why fundamental sciences like physics try to uncover the laws governing the universe and, from that understanding, try to explain all the possible manifestations of those laws. First principles thinking is truly a Magic Move.
The best reference we have for understanding the principles that govern life is, of course, nature itself.
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Personal growth lesson #3
Study the same material over and over again.
How we consume information makes us jump from one source to the next, and we never master a subject.
To progress our personal or professional development, we shouldn’t just go wide and grasp the interconnections between information. We should also go deep into the topics that can profoundly move our lives forward.
Repetition and deep reflection are core elements of mastery. Read, study, and reflect on the same material repeatedly. The big principles governing our personal and professional lives are the best material to study.
Surprisingly, when you do this, you keep learning new things. Not because the information wasn’t there before but because you are processing it from a different level of understanding. Your awareness is not the same anymore.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. You don’t see something that was not there. You are looking as a different person.
You should set aside about 3-5 books, programs, or resources that contain a lot of big ideas about personal or professional development and study them over and over and over again.
The information will sink deep into your subconscious mind, which will have no choice but to process it, and you will start to have flashes of insight that can move your life forward.
Personal growth lesson #4
Think for yourself.
Our world is filled with distractions. Thinking for yourself requires effort. Most people never take the time to really think. They let other people do their thinking for them.
Many of the great books were written before this age of distraction because people had more uninterrupted time to think, and their attention was much more focused.
How many of us ever take the time to sit down and contemplate a specific subject or intellectual challenge? Imaginative, strategic, focused thinking is at the root of every great invention or insight.
Instead, our minds are constantly bombarded and over-stimulated with many distractions.
When did you last sit down with a blank piece of paper and take the time to think an issue through? Most people never do this.
You can start each day with a blank piece of paper and journal about your personal development for a certain time.
Try it. You’ll be surprised by your ideas and insights.
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Personal growth lesson #5
Stand guard at the door of your mind.
We expose our minds to trivial information we don't need to know. Much of this information was designed to have a negative connotation to capture our attention.
All these impressions sink into the subconscious mind, creating anxious mental models that produce stress, anxiety, and a negative outlook on the world.
We should be cautious about what we allow to enter our minds. I'm not saying we should not be aware of what's going on in the world, but we don't need to inundate ourselves with negativity.
Instead, why don't we start and end our days with positive, uplifting, inspiring information? Input that makes us feel good and energizes us for the day ahead.
Stop browsing media apps and sites that feature primarily negative news. Checking in with the latest news once per day is more than plenty.
Personal growth lesson #6
Live from the inside out.
Do not let outside circumstances determine the level of your thinking. Make the vision for your life more potent than the vision from your window.
Be inspired and energized by other people's accomplishments but remain true to your vision.
If you base your thinking and vision of what's possible for you only on the outside world, you will always go around in circles.
You will think, feel, and act according to your present environment. This is a recipe for stagnation.
Growth always happens from the inside out, never from the outside in. You can attract energy from the outside, but the transformation happens from within.
One of the advantages of living in the 21st century is seeing more and more people move toward and realize their dreams despite their past or present external circumstances.
These people refused to let the outside world or circumstances dictate what was happening inside them and decided to move forward.
Personal growth lesson #7
Improve your self-image.
We often have a vision for our career or material possessions, but what about a vision for ourselves?
Do you have a specific, written description of the kind of person that you aspire to be, with strengths, weaknesses, character traits, and more?
Most people have never even given this any thought.
Furthermore, most people let other people set the standard for themselves. We feel a need to be just like that influencer on social media we admire but who's unfulfilled. Or like that entrepreneur who makes a lot of money but might have a disastrous family life.
You can learn from others, but set your self-image and do your own thinking. You are perfectly able to determine the kind of person you will become. In fact, you have no other option because everyone else is already taken.
You are unique, and your purpose is to develop and express who you are, not to be a copy of someone else.
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Personal growth lesson #8
Keep looking for your personal treasure.
In the 21st century, the number of options for discovering our passions and expressing our talents is greater than ever.
Not so long ago, your life path was more or less mapped out in advance. In many countries, this is still the case. The greater freedom of choice we enjoy also brings more responsibility.
The most important days are the day you were born and the day you found out why.
When your life path is not aligned with your passions or talents, and you can't express yourself, you will become frustrated. Your creative energy desires to find expression through you.
Your treasure is the path on which you can optimally develop and express your strengths toward meaningful goals.
What if you need help finding your treasure? Search, and you will find!
Engage in activities you are passionate about, and remember the moments when you lose all sense of time and space. The experience of flow will give your search direction.
Many tools are also available to detect and develop your natural strengths and interests, such as personality tests or working with a coach.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
The Bible, Matthew 7:8
The path you take does not have to be perfect. If you pay close attention, you will always encounter challenges, opportunities, and fascinating circumstances that you can use as signposts to find your treasure.
When things are difficult, it is vital to be attentive to signals that want to push you in the right direction. The challenge is to be vigilant and have the courage to follow them.
What is the meaning of life?
As though it is someone else’s responsibility to tell you. Instead, the world is asking you that question.
It’s your job to answer with your actions. In every situation, life is asking us a question, and our actions are the answer.
Our job is simply to answer well.
Viktor Frankl - Man's Search for Meaning
Personal growth lesson #9
Be grateful for living in the 21st century.
Although the world (the human race) is far from operating like we would like it to, we are generally moving forward.
Correct, climate challenges, racial injustice, poverty, and war exist. But most people live and work in much better conditions than in any previous age.
Pick a time you think was better than today and research the average person's standard of living in your region or country. You'll likely find that this age is not so bad.
There is good in everything if only we look for it. And when we find it, we should be grateful for it.
Problems make us aware of situations we need to improve and of the incomplete state of human consciousness. Every crisis or challenge carries the opportunity to find a solution and make the world a better place.
Problems can (and should) be seen as stepping stones for personal and interpersonal growth.
Focus on what is right in your life. What you focus on will grow and blossom.
If you look at history, some of our greatest leaders used shocking or negative events to push through much-needed reforms that otherwise would have had little chance of passing.
Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way
Personal growth lesson #10
Realize that you are one of the biggest miracles in the universe.
Eight billion people roam our beautiful planet today, and global population projections estimate that by the year 2100, there will be about eleven billion individuals on Earth. That's a 30% increase from today's numbers.
No wonder we sometimes feel like a number, and our individual existence seems to matter little.
But this is only one way of looking at ourselves. When we change our perspective, we arrive at a completely different conclusion. We can change our point of view and cognitively reframe this situation.
Another perspective is recognizing that you are a unique individual and an absolute miracle in and of the universe.
The universe supposedly began with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. For the first few billion years, there was nothing but radiation, clouds of dust, and some crude matter here and there. And yet here you are, eons of time later, as a living, breathing being who is not only alive (how did that happen?) but also conscious.
You are a miracle. Each of us is a piece of stardust that has become aware of itself. Our aliveness, self-awareness, and consciousness are baffling and some of the biggest questions in science.
We even implicitly value the worth of a lifeform based on its level of consciousness. For example, we have fewer problems with ending the life of an insect, plant, or mouse than that of a monkey or a human being.
So while it is true that there are 8 billion people on the planet, everyone is both unique and nothing but a miracle.
Being consciously alive is incredibly rare in this enormous universe.
And yet, here you are.
You may feel small, but your consciousness is no small thing.
Nothing is either big or small, but our perception that makes it so.
Personal growth lesson #11
Keep improving your learning process.
Society is evolving faster than ever. The knowledge that is important today may be obsolete in a few years. This implies that what you learn is less important than why and how you learn.
Stimulating your natural curiosity to learn and improving your learning process is paramount.
There are many things computers do better than people, such as storing and retrieving factual information.
People do many things better than computers, such as thinking out of the box, sensing emotional signals, or working in groups.
Your ability to see the connections between different domains is more important than what you know.
Strategic, critical, and creative thinking will only gain importance. Think about the fundamental principles, look for systems, and think out of the box.
Learn to use mind maps, make your thinking more structured and visual. Technology is a means to an end, not the end itself.
Personal growth lesson #12
Approach life with an open and compassionate mind.
Many people are free to express their opinion. Instead of condemning someone for their point of view, listening to it can improve our understanding of the world.
Even when we disagree, we can still understand the basis for the other person's argument or opinion.
Living in a globalized world implies being more and more exposed to different cultural and sociological perspectives.
We often approach a subject we have some experience with from a place of complacency. We believe our point of view is correct, but this is not necessarily the case.
Staying open-minded to other people's views allows us to gain more insight into our convictions. Openness and constructive dialogue create connection instead of division because there is no need to agree or disagree.
The question is not about right or wrong but one of understanding and compassion. An optimal dialogue entails openness from both sides, but our responsibility is to take the lead to open the door for the other party.
There is something to learn from everyone or every situation if we only look for it.
Personal growth lesson #13
Learn to be alone and seek silence.
The world is busier than ever. Our smartphones provide a source of endless distraction. Our willpower and focus are constantly under attack, leading to anxiety and fatigue.
Moments of silence are rare and precious.
The brain processes all the information picked up by the senses, which drains mental power.
To restore or generate this power (e.g., for problem-solving or creative expression), seek the silence and shut off all your senses:
When your brain has fewer inputs to process, you can use more of your mind power.
Trying to find a solution to a complex issue while your senses are processing input from the outside world does not make any 'sense'!
Try this, and you might be amazed by the magic in your mind!
Personal growth lesson #14
Learn to listen to your body's intelligence.
We are in the age of the intellect. We worship the conscious, thinking mind but fail to acknowledge the wisdom in our subconscious mind and body.
Sometimes your head points in one direction, but your gut points the other way. Which route to follow?
When you have a strong visceral feeling about making a particular decision, and when this feeling persists despite rational arguments to the contrary, it is wise to explore what this means.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
There is a difference between a feeling of discomfort, 1) when you already know what you want, but you are afraid to do it, or 2) when you are unsure what you want.
Making this distinction can be challenging.
In the first situation, courage is what you need. In the latter, further consideration may be best.
Personal growth lesson #15
Your rational mind is not always a good servant
We gain more and more insight into how the mind functions, composes, and interprets reality. We thus understand how a mind can be programmed and manipulated.
Our rational mind is like a knife: it can be used to do good or bad to ourselves and the world around us.
First of all, intelligence or rationality is not always the best tool to approach a situation.
Like a knife, the function of the intellect is to cut open, dissect, and analyze details.
Cutting, dissecting, and analyzing works fine for some purposes but is inadequate for others. Intellectually talented people approach every situation rationally, even when a more intuitive, emotional response is more appropriate.
Examples are relationships, art, creativity, and searching for purpose or meaning.
As Einstein said:
It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense. It would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
Secondly, the rational faculty of our mind is not infallible, often the contrary. You have only access to 0.000000000001% of the available information. The intellect bases its analyses, interpretations, and conclusions on how the subconscious mind has been conditioned.
People tend to perpetuate and strengthen their belief systems, even when these are negative and destructive to themselves or the world around them.
It is not difficult to rationalize yourself into a depression or manipulate someone (f.e. with a conspiracy theory) if you can build on an existing belief. Or you can create belief systems through repetition and emotion.
The moment we become aware of this process is when we can start to do something about it.
Your reason is like a lawyer in that it will argue for either side. The intellect of a thief will plan robbery and murder as readily as the intellect of a saint will plan a great philanthropy.
Intellect helps us to see the best means and manner of doing a thing, but intellect never shows us the right thing.
Intellect and reason serve the selfish man for his selfish ends as readily as they serve the unselfish man for his unselfish ends.
Use intellect and reason without regard to principle, and you may become known as a very able person, but you will never become known as a person whose life shows the power of real greatness.
Wallace D. Wattles
Personal growth lesson #16
Seek a harmonious development of spirit, mind, and body.
We worship the physical world, how we look, and materialism. Fortunately, mind and spirit are starting to gain more ground.
Focusing on only the body, the mind, or the spirit is far from optimal. Science is beginning to understand this, as well.
People focused on only one of these three fundamental dimensions can never grow into their best selves.
It is impossible to function optimally when the body, mind, and spirit are not cooperating harmoniously.
A human being consists of body, mind, and life energies. Body, mind, and spirit form one harmonious whole and impact one another profoundly.
Personal growth lesson #17
Realize that you can generate happiness and joy from within.
In a certain sense, this insight builds on the preceding. The more materially affluent a society becomes, the more physical stuff it gathers.
The people in such a society are at risk of believing that their fulfilment and happiness depend on "things."
Many people value materialism above all else. However, research shows that above a certain (relatively low) threshold, more material possessions do little to increase someone's long-term well-being and happiness.
Making ourselves dependent on external sources for our happiness is a never-ending story. At some point, I hope we will collectively realize this and stop the mad scramble for more money, possessions, and power over others.
Happiness and joy come from within, are free, and can be generated at will.
Personal growth lesson #18
Serve the world by expressing your natural potential.
In the 21st century, the search for purpose will become more front and center.
The best way to make a difference, be of service and make the world a better place is to know, develop, and express your potential in the areas that mean the most to you.
Your life's purpose is to discover, develop, and express your natural talents in meaningful ways so that more livingness is created in your own life and the life of others.
The best thing you can do for other people is to make the most of yourself, just like an apple tree needs to develop and express itself before we can harvest and enjoy its fruit.
You can help others while discovering and developing yourself, and your impact will only increase as you express your potential.
Your most significant contribution will always come by serving from your strengths in areas that mean much to you.
Nature shows the way
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Personal growth lesson #19
Responsibility is required for personal transformation.
The rate of change is increasing in the 21st century, and everyone must adapt to change. We need to take responsibility for this process.
Life is a state of constant motion, forever evolving into new conditions. Change can feel uncomfortable, but it is the universe's inherent, unavoidable quality.
As Darwin said:
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Our responsiveness, i.e., the degree to which we take responsibility for our growth process, will determine whether we thrive in the 21st century.
There is no escaping this, and it is precisely what makes our journey exciting. Any good story is best at the climax of massive change, danger, and adventure.
People can be the hero in their own stories. Still, they must take responsibility for their journey and take charge of their transformation.
All of us have that power. It's up to us to use it wisely.
Personal growth lesson #20
Be(come) an expert in yourself.
Everyone is in a race against the clock. The goal of the race is to know yourself better than your opponent.
The better you know yourself, the more you can develop and express yourself, make wise choices, and protect yourself against evil influences and manipulation.
You can use resources like tests, books, courses, and apps to learn about your strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits.
Most people are not self-aware at all. This makes it easier for organizations like Facebook and Google to know them better than they know themselves.
Self-unawareness opens the door for potential for-profit manipulation.
We should all be the foremost experts in ourselves. Yet, only some people could answer the most elementary questions about who they are, what they are good at, and where they are going.
For thousands of years philosophers and prophets have urged people to know themselves.
But this advice was never more urgent than in the twenty-first century, because unlike in the days of Laozi or Socrates, now you have serious competition.
Coca-Cola, Amazon, Baidu and the government are all racing to hack you. Not your smartphone, not your computer, and not your bank account – they are in a race to hack you and your organic operating system.
We are living in the era of hacking humans.
Yuval Noah Harari
Personal growth lesson #21
Life is happening now. Make sure to enjoy the journey.
The challenges of the 21st century seem vast, but they make the adventure exciting. Our job is to honor the journey and make the best of every step.
Think about any great book, movie, or game. The process of becoming, growing, and walking the journey is more important than arriving at the final destination.
Climbing Mount Everest would not be transformational if climbers were just dropped at the summit.
Life is happening today, not at an imaginary moment in the future.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
Everything that grows does so gradually, and this growing process is fulfilling.
Discover, develop, and express your potential. You will feel competent and fulfilled, and you will enjoy the journey. And that's how you keep moving forward.
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