I’m a student of personal development. And I know it gives results. It can realize your dreams. I experienced its power firsthand. I’m not some freak of nature; many people have similar experiences including today’s icons of personal development – Brain Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Bob Proctor, Bernard Burchard.
But looking around you can see that personal development doesn’t seem to be the answer for the most folks. Every year there are millions of new PD books copies sold, millions of podcasts episodes are downloaded and listened to, hundreds thousands of people attend to seminars, the circulation of Success magazine is half a million.
But we heard only about hundreds, several thousand at most, success stories.
The method which brought fame and fortune to some seems to be completely useless or of limited functionality to the rest. There is some missing element in this puzzle.
I grasped this dissonance almost as soon as I returned to personal development study. I came back to it after 16 years. I had the extended experience of personal development which didn’t work.
Success is the question of personal philosophy
What is it?
A simplistic definition:
“A system a person forms for conduct of life”.
Some people developed a system which says “Stay on the couch and enjoy your bear at all cost”, others “Progress is my duty”. But everybody has one. And it defines the life they live and the results they get.
It is the reason why people who live in the same place, in the same family and experience the same hardships as any other person next to them achieve drastically different results.
Les Brown and his twin brother Wesley had almost identical data inputs in the early childhood. But only one of them became a world-class speaker.
We observe it in the history time after time – people who live in the same ghetto are achieving radically different end results.
The secret behind those differences is the personal philosophy. A successful life is possible only for those who are backed up by successful personal philosophy.
How is it formed?
By sensory data inputs – everything you see, hear smell, touch and taste form your personal philosophy to some degree.
Why to some degree? Because you have the watchdog in your brain – RAS. It filters everything, so you won’t go crazy. It’s working at a very low level; you literally don’t see things and don’t hear them. You have also a belief system, which many think is connected with RAS. And you subconsciously avoid everything which is not compatible with it.
I call it your internal interpretation. It can work subconsciously like RAS and filters anything not agreeable with your belief system. Then you don’t hear, don’t see. It also works half-consciously, when you can register your thoughts: “Yeah, bastards, you just want my credit card number, not to make my life better.”, “Yeah, look for a loser somewhere else, I won’t give you my email address, so you can spam me with success tips.”
To say the truth, that’s all. You get input, you interpret it and it in the results shifts your personal philosophy a bit. But I also assigned the 3rd factor to my guide of developing your own personal philosophy: people.
People are unpredictable. I’ve never heard about a dog that turned his life around by a single destiny-defining decision. People deserve to be a separate category of factors that influence your personal philosophy. People are simply important. They can affect you on so many levels that are still incalculable.
And the more I study personal development, philosophy and spirituality, the more I am convinced that we are interconnected. On an invisible level, we mimic those whom we are around. Skeptics may say its hormones or subconscious body language signals. They may be even right. Whatever it is, it works. The saying about being an average of the five people closest to you is a good approximation of reality.
People can be both your data sources and your interpretation. Most likely your parents are responsible for a majority of beliefs you’ve gained in your childhood. Your personal philosophy was also affected by your peers, teachers, and neighbors.
People often delivered you information and emotions mingled with that information: “Those bastard Democrats did it again!“, “Those tunnel-visioned Republicans said it again!” “It”, whatever it is, conveys the information, invectives (less often praises) are the emotions.
When is your personal philosophy formed?
Some say that the basics of your personality are determined in your early childhood, up to 2 years old. I very much doubt it. I experienced a major shift in my personal philosophy at the age of 33.
Aristotle claimed that a man is able to shift his philosophy up to the age of 54. He hadn’t a sophisticated scientific method to determine this threshold very precisely; he just used his sharp mind to estimate it. Tom Butler-Bowdown, the author of “Never Too Late to be Great” found many examples of people who were older than that when they shifted their philosophy. An Iron Nun was 54 when she decided to participate in an Ironman competition (and she started any physical exercises at all at the age of 48).
The right answers then seems to be: a personal philosophy is in a constant process of alignment. It can be changed, it is changing all the time. That’s its nature. A system for conduct in life can’t be stale, because life is dynamic in its nature.
How to adjust it consciously?
I’m sure there are hundreds, if not billions of factors which affects shaping human’s personal philosophy. Sensory inputs, emotions, past experiences, knowledge, and interpretation attached to all of the above, your family life, your failures and successes, the kind of books you read or shows you watch. Whether or not you were bullied at school or whether or not you attended the single-sex school. Whether or not there was a death or serious illness in your close family. And so on.
But all you need to amend your philosophy is generalization and simplifying – concepts human mind is so fond of. Just focus on the 3 factors I mentioned earlier: data sources, internal interpretation and people. It will take care of 80% of forming your right personal philosophy. The rest? It will take care of itself or you will study it when the main bulk of work will be done.
Where to start?
Start from data sources. It’s the easiest and most tangible part.
Read books. Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge recommends reading at least 10 pages of a good book every day. If you stick to this discipline, it will translate to 8-10 books read within one year. If it seems daunting to you, because you don’t like to read, start from 2 pages a day. The worst thing you can do is to ignore this advice and not read at all.
You are lucky to live in the Internet era. There is a multitude of blogs on every subject imaginable. You can learn about parenting, healthy eating, starting a new business, becoming an author and a thousand other things. Carefully select 2 or 3 blogs in an interesting area and follow them closely. Find someone close to your level, which has some successes, but still has time and desire to interact with his audience. This kind of interaction on the global Net touches a bit another pillar of rebuilding personal philosophy – meeting new people. Not only the blog owner, but also his audience. The comment section is a great place to start new acquaintances. You get two advantages at one stroke.
I personally hate learning from videos. But your preference may be the opposite. There are a lot of valuable video materials on the Internet including a multitude of specialized YT channels. For expanding your horizon I recommend TED talks. If you prefer to consume content offline (as I do) there are free tools which allow you downloading videos from most of the sites, including YT. I recommend Flash Video Downloader or HD Transform.
Audio is another way to get new ideas and knowledge. I don’t find it very useful for the learning purposes, the data are hard to extract for me just from listening. But you can utilize a lot of opportunities to listen to audio materials which are unavailable with reading or watching. You can listen while doing household chores, exercising, and commuting, driving, going shopping… the list goes on and on.
Find something which will work for you. Pick carefully a couple of new inputs and develop new habits of plugging into them. Some useful ideas:
– read 10 pages of a good book a day
– listen to one podcast episode a day
– Watch one TED talk a day
– read a single specialized blog post a day
– listen to educational/motivational audio materials for 15 minutes a day
– read a single random blog post a day (just type an interesting topic in Google)
Approach those activities like any other serious habit-building activity. Design the process. Find your cue, like leaving a book on your bedside cabinet, so every time when you lie in your bed you read 10 pages of it. Set alarms or reminders. Track a new habit, make it a point of honor to do both the tracking and habit itself every day.
For how long?
Forever. At least set your mind for such a time horizon. It shouldn’t take you forever to change your life, but if you negotiate with your subconscious whether or not do your new data-input habit, it will crush your determination. It’s bigger and stronger than you. Be consistent.
Every sustained action brings the results.
Stick to your small discipline for days, weeks and months and one day you won’t recognize yourself.
But Jim Rohn advised reading even half of the night if you found yourself in dramatic circumstances, with very lousy personal philosophy.
When I started my transformation I set myself for at least 45 minutes of exposing my mind to the new data sources. But I did more than a minimum. In the few first months I read about dozen books and a couple hundreds of blog posts.
So do as much as possible. No less. No more.
I bet your life will change if you start even a single 10-minute discipline of this kind and stick with it for one year.
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