Three Steps to Transform Your Life with Personal Development

There are 300+ posts in my blog. Reading one of those posts and applying it in your life is much more beneficial than reading all of them just to forget them the next month.

The writer in me would prefer you reading all of my posts, but at the end of the day, those posts were written to make a difference in your life.

There are so many personal development content and workshops out there, ranging from free to ultra-premium. You can’t consume all of them even if you devoted your whole life to it.

You might be consuming a good deal of personal development content and following workshops, but do you apply what you consume in your life?

That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Here’s a follow-up question.

Which difference does consuming all the personal development content make in your life?

Sure, reading a book is better than watching TV, but does reading a book make any difference in your life?

Make no mistake, I’m not arguing that personal development content and workshops are useless. My argument is they are what you make of them.

If you see personal development content as entertainment and workshops as social activities, you won’t make much progress in that area of your life.

Sure, that’s much better than wasting your time online or hanging out in a random bar, but you can get much more out of those activities.

What Keeps Us from Making the Most of Our Personal Development Efforts?

Several obstacles keep us from making the most of our personal development efforts. The first one is that we don’t know how our minds work.

We believe that we’ll learn a concept just by a single exposure. We read a book once. Then, move on to the next one, then to the next one, and so on.

We might end up having read ten books, but our retention rate is so low that it doesn’t even add up to a single book.

The solution to that problem is called the spaced repetition method. When you complete a book, schedule periodic reviews in your calendar.

A sample schedule is to review a book one week later, one month later, one quarter later, and one year later. That makes four reviews.

There are some books that I reread and listen again on audible, but a review doesn’t necessarily mean rereading the entire book or going through the workshop once more. It means reminding yourself of the key ideas.

An effective way to process a book is to underline the passages that resonate with you and to take notes. Then, you can go over those highlighted passages and notes during your review. Kindle makes this really easy.

You don’t need to review all the books of course. If a book doesn’t resonate with you, you can skip the review process.

Do the Work

Personal development books and workshops usually involve exercises. Some books are just a collection of exercises. Those are the most transformational content, but there’s a catch. You have to do those exercises.

If you just read the text and don’t do the exercises, the value you’ll get out of that activity will be marginal.

It’s human nature to seek novelty and avoid effort. And some personal development programs require effort, especially emotional labor to face yourself and your life entirely. It’s tempting to keep on reading, listening, or watching, without doing the exercises.

I read two books by Nathaniel Branden that resonated with me, which made me buy an audio program to listen to while doing manual work.

The audio program contained lots of exercises, which take much longer than just listening to the content. But doing those exercises was way more transformational than just reading the first two books.

Dive In

Our novelty seeking nature makes us jump from book to book and from author to author. That keeps us from getting the ideas of an author thoroughly.

I don’t argue to dedicate your life to a single author and consume only their content unless that’s what you want.

If a book resonates with you, dive deeper with other books of the same author. This will make the spaced repetition easier since there are usually overlaps in the books of an author. You’ll be reading similar ideas expressed in different ways.

There have been a few authors whose work I dove into. As a result, I understood and integrated the ideas of those authors more into my life.

Four Levels of Learning

There are four levels of learning.

  • In the first level, you aren’t aware that a certain skill exist.
  • In the second level, you’re aware of the skill, but you don’t have it.
  • In the third level, you have to make a conscious effort to use the skill.
  • In the fourth level, you can use the skill without any conscious effort.

Reading about a topic takes you from the first level to the second level. It’s those repetitions, doing the exercises, and dive-ins that will take you from the second level to the third and fourth levels. The third and fourth levels are where the magic happens.

Summary

Consuming personal development content and participating in workshops is better than just wasting your time online or hanging out in a bar. Yet, those activities provide you with marginal benefits if you don’t do the work.

To get significant value out of your personal development work, you need to do periodic reviews, do the exercises, and dive deep into the works of the authors that resonate with you.

Reading a book once will take you to the second level of learning, but periodic reviews, doing the exercises, and deep dives will take you to the third and fourth levels. That’s where real transformation happens.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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