Why Do Your Personal Development Efforts Fail and What to Do Instead

We humans assume on an intuitive level that our minds consists of a single, monolithic entity. In reality, there are multiple entities active in our consciousness at different moments. Nobel laureate economist Daniel Kahneman identifies two main systems in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

System 1 is the autopilot state. It’s active all the time. It doesn’t require much energy to maintain. However, it’s not very intelligent. System 2 is the intelligent system. It gets activated when you have an intellectual challenge like making a complex arithmetic calculation. It requires a lot of energy to maintain. Therefore, we spend most of our time in System 1.

David and Goliath in Our Heads

I like to think about the System 1 and 2 as the David and Goliath in our heads. David is intelligent, but at the same time lazy, weak, and sleeping the whole time. He doesn’t want to get bothered, but when he wakes up, he’s very sharp. He comes up with brilliant solutions. Goliath, on the other hand, is extremely active, strong, stays up the whole time, but unfortunately, dumb and prone to irrationality.

The theory of System 1 and 2 has an insane amount of applications in personal development. When I’m talking about creating an environment, identity, and your own Matrix for success, I’m talking about how to consciously target your System 1 for success. In other words, I’m talking about how to use your David to train your Goliath. Remember David is intelligent but lazy and Goliath is dumb but strong and hard-working.

Why Work More on System 1 than System 2

Most of the personal development efforts fail. Why? Because most of the personal development systems try to use David to convince David. David already knows he has to work harder. David already knows he has to exercise more. David already knows he has to watch his caloric intake. And David is asleep most of the time.

The real change happens on the level of System 1. If you can convince your Goliath to act in a certain way that leads to success, you’re set for life.

It’s not David that is active all the time and leads our lives. It’s Goliath that does that. We have to convince Goliath to act in a certain way, not David. David is already on board and despite all of his intelligence, he has limited capacity to influence our life.

How to Get Goliath on Board

I have already written some posts about how to convince Goliath and I’m going to write even more about this subject. Convincing Goliath is the single most effective personal development strategy. You can start with reading the posts linked below. Also check this blog often for new posts and sign up to the newsletter to stay in touch.

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.