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Choose Self-Improvement So You Can Move from Arbitrary to Exceptional
Why is the self-help industry so popular? That’s because personal development is an essential part of every human being’s makeup.
1. Success is a Lifelong Journey of Self-Improvement
Humans are built to grow and innovate. It is our nature to improve so that we can be useful to one another. Therefore, learning is so important if you want to get ahead personally and professionally.
In the workplace and open market, usefulness is rewarded.
The more you contribute and the less you take from an enterprise, the more valuable you are to that enterprise.
You can learn the skills of your craft so you can do the job you are tasked with. But the world of enterprise is a little more complicated than that. Learn to get along with others so that the collective effort can yield the desired outcome, whatever that may be. Learn to manage your emotions. Work on your self-esteem. One has to know how to play the game of life so that one can navigate it with elegance and eloquence.
To manage this, one has to be on a lifelong journey of personal development. Initiative has no age deadline.
If we have a look at a post-Covid world, many people will lose their jobs and their careers. This means they have to pivot and find other ways of becoming useful again. They will have to have to reinvent themselves and perhaps take on careers different from what they trained for.
They’re will have to read more, watch more, and learn more so they can survive and thrive in a world that has changed.
The quicker they can adapt, the quicker they can become useful again, the better for all of us.
2. Create Your Own Self-Improvement Road Map to Stay Relevant
Developing yourself and getting ahead in the world is more than hard work, more than dreaming and more than luck. It’s a combination of many factors.
Life’s responsibilities, family, and work demands are time-consuming and can make it difficult to set aside more time to enhance your skills development.
For many, a working day starts at the dawn of day and ends at dusk. Staying in cities, time in peak traffic sucks up the hours. Arriving home exhausted after a long working day leaves little time for personal development, and family life shouldn’t be neglected.
Some master this fast-paced environment and jump to opportunities for learning.
They attend conferences and seminars on weekends and learn from books.
Learning organizations urge employees to show learning initiatives and know that knowledgeable workers with a mindset towards personal development are an asset to the company.
Create your own learning road map so you stay relevant and useful in the future.
The only way to grow and have more than an even chance of achieving one’s goals is to work on the process.
3. Hard Work is Not a Popular Concept
Hard work, failure, and process have not been popular concepts in the 21st century.
Many self-help gurus stress that one should focus on the outcome through visualization, dreaming, and will alone.
Writer, William Arthur Ward, said, “If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” This kind of motivational motherhood has become the growth philosophy of the 21st Century and has birthed thousands of books and movements that put dreams, attraction, imagination, and outcomes before work and process.
The seminal work that brought this into mainstream self-improvement consciousness is the ‘law of attraction’ movement created by Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret (based on a documentary of the same name), which was published in November 2006. To date, over 30 million copies have been sold. And there’s no sign that the sales will slow down anytime soon. It may not have sold nearly as much as Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich which has sold over 80 million copies since it was first published in 1937.
Many contenders in this genre will deliberately go unmentioned.
4. A Growth Mindset by Developing Abilities Through Practice
Whilst positive thinking, positive attitudes, dreams, and goals are important to oil one’s motivation, many personal development philosophies miss out on achieving one’s goals.
One can sit in a room and visualize one’s outcomes, but without some kind of forward-moving process and action, it is doubtful that goals will be achieved.
One of the most helpful texts is a book written by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Here she argues that success in almost every area of human endeavor can be massively influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. Those that have fixed mindsets and believe that their abilities are fixed, will find it harder to improve themselves and flourish than those with a growth mindset. People who believe that they can develop their abilities through practice have a growth mindset. She’s arguing for people to work on developing themselves.
The ‘law of attraction’, focusing solely on outcomes, is not a sustainable model for any kind of long-term success. American football coach, Vince Lombardi was probably closest to the mark when he said, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
There are thousands of excellent books that deal with self-help. Some of the most popular books are:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey (25 million+ copies sold to date)
- Who Moved My Cheese – Spenser Johnson (23 million+ copies since 1998)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie (15 million copies and created one of the largest training organizations in the world).
5. 10 000 Hours and a Bit of Luck
This argument is not entirely true. If hard work and process alone were the recipes to success, then surely the most menial of laborers should be the most successful, shouldn’t they? They work hard and for long hours. But their pay and lifestyle are not commensurate with their efforts.
A personal development book that goes a long way to answering this puzzle is Outliers: The Story of Success (circa. 2008) by Malcolm Gladwell. The premise is that it takes deliberate process work (10 000-hour rule) and then a bit of luck to be successful. If Leonardo da Vinci never spent thousands of hours on his craft and had the good fortune to gain the patronage of the wealthy Medici family in Florence (they’re also known as the Godfathers of the Renaissance), he may never have achieved what he did.
The Lebanese-American essayist and author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb echoes the same sentiment. He asks and answers why the usual ‘successful’ entrepreneurs … Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and the like succeeded (financially, at least)? Taleb points out that there are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the graveyard of failure who have had more opportunity, better bloodlines, more education than any of these ‘successful’ icons. Why are the Bill Gates’ of this world successful and not them? He came up with one word: Randomness. They just had a bit of luck too.
Being in the right place at the right time is a vital factor.
6. Today’s Marketplace Demands a Lot from Employees
Today’s marketplace demands a lot of its role players and without ongoing learning, employees fall behind on minimum requirements.
Whether technical knowledge is on the table or shaping up the induction course offered by your company, training is helpful in all its simple and complicated facets.
First, let’s consider a common myth about training. Yes, it finds its home in the human resources function, but employees need to be enlightened as to the importance of taking up the responsibility of personal learning and not waiting on the boss to do so for them.
They need to be inspired to make personal development a lifelong personal mission and it can be as simple as reading books.
7. Personal Development in Learning Organizations
Personal development should become a lifestyle.
Learning and knowledge goes a long way towards job security and being “marketable” in one’s career.
Corporate companies continuously identify and plug the knowledge gaps on every team and across every department. They constantly reconfigure training expectations. Those who actively pursue to be a “learning organization” often institute a policy of amount of training days per employee annually.
From a corporate training standpoint, career success will probably be approached from a view of personal strengths, weaknesses, experience, and applicable qualifications. Top companies go to great lengths to aid employees and to map out their potential, especially if they have been identified as part of the “succession planning” process. One Fortune 500 corporation measures individual potential scientifically and combines it with actual performance to arrive at a “raw potential” state. Major developmental areas and significant barriers are then deducted to reach the “real potential”.
8. Personal Development is a Personal Journey
We all need to sustain ourselves emotionally, spiritually, financially, healthily, and relationally. There’s no need to tackle each area at once.
Whichever way you slice it, however, if you’re not growing, you’re falling behind.
Your commitment to improving every day will be the difference between living an exceptional life and an arbitrary one. If you want to climb the career ladder but struggle to gain the edge, start focusing more on learning.
Choose exceptional. Embrace self-learning.