Resources to Read / Watch / Share

Many more personal development resources on the way…

6 Remarkable Benefits from Reading Personal Development Articles

Many people prefer reading personal development articles over books for a variety of reasons. It’s a quicker read, often provides executive summaries and pitches the bottom-line quicker. Articles are to be found all over. Originally magazines were primarily bought from shops, but since the inception of the internet, there is a staggering array of free articles available online.

Taking the initiative to purposefully read “self-help” or “how to” articles are great tools for personal development. Yes, it does require a time investment and yes anything of value comes with diligent effort. Without unpacking the history, disciplines and academic frameworks of the modern self-improvement culture, let’s try to formulate it simply. It’s the daily (or weekly) discipline of reading any type of material with the purpose of growing as an individual. The operative phrase here is “taking the initiative”. All of us have strengths to discover, weaknesses to improve and habits to change. It’s never easy and will take determination.

Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” marks a turning point in popularizing self-improvement. One of the most persuasive books of all time, it sold over 30 million copies across the world. The latest edition is named “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age”. Popular series like “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to” and “Dummies” books share knowledge about every imaginable topic ranging from stress management to mixed martial arts. Everyone is familiar with “How to” concepts and there is no shortage of information on pretty much any subject.

Reading can literally take place anywhere. The biggest priority advocated by most articles on the topic is taking accountability for your own personal development. The following benefits can be reaped:

1.   Heightens self-awareness
2.   Magnifies empathy for people
3.   Kindles hopes and dreams
4.   Advances critical thinking
5.   Stimulates creativity
6.   Establishes professional credibility

1. Heightening Your Self-Awareness

Avid reading of personal development articles will help you to understand yourself better. All of us are different. Growing in self-awareness means a better understanding of your own unique personality, emotional make-up, beliefs and so forth. It is a sense of who I am and how I relate to other people. Terms like “emotional intelligence” have entered the popular lexicon in this space. Here is something to understand about yourself right off the bat: “Self-help” does not imply that you do not need other people.

It can be said that by getting to know yourself better, one will actually realize how much you need other people. Realistically there is not something like a “self-made man”. Self-improvement does not happen in a void and neither does success. All of us need other people as part of a bigger cooperation effort. There is a need for feedback, advice and even to be steered at times. Without relationships, very little progress will take place – neither personally nor professionally. If you believe that you can go to the top on your own, maybe you should read another 1000 self-improvement articles to get rid of this erroneous notion. Or bring out a big gun and read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell to assist in self-reflection. His compelling book looks at the success of business magnates, professional athletes, geniuses and even rock stars. He explains: “… success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are.” [1]

Rational thinking is often pitched against emotional thinking – as if one is more valid than the other. There is a growing understanding – especially in the workplace – that not only are both types of feeling and expression valid, but that both drive success. An integrated approach between the two is meaningful. There is a growing voice for the expression of authentic feelings in the world of business, as long as it is constructive of course. A healthy combination between the emotional and rational approach is vital for the growth of any individual. It can and should operate side-by-side. The feeling factor and “emotional intelligence” have been getting a lot of publicity in recent times and not a moment too soon. Emotional awareness will make your career more effective, according to many studies.

Reading is valuable beyond measure. You can learn more about your behaviours, weaknesses and strengths. It can reveal very interesting blind spots. Be open to change and stay approachable. Make it easy for people to level with you and to give feedback.

2. Magnifying Your Empathy for People

Empathy is in short supply when it gets to the workplace or life in general. It means in essence to put yourself in someone’s else’s shoes. The more you read, the more you will understand people and recognize the need to be sensitive towards them. There is good reason why this article kicked off with self-awareness – a simple, but powerful dynamic is at play. If you don’t have a handle on yourself, then there is little hope to have insight into or empathy for others. When you have no understanding into your own thinking, feelings and behaviour, then the same will be true of your insight into other people.

Recognizing what someone else is going through is what empathy is about. It’s being in touch with another person’s emotions, thinking, and the situation from their point of view rather than how you see it, to paraphrase Psychology Today [2]. The human dynamic in business can very easily be neglected in the chase towards results. Achievements at all costs often get priority above the human factor. The neglect of empathy is sometimes found in the most unlikely of places, like the domain of “positive thinking”. A person experiencing challenging times would attempt to articulate their feelings. Rather than finding a sympathetic ear, they get bombarded with all kinds of “positive” solutions. The more they yearn for some form of empathy, the more they get infused with calls to see the bright side. It leaves them feeling more dejected with the added bonus of overwhelming frustration. All that they hear is “positive mantras” and hollow over-simplifications. A centuries-old proverb compares a person who sings light-hearted songs to someone that’s anxious as taking your jacket away on a cold day. Or pouring vinegar onto a wound. The lack of empathy was already recognized in antiquity.

In a pressurized milieu with tough expectations, a little empathy goes a long way. Be compassionate towards the suffering and pain of people and they will respect you. It’s a great relationship builder as well. No one puts it more succinctly than Stephen Covey with “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

3. Personal Development Kindles Your Hopes and Dreams

Reading articles on personal development stimulates the mind, activates the heart and can get you out of a rut. Most people have dreams and hopes for a better future. Some verbalize it, others don’t. Reading can prompt, guide and crystalize your own dream in life, whether professional or personal. Exchanging thoughts on life and career dreams, John C. Maxwell writes that “Dreams are valuable commodities. They propel us forward. They give us energy. They make us enthusiastic.” [3]

A dream might strike you like lightning and you will know what you want in an instant. In most cases, we will have to unwrap our heart’s desires little by little over time. Explore options. What makes you get out of bed in the morning excitedly even if you are dead-tired? Maybe your career is at a crossroad. Remember that dreams can shape a career, as opposed to just going through the paces like a robot. What would your ideal future look like? What dream will make your heart beat faster? How does fear of the unknown impact you? Does your current experience match with where you want to go? Personal development articles can show you where to start and how to define goals in order to get there. The tipping point between intelligent dreaming and actual break-through might be far apart, but diligent action will make it happen. One’s dreams paint a vivid picture of how things can be, but it’s implementation that will plug the gap to make it true.

Reading ignites long-term vision, but also motivation for the short term. It humbles you to discover how little you really know in the bigger scheme of things. It is never too late to dream, but get out of the pyjamas as soon as possible. Ray Kroc was 52 when opening his first McDonald’s franchise and the rest is history. Establish future-oriented and measurable goals. Don’t ban yourself to outer space if you make mistakes along the way. Each failure is a stepping stone for future success.

Keep your dream alive.

4. Advancing Your Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is not limited to academic research or corporate boardrooms. Regular readers of personal development articles frame their own critical thinking over time. They start to grasp complexity faster. Reading stimulates the intellect, boosts brainpower and improves memory. The assumption in some circles is that critical thinking has something to do with people that are negative with a consistent pessimistic outlook. This indicates a rather ignorant misunderstanding. A tutorial on critical thinking puts forward the correct interpretation: It “can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions.” [4]

Socrates is credited for putting critical thinking on the map. He was famous for dialogue and posing questions to people. In doing so, he exposed illogical reasoning and ignorance. Today it is still used in different formats and known as “Socratic Questioning”.

Critical thinking features a host of angles and advantages. Here are some:
 

  •  Approaches situations in a thoughtful and flexible manner.
  • Uses logical reasoning and objective breakdown of facts.
  • Weighs up other alternatives without bias.
  • Never ignores the big picture.
  • Avoids speculation and independently assesses facts.
  • Reduces the risk of implementing the wrong assumptions.
  • Analyzes both the theory and generally accepted practise.
  • Puts interpretation of information to the test.
  • Advances open-minded rationality and a reasoned approach.
  • Led by evidence and objective analysis.
  • Challenges traditional beliefs.
  • Self-corrective in nature.
  • Double-checks own assumptions.
  • Reaches a well-considered understanding with coherent conclusions.

5. Stimulating Your Creativity

Never underestimate the eye-opening potential of personal development articles to spark creativity. It is a process, starting with deliberate initiative. Imaginativeness ebbs and flows. In order to heighten creativity and innovation, time must be taken periodically to sharpen the senses according to Daniel Burrus [5]. People can be sensitized towards originality. Put yourself in inspirational environments. Creativity and optimism positively feed one another. Take a deep dive into content that is conducive to creativity and there are unlimited reservoirs available. Like the old cliché, creativity can be likened to a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it gets.

Every article presents a piece of the creativity puzzle. Sometimes it’s an exact fit, other times it takes a little longer. It might even be a piece of the wrong puzzle. But that is how a beautiful picture ultimately gets completed – through trial and error. Just keep on building.

A quote attributed to Pablo Picasso has an interesting take: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” The problem is that creativity is commonly seen to be limited to artists or super talented people. Based on this wrong premise, imagination won’t even get off the launching pad. Anyone can learn creativity and practised over time, a whole new world of possibilities will open up. You will start seeing opportunities that colleagues can’t see. This will be the time to connect the dots and jump out of the vacuum. You will bring fresh perspectives to the table.

Creativity is about creating something new or combining and redesigning something that’s already there. Break new ground. Allow yourself to create something that will NOT be considered as a masterpiece. It will craft your skill. Don’t make creativity a New Year’s resolution, just get started right away.

6. Personal Development Establishes Your Professional Credibility

Unsurprisingly, credibility is established in part through sharing your knowledge. The regular reading of personal development articles expands your influence. Formal education, degrees and diplomas undoubtedly contribute towards professional credibility. But it doesn’t have to start or end there. There is something that’s even more important over the span of a lifetime or career. People who display a thirst for learning, who are known as avid readers and continuously improve themselves build a very strong personal brand. It’s a brand called “Me”. Individuals with great general knowledge make an impact unfailingly.

Learning translates into capability. If followed through with consistent implementation and integrity, it conclusively leads to professional credibility. Add strength of character to the formula and the message will be that you can be trusted. In fact, this has become so important that platforms are developed to measure credibility and trustworthiness. Rob Peters makes it clear that the advent of standards for professional credibility is a “force that will continue to grow … Employers need something more than a resume and a few short interactions to assess a candidate.” [6]

Make sure to relentlessly execute opportunities for growth and before long you will enjoy more credibility at work.

In Closing: Reading Personal Development Articles and Technology

Technology is often blamed for a decline in reading, but that is simply not true – or at least it shouldn’t be true. Technology is not the undermining enemy as some would claim. It actually opens up endless learning possibilities. Devices such as a Kindle or a mobile phone are libraries in their own right these days. They are much smaller in physical size than an actual book or the spread of a magazine article. But they are virtual libraries and can store more personal development reading resources than what you and me can consume in a life time. It remains mind-boggling that a simple modern device has more computing power than that of the computers which put the first man on the moon.

Whichever way or method you prefer, keep on reading personal development articles and books. You will reap the benefits. It is a given.

References:

  1.   Outliers – The Story of Success [Book] / auth. Gladwell Malcolm. – London : Penguin Books Ltd, 2008.
  2.   All About Empathy / auth. Psychology Today. – [s.l.] : Psychologytoday.com, Accessed on 6 November 2018.
  3.   What Is Your Dream? / auth. Maxwell John C. – [s.l.] : Success.com, Accessed on 6 November 2018.
  4.   [C01] What is critical thinking / auth. Critical thinking web. – [s.l.] : Philosophy.hku.hk, Accessed on 6 November 2018.
  5.   Creativity and Innovation: Your Keys to a Successful Organization / auth. Burrus Daniel. – [s.l.] : Huffingtonpost.com, Accessed on 6 November 2018.

6.   The Emergence of Professional Credibility Standards / auth. Peters Rob. – [s.l.] : Medium.com, Accessed on 6 November 2018.