There was a time when doing any kind of coaching, self-help or personal development was a bit taboo - you had to be a hippie or have serious issues to spend your time and money on such things. Times have changed and now anyone who’s anyone has a coach and purchases of self help books are at an all time high...
This raises a question: in the pursuit of becoming the best version of ourselves and finding our own path in life, aren’t we all becoming just a bit too self interested and narcissistic?
We can relate to both sides of this argument and it’s normal when an idea swings from one extreme to the other so let’s get clear on what improving yourself should be about:
Most of us are much more capable that we think we are
In our book, “Real Leaders for the Real World” , we talk about emotional regulation, which is the degree to which the emotions we are expressing in any given situation are appropriate to what is going on in that situation. (i.e. not over-reacting, "flying off the handle", being too heavy-handed, being too emotional, being too aggressive, being too over-the-top or being too shy in a situation)
Once people are emotionally regulated, can think clearly and understand themselves well, they find that they can achieve much more than they thought possible. This doesn’t mean big light bulb moments, but solid incremental steps forward.
Human beings are complex creatures, but our brains like simplicity. We often end up making sense of life and other people in an unhelpful way. The good news is that it is possible to get enough knowledge about this to make a difference in your life without having to earn a psychology degree in the process. Unless you want to work with other people clinically, a series of coaching sessions or a self improvement course will probably give you everything you need.
Your ability to communicate and have good relationships is the single biggest determining factor in your success
Countless studies have concluded that the quality of our relationships are the number one factor affecting happiness.
Society does’t set us up well for it, though. We learn to communicate chiefly by accident through modelling our parents and other people around us. Without some form of personal development we will end up repeating their patterns, even if we don’t want to.
In general, most people have trouble with negotiating, conflict management skills and setting healthy boundaries. This is where there are genuine concerns about personal development: that we all become too ‘to hell with everyone else’, and forget to care about other people. When these skills are trained poorly, where people don’t get enough chance to practise new approaches they come across aggressive and clunky. This is why this stuff is hard to learn from a book. You need to practise with another living, breathing human being (who has no agenda for you) and get their feedback.
We are ALL sabotaged by our own thinking
As Einstein said, "we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them”.
Yet we still try rather than seek help or find a way to take a different approach. Our deep-seated attitudes, limiting beliefs about ourselves and other people and general habits and patterns limit us. Good quality personal development doesn’t involve throwing out who you are as a person, but mindfully tweaking and altering your thinking until you get results for yourself and other people that fit for you.
People are not broken and don’t need fixing. All the good work done by the likes of Princes Harry and William and other high profile people is helping us all to understand that our mental health is as important as physical health. The good news is that, like good diet and exercise, you can do things now to help your mental health now and in the future.
The world needs more emotionally resilient, well-adjusted people, doing their bit to guide us. You don’t have to become a world peace negotiator to achieve this. Raising healthy, happy families, running healthy and successful businesses and teams at work, doing your bit for your community - these all make a huge difference.
Doing these things well is not easy. Learning how to remain emotionally balanced, be a professional communicator and be able to understand yourself and others well sets a solid foundation to achieve whatever you want to do in life.
Find something that works for you, avoid over-inflated quick fix promises, do the work, keep going and you will get there. Choose your authors, coaching providers and training providers carefully.
You might find these resources helpful:
- Free quiz: How emotionally regulated are you?
- Free guide: How to choose a coach
- Free guide: How to choose NLP training in the UK
- Short video: Why it’s wise to avoid quick fixes to life’s problems
Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, John is also a Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. His new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.