Personal development and growth are terms that you can find everywhere these days. We’re in this era of marketing personal development as a product and we just can’t get enough of it. It’s strange because the idea of personal development is nothing new. People have been trying to improve their behavior and habits since long before the commercialization of the process. And as long as people have been trying to change their behavior and grow, people have also been self sabotaging their personal growth.
Are you one of those people? I was/am one of those people. At times I have felt like I was leading the charge for failure in personal development. I’m also one of those people who totally bought into the whole personal development movement.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree that personal development is important. I have a personal growth category on my blog. I want to constantly be growing, learning, and actually changing for the better and to help other people do the same. But I also wonder if I should just merge my “faith” and “personal development” categories because my spiritual growth is what my personal development is all about. What I found in secular personal development movement is that it’s all about succeeding and all the books, all the workshops, all the personal sessions, all the systems, tips, and tricks were all the same and they weren’t working.
What exactly is personal development anyway?
Definitions.net defines it like this:
Personal development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.
In the past, when I worked on my own personal development I was usually focused on just being better at everything I do. Mostly from a mindset perspective and also from an efficiency perspective.
Should I be doing personal development?
The believe the personal development movement is harmful. But changing for the better is important and personal growth is good. I just think personal development is more of a spiritual, lifelong process of self awareness and adjustment applied to every area of our life than it is a 30 minute daily task. The pressure that I was feeling from this movement was to be great at everything, perfectly efficient, with all of my emotions in check, and all of my to-do lists checked off daily or else I was failing — it’s too much.
To be clear, there was never a person telling me that I needed to be perfect. In fact, there are a lot of people out there in the personal development movement talking about how we aren’t perfect. But the pressure of the movement to constantly be improving ourselves for the purpose of making all of our dreams come true is exhausting. Maybe some of you have also felt that.
With that said, I think we should absolutely continue being conscious of and pursuant of progress in our development and growth. But overall, I think we need to stop buying into the hype of the movement. I’m not saying don’t pick up a personal development book ever again. I’m just saying, for me, the focus needed to be different and maybe that’s the case for you too. I haven’t stopped writing “personal growth” blog posts or doing my own personal development in different areas of my life. I just believe in infusing God into my personal development and showing others how they can do the same.
Most importantly, we need to remember that God’s love is not earned and we cannot make ourselves worthy of his grace. So that can’t be what our personal development is about. We also have to beware of our propensity to become obsessed with ourselves. Our development and growth can be used to serve others and represent God well, that’s why it’s important. As Christians, it should not be to glorify our own lives.
FOUR WAYS YOU MIGHT BE HALTING YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
You are too focused on self
One big thing the personal development movement does is keeps you focused on what you can do. Our habits and behaviors are absolutely our responsibility. But what happens when you constantly focus on what you can do and how you can change yourself is that you take your focus off of Jesus.
The truth is, we are a mess. We are all a mess without Jesus and apart from him we can’t do anything. If you believe that like I believe that then you probably already know how things turn out when you try to take matters into our own hands. I’m not saying you aren’t capable of change. I’m saying you need Jesus to make that change. He reveals to you what you really need to change to begin with and he works in your life with you to bring you through that change. When we focus only on what we can do we end up overwhelmed, frustrated, disappointed, and ashamed.
You have a victim mentality
We all know someone who thinks everything is someone else’s fault and that nothing ever works out for them. None of us have ever felt like that, of course [insert sarcasm here]. We have always been the poster children for self awareness, right? Ha. Right. Speaking for myself here, I have been there and in some areas of my life I’m still go there sometimes. It’s easy to spot a person who is like that in every area of their life, all the time. What a drag.
It’s actually not so easy to see it hidden in different areas of our own lives. Like maybe you only play the victim in your health and fitness journey but you claim responsibility in every other area of your life. Maybe you only feel sorry for yourself when your doctor tells you that you need to drop some pounds, maybe that’s the only time you start making excuses. Maybe you even blame God for everything instead of taking responsibility for your actions. Either way, growth requires personal responsibility, even for the things we didn’t have any control over. We always have control in how we respond.
You’re overthinking it
Over-thinkers live in a perpetual state of hypothetical scenarios. It’s the worst form of procrastination because not only are you putting off what needs to be done, you’re making it seem way bigger than it is and usually making it way worse than it would have been. Overthinking is the polar opposite of faith. As we grow spiritually, so should our faith. We have to make a conscious effort to get to know God, why we can trust him, and why we don’t need to overthink things.
You’re comparing your growth to someone else’s growth
No two people grow at the same rate. But you know, we’ve never lived before, this is our first time. We have no idea what we’re doing. In life you take the test first, then learn the lesson. Here we are just trying to get it right, so naturally we might look to the right or left to see how someone else is doing it. The problem is, we aren’t meant to grow the same. So when we start comparing where we are to where other people are, panic ensues.
That panic throws us into overthinking, which triggers that victim mentality, and here we are again — focusing so much on ourselves that we can’t see anything around us. How do we make it stop?!
HOW TO STOP SELF-SABOTAGING YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
You stay in that cycle of self sabotage when our conscious mind is at odds with our subconscious mind. That just means that deep down your mind is trying to protect you from pain, disappointment, and other uncomfortable feelings. You’re fighting against what you actually want with habits that you’ve created that undermine your own progress. You aren’t self aware enough to realize you are doing it or understand how you can stop. Usually these things are so subtle that you have no idea you’re doing them. So once you’ve gotten really honest with yourself about your own habits of self-sabotage, there are some things you can do regularly to combat them.
Learn to recognize self-sabotaging behaviors
Being aware of the times you are self-sabotaging is like looking at your life from a different person’s perspective. Sometimes we might even need someone to help us see these behaviors until we get used to spotting them in ourselves. Look at your life as an outsider would, honestly evaluating what a person might see when their view is not colored by any knowledge of you or your experiences.
Identify what triggers these behaviors
Root cause, root cause, root cause. The problem we see is very rarely the actual problem but just a symptom of the actual problem. That’s less complicated than it sounds. It’s just like a fever is a problem, but not the actual problem. It’s a symptom of the actual problem, which might be having some sort of viral or bacterial infection. So to fix the symptom you have to fix the actual problem. Some solid self-reflection can give you insight if you’re looking at your behaviors objectively.
Get to know the One who defines you
Everything in your life boils down to this. Growth in any area, whether it’s spiritual/mental/physical health, career, relationships — anything — hinges on your belief. Your belief always shows up in your results. As Christians, our belief in what God says about us, who we are in Christ, what God is capable of in and through us — these are the things that actually define us. If we do not know and believe what God says about us it’s going to show up in our results. And not in a good way.
Change your behavior patterns
All these things are so much easier said than done, I know. Just like anything else, if you want change you actually have to do the work. We are set free from our sin by Jesus but the responsibility to align ourselves with God is still ours. Here’s the good news, those root causes of our behavior can be changed with the help of God.
As Christians, we are constantly living in the transforming love of God. That love, when we know it and are in awe of it, will inspire us to align our habits and behaviors with those revealed in the life of Jesus. Step by step, the Lord will teach us and we will continue to grow, but it doesn’t happen without our participation in the process. So again, like you’ve probably seen me write a million times, the answer is in getting and staying really close to God. It’s the answer to everything. Get to know him and live in relationship with him. That’s where the change occurs, in your devotion and obedience to God.