4 Myths of Personal Development
There’s no shortage of reasons to prove that personal development leads to success. Great leaders are self-aware, willing to take responsibility for their actions and are always working to become the best versions of themselves. Sounds good, right?
But what prevents us from getting started on that personal development journey or taking our goals to the next level? For the last 7 years, I’ve worked with girls, ages 5-25 through my non-profit, Finding the Fabulous, and noticed a pattern of pitfalls that prevent emerging leaders from becoming great ones. Most of them are myths that we’ve built up in our heads. Time to debunk!
- You lack confidence
I believe there are many misconceptions about confidence. Foremost, that it is this giant, solid thing that is either your winning ticket or a major obstacle. I have found, however, that our confidence is made up of a thousand tiny, mosaic pieces that we spend our lives collecting. As we branch out, experience more and collect those pieces, they continually reflect back a better version of ourselves.
We’re all born with one (maybe two) of those pieces. Maybe you’re great at talking in front of people or making the new person feel welcome. Or perhaps you can run five miles (which, trust me, takes a lot of confidence for someone who is scared to put their sneakers on most days). If you haven’t found your piece yet, look a little harder! Or listen to the people who can see the giftings that you’re blinded from seeing. Whatever it is, no matter how small it may feel, that piece is worth celebrating and being proud of. It’s a launch pad to get out of your comfort zone and closer to discovering more of those coveted pieces.
Feeling like you lack confidence in other areas is something worth acknowledging, but never something to be ashamed of. When you feel ashamed of something, you hide it away, keep it quiet, pretend it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, you’re never going to feel more confident. Flip this insecurity on its head and use it to navigate your “weaknesses” until you can trade them in for another piece of confidence.
- You need to know exactly where you’re going
The truth is, even the most successful people take a few detours. You can’t control when a new idea strikes or an unexpected door is open (or shut). Sometimes your brain feels like a cursor on a blank page, other times it feels like the NYC subway map … infinite possibilities with no “right” answer. And inevitably, we’re all due for a meltdown every now and then.
Don’t let this discourage you.
Vision is one of the most motivating forces to fulfill a meaningful purpose. It will drive you to take on new challenges, find solutions and create a lasting impact. But the path to executing that vision is not always a straight line.
Lately I’ve been more fully appreciating the not all who wander are lost sentiment. My vision is more like a shape shifter than a static mirage. The more I learn and experience, the more my vision expands and evolves. But those growing pains don’t always bring clarity with them. Sometimes the future looks cloudier than I would like, but I’ve learned that there can be as much development in uncertainty as there is in clarity.
Rather than bang my head against the wall in frustration or get angry with myself for not having all the answers, I sharpen a different skillset when my vision grows cloudy. I exercise muscles that can easily atrophy when things get too easy. I learn to be flexible, uncover new sources of inspiration, take bigger risks, get things done faster, reach out and find my footing in new partnerships.
- You’re allergic to failure
I feel you! But personal development relies so much on trial and error. It’s about being gracious to yourself while you get to know more about the person you want to become. Somehow, the choice to not pursue your dream has become synonymous with the challenges you face when building your dream. The first is failure, the second is fearlessness.
If you want to develop as a leader, it’s time to reframe how you think about failure and remove fear from the equation. This has been extremely difficult for me and it’s taken years to remove these limitations from my personal trajectory. I’ve found a few things to be helpful in overcoming this obstacle:
Confide in people you trust. Our fear of failure becomes a heavy burden when we keep it bottled up inside. We put immense pressure on ourselves to succeed so that we don’t disappoint the people whose opinions we value. But if you’ve built a true support network, their perception of you won’t change because a hopeful opportunity fell through or your latest venture didn’t take off. In fact, if you’re like me, a little vulnerability might go a long way in helping you connect better. At the end of the day, they want to support you in the good times and the difficult ones. And they might be looking to confide in you too. Share your personal development goals, the challenges you’re having and the big dreams you have for the future. Your support network can keep you accountable, share their own insight and help put the pieces back together when you end up crying in a McDonald’s parking lot.
Celebrate the little victories. Women especially tend to neglect this. We work our butts off and then immediately move on to the next thing on our to-do list. The journey of personal development lasts a lifetime, so be assured there is no rush to the finish line. It’s important to stay fueled with positive energy by pausing to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. If you’re particularly bad at this, I recommend keeping a “win” folder. Whether it’s a physical folder or one on your laptop, tuck away evidence that you’re moving the needle. Set aside time—quarterly, once a year, or when a new challenge arises, to flip through your folder and be reminded of what you’ve tackled in the past. You may have come out with a few scrapes and bruises, but now you can see the end from the beginning.
- You need a guru
Best-sellers, role models, inspirational Pinterest boards, motivational quotes, Oprah magazine—it’s completely natural to seek success secrets from those who seem to be achieving it. But beware that they not become a distraction!
For several years I worked for a personal development-obsessed, mantra-loving entrepreneur. Her intentions to get organized and hyper-focused and in tune with her goals were good, but the time (and money) spent on always pursuing the next best thing detracted from actually getting things done.
It’s important, of course, to develop positive habits and shake things up when you’re feeling stuck in a rut, but if you’re constantly stopping to tweak your time management strategy or overhaul your success philosophy, you may inadvertently be taking your eye off of the proverbial prize. Brainstorming and strategy have their place, but be sure that you’re not getting stuck in a cycle that neglects taking action. Listening to your gut can be just as valuable as imitating the latest self-help guru.