Last week I wrote about how to get started on a personal development journey. But what if you already started one, but you’re just not into it? Or what if you keep starting one and then giving up? If either of these sounds like you it might be because your personal development plan is b-o-r-i-n-g. Let’s talk about how to make it FUN again.
I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty into this personal development thing. I’ve read a LOT of the major books, watched recorded speeches and interviews, listened to podcasts, and watched videos. And what I’ve noticed is that the world of personal development looks a lot like Congress. Mostly old white guys.
To be fair, the personal development guys seem to be pretty smart, and have good things to say, but they aren’t particularly relatable to me as a woman/wife/mother/etc.
And just like Congress, there’s a minority of women and people of color.At least it does seem to be improving.
For me, this smaller group of personal development leaders is where the interesting (and fun!) stuff is happening.
I’m saying all this to show that not all personal development is as boring as Who moved my cheese?
Does it have a good message? Sure. Could it be boiled down to a couple of pages? Definitely.
Many, MANY of the personal development books I have read spend more time telling you what they’re going to tell you than actually delivering valuable content. Of course there’s usually something good in there, but getting through the whole book to find it can be downright painful.
I’m here to tell you personal development doesn’t have to be like this. Improving yourself and growing as a person can be fun and interesting. Even if you’re just not that into it right now.
YOU’RE NOT BROKEN
Before we talk about the actual tactics of how to make this happen, let’s first discuss a major reason that people feel so bogged down by personal development.
Let’s be clear – personal development never ends. You will always be striving to be the best version of yourself. That’s the whole point.
This does NOT mean that aren’t good enough the way you are.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the belief that we need to be constantly bettering ourselves so that when “one day” comes we can finally start living our lives.
No. Just no.
You are GOOD ENOUGH rightthissecond – just the way you are. You are not broken. Personal development is not here to fix you.
What it is here to do is, perhaps, smooth a few rough edges (if you want them smoothed) or broaden or deepen your knowledge – if you’re interested.
You don’t serve it, it serves you.
So if you have gotten bogged down in some belief that you need to make it to some impossible finish line (which is death by the way, we’re done when we’re dead), or that it’s some kind of competition (do you actually WIN anything if you read a book a week?) and it’s sucked all the fun out of personal development – then you’re doing it wrong.
IF IT’S NOT FUN – DITCH IT
Steve Jobs was famous for saying that every morning he would look in the mirror and ask “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?” – and if the answer was no too many days in a row it was time to make a change.
And no matter HOW MUCH you LOVE doing something, there’s always going to be parts that aren’t as fun or are hard or boring. I love decorating cakes, but I don’t particularly like the baking portion of the program. However, the overall results are worth it for me to make the cakes.
That’s how personal development should be. Maybe a chapter of this great book is boring, then just get through it. If the first three chapters have been boring — ditch it.
Or maybe you’re following someone’s 6 month plan and you realize 6 weeks in that it’s not fun, not interesting, and not getting you results. You guessed it, ditch it!
Life is too short to stick to a book/podcast/video/plan if it’s not enjoyable and not serving you. This isn’t to say that if you hate leg day that you should skip it every week. Don’t skip leg day! But it is to say that if you hate everything about your workout routine (which therefore makes it unsustainable) that you should stick with it.
Don’t just give up. Look for alternatives.
Don’t be afraid to piecemeal something from this guru’s book and something else from that thought leaders podcast until it’s so customized to you, that your exact system probably wouldn’t work for 99.9% of the rest of the world.
That’s doing it right.
REWARD YOUR PROGRESS
If you’ve read my post on habits then you’ll know that no habit gets created without a reward. Training your brain is a lot like training dogs. The best way to get the result you’re looking for is with treats – even tiny ones.
To help you get through the times when personal development is kind of rough — because let’s be real it will happen — you need to be rewarding your progress. It really doesn’t have to be anything big unless you want it to be.
If you worked out 6 days this week (because that was your goal – not because that’s what everyone says you should do) maybe you earned an awesome smoothie, or a night off cooking, or a manicure.
Or perhaps you choose a personal development where doing it IS the reward or somehow creates the reward (more on this second one in a minute).
For example, I knew I needed to up my speaking game if I wanted to give valuable workshops to groups of clients, so I joined Toastmasters. I’m naturally extroverted and like to speak to groups so this isn’t torture to me like it would be to many. I love going and seeing this particular group of people. It’s some of the limited grown up time I get every month and that is reward enough for me to stick with it.
MAKE IT SOCIAL
If you are an avid people avoider and love to be alone, this section may not hit home for you. However, if you like hanging out with your friends then this might help.
It’s likely that there is a group of people (maybe that you don’t know yet) that has a LOT they could teach you. AND that you could teach them. So why not band together and make a personal development co-op?
Each person could teach something each week or month and then everyone benefits. One week might be knitting and the next could be finding your purpose. It doesn’t have to be that random, but random could be fun.
And if you don’t think any of your friends would go for this, then check out a site like meetup.com. You could create your own group of people that really want to do this self improvement thing the fun way.
And if you’re not into a whole big group you could always just grab a friend or two and join a class or even just sit around and read books or watch videos together. Marie TV can be just as fun as Real Housewives of wherever.
DEFINE HOW YOU LEARN
When it comes to personal development it can actually be pretty easy to get burnt out on it. Even though I love reading the books and listening to the podcasts, there’s only so much I can do on one subject in a day before I am OVER IT.
But I also have ADHD which comes with a side of hyper-focus. So there are stretches of time where I become obsessed with one topic and no amount of information is ever enough.
That’s the great thing about growth, though. You get to define it.
There are 2 main ways you can attack your learning and then customize it from there. You can either go narrow and deep or shallow and wide.
Narrow and deep is picking something very specific and getting to know as much as you can about the subject. Maybe you’re obsessed with language. An example of going narrow and deep would be to pick Spanish, for example, and learning the language so well a native speaker couldn’t tell it wasn’t your first language. You might even get so into it that you started learning all the various dialects or origins of the words or figure out how to translate Shakespeare to Spanish. You get the idea.
Going wide and shallow means that if you’re interested in languages that you start learning a little here and a little there. Maybe you know how to say Hi, where are the bathrooms? in 15 languages. Or maybe you get conversational in all the romance languages. The idea is that you’re not an expert in any one of them, but you’ve got a broad understanding of a lot of them.
By defining how you learn something you take control of it. There are values and merits to each style. But if you’re not into becoming an expert in something, but you’re only focusing on that one thing, you’re going to get burnt out pretty quickly. Which won’t be fun!
START A PROJECT
As a coach I know that if you come across something you want to accomplish and you either figure out how to turn it into a game and/or find a way to create a project around it — you’re more like to take the action steps you set up for yourself.
So consider how the personal development that you’re doing might create something positive for others. If you’re taking up a new hobby, will you be able to make something to give to others as gifts? If you’re learning a new language — could you go translate, or teach other people?
This is especially helpful to spice up things that maybe your manager said you had better improve upon. Find a way to take that gift you’re giving yourself, and give it to others too.
Because one of the points of personal development is to make you a better person in the world. What is the point of doing all this work on yourself if you’re not going to share it? Hoarding knowledge is pointless and NOT fun.
And P.S. don’t wait until you’ve “perfected” what you’ve learned before sharing it with others. We are all imperfect people just doing the best we can. Even if you go and learn only one word in French, it’s likely to be one more than a lot of other people, and there’s no reason you can’t share that knowledge.
Personal development should be FUN! While every part of every process might not be your favorite, the overall experience should be enjoyable. Use these 5 tips to make it fun and then go out and teach others. The world needs your uniqueness NOW—even while you’re continuing to improve yourself.
If you’re struggling to figure out this whole personal development thing and want to talk to someone that can help you figure it all out — let me know. Coaching IS a personal development tool and can help you create that super personalized plan you’ve been dreaming about.