The focus of the book Personal Development for Smart People is to give you detailed instruction on how to live more consciously, thereby accelerating your growth in all areas of your life.
This is accomplished in two learning stages. The first half of the book teaches you the seven universal growth principles: truth, love, power, oneness, authority, courage, and intelligence. Then the second half of the book explains how to apply these principles to make realistic improvements to six major areas of your life: habits, career, money, relationships, health, and spirituality.
The three primary principles are truth, love, and power. The other four principles are secondary because they can all be derived from the first three. If you simply learn the concepts of truth, love, and power, that alone is enough to radically change your approach to personal growth. In this article I’ll teach you the basics about the first three principles and lead you through an example of how to apply them to your life.
The principle of truth says that you can accelerate your growth by fully accepting what your perceptions and predictions tell you. The truth isn’t necessarily that those thoughts accurately represent reality, but you can at least accept the truth of what you’re subjectively experiencing. If you’re feeling sad, then “I feel sad” is a true statement, regardless of whether or not the perceptions that created your sadness can be externally validated.
In order to bring yourself into greater alignment with truth, start with what you know. Begin by acknowledging your thoughts and feelings because those are always true for you.
When we turn our backs on truth and fail to acknowledge our own thoughts and feelings, we succumb to falsehood and denial. This prevents us from growing.
Understand that you can still acknowledge the truth of your perceptions even if you feel powerless to change. The power to change will come later. It’s perfectly okay to say to yourself, “I know this situation feels wrong to me, but right now I lack the strength to change it.” Never pretend that you feel good about a situation just because you feel powerless to change it. Do your best to accept your inner truths even when they seem unpleasant.
The more truth you can accept into your life, the more conscious you’ll become, and the faster you’ll grow. When you align yourself with truth, the strength you need to change will eventually come. This isn’t always easy, but it is correct.
After I’d been running my computer games business for many years, I lost my passion for game development. It was my dream to run a games business when I was in my 20s, but as I entered my 30s, that work no longer inspired me.
For a few years, I tried to deny those feelings. I pushed myself to try harder. But my heart had already turned elsewhere. The harder I pushed myself, the less motivated I felt. It took a long time before I was able to admit to myself that I wanted to leave the field of game development. The fear of what I’d have to deal with if I admitted the truth was almost too great.
Eventually I admitted the truth to myself, “I know this work no longer fulfills me, and I know I need to do something else, but right now I lack the strength to change.” That was the major turning point for me. Once I accepted the truth, even as I kept working in that same business, I felt much more awake and aware. I was no longer stuck in falsehood and denial. And within a matter of months, I was able to finally retire from the gaming industry. I then proceeded to launch StevePavlina.com. It was slow going at first, but since then the site has touched millions of lives. It’s also given me an incredible amount of joy. Again, the key turning point was simply admitting the truth that I was on the wrong path, even though I didn’t feel like I was able to do anything about it at the time.
You can improve any area of your life by bringing more truth to it. Listen to your thoughts and feelings. What do you honestly perceive? Where do you predict your current path will take you? Is that really what you want? The more truth you can accept, even when it seems difficult to do so, the faster you’ll grow as a human being.
The principle of love says that you can accelerate your growth by creating more compatible connections and withdrawing from incompatible connections. Connections can be with people, places, objects, activities, or ideas.
Everything you connect with in life will either empower you or drain you. The connections that are most compatible with you will energize you. The least compatible connections will drain you.
For example, if you have a close, loving relationship with a highly compatible partner, that relationship will energize and empower you more often than not. But if you find yourself stuck in a relationship with someone who’s a poor match for you, that relationship will drain you and cause you to stagnate. You’re better off alone than being stuck in a relationship that drags you down. But better still is to enjoy a relationship with someone who energizes and uplifts you.
Fortunately, we aren’t stuck with our existing connections. We can consciously chose to break off connections that aren’t working, and we can form new connections we think will be more compatible. This can require some experimentation. You may not know which connections will suit you best, so you’ll need to branch out and experience new people, places, and activities to learn what’s most compatible with you.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but after I turned 21, I started taking many trips to Las Vegas, which was 300 miles (483 km) away. For some reason I just really loved the city of Las Vegas. Over a 10-year period, I took about 30 trips to Las Vegas for vacation. Eventually I began thinking about what it would be like to live in Las Vegas. It’s hard to explain why, but I just felt an incredible affinity for this city, something I never felt for any other city I lived in. I finally moved to Las Vegas in 2004, and I just love living here. This city makes me feel energized and empowered. It’s a more compatible fit me for than Los Angeles ever was. Interestingly, my connection to Las Vegas spawned many other compatible connections as well. I’ve made lots of wonderful friends here.
Consciously changing our connections isn’t easy. It’s hard to break off a long-term relationship that isn’t working. It’s hard to quit an unfulfilling job and embark on a new career path. It’s hard to pack up and move to a new city, leaving all your old friends and family behind. But when we summon the strength to do these things despite the difficulty, we release so much trapped energy. We finally get unstuck and stop draining ourselves. We feel happy and excited instead of bored or frustrated.
The principle of power says that you can accelerate your growth by assuming total responsibilty for whatever you want to change. Don’t blame anyone. Don’t play the victim. Don’t whine about how tough your life is. Decide what you want, and muster as much energy as you can to get moving toward your goals. Don’t settle and don’t make excuses. It doesn’t matter if everyone else around you is lazy and unmotivated. Your life is your responsibility. If you don’t take command of your situation, you’re choosing to be powerless.
Power is like a muscle. We all have some degree of power. Some challenges will seem easy to overcome, while others may require tremendous strength and persistence. The more you exercise your power in short bursts (without burning yourself out), the stronger you become. This makes you capable of tackling bigger, more meaningful challenges as you continue to grow.
About 10 years ago, I was interested in distance running. I set a goal to run the Los Angeles Marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2 km). I read a few books about marathon running and then began a six-month training program. I would do long morning runs along Venice Beach past the Santa Monica Pier. When I built up to 14-mile runs, I went to register for the race, which was on March 29, 1998. Hmmmm… that date was familiar. It turned out that was my wedding day. Erin didn’t seem too keen on rescheduling the wedding, so I got married instead of running the marathon that year.
I could have dropped the goal, but I really wanted to run the L.A. Marathon, so I decided to train again for the 1999 race. This time I joined a training group called the L.A. Roadrunners. I trained with them for six months, gradually increasing the distance of the long runs. Then a week before the marathon, I suffered a knee injury and had to miss the race.
Still I wouldn’t give up. Six months later I started training for the 2000 race. The training was very difficult because I still had some knee problems. Erin was pregnant with our daughter Emily at the time, and her due date was within a few days of the race day. Fortunately Emily was born about a week before the race, and I successfully completed the marathon that year. It was a difficult race because it rained continuously for the first two hours, and many of the runners wore plastic bags while they ran. I was very happy to finally cross the finish line and pick up my finisher’s medal (which I still have in a box in my closet).
Some goals require a lot of power and commitment to achieve. While it’s nice when you can achieve a goal without too much hardship, the benefit of working on really tough goals is that they’ll make you stronger. After completing the marathon, my other goals seemed easier by comparison. The more you exert your power to achieve interesting goals, the stronger and more capable you become. Goals that once seemed unachievable soon become achievable. Several years ago I never thought I’d write a book, but eventually I became a disciplined enough person to achieve that goal. Just a little extra push now and then can make you a far stronger person down the road.
Applying Truth, Love, and Power
If you really want to accelerate your growth, you can apply the principles of truth, love, and power together to achieve some major breakthroughs. Let’s consider an example.
Suppose you aren’t really happy with your job, and you’d love to have a more fulfilling career, but the whole notion seems overwhelming. How can the principles help you make a successful career transition?
First, consult the principle of truth. Tune in to your thoughts and feelings about your current job. How do you feel about it? Where do you predict your path will take you? Is this what you want? If you feel you’re on the wrong path, admit that to yourself. Accept the truth that you must eventually leave this path behind. Accept that your current situation is temporary. No matter how hopeless your situation seems, never allow yourself to deny the truth of your thoughts and feelings.
Now apply the principle of love. This principle tells you to go out and connect with what you want and to disconnect from what you don’t want. If you aren’t sure about what you want, then go out and connect with what you think you might want. Make a reasonable guess. If it turns out to be a mistake, you’ll know soon enough, and then you can try something else. Get some books and read about things that interest you. Do those books inspire you even more? That’s a good sign you’re connecting with something that’s compatible with you. Join a club. Talk to people who work in other fields that interest you. Make some connections. Step outside your comfort zone. You don’t have to be right every time. Just use a simple trial and error strategy. If you join a club and realize it’s not for you, quit that club and try something else. If you continue this process long enough, eventually your life will be filled with lots of great connections that energize and empower you.
Finally, the principle of power says it’s time to take action. If you aren’t happy with your job, then summon the courage to walk up to your boss and say, “I need to quit this job. How much notice do you need for a smooth transition?” How long does that actually take? Five or ten seconds? Obviously there may be a good bit of conversation afterwards, but once you blurt out that first sentence, the rest will follow. A short burst of fearless resolve is all it takes to get yourself unstuck. What’s the alternative? Waste years or even decades of your life on a path you know is wrong for you? Once you get yourself unstuck, you’ll be amazed at how much energy is freed up to start working on a new path. When you already know you’re on the wrong path, the first thing you need to do is stop following that path. Then you can seek out a better path.
The principles of truth, love, and power serve as your universal growth compass. They’ll always point you in the direction of positive growth and change. You won’t always feel ready for the kind of change they propose, but it’s always good to have clarity that there’s a workable solution to any problem or challenge you face.
The key benefit of learning these universal principles is that you can apply them to all areas of your life with great effectiveness. You’ll no longer need different rules for managing your health, money, relationships, etc. Understanding these principles will give you tremendous clarity about what you need to do to make your life better. The principles make growth much simpler because they eliminate unnecessary complexity.
Truth, love, and power are the three primary principles in Personal Development for Smart People. If you feel these ideas will be useful to you on your path of conscious growth, please take a moment to pre-order the book now at Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com. You’ll receive your copy as soon as the book ships.
Until next time, live consciously!