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Personal Development

Do you have all the pieces to finish your puzzle?

The other day I had a client who asked me a very serious question:

“Why is it so important to work on personal development? What does it have to do with business?”

It’s a question that I think everyone struggles with, and often overlooks when they’re trying to strategize their success. It’s also the main focus of my coaching because it’s the ONE thing and the FIRST thing everyone needs to work on if they are to achieve any success in their career.

The answer I shared was the following:

When I was living in California, I found that from the hours of 8 am till 6 pm -- namely the hours I worked and was in front of customers or prospects -- I felt good and powerful. Simply said, I knew I was the BEST salesperson; that's what I did for a living, sell jewelry from store to store.

When I wasn’t working, my evenings for the most part were occupied with living the life in the fast lane, staying out late and getting up early to start all over the next day. So I never had time to look into myself. I was too busy, looking at others, making connections, etc., etc.

However, all good things must come to an end. I eventually lost my job, and the crap hit the fan. I was faced with the reality of my options, and I hated them. I had to return to New York and look for another JOB. For someone who loved the freedom of being my own boss, it was a tough pill to swallow.

I hated what I was doing, and little did I understand at the time I also hated who I was, and even what I looked like. I joined a mentorship group and I was soon faced with another reality: I had to look into the mirror. Not the one I stand in front of when I brush my teeth in the morning; the one that offers a view inside my own self.

To be honest, it was a dark place and i didn’t want to look into; it was too painful. They called it personal growth, personal development -- crap, for the first time in 32 years I was told I needed to relearn how to live, listen, speak, etc., etc.

I’ll admit - it was very scary.

But, my mentor explained that if i want to start living a REAL life I would have to deal with all the stuff inside. Renowned business philosopher Jim Rohn explained the process of personal development and its relation to business success in a simple phrase:

“To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are.”

And even Rohn had a mentor. He told him, “If you want to be wealthy and happy, learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

Really, it was no wonder that my lifestyle, which was all outward-focused, came to an abrupt end.

I had difficulty communicating. Of course, I was able to communicate everything from selling my product or services BUT, nothing from within: how I felt, how others made me feel, and how I coped with all of it. And friends, sales people are really selling themselves, so when it came to the commodity I should have understood the most about - ME - I fell far short.

So what does Personal development look like?

• Facing your shortcomings - what do you feel you need work on?

• Facing your fears - what is keeping you from acting to become better?

• Stepping out of your comfort zone - trying a different approach, perhaps for the first time

• Setting goals to measure against for your success - what does progress look like?

• Deciding to act - stepping out and getting started on your new you

Let’s face it - it’s not comfortable to admit what you’re afraid of, or worse face your fears with the intention of overcoming them. Personal development is all about a new direction. As I mentioned, I had to relearn how to live my life - if that’s not a scary proposition for you, it’s at the very least uncomfortable.

I often use the analogy of a puzzle in explaining the process. What’s on the front of your box - the big picture? Now, how are you going to go through the steps to assemble the pieces to create that picture? It’s the individual pieces, those internal things, that will make all the difference for the external. The good news is that you can tackle these things one by one - when you focus on improving on one thing before you move on to the next, you’ll have a far better result once the puzzle is completed, because the pieces will actually fit and complement one another.

An important note: Personal development is not a “once and done” proposition. It is something that you constantly need to be engaged in. You won’t be the same person you are today in another year, or the next, or even in three months. We experience things that affect us, and therefore we need to constantly work on how we deal with it to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the people we live with or work with.

The good news is that as you practice it more regularly, and enlist a mentor or coach that you find trustworthy and competent, it’s a welcome exercise. Just like the start of a workout routine, you have to force yourself into the habit, but over time, you notice the days that you miss a workout you feel a little ‘off.’ The investment of time and thought you put into personal development therefore yields a return like none other, and you’ll witness it in everything you do as a professional as well as a person.

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  • david@coachstern.com

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