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Why are we afraid of Personal Development

I know I have mentioned many times how I first meet with clients, eager to get started, ready to learn how to succeed (translation: make more money), and then…they stop.


Generally, they come in with an expectation that there is a magic answer, a formula that I can reveal, to get them to the next level and beyond. In fact, it has little to do with me; THEY are the ones who hold the key. To help them unlock it, however, they’ve got to answer questions honestly, about their goals, their desires and their fears. They get stuck, and possibly discouraged, and don’t continue.

I know it’s uncomfortable because I had to walk through that same scary process. But I also know it’s worth the hard work it will take to uncover those answers, face those fears and create a solution to overcome them. I was asked once to look in a mirror by a mentor and tell him what I saw. I went with the “safe” answer: a pair of eyes, a nose, a mouth, etc. That’s not what he was looking for (I knew that), but I was afraid to look further into myself. At the time, I was new to this game, so I did what many potential clients do, and I passed.

As I worked with sales professionals, I realized the larger issue was not about developing their techniques, but developing them as people. So why are we afraid of this thing we call “Personal Development”?

  1. We don’t like change. By nature, humans like to be comfortable, to find the path of least resistance. However, anyone in this business will tell you that there is no growth in the comfort zone. And when you stop growing, you stop succeeding.

Personal development asks us to look at what we want to achieve, and examine those things we’re doing that either are moving us toward or away from it. And let’s face it, if you are seeking help, it’s likely we’ll find behavior that is keeping you from your goals. So, we need to change it, and that can mean relearning good habits, being more mindful and intentional about what we are doing everyday, until they become second nature.

  1. We’re unorganized — and we like to procrastinate. I don’t know anyone who jumps out of bed in the morning, and says “Let’s do the least attractive task on my list today, right NOW.” What ends up happening is that we allow other tasks and distractions to interfere, and lo and behold, it’s the end of the day, so we’ll have to put that off until...tomorrow.

Unfortunately tomorrow never arrives, does it? Over time, then you probably acquire a little guilt over not tackling that important task, and maybe a little shame.

Think instead how things would look if you had a PLAN, and scheduled time to intentionally work on that task, or a plan to how you were going to act to reach a goal, one day at a time. This combination of time management and organization WITH an accountability partner that will follow up with you to see how you’re coming along and can provide some guidance and support. That can create a momentum and habits that tackle any task without all the mental drama.

  1. Our own pride. This is the last item on the list, but it’s really what makes this process hard for so many people. To change and develop, we have to come to terms with the fact that we NEED to, that there are faults and shortcomings we need to overcome, and who wants to talk about that? I’ve talked about self-awareness, which is the ability to see yourself from the outside, and it’s a gift that will help you be better around others, and whether it’s personal or professional relationships, it will help you immensely in continually improving.

I will say this - people either have an inflated sense of themselves, or the worst. Neither is helpful. Those in the first group feel there is no problem ever with how they conduct themselves, even while to others they are arrogant, rude, or somehow inappropriate. These people tend to lose clients, job, friends, and even spouses. For the latter group, they are self-defeating. A call that wasn’t returned was probably because they said something stupid, or they fear even making that call because they don’t feel they are as good as a competitor.

So, realize that in beginning this journey of personal development, you have taken a step most are afraid to. Also realize that you are not alone in being imperfect, and in working through what needs improvement, you’re never going to reach perfect, but that’s not the point.

One of my favorite personal development professionals, John Maxwell, has explained that there is no finish line. We are all on a constant journey to be better than we were yesterday, one small step at a time. There is no shame in admitting mistakes or faults — we all have them, and that’s what makes us common and unique at the same time.

To remain where you are, however, and refuse to begin this process, really is a loss of your own talent, abilities and potential. And that, my frien