The four core principles of Personal Development
August 7, 2020
Personal development begins with a desire to improve oneself and the willingness to take action to do so. Both ingredients are necessary inputs in the recipe for personal development, and one without the other can lead to adverse side effects.
A desire to improve, without the willingness to take action, often leads to frustration and self-loathing. Feelings of incompetency and inadequacy are usually associated with wanting and knowing you should do something, but not having the discipline or willpower to do it. On the other hand, a willingness to take action without the desire to improve can also lead you down the wrong path.
If action is taken without intention or a specific goal, it can lead to doing busy work for the sake of appearing busy. And since our society teaches us that being busy is a good thing, it’s easy to trick yourself and others into thinking that you are being productive. Sometimes being busy simply means you are too scared to move from the planning phase to the action phase. This can happen because as soon as you take real action, your results can begin to be measured and the potential of failure is introduced. Thus, it is the blend of desire, intention, and vision, paired with legitimate and meaningful action, that leads to genuine personal development.
Once the initial flame of personal development has been properly kindled, there are four core principles required to keep the practice burning bright. These principles are curiosity, humility, discipline, and gratitude. All four are interconnected and work together to promote progress, achievement, and fulfillment.
Curiosity is essential to improving oneself because it is the catalyst that sets in motion new ideas, routines, and ways of living. Curious people are constantly wondering if there is a better way to do things, and it’s their curious nature that encourages them to read a new book, learn a new skill, or attend a learning seminar. Curiosity leads to introspection and questioning, which leads to the discovery that there may be a better way of operating. And this discovery leads directly to core principle number two, which is humility.
Humility is a required component of personal development because in order to take action to improve yourself, you first need to admit that you aren’t perfect. Maybe you even realize that you have some flaws. Asking curious questions about yourself and the world always reveals areas for improvement, and humility is necessary to admit your flaws and then begin working to fix them. Since many of the habits, beliefs, and biases you wish to improve have been part of your operating system for so long, it can be extremely difficult to reprogram yourself. Many obstacles will usually come up as you begin to make progress, which is why discipline is the next core principle.
My definition of discipline is continuing to do the work no matter how difficult and daunting the circumstances become. It’s embracing the discomfort that comes hand-in-hand with growth and choosing to keep going no matter what. Discipline plus repetition equals progress, and since building yourself into a superior human being is hard work, discipline is required to keep going even when you don’t want to.
The final ingredient required for a successful and healthy personal development practice is gratitude. Gratitude acts as the scale that is constantly balancing an appreciate for who you are today, with who you want to become in the future. It allows you to simultaneously be proud of how much you have accomplished already, while realizing that there is still a long way to go. This is encompassed in the idea of having a vision for your future while finding deep contentment and joy for your current life. Gratitude for yourself, your circumstances, and your past progress is essential. Without it, it’s easy to feel like you are never doing enough and you can become overwhelmed by the never ending journey of self-improvement. Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety and overwhelm, and is a large part of having an enjoyable and fulfilling human existence.
There are countless other factors that interface with the four core principles of personal development detailed above. These include courage, patience, reflection, optimism, and positivity just to name a few. The list of potentially beneficial attributes is endless, so I recommend starting out by focusing on the big four.
Foster curiosity, embrace humility, hone your discipline and cultivate radical gratitude. When combined, these form a key that will unlock a whole new life and reveal the beautiful truth that anything is possible with enough time and determination.