10 Personal Development Questions Everyone Should Ask

I regularly get phone calls or messages from friends proudly announcing that they’ve boarded the boat of personal development. Usually, we meet for breakfast and discuss the move. I like to share tips and principles from my own experience but also leverage on others’ experience.

After the initial spark, many call me back a few months down the road to tell me they are lost, or that, for some reason, negative feelings have insidiously started overwhelming them. Here are the top 10 questions that trigger this unexpected discomfort.

My intent in this article is to cushion the downsides through preventive communication.

Disclaimer: not all my answers are politically correct…

1. Am I truly responsible for everything that happens to me in life?

In a sense, OF COURSE YES, in another OF COURSE NOT.

I’ll spell out my philosophy in the form of an example:

You are driving responsibly when a crazy dude decides to run the red light. There is no way anybody could argue this is your fault, yet it is 100% your responsibility to do all you can to avoid the crash. You wouldn’t even think of running through the other car because it wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. This is taking responsibility without bearing the guilt.

The above example represents how I relate to responsibility in life. I try and impact what is actionable, I take responsibility without carrying the guilt of every event.

Put differently:

I’m what I made of what was made of me — unknown

2. How come personal development methods work?

There are 3 reasons for that:

  1. Most of the time self-improvement literature advises doing the right thing. Doing the right thing yields positive results long term.
  2. Not everybody applies them: when an increasing number of people embrace a method, it’s not a competitive advantage anymore just like anything else in life and business. It becomes the bare minimum.
  3. Hang around when everybody else quits: carry on even after the initial spike of motivation fades away… You’ll see magic happen. According to Darren HARDY, in his book The Compound Effect, it takes 31 months to outperform your peers.

3. I’ve been told that my limiting beliefs are false, is it always the case?

Our beliefs are based on our past experiences. Everything evolves in life including ourselves. What was true earlier may be wrong (for the better of the worse) today.

Real empowering beliefs are the ones we regularly update to maintain relevance. Just like in long distance running, our position does not evolve much within a minute, still, we made progress. From this perspective, we can consider the personal growth journey as a marathon.

4. How should I manage friends and family?

Quite adversely your best friends and family will resist your ascent as you grow as a person. Over-communicate, clearly state again and again WHY you do what you do and how important it is to you. Repetition is your friend. But don’t try to embark them. They’ll do so on their own when ready.

Here is an article that gives more perspective on the topic:

I Want to Grow as a Person But My (beloved) Relatives Won’t Let Me. What Can I Do?

5. Shall I go for small or gigantic goals?

Go for whatever motivates you, scale up if you love to dream big, scale down if you are more at ease with a stepped approach. The most important thing is to stay in motion. Tim Ferris advises to dream big and start (extremely) small.

6. What if I do not reach my goals?

Objectives are not meant to be reached. The single most important objective of objectives is to make you grow as a person. So whether you’ve reached your goal or not, you should always ask yourself the same question…

Did I grow as a person?

7. Shall I commit publicly to my goals?

  • In most cases announcing publicly our objectives triggers commitment.
  • In other cases, some people may feel like they already completed their objectives the minute they announce them and become totally disengaged.
  • Others feel an unbearable social pressure triggering negative stress.

So I return the question. How do you feel about announcing your objectives?

8. Is self-confidence the number 1 objective of any self-improvement journey?

Self-confidence is important but is somehow soiled:

  • It is comparative: if you want to know how you are doing in a specific matter, you need to compare yourself to others. While this is useful, it also generates a lot of problems: envy, spending our lives trying to live somebody’s else’s life, rebel vs. conformist positioning…
    From others, you shall seek inspiration. With your own self, you shall compete for -K
  • It is “closed minded”: to get you going, you need strong convictions and this may as well easily translate into obstinacy.

Building self-confidence on sound self-esteem allows enjoying the positives while avoiding the negative side effects.

Self-esteem is how you feel about your self-image. It is a combination of both your self-worth and what you think that others think of you. The most effective way to improve it is to work on what is in your area of control; i.e. your self-worth. If you are in peace with who you are, what others think will matter less. It will be valuable feedback but it will never determine who you are.

Self-confidence is about having strong beliefs
Self-esteem is about accepting doubt
And you need both

 — K
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Read more if interested: Self-esteem is NOT Self-confidence… So what?!

9. Why do personal development journeys look like Big Bangs to start with and as a Big Crunch a few weeks later?

This observation is true in many areas of life. It’s called the honeymoon effect 🙂. To understand how it works in relation to personal growth I’ll use a metaphor. Imagine a plane taxiing on a dented airstrip, uncomfortably bouncing on bumps. Then, it takes off. The discomfort vanishes by magic. Although a plane is designed to fly, it has no other choice but to land repeatedly. As long as the airstrip is not fixed, the discomfort is there.

When we dive into personal development, the first weeks feel pretty much like the plane that just took off. We enjoy the feeling of being in control of our lives… Then we hit a limit. That limit has always been there, just like the bumped airstrip. It’s just that now, it contrasts more with the honeymoon. We have a hard time accepting it.

Just like in the selling process we say “we start selling when the customer says NO”, we start growing when we face our limits.

Challenges you face, hold your face up -K
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10. Why are there so many people out there that achieve their wildest goals and still live empty lives?

Because achievement is not fulfillment. The first is related to goals & material stuff while the second is based on values & purpose. Both notions are complementary although, to me, the second is far more important than the 1st. We tend to build action plans to achieve goals but forget to do the same to bring our values to life.

BONUS QUESTION ☺

My parents lived a perfectly happy life without all that freaking stuff, why would I need personal development anyways?

And their grandparents lived their lives without brushing their teeth and knowing how to read…

You got the point. ☺

TO SUM-UP

Our JOB in life is to WORK on improving ourselves…
You may as well start right away… ☺
-K
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