Is self-help and personal development the realm of self-indulgent narcissists who have the luxury of wallowing in me, me, me?
I sometimes run across people who think so. Typically, they’re well-meaning souls who see the world’s pain and are frustrated with seeing people lost in self-absorption rather than out there making a difference.
The underlying message is that focusing on oneself is, at best, selfish and self-indulgent when there are so many pressing problems in the world and so many people just trying to survive.
And to some degree, they have a point. I won’t deny there is a certain measure of self-obsession in the self-help world that can border on the narcissistic. But painting all personal development with that light is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The difference you make starts with you
Here’s what I absolutely believe. Every little bit of difference you make in the world – every bit! – starts with you. There’s no escaping that. Given that, the work you do in your own life can help you, for example:
- Make a more positive impact because you’re coming from a more positive place
- Have more to give (more energy, more ideas, more effort)
- Stop getting in the way of the difference you have the potential to make
- Have the courage to take action
- Act from a more solid foundation
- See the world clearly as it is (and less through the lens of your stories)
Personal development allows the energy to flow more freely and more abundantly from your life out into the world in the form of the difference you make.
Personal development helps you “be the change”
An oft-quoted admonition from Gandhi is to “be the change you want to see in the world.” I love the quote, but often it’s little more than a platitude. Ever see people deeply committed to peace practically frothing at the mouth in anger at “those people” and their injustices? Yeah, me too. They’re just creating more of what they’re fighting against.
Want to see more peace in the world? You’re not going to create it by being angry. Want to see more love in the world? It’s not going to come from being impatient and irritated.
What you bring to the world goes out into the world via the choices you make, the actions you take, the interactions you have, even the energy you send out.
Each of us was born with the potential to be a powerful instrument of positive change. Personal development helps us tune that instrument and fulfill that potential.
Avoiding the spin cycle of me, me, me
To be sure, there is a danger of getting caught up in the spin cycle of me, me, me, but it’s not inevitable. One way to avoid the self-indulgence loop is to keep coming back to the impact you have on the world around you.
One approach to this is consistently putting your personal development efforts in the context of making the world a better place. Two simple questions can help with this:
- How does this growth enable me to make more of a positive impact?
- How does this internal obstacle inhibit my ability to make a positive impact?
Keeping those things in mind will help build a bridge between your internal growth work and your external work in the world.
It also helps to keep making a difference top of mind so it doesn’t get left out of the picture. One way of doing this is to do a regular check-in with the categories in the outer ring of the Ripple Revolution model (the ways we can make a difference). You can look at each of them and ask, “How am I making a difference here? How could I? How do I want to?” It helps you both recognize what you’re currently doing and explore the possibilities.
Personal development is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to maximizing your positive impact in the world. The key is to see the full picture, building a bridge between the internal and external, and keeping the difference you make in your sights.
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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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