Category Archives: Personal development
Personal development and transformation
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” wrote Shakespeare in a passage from As You Like It, where he identified the seven ages of man.
I have just finished reading Mark Manson’s blog post on the same topic, where he states that we can reduce it to just four stages. And since the name of this blog is The Changing Ways – the essence of life is change; nothing ever stays the same – I feel I have to share Mark’s article with my readers.
The four stages that he identifies are: Mimicry, Self-discovery, Commitment, and Legacy.
He says that “at each subsequent stage, happiness becomes based more on internal, controllable values and less on the externalities of the ever-changing outside world.”
Previous stages are not replaced, they are transcended. At each stage your life priorities get reshuffled, but you continue to exhibit some behaviour from previous stages.
I don’t want to put any spoilers here, I recommend that you read the entire article for yourself: The Four Stages of Life.
I will just reveal that it gets deeply philosophical at the end. It reminded me of the famous Tears in rain monologue from Blade Runner.
The biggest problem you can have is a complete lack of focus.
A sure way to achieve nothing.
I will say it right away: the biggest flaw with personal development is thinking that it’s all in your mind! If you lack the motivation to do anything or you are stressed out by even normal situations, motivation techniques and stress management seminars might not be the very first things you should consider.
In personal development it is common for various teachers to mention that mind and body are interconnected, and that your thoughts can affect your body. There’s nothing wrong with that. Most people would agree that mind and body are intertwined. The problem comes when you start emphasizing the mind and neglecting the body – mind over matter way of thinking – which is a widespread viewpoint with personal development teachers and followers.
The Law of Attraction, a popular belief in personal development and self-help community, assumes that your predominant thoughts and feelings determine your destiny, that you can “manifest” anything you put your mind to, using various visualization techniques and affirmations and holding unwavering faith in reaching your goals. Taking this to the extreme, some authors state that your entire physical existence is the sum total of your past thoughts and feelings.
This doesn’t apply to all personal development information that is out there, but it sure does apply to a large subset of gurus that believe that physical body is just a vehicle for the spirit. Well, it’s not. I won’t go into a philosophical debate on the existence of soul, but the fact is, that your psychological processes depend on your nervous system that is governed by complex biochemical reactions in your body. You see, the interconnection of mind and body is a two-way route. Sure, negative thinking can get and keep you sick and depressed, however, the state of your body can affect your mind as well.
You may have chemical imbalances in your body due to poor nutrition or environmental factors and that can negatively affect your nervous system and consequently, your mind. Of course, for teachers who believe that mind is more powerful than matter this is hard to swallow. So they don’t emphasize enough the importance of taking care for your body physically: eating healthy food, being physically active, having access to clean water, minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals present in air and consumer goods (like artificial dyes and other additives in food and in pharmaceutical drugs), and so on. Even teachers that do mention these things as the things you should be doing to improve your general health, almost never discuss how these things can negatively affect your mind.
Luckily, there are other camps out there that you can learn from, and they focus on physical aspects of healthy living: vegetarians, vegans, raw-foodists, paleo-diet advocates and various fitness enthusiasts. They are not in agreement on what the best food choices are, though. I think that’s partly because different people respond differently to certain foods. In addition, some people have undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances (to dairy, eggs, gluten, etc.), which are more common than people think, they are difficult to diagnose, and they can cause a host of health problems, not just physical but also neurological and behavioral problems.
As there is no single solution for all, everybody has to find out for himself his best diet style (maybe with a help of medical or other professional). The common denominator is that if you predominantly eat processed and fast food, drink too much alcohol, smoke, don’t exercise, work a sedentary job under artificial lightening and don’t sleep enough then you are just asking to get sick or depressed.
So, if you are constantly tired or depressed, maybe it isn’t because your chakras are not cleansed – it could be that you don’t get enough nutrients with your food, so your body is chronically undernourished, lacking certain vitamins or minerals. And visualizing having a healthy body probably won’t help much if you don’t simultaneously improve your diet. It’s not that visualization is useless; visualization can help you stay motivated with your new diet style, so that you don’t succumb to peer pressure and you turn down that sugary dessert that they offer you at the birthday party you attend, even though you risk being labeled as a health nut.
I believe that’s how The Law of Attraction really works in the first place. It is not some mystical, unknown force that manifests your thoughts; it’s your actions that bring about change. And your actions – deliberate or spontaneous – are guided by your goals, your habits and your state of mind.
The power of a habit is enormous. It can propel you forward incredibly or it can block any change for the better, depending on whether it as a good or a bad habit.
The one habit that counts the most, I think, is not a specific thing that you do, but rather the way in which you respond to the world. Some of it is a part of your temperament, of course. You can’t do much about the temperament you were born with. But a great part of the way you react is actually a habit, an acquired pattern of behavior, that was shaped by your past experiences.
If, for whatever reason, you were conditioned to react strongly to certain people or situations in the past, you may have to deal with a lot of stress throughout your entire life, whenever you encounter similar situations. Your acquired pattern of behavior will make you overreact even to a normal, everyday situation, because some tiny aspect of it is perhaps similar to the original bad situation and therefore triggers the same reaction.
If this becomes your primary mode of living, it can make your life full of stress, mess up your relationships and health, and decrease your productivity. Going on vacations or becoming a recluse on a desert island will only partially and temporarily solve some of the problems. Sometimes running away is necessary, but you will have to return eventually or some other problem will pop in.
The only permanent way of solving the problem is to unwire the triggers and the learned response. One of the best ways you can do this is to pay attention to your breathing whenever you detect your old unwanted patterns to emerge. Just put your attention on your breath and observe it. If this doesn’t help, then go a step further and intentionally make your breathing deeper and slower and also make sure you inhale and exhale at a regular pace. This will automatically calm you down and divert your attention away from the problematic situation.
However, you will not want to divert your attention away unless you first – at least to some extent – accept the present moment and the situation at hand, because otherwise you will have a feeling that by not reacting the usual way, you are capitulating and letting the other person take advantage of you. Of course, you are not. All you are doing is breaking the chain of automated reaction that you habituated in the past. By focusing your attention on your breathing for a few seconds you are allowing yourself some time before you can intentionally respond to the situation. It may be that the situation demands a fierce response, but you will do it on purpose, and not because you are reacting blindly. (Some emergency situations may be exempt from what I just described).
Of course, this is easier said than done. Old habits are really, really persistent, and before you have had a chance to think about it you are already reacting. Therefore, I have chosen my own personal mantra (inspired by Eckhart Tolle) that I repeat over and over again, and it helps me remind myself about what needs to be done:
Breathe. Allow this moment to be
I have written this on a piece of paper and I usually carry it in my pocket, looking at it many times a day, so that I will really internalize it. When some difficult situation presents itself I try to repeat this mantra in my mind and then actually live it. By allowing the present moment to be as it is (and not as I wish it would have been) I undermine the need to react immediately, which gives me some time to focus on my breathing instead, and this enables me to respond to the situation calmly.
It doesn’t always work, but then again I only recently put this into practice. Years of habitual agitated reactions to certain situations, people and events cannot be changed overnight. I stay optimistic that in a year or so, my new mantra will fully become part of my life, and I won’t even have to think about it anymore.
This post is about one of the most inspirational people of our time.
Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs. He has two small feet, but without toes – except for two toes on his left foot. Because of his condition he became extremely depressed as a child, to the point of contemplating suicide. Yet, despite his disadvantage he eventually became successful motivational speaker who is giving talks on life with a disability, hope, and finding meaning in life. He has talked to audiences of over three million people.
Last week Nick Vujicic came on a tour to Slovenia and gave speeches in five different cities. I listened to him on Saturday in Ljubljana, along with several thousands of other people. Here are a few pictures from that event:
Nick is not only motivational speaker; he is a preacher as well. It is not possible to understand Nick without mentioning his faith in God, as it played a crucial part in accepting himself the way he is. No matter what your religious view is, you can’t argue with the fact that faith in God is a major source for him from where he gets strength for life. He believes he is a part in God’s plan – he believes that he was born disabled, so he could inspire people and strengthen their faith. That is his purpose in life.
You don’t have to share his belief, however he can still inspire you through his attitude. He is thankful for what he does have, not resentful for what he doesn’t have. He is very grateful for his little foot with two toes, because it enables him to write, type and do all sorts of things that others do with their hands. If he doesn’t teach you gratitude and appreciation, I don’t know who will.
I would like to end this post with a short video about Nick that shows his enthusiasm, joy of life and a good humor. If he can be like this, how hard is it, really, for us?