10 Counterintuitive Ways to Improve Your Life

photo by h.koppdelaney

There’s a lot of fluff floating around in the personal development blog-o-sphere. I think there are certain things that people tend to shy away from writing about when it comes to personal development. Here’s 10 of what I believe are the most uncommon things you’ll never learn from a personal development blog, but should.

1. There is is no personal development ceiling

There will never be a time in your personal growth where you can say “okay, I’m done.” You can’t grow so much that you will ever reach a ceiling. The beauty of personal development is that you’ll find whenever you grow, achieve goals or find more personal freedom, your context changes. The more you grow, the more your life will take on an upward spiral of personal growth. The more things get better, the more you realize what you thought was a 10 was really a 7.

A lot of people tend to think if you “fix” certain parts of your life, you’ll reach some kind of ever-lasting contentment. True growth, however, isn’t linear.

2. Re-framing just doesn’t always work

A lot of personal development blogs will give you advice on how to be more happy. They’ll also try to tell you how to re-frame negative situations and see the positive side of it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for every negative there is obviously a positive. It’s just the way the universe works. But sometimes negative situations just plain suck.

If I got hit by a car, I’m not going to be thinking about how I can re-frame this experience. I’m probably going to be more concerned with whether or not I’ll be able to walk again.

3. Acceptance is more important than happiness

Many people when pursuing personal development go on a happiness mono-diet. They want to be happy all the time and will do whatever it takes to make this happen. They have a realization that their life sucked because they were focusing only on the negative parts of their life. While this is a huge breakthrough for most people, many people don’t really “get it.” They go from one extreme to the other; instead of embracing both equally important sides of life (the good and the bad) and learning from them, they become Mary Poppins delusional.

Denying your negative feelings isn’t the path to greater happiness. Ignoring all the shitty parts of your life won’t make them go away.

As important as it is to appreciate the positive, we have to acknowledge and accept the negative. After all, if white wins over black, all we have left is empty space.

4. The outside is just as important as the inside

Ninety five percent of all personal development blogs will tell you in order to change your life, you need to change the inside. You need to change your beliefs and agreements that you have with yourself. Drop dis-empowering contexts and embrace empowering ones. Makes sense right? When learning this new-fangled concept people can get pretty crazy. They’ve been searching for happiness from the outside in and this seems to be pretty enlightening. They’ve been looking for fancy products, an exciting job, new cars, and Armani shades to make them happy.

They’ve realized that no matter how much of these things they acquire, their drug like bliss is fleeting at best. So we wisely start searching for happiness within. But internal happiness will not make you fall in love with a dead end job you hate, it will not make you “come to terms” with your abusive relationship and it will not put food on your table.

Just as we go from focusing on the negative to solely on the positive, we become extremists on the other side of the fence. In truth, there is no competition. Integrated and learning from the positive and negative are equally important.

5. Happiness creates productivity, not the other way around

Increased productivity is the result of increased happiness. Placing a complex productivity system on top of work you dread will be a short lived fix at best. We’re also often the most productive when what we’re doing has no purpose whatsoever.

6. Simply reading a bunch of productivity blogs will not improve your life

Reading seven thousand ways to hack your motivation and the ultimate guide to be a productivity samurai will not improve your life alone. Reading a list about 100 things to be happy about will not make you a happier person. Passively absorbing information will not revolutionize your life.

An inner coup against doing things that make you feel dead and liberating yourself requires hard work, introspection and action. While getting ideas and advice from other people can inspire you, what matters most is how you feel about your life and what you want. The only person that can figure that out is you.

7. Doing less of what you hate is as powerful as doing more of what you love

Sometimes quitting and dropping out of society and others expectations is just as powerful as doing more of what you love. In fact, I think you’ll find in order to really pursue your dreams, you’ll have to quit a lot of things and forget unwanted expectations; ones that other people would find normal and unnegotiable. They’ll probably find you absurd and completely insane.

Doing more of what you love will always involve quitting things that are really negotiable (but seem like they’re not) and dealing with some major critics. Don’t worry, your courage to live authentically just scares them. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire them to come to terms with the fact that they’re living in drudgery and denial too.

8. The “Golden Rule” is flawed

Everyone knows the golden rule, do to others what you would have done to you. While this obviously has good intentions, it doesn’t work in all situations. Particularly, in relationships. If you do to your partner what you would have done to you, you’ll probably annoy them, piss them off and leave them feeling neglected. Real meaningful relationships are built on trust and interdependency.

If you really care about someone, you’ll do everything you can to find out how they would like to be treated.

9. Your search for happiness, can often make you miserable

Searching for happiness will often mean that you have to face a lot negative aspects of your life you’d rather ignore. You’ll have to deal with all the negative experiences you’ve had in your past and try to find ways to learn from them. Moving forward sometimes means taking two steps back in order to take a step forward.

10. Addiction to self-improvement can ruin your life

You would think if you’re all gung-ho about self improvement, there’s no chance your enthusiasm can back-fire. Unfortunately, addiction to seemingly positive pursuits can be just as detrimental to negative ones. Addiction to self improvement can cause you to spend all your time trying to improve, but never actually living.

The goal of self improvement is to learn and grow, not to get sucked into a vacuum of obsession. There are many ways self improvement can ruin your life. We just need to keep in mind that self improvement is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

This list is obviously not exhaustive. What do you think people tend to shy away from talking about? Let’s start a discussion. =)

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