Time to Take Off the Broken Glasses

broken glasses

If you’re really interested in personal development, like I am, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of conflicting messages out there. While some of this may simply have to do with differing opinions and personality, a lot of these messages leave you scratching your head.

To make matters worse, most of this confusion results from people having completely different maps of reality. If you’re offering advice from the point of an innacurate paradigm, it won’t matter how rigorous your methods are.

For example, how do you reconcile the advice of persistence, hard work and striving to achieve goals with the call to live effortlessly and simply being in a state of flow? Aren’t these two ideas — that both seem like good advice — at odds with each other?

With that said, I’ve decided to do a series on Redefining Personal Development (cooler title pending, let me know if you have any ideas.)

I’ll be taking requests for topics to cover. If you have a question, put it below in the comments and I’ll make sure your question gets answered. If you feel internally divided because you’re getting conflicting messages (from yourself or otherwise), put the details in the comments and we’ll talk about it in the series.

Oh and if you still want to get Reclaim Your Dreams for 20% off, you’ve got 24 hours until the price goes back up. Just sayin’.

So what do you think is broken when it comes to self development? What do you struggle with reconciling?

(Almost forgot… one last thing: 2 days until paidtoexist2.loc’s 1 year Anniversary. Yes it’s on Valentine’s Day. Guess love is in the air.)

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38 Comments on "Time to Take Off the Broken Glasses"

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Glen Allsopp

Hey Jonathan, there are a lot of conflicting messages out there.

There was a great post by Steve Pavlina which covers the topic of Personal Development vs Being Content with where you are, so I recommend you check that out as it might give you some tips.

I look forward to the series!



I struggle with the idea of being happy with what you have, and the opposing idea of striving for improvement. I realize that you should accept those things over which you have no control, but how can you determine when to be content, and when to seek change? Can these two concepts coexist?


Conflicts, eh? Well, there is the conflict of trust. Why should I trust this person giving me advice? There are a million books out there with thousands of pages of advice and maybe a couple paragraphs of author bio. There’s the obvious conflict of different people needing different things at different times. I know I would not have made certain positive changes in my life had I not been in a certain situation in life. When I’m rich, stories of being poor don’t help; and when I’m poor, I don’t want to hear how I can get rich in 5… Read more »
Teri Mai

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. (credit Reinhold Niebuhr)

Hi Jonathon I think the conflict you mention is an illusion. Its not either or but both and. I worked very hard and persistently for many years. I enjoyed it at the time but when I got tired of it I was ready for the ease and flow stage which life was good enough to accommodate me with. I now start my days with a bit of reflection on simply what it is right for me to do today? How will I most enjoy my time? I may do very little or I may work 12+ hours, each day is… Read more »
Doesn’t this come down to what success means to you? If success means having lots of things, being in power position and so on then setting goals and working to achieve them might be your way… If success means find that state of mind (or spirit) where you feel calm and happy with what is (and not by will power: I AM CALM! I AM CALM!) then maybe your path will be different Another thought is that they may seem conflictual from the point of view where I am now. Later on as my understanding of things (hopefully) expands I… Read more »


I remember Alan Watts pondering this question of self-improvement. I think he said something like, “Just who is developing/improving whom?” I look forward to your thoughts on this.


Rob McPhillips

It’s like Einstein said; the solution to any problem is at a higher level of thought than the problem.

I think it’s a very important issue. I actually called my site Live Without Conflict because I believe it is the need to resolve conflict that is the impetus for our evolution.

Doug Rosbury
When it comes to questions of personal development, So much of the available data is of a subjective nature and is of the life of the soul of oneself that I feel that to try to objectify a view of the subject presents one with a need to seek a unifying compassion with which to shed light on it. When it comes to the personal, we also should realize that each personal experience is also, unique and therefore would tend to evade description. This leads me to seek guidance from the spirit where answers would be transcendent of the ordinary.… Read more »
The biggest conflict I experience at the moment is how to reconcile western psychological/psychiatric approaches with the eastern. The therapists don’t quite know what to do with ‘it’s all an illusion’ and no self. The biggest crisis is one of faith. It seems that is what everything seems to have in common, and I lack it and don’t know what to do about it. Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but it seems that I’m being told that I exist in a state of mere ignorance and that this is not worth pursuing, ignorance being not important enough to deal with. I thought… Read more »
See, well, first you have to know that I respect you a lot for what you say and how you feel the world around. I must also answer the example question. It is as if I was blind to an existence of such a concept, until someone like you proposed it as an example question. I feel my answer applies universally to all “conflicts” in life. First off, I just wanna give a BIT of info which will hopefully make identifying me slightly easier. I work two jobs, Mon – Fri. First job is 9:30a.m. to 3:30p.m. and the second… Read more »
I’m not sure how you will take this, but it is offered as constructive criticism, honest! There is an underlying thread of attitude in much of modern society about pushing toward ‘doing better’, ‘achievement’, ‘being all you can be’. Now there often isn’t much spiritual or philosophical reflection on the values involved, but there is a huge pressure to industrialise or mechanise the process of self improvement. This does not suit everybody. Many people offering self-help ideas have packaged them up as complete solutions, and like many ‘converts’ to a good idea they push these ideas to the exclusion of… Read more »
Going off of DiscoveredJoys comments and other stuff I’ve been thinking about: We need less. I don’t want to be told to do more–I’m doing too much. Sure, I might not being doing the “right” things, so I should restructure, but if you suggest I restructure, make sure there is less when it’s all said and done. I’m convinced the single best thing society could do for itself is cut down the work day to a max of 30 hours. Like the comment above, we’re always asked to be better, to achieve more. When you’re pointed in the wrong direction,… Read more »

First I’d just like to say that this is an awesome topic to write a series on. I find myself conflicted in my everyday life. I want to be a yoga teacher, and the ideals of the yogic practice are anything but what I find people striving for around me. Perfection in the workplace is also a hard concept to deal with when I’ve learned in yoga that everything is “a practice, not a perfect”.

Doug Rosbury

Jonathan /// Yes they are /// Be content with change.
Change is the most permanent aspect of life. Where there is life, there is change, Where there is change, there is life. It cannot be otherwise. Work with change.
cooperate with it or else it will leave you behind.
There is absolutely nothing in the universe that is changeless. nothing. This is the secret behind successful
relationships and you are never ever without a relationship. not only to other people but also between
yourself and every other thing and object in your life.
Celebrate change and it will make you successful.——- Doug


The basic problem is the attempt to define the self without an environment and the environment without an observer. Both these attempts are doomed to failure.

The self IS the contact of the person with their situation. (Consciousness IS consciousness of [something].)

For an extremely rigorous working through of this position see Perls, Hefferline and Goodman’s Gestalt Therapy. It changed my life and may change yours (if you take it seriously).


As George Constanza’s dad says, “SERENITY NOW!”…
I don’t think one can force personal development or self-improvement. One needs to be ready, and as they say “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Some articles on personal development ring truer than others, and I think my own interest in a particular subject/article mostly depends on what I’m ready for at the moment. So right now, in my own life, I’m more moved by articles about character development and how discovering my own personal mission in life determines my daily activities and goals (principles-based life management).

Doug Rosbury
What’s the problem? The problem is in trying to figure something out that has no answer with a mind that is dominated by a sense of self importance or personal ego. Give it up and focus on finding out just who you are, because who you think you are is certainly wrong if you identify with the separative ego. When you realize that you are actually one with the creator, you will stop searching because you will not only have your answer, you will the answer, however to attain it you must give up your separative attitude. You are not… Read more »
Doug Rosbury

You will BE the answer.—–Doug

Mary Jaksch/GoodlifeZEN

This is a very interesting theme, Jonathan!

The conflict I find most interesting is the one between personal development in terms of trying to change and better oneself, and the notion of letting go and accepting oneself as one is.

My sense is that the wish to be different from how we are shows a lack of self-acceptance and kindness.

In contrast, healthy self-acceptance leads to the aspiration that we want to reach our full potential – without discarding any part of ourselves.

@Ryan: I think we’re already doing too little. But too little of substance. I agree with you that we need restructuring, but I imagine most people (who work in the “cubicle jail”, let’s say) probably only actually work ~30 hours a week or less. They may be at their workplace more, though. But the advent of internet, cell phones, text messaging, and email allows holes in productivity like never before. I don’t have any statistics to back this up but it’s something I’ve heard tossed around anecdotally a great deal. The solution isn’t that employers close those loopholes and force… Read more »
CG Walters

A very worthy pursuit, Jonathan. Thank you.
The core value of many ‘methods’ and teachers out there is to make the teacher/method vital to the individual, when it should be liberating the individual (from teacher, method, etc).

A teacher should not give so much of self or knowledge, but give to the student their self.–Strike a Chord of Silence

blessings and continued inspiration,

When I coach, I try to discover as soon as possible if a person is an ‘away from’ person, a ‘towards’ person or some combination of both. Some folk are ‘towards’ people – they work best being inspired and led towards a desired state. (What will your future look like if you make this dream a reality?) Others are ‘away from’ people, motivated by fear, working hard to get away from the things they don’t want. (Where will you be in five years time if you DON’T do this?) I know which I prefer, but that doesn’t mean my way… Read more »
Mike King

Jonathan, you have lots of comments about this conflict already and how it will both a challenge and something to look closer at. I’d agree that it’s about discovering the values one has in life in order to steer it towards abundance and happiness. I think there is one gap not covered much, and that is of the moral aspects of self improvement. It gets wrapped up in compassion sometimes but a moral look at life is one way to steer things well.

Anyway, looking forward to your thoughts on this as well.

J Michael Huey


First, I appreciate your work on awareness and growth, and enjoy reading all of the missives . . . This feed is one of the first that I check from my homepage each morning.

My personal mental, physical, and spiritual ‘constant’ is to remind myself that there is a vast difference between: ‘a legitimate concern and worry’.

Seems simple.
Unfortunately, emotional attachment to the outcome gets in the way.

Keep up the good work . . .


There is a great book in recovery circles called “A New Pair of Glasses” and there is a line in the book that says: “Sometimes I have to think that happiness is nothing more than a new pair of glasses”. I’ve read the book a few times and always learn something new. For me, the way I see and experience the world had to be re-learned. I figured out that it’s not what happens to me that matters, it’s how I react to it that matters. And the way I react depends on the way I see and interpret my… Read more »
@Wellsy — Because I’m on a Thomas Jefferson kick lately, let me share this quote and explain: ‘The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.’ Turn that around, and you have a plan for both minimizing the amount of job-hours worked, maximize productivity, reward those who produce and punish those who are not willing to work. Right now, so many jobs take away from the individual that is willing to work. They spend so much time at a mindless job, not sure whether they… Read more »
I think we have a hard time realizing what goal to pursuit because we aren’t given any model of reference. Good and bad is subjective to some extents, but if they are totally subjective nobody is right nor wrong. As human we can’t accept that, or a terrorist may bomb my airplane feeling totally right from his point of view. Searching for an absolute meter to distinguish good and bad we are given only “life”. What is good for life is good for us and the opposite, since all that exist as sentient is a life form. Given that we… Read more »
Doug Rosbury
Be the answer. The answer is not something you have to find. The answer IS you. Just be yourself and give up on pretending to know anything. This cannot be explained, really. How do I be myself? by not doing what everyone else does. By not thinking what everyone else thinks. Realize your uniqueness and be satisfied with it and be grateful for it. Don’t be a clone. You are unique in the whole universe so be unique and not a follower but a leader. Don’t do or think like the other guy. That’s too easy. but you will find… Read more »
It is embarrassing for me to admit it, but I think the most internal conflict I feel is from what I think I should be achieving based on the information and signals I get from my surroundings, whether it be my family, friends, or the media, and what I actually want in reality. I think your ebook was very helpful for me in this way, getting me to think about why I choose to go over this conflict in my mind, rather than simply accepting the way that I am and ending the conflict. I think that a lot of… Read more »
Ron Rogers

You asked, “What do you struggle with reconciling?”

My answer, “How do I reconcile, ‘trying to make my thinking fit reality AND/OR trying to make reality fit my thinking’.”

Hi Jonathan, Some ideas: Time – How do we understand time? Is it cyclical or linear? Why is it that time seems to go by slowly when we’re young, and so fast when we’re older? How can we really make the most of time? Does productivity and efficiency matter when time just seems to pass us by? Contentment – What do we really mean by contentment? Is it necessarily good? Are we just content with our things and our appearances? Or are we also content with our minds and spirits? Can contentment entail complacency—complacency towards our dreams, our values and… Read more »

i do agree with you


It is not just easy to me to live to my expectations only. I always want to meet the expectation of others too, which are sometimes the opposite of mine or impossible to acheive. My mind is full of opposite wishes and dreams. How can I be strong and be concern of my own dreams and wishes only?


Doug Rosbury
Fatma, You seem to have a typical problem. Out of a feeling of insecurity, you have given others the power to give you a feeling of security,however, this has caused you to forget that your real security is to be realized in a relationship with the spirit within you. you must give up feeling that other humans can protect you because with a proper relationship with the great spirit, you will be empowered and protected from other people wanting to control and influence you. I realized this early in my life and I have a feeling of satisfaction and protection… Read more »

I would be interested in a piece about the paradox of being happy with what you have versus striving for more.

My suggestion is similar to many others but slightly different in form. Buddhism tells us that the root of suffering is attachment. All things are impermanent so therefore attachment leads to disappointment and loss. Western psychology tells us that one of the most fundamental sources of happiness is meaningful and loving social relationships. We are social animals by nature and experiencing a meaningful connection with another person is one of our most profound joys. One the surface these two directives seem incompatible. I think they are compatible if contextualized the right way. Attachment to anything specific will inevitably lead to… Read more »

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