Everyone, and I mean everyone, dreams of constant progress in life.
Somehow, you’ll turn a plateau-induced corner and see a road filled with bountiful opportunities and progress. It’ll just be there.
But the reality is it doesn’t happen. In fact, you never really turn that corner, and you’re stuck in the plateau. Here and there, you’ll make some progress, but then it flatlines again. Your focus wanes, and your desire to dig into self-discipline sputters out.
Frustrated, you curse any of the following:
- Your significant other
- Your friend
- Your environment
- Your job
- Your dog
It’s gotta be the allergies.
But there’s one thing you need to get straight in your head if you want to see constant progress in your life, along with better focus and better self-discipline. If you can truly get this mental note down, and live by it, you should continually move forward:
Your personal development isn’t a diet — you need to treat it as a lifestyle change.
Of course there will be times when things are slower, but plateauing is a word that should find itself in your past-tense vocabulary.
People Treat Personal Development Like a Crash Diet
For way too many people, their personal development follows the same pattern as a crash diet.
- Hit “rock bottom” after stepping on the scale and weighing in four ounces over your “i’ve-never-been-this-heavy-before” number, or prepping for some event in the near future like a wedding/pool party
- Decide to make some changes
- Go all out on some diet; misery ensues as the only salt you’re allowed in your dish is that from your tears
- Once results are seen or the event passes, go back to previous lifestyle
- Results flatline, or probably even regress
People treat personal development the same.
Rock bottom usually consists of something traumatic like a breakup or a lost job. You decide to make some changes, then go all out making those changes. You see progress but it’s not sustainable, and you run on fumes for a bit until real life takes over and you’re sputtering.
Cue the plateau. Frustrated, you give up. You start focusing less and less on it.
Regression might take hold. You wave the white flag.
Well shit, that was fun while it lasted, right?
Wrong attitude, son.
Personal Development Is a Lifestyle
If you want to look back in a year and truly see some incredible changes in your life, whether physical, mental, professional, or whatever mix , you have to understand one big point:
Personal development is a life-long endeavor.
The moment you treat it as a temporary “diet”, the quicker you’ll fall off the wagon. This is solely because you try to go super fucking strict and keep it up. Inevitably, you can’t. But before you actually fall off, the wheels will blow, the axles will disintegrate, and…you get the idea.
Trying to go super strict is not a recipe for something delicious, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Not much different from a nutritional lifestyle change.
The aim is to eat much healthier, but on occasion, you’ll give yourself a chance to eat whatever you want. On other occasions, you’ll give in to temptation and eat whatever happens to be the greasiest, heaviest meal you can think of. You probably double down and figure “well, I just ate a shitty meal, let’s top it off with dessert since I’ve already cheated.”
Alright, cool…no biggie.
Now what if you eat super well 5 days a week and go off the rails twice a week (the weekend)? This is what most normal people do, and I’ll argue that eating healthy almost 72% of the time (5 of 7) is better than 71% and below.
Personal development isn’t much different.
Let’s say you’ve picked up some good habits, including reading, meditating, journaling, self-reflection, discipline, you name it.
Weekends, you happen to enjoy your time off and veg out on the couch watching re-runs of Married With Children or going out drinking with your compadres.
I’d again argue that 72% of your time spent wisely is better than 71% and below.
Yeah, it might be worth trying to see if you can get beyond 72% to be honest. But you have to start somewhere.
What’s the overt point here?
Don’t stress yourself out in your quest of personal development.
I have a hard time with this, because I feel like if I’m not busy every second of every day, I’m wasting time. I feel guilty watching TV shows. I feel awful browsing the web doing nothing worthy.
But it happens sometimes anyway.
So fuck it, deal with it. You’ll be fine.
Like any lifestyle habit, it can vary from day to day. But consistent, disciplined effort will take you much, much further than sporadic effort that’s hot and heavy for the first few weeks before imploding on you.
Treat your development as a lifestyle, not a temporary fad.