There seems to be this long-standing myth that personal development is an activity that’s separate from your normal activities. This makes sense if you can only see personal development as a set of isolated activities that include, for example, books on motivation, podcasts on positive attitudes, or seminars on success. Although this is one route that can be taken, it takes a certain type of person (ahem, like me) to sit through seminars, pour through stacks of books, and follow many blogs and podcasts on the subject.
Aside from the occasional book on personal development, most people will do just fine extracting personal development lessons from their everyday life. And yes, these lessons all around you. From the conversation you accidentally struck up while on line for coffee or that sci-fi thriller novel you started this morning during your commute to work. The problem is, most people aren’t paying attention to the lessons that they can learn from everyday situations. By understanding that there is so much to learn from every conversation, every book, every movie, and every encounter, you can begin learning valuable lessons that have previously passed you by. In fact, I’d argue that the observant person who can extract the lessons from daily life will learn more than someone who sits at home and reads personal development books all day.
To show you what I mean, here are examples of books, movies, and even a comic series that I’ve read/watched in the past six months, and some valuable lessons in personal development that I picked up from each:
Watchmen by Alan Moore – Without experiencing uncertainty and the emotional highs and lows that go along with it, we are no longer human. The greatest pleasures in life are just so because we’re not guaranteed them.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – Conflict, pain, and/or discomfort are required for you to live a worthwhile story. Have you ever watched a movie where the main character had everything go perfectly the entire time and experienced no conflict, pain, or suffering? I doubt it. When you look back on life, you want to be able to reflect on and appreciate all of the hurdles and challenges you overcame.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – When we’re trapped by our situation, the only proper course of action is to learn more, develop new skills, and challenge ourselves until we’re strong enough to reinvent ourselves and alter our circumstances.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – When an individual takes responsibility for their own learning, holds themselves accountable for ethical and virtuous behavior, works harder than his peers, and understands how to interact with other people, success will always be nearby.
The 40 Year Old Virgin – It’s never too late to change your life circumstances. Just surround yourself with friends who are willing to help you and be ready to persevere through embarrassment, failure, and doubt.
Do you think there are plenty of people who read the same books and watched the same movies as me and didn’t take any of these lessons to heart? You bet. Don’t be one of those people. The best lessons in life are free and readily available to those who are paying attention.
image via americancorner