Personal Development for Smart People - by Steve Pavlina



Your first commitment must be to discover and accept new truths, no matter how difficult or unpleasant the consequences may be.

Excessive routine is the enemy of intelligence. Exposing yourself to the same types of input over and over again won't help you grow. You'll merely satisfy your mind's expectations instead of pushing it to form new patterns. If you want to become smarter, you must keep stirring things up. Establish basic routines only to provide a stable foundation for branching out into unexplored territory. Push yourself to do things you've never done before. Keep exposing yourself to new experiences, ideas, and input. The more novel situations you encounter that violate your expectations, the faster you'll learn and the smarter you'll become.

You can try to gain as much clarity as possible about a given situation, and that's generally a good idea, but you can never eliminate all uncertainty. So you have two basic options: deny the unpredictability of life and create your own false sense of security, or accept the vagaries of life and learn to live with them.

If you were looking at someone else's life that shared the same qualities as yours and you had to place a wager on the outcome, how would you place your bet? One of the most important skills to develop in the area of personal growth is the ability to admit the whole truth to yourself, even if you don't like what you see and even if you feel powerless to change it.

A simple rule of thumb is this: whatever you fear, you must eventually face.

When you make decisions from a certain state of mind and act upon them, you reinforce that same state, thereby increasing the likelihood you'll respond similarly in the future. For example, if you act out of anger, you'll strengthen your mind's anger response. If you act out of kindness, you'll reinforce a kind response. The best point to make new choices is when you feel alert, clearheaded, and intelligent. That's the time to consider making big transformations in your life such as a career change, a relationship change, or moving to a new city. Learn to trust those higher states of consciousness. Put the decisions in writing and fully commit yourself to them. When you inevitably sink back down to lower states and lose sight of that higher perspective, continue to act on those decisions even though you may no longer feel as committed to them. Over time, your external circumstances will change in ways that reinforce those higher states. Living consciously gets easier with practice.

How to Become More Truthful

  • Journaling. The real power of journaling lies in its ability to help you move beyond sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a holistic, bird's-eye view. Use this tool to solve tricky problems, brainstorm new ideas, bring clarity to fuzzy situations, and evaluate progress toward your goals. Instead of a mere record-keeping tool, your journal can vastly accelerate your personal development if you devote it to that purpose.

  • Media Fasting. For 30 days straight, keep the television turned off and avoid all newspapers, magazines, and online media sources.


One of the fundamental choices you face in every encounter is the choice to approach or avoid. You can try to connect with people, or you can pull away from them. You can immerse yourself in your day's work, or you can procrastinate. You can approach any person, place, or thing with the intention to connect, or you can remain aloof and keep your distance. The decision to connect is the essence of love.

A belief in separation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's no rule cast in stone that requires you to assume everyone is separate from you. Something rather magical happens when you presuppose that everyone else is a part of you, just like one of your own dream characters. The first thing you realize is that there are no strangers. There are no insignificant people in your reality. Since everyone is a part of you, everyone has something to teach you.

You're a worthy human being. When you hold back from connecting due to fear of rejection, you rob other people of the chance to get to know you.

How to Connect More Deeply

  • Sharing. Share a conversation. Share experiences. Share stories. Share laughs. Share a meal. Share a game. Share yourself. Life is filled with opportunities to share interesting moments with people. Don't be afraid to take the initiative.

  • Appreciation. Praise the other person for a recent accomplishment. Point out a unique talent or skill you admire, or simply share a small detail that impresses you. Do this only when you truly are impressed. Never offer insincere praise in an attempt to manipulate someone.

  • Gratitude. Sometimes it's easiest to tap into these feelings by imagining what your life would be like without him or her. What would you miss if this person was gone from your life forever? Pay attention to whatever thoughts arise as you consider this question.


If you want different results, you must go out and create them yourself. Accepting full responsibility for your life means being willing to do what's necessary to create the outcome you want. You must be willing to pay the price to meet your needs and fulfill your desires. You must actively make your life happen instead of passively letting it play out.

When you face important crossroads in life, exercise your power to decide consciously. Offer up a definitive yes or no. Don't succumb to the blind default of silent approval.

The point of goal setting is to improve the quality of your present-moment reality. Setting goals can give you greater clarity and focus right now. Whenever you consider a new goal, pay attention to the effect it has on your present reality. Set goals that make you feel powerful, motivated, and driven when you focus on them, long before the final outcome is actually achieved. Avoid setting goals that make you feel powerless, stressed, or weak. Treat this process as a way to enhance your present focus, not as a way to control the future.

Motivation is highest when you're already in motion. When you stop moving, your motivation naturally declines. If you can summon just enough discipline to get going again, you'll often find that your momentum reboots your natural motivation to continue. It requires a lot of power to go from a state of rest to a state of action, but once you're moving, it's easier to keep going.

How to Build Your Power

  • Progressive Training. You must tackle challenges that are within your current ability to handle but which are close to your limit.

  • Master the First Hour of Your Day.

  • Personal Quotas. Establish a daily minimum output goal for yourself in some area of your life.

  • Worst First. If you have something difficult on your plate, get it done first thing in the morning. Arrange your daily tasks from hardest to easiest. Put the routine tasks at the end of the day, and watch how much faster you get your work done. Take your personal rewards at the end of the day, not the beginning.

  • Competition. The nice thing about competition is that even when you lose, you win. You may lose the contest, but you'll still see positive results, probably more than you would have if you'd never competed.

  • Rest. Use cycles of exertion and relaxation to lift yourself up to higher levels of performance. Once you've successfully completed a challenge, rest for a while before tackling the next one. Stretch. Go for a walk. Take a short nap. Give yourself a chance to relax and recuperate. If you've been feeling burned out and unmotivated for several days in a row, you're pushing yourself too hard. Get away from your work for at least a couple days. Take a vacation.


Love is choosing to connect. Oneness is knowing you're already connected. Oneness has no specific target; it's an omnidirectional feeling of connection to everyone and everything at the same time. Oneness is pure unconditional love.

How to Experience Oneness

  • Spend Time in Nature. Quiet your thoughts and pay as much attention to your senses as possible.

  • Physical Contact.


How to Increase Your Authority

  • Orchestrate Small Rebellions. A small rebellion is an act of free will with minimal negative consequences. You're simply asserting your independence, allowing others to react however they wish. Your assignment is simply to break the unwritten rules of social conformity, rules you aren't required to obey but which you've been blindly following.

  • Experiment. The ongoing practice of conducting experiments will condition you to be more productive because you'll always be on the lookout for ways to improve.

  • Teach. Teach someone else how to perform a task you're very good at.


Courage is the application of power to break through short-term challenges in order to achieve long-term goals.

Fear isn't something to be avoided. It's the arrow pointing back to your true self. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: whatever you fear, you must eventually face.

If you want something, ask for it. Accept the risk of rejection, and summon the courage to take action anyway. If you get turned down, you'll survive. You'll learn from the experience and grow stronger. If you don't get rejected, you'll achieve your outcome in the fastest and simplest way possible. When you risk rejection, either you get what you want or you build some courage. Either way the outcome is positive.

When you feel lazy and unmotivated, the simple reason is that you're feeling disconnected. You've fallen out of alignment with truth, love, and power. When you recognize that you're in this state, stop and reconnect with the real you. Remember who you are. Reconnect with what excites you. Turn your gaze within and ask yourself: Where is the path with a heart, and what can I do to honor that path right now? Whatever answer you come up with, summon the courage to take immediate action.

How to Build Courage

  • Progressive Training. Instead of tackling your biggest fear right away, confront your smallest fears first, and progressively work up to more significant acts of courage. First, select a fear you'd like to overcome. It's okay if it's too big for you to tackle right away. Now see if you can identify one small step you could take to confront that fear, something that would be a fairly mild challenge for you but that would still trigger some trepidation.

  • Commit. Make an advance commitment to a specific course of action that makes facing one of your fears unavoidable.

  • Do one thing today that scares you.


For each of the seven principles, set a specific growth target. Decide to make a small improvement in each area. Write a fresh list of goals for every area of your life. Use the chapter titles from Part II of this book as your guide. Set aside at least one hour to work on your single most important project. Refuse to do anything else until the time has elapsed. For a more challenging version, make it three or four hours.



Make a habit of intentionally reaching out and connecting with others. Break the limiting pattern of trying to do everything solo. Join a club or attend social events just for the experience of connecting with new people and expanding your social network.

Instead of living in an isolated cocoon, make a habit of contributing to others. Find something you can do on a regular basis to give value to total strangers, not just your family and friends.

  • 30-Day Trials. These trials are best suited to daily habits.

    • Give up online forums and idle Web surfing.

    • Shower or bathe every day, and groom yourself to look your best.

    • Every day, introduce yourself to someone you don't know.

    • Go out every evening and do something different each time.

    • Read for an hour a day.

    • Keep a daily journal.

  • Mini-milestones. When you begin a task, identify the target you must reach before you can stop working. For example, when writing a book, you could decide not to get up until you've written at least 1,000 words. Hit your target no matter what.

  • Ready-fire-aim. Bust procrastination by taking action immediately after setting a goal, even if the action isn't perfectly planned. You can always adjust your course along the way.

  • Cross-pollination. Learn new skills that are unrelated to your work. Train in martial arts, study a foreign language, or learn to play chess. You'll often encounter ideas in one field that can boost your performance in another.

  • Miracle worker. Estimate how long a task will take to complete. Then start a timer, and push yourself to complete it in half that time.

  • Valor. Identify the item on your task list that scares you the most. Muster all the courage you can and tackle it immediately.


Ask yourself: Would anyone be deeply saddened if I stopped contributing? Would anyone cry if I went out of business? If the answer is no, it's a safe bet you're on the wrong path.

Often the simplest way to create value for others is by sharing what you love to do. I love working on my own growth, but that doesn't do much for others. However, when I share what I'm doing and teach people what I've learned, that does create social value. Keep asking yourself these two questions: How can I create and deliver more value? How can I increase my capacity for value creation?

It's intelligent to give more than you receive, since this is precisely what generates growth. Push harder on the service side, and you'll soon find people lining up to pay you.


I've had great success using 30-day trials for physical experimentation. Keep a log to record your results, at least weekly if not daily. Your logs may prove extremely useful to you down the road, perhaps even years later, so be as honest as you can in your reporting. Consider sharing your records publicly, such as via a blog. This allows others to learn from your experiences as well.


What mix of truth, love, and power do you use to connect with others? Realize that your weakest channel will be the source of many of your communication problems. You can actually achieve significant growth in your relationships by learning to use your weakest channel when communicating in addition to your strengths.

Your relationships will have a tremendous influence on your self-development. If you find yourself using all your power and self-discipline to resist the negative influence of your own friends, you're fighting a losing battle. Use your power to break off such relationships, and surround yourself with people who naturally empower you. As a general rule, whenever you find yourself stuck in a disempowering environment, don't fight the situation. Just get up and leave.

Be prepared for fascinating social experiences as your alignment with oneness increases. I think the reason this mind-set is so effective is that when you assume a preexisting connection, people tend to pick up on your openness and respond in kind. Apparently, the best way to break the ice with someone is to assume there never was any ice to begin with. This is especially true of those who are very conscious and self-aware. Such people naturally respond to friendly overtures from like-minded individuals, and hurtful rejections are rare.

While you can certainly improve your relationship skills through trial and error, I think it's easier to enlist the help of a mentor. Identify someone you know who seems to have an easy time connecting with people, someone whose interpersonal skills are more developed than yours. Tell that person that you wish to improve your social skills; and ask for pointers, advice, and perhaps an ongoing coaching relationship. My experience is that most folks are flattered by such requests, often finding it a fun challenge to try to turn a wallflower into a social butterfly.

If you want to bring new relationships into your life, don't wait for others to come to you. You must take the initiative. In the long run, waiting causes too many missed opportunities and leads to regret.

One of the best things you can do to attract new people into your life is to focus on your own creative self-expression. By expressing yourself authentically, you draw others to you, making it easier to form compatible new relationships.


By learning to consider reality from multiple perspectives, you'll overcome many of the limitations of individual belief systems. You'll gradually shed false beliefs that distort your perceptions, you'll fill in gaps in your understanding, and you'll come into greater alignment with truth. I see my beliefs as a toolbox of lenses to choose from; they're an extension of my senses. When working on my computer, I'll pay attention to what my eyes are seeing. When talking on the phone, I'll shift my attention to listening with my ears. When I'm doing my taxes, I might adopt a very earthy, atheistic perspective. When I'm discussing the life of Jesus with someone, I'll consider reality through a Christian lens. When I meditate, I might adopt a Buddhist or New Age philosophy. I select each lens based on how empowering it is for me in the moment.

In order for your spiritual practice to be truly authentic, you can't compartmentalize it. You can't be a spiritual person for an hour each weekend and then put that part of yourself on hold when you go to work on Monday morning. An intelligent spiritual practice is a holistic one. It integrates with all parts of your life, including your career, your finances, your health, and your relationships.

If I could summarize the core message of this book, it is simply this: Seek truth with open eyes. Courageously accept your discoveries and their consequences. Rid your life of falsehood, denial, and fear of what is. Make truth your ally, not your enemy. This isn't easy, but it is correct. Share your love openly. Connect with yourself and others by tuning in to the connection that already exists. The risk of rejection is overshadowed by the rewards of loving connections. Whenever you feel disconnected, reach out and connect with another human being. Remember that you're always loved. Fully develop your human abilities, and use your power in honorable service for the highest good of all. False power corrupts, but true power elevates. The more you resonate with truth and love, the greater your ability to wield power wisely. No one is served by your refusal to shine. Embrace your unique path of growth. Use your intellect and emotions to guide you in the conscious pursuit of truth, love, and power. Invest in creative self-expression, service, and contribution, and you will suffer no scarcity. Your greatest gift to the world is to share who you really are. Enjoy your incredible human journey. Accept the highs and the lows as equally valuable. Recognize that your deepest sorrows reveal your greatest joys. Share your stories with others, and know that you're not alone. Be grateful for your time on earth. Live consciously.