Why personal development is critical to professional success

September 8, 2017

Personal Development

Why am I saying personal development is so important? We all know people who look like they are destined for amazing things, but never quite get there. They might have great commercial skills, intelligence, vision and all the other qualities that should lead to business success, yet they either lurch from one failed endeavour to another, or they just never quite make it to the top.

Sometimes it is just a case of good old fashioned bad luck. After all, we have seen just as many people who have few of the above qualities but end up living the high life and running hugely successful businesses through little more than being in the right place at the right time — it is only natural that for every winner in the game of life there is a loser.

Luck, fate or whatever you want to call it is always going to be a factor, which is why, even in this enlightened age, we all take a sneaky peek at our horoscope from time to time or avoid walking under a ladder. Yet there is more to it than that. We all have habits, personality traits, weaknesses or factors from our private lives that can affect our professional success.

What do we mean by personal development?

Jim Rohn was one of the 20th century’s foremost entrepreneurs and contributed massively to the field of motivational speaking. As you might guess, he had quite a talent for the soundbite, and one of his most oft quoted phrases is: “Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development.”

It sounds a grandiose term but, at heart, personal development is something we should all keep an eye on every day of the year. It simply means critical evaluation of ourselves and improving those inevitable points of personal weakness.

It can come in all areas, and sometimes the hardest thing is the evaluation element. Commercial aspects of weakness are easy. If you are being held back because you struggle to grasp the principles of a balance sheet and a profit and loss account, it is not that difficult to go on a seminar, study some books, sit down with your accountant acquaintance and improve your skills.

If it is a more personal weakness or trait that is holding you back, it can be another matter. The truth is that some people never make it to the top because they are too arrogant to listen to other opinions, or they are distracted by one domestic crisis after another, or even because they have poor personal hygiene.

It is one thing to acknowledge that you need to improve your accounting skills, quite another to admit that you have a bad attitude or your love life is a disaster zone affecting your work ethic. But these are all areas that can fall under the broad remit of personal development, and unless you are honest with yourself, you will get nowhere.

Life S.A.V.E.R.S. and the six steps to enlightenment

If Jim Rohn was many Americans’ speaker of the 20th century on US business matters, the incumbent for the new millennium is almost certainly Hal Elrod. The author of The Miracle Morning has been through more personal and professional experiences in his 38 years than most of us encounter in a lifetime, and is one of the USA’s foremost keynote speakers.

Elrod developed the S.A.V.E.R.S. system as a personal development model aimed at helping entrepreneurs, business leaders or the average man or woman on the street to get on track and stay there. In brief, the acronym is constituted of the following:

  • Silence

Using any method to calm the whirling brain and achieve focus — for example, through meditation or prayer.

  • Affirmations

Thinking positively about what you want to achieve and the steps you will take to do so.

  • Visualisation

Merely visualising the perfect outcome can be counterproductive. It is possible to fool your brain into believing you are already there, thus reducing your drive. The trick is to keep your end goal in the present day and visualise yourself doing what you need to do right now to stay on track.

  • Exercise

By increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, cognitive function is boosted. This helps bring greater clarity of thought. Do not underestimate the power of a good workout regime, even if it is just 20 minutes a day.

  • Reading

None of us know it all, and a key to self-improvement is to keep learning. It sounds obvious, but many people grind to a halt when things are going well. It only takes around 15 minutes to read ten pages. Do that every day, and you will get through a book every three weeks.

  • Scribing

It is important to keep track of your own progress, and a diary or journal can be hugely beneficial to personal development.

The early bird catches the worm

If you feel that any of the above sounds a little too new age, you will be comforted to know that Elrod also advocates one of the most traditional personal development tools that has been handed down through generations — getting up bright and early. He says of the S.A.V.E.R.S. system: “If you can’t get out of bed in the morning, none of this will work for you,” and even offers some tips on doing that, including the ingenious trick of placing the alarm clock on the other side of the room.

Work-life balance

These days everyone is talking about achieving a better work-life balance through flexible hours, remote working and so on, as if the concept never existed before the dawn of the internet. Yet it is this more than anything else that is key to developing yourself and achieving success.

The point is that work is part of life, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. Some people develop a Jekyll and Hyde persona, acting one way at work and another at home. Ultimately, this will never work out, because when it comes down to it, our core beliefs, values and needs are what drive our thoughts and actions wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

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