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Personal development ideas I can do without Dec 02

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Personal development ideas I can do without9.5106

I am going to hit the next person who gives one of the following personal development ideas (this is bad, considering I’m an otherwise peaceful person):

  • Just be more confident;
  • Just be yourself;
  • Just be more positive;
  • Just be calmer.

Just, just, just. It just doesn’t work that way. There is a tone of personal development advice out there staring with the word “just” and then suggesting some pretty dramatic personal change, as if it’s like going to the supermarket.

With most of these ideas, we are addressing something which is more than just a behavior. We are addressing an attitude. Being confident is not just a way you act, talk and look. It’s a habitual way of thinking and reacting emotionally to various life situations, which is ingrained in your personality. To use some big and resonating words, it’s a complex psychological structure.

What does it take to change these psychological structures? Over time, I came to believe there is no magic pill. What works is consciously, gradually and systemically replacing old thinking patterns with new thinking patterns, old associations with new associations and thus old emotions with new emotions. Plus, using the right tools and methods to do it. Then, you can act confident cause you can are confident.

The fact that these personal development ideas do not work isn’t half as bad as the treatment some of the people who talk about them will give you. I’m starting to call them personal development assholes. They have at least one of two traits:

  1. They naturally have these ways of being they give advice on. So for them, “just be confident” seems like solid advice. Because already having the right internal setup, they can do it just like that.
  2. They have a superficial understanding of how human learning happens and the qualities personal development ideas require to be applied effectively.

When you try to put their advice to practice but you don’t seem to be able to and you don’t get results, they just start accusing you using advanced personal development jargon: of not wanting it bad enough, of having secondary gains or of lacking willpower. So now, you don’t improve and you feel guilty about it.

Trust me: when for example, every time you go to a party you feel miserable because you’re too shy to talk to anyone and have some fun, you want nothing more on the planet than to “just be more confident”. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I’m sure a lot of the people giving this advice mean well, but they often do more harm than good.

The answer is not out there. It’s within. Personal development ideas that work take into account not just the external, but also the internal, to create deep and lasting self growth.

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21 Responses
  1. What a great post! I think it’s really interesting to read about this unique take on personal development. Thanks for writing this!
    Positively Present´s last blog ..looking for beauty in all the right places My ComLuv Profile

  2. eduard you legend :)

    why so angsty?

    def agree that toting advice prefixed by “just” is generally unproductive. definitely.

    and also def agree that it’s within. i wrote a massive article trying to get this idea across. but making judegements about personal development at large and being so bold as to make statements about what “works” seems a lil jaded. and like you’re upset about something someone said.

    so yeah, i’m with you that “just be confident” is largely useless in effecting change. but that depends on your space and where you’re at. sometimes it’s the best possible advice to receive because you see how stupid all your overcomplication is.

    this is gonna sound very self helpy, but it really is as difficult as you make it. well. make it is prolly not the best terminology because, as you point out, it’s largely a matter of your circumstances and background and not something you’re making. but the extent towards you grow and positive change is effected does really depend on how open you are to change.

    and to that extent, it is definitely as difficult as you make it. it can be complicated and being confident can be contingent on a lifelong journey punctuated by periods of meditation in tibet and visits from the archangel gabriel and the parting of the skies. you can make it complicated and a big deal. but it is about just becoming it.

    it seems so simple when you’re there.

    mainly, in my experience, because it’s not really an adding to inasmuch as a taking away that allows you to be calmer, confident etc.

    just be confident is pointing towards stopping all the other bullshit that stops you from being confident. so, to that effect, it can be the most beneficial advice you ever recieve. simplifies the whole thing.

    but don’t get angry about it.

    it just means that, given the space you’re in, you need a different approach to inspire the confidence that is within you.

    not a big deal :)

    keep well mate
    alex – unleash reality

  3. Hey Eduard.

    Solid material here. It doesn’t help to say “just be X” in most instances. It is like telling an angry person to just put away the anger. They would obviously do it instantly if it was that easy.

    I had been thinking about this point at times lately, and I am glad you brought it up. Saying “just be more confident” doesn’t speak to the specific person. There are always underlying issues that have to be worked through so confidence can show up.

    Complex issues aren’t fixed with simple words or phrases, or people would have books of quotes by their side at all times.
    Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Where You Are Is Where You Succeed My ComLuv Profile

  4. I totally agree Eduard, “just” rarely works. Only by changing from within, by eliminating deep rooted limiting beliefs can we create a change that will last and start acting the way we want to automatically.
    Lana – DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Finding Your Life Purpose: Do You Know What You Stand For? My ComLuv Profile

  5. Hey Eduard:

    I love this article. There are a lot of people giving the advice of JUST do it with telling you how to do it. I know I have been there and I know I have felt miserable about no becoming who I want to be in a short period of time.

    What I realized worked for me is to just keep doing small things recommended by the people who have been there. I just had to keep going and keep reading and keep doing until finally it clicked.

    I believe if you stay at something long enough you will somehow realize the JUST part of the whole suggestion. The whole exact process is hidden from me, but I am sure it has something to do the time it takes to make new neuron connections and reinforce the new behaviors.

    Thanks for a fresh and rational view on personal development.

    Tomas Stonkus´s last blog ..How To Create Value By Disagreeing My ComLuv Profile

  6. Kylie says:

    You forgot to mention:
    1) they usually have no qualifications but have atended a few weekend workshops and have an extensive pop-psych library
    2) they remain blissfully unaware of their lack of knowledge and training
    3) they are arrogant and condescending
    4) once you dig a bit deeper they also tend to believe in the healing power of crystals, the secret of attraction, and that the world will end in 2012.

    If you ever do snap and throw something hard at one of them, I will help you pay for a good lawyer :-)

  7. Eduard says:

    Hey everybody,

    Thanks for sharing your thougths on this one. I think the faster people understand personal development beyond behavior, the better they can help themselves.

    Kylie: I can’t stop laughing :)

    All the best

  8. Hugh DeBurgh says:

    Hi Eduard!

    Fantastic blog!

    I think that I may both agree and disagree with you on this one, depending on the context.

    I’ll explain…

    When I hear the words, “Just be (fill in the blank),” I hear a key conflict.

    To just “be” is to let go and be – your natural self – with all of the flaws that you think that you have. To say “just be (confident, positive, calm)” is to actually require an action – doing rather than being. To me this is a big distinction because I think that anyone is at their best when they stop trying.

    I know that a naturally shy person is not going to have much luck competing for attention inside a crowd of extroverts at a party or something. The first issue may be that the shy person should focus instead on finding a better place to “compete.” He or she will always be at a disadvantage in an unnatural environment like that.

    If the shy person must be in an environment that favors extroverts, for example, then the best approach is probably to develop a set of practiced skills that substitute for their natural shyness – a good “act.”

    If the event is one where the person is trying to make temporary associations with others – looking for customers for a business, for example – then a well honed “act” may be appropriate.

    If, however, the shy person is trying to find their soul-mate, then starting off with an act, even if it does get the other’s attention, is a mistake, IMHO. For the shy person, I say, find a forum where you are not at such a disadvantage. Some place where what is greatest in you can shine. Then, stop trying to be and just be.

    Those are my two-cents anyway.


    Hugh DeBurgh´s last blog ..Raindrops My ComLuv Profile

  9. Eduard says:

    Hey Hugh,

    I see your point. These things are relative. Thinking of forwarding your message, along with mine, to some shy people I know. It makes a Yin-Yang approach ;)

  10. Hi Eduard, I see what you’re saying. It’s just not that simple, right?

    I think the problem is semantics are limited and can be so limiting and frankly, it’s not always so easy to get ones exact idea across. There’s always room for misunderstanding.

    I have had people tell me to “just be…” And you’re right. It’s a bit too trite and it’s hard to see the wisdom in its meaning when the words are too simplistic and we know the process is a bit more complex.

    But why not give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that their intention is probably good, that they most like are only trying to help and they and maybe, just maybe, they have an idea where you’re coming from? Who knows, it could be another opportunity for further personal growth. Does that make sense?

  11. Tristan Lee says:

    Hi Eduard. I believe your right. It’s easy to tell a person to “just do this” or “just do that”, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. For the person “saying” it, it might be easy, but for the person “doing” it, it is not so much. Like you say, personal development starts from within and cannot be as easily develop as somebody else telling you to “just do something”.
    Tristan Lee´s last blog ..The Power of Concentration My ComLuv Profile

  12. Eduard says:

    Belinda: It makes sense, I do think that most people who give these personal development ideas are well intended. And I respect that. Being a very pragmatic person, I usually expect more though from advice.

    Tristan: It is easy isn’t it? :)

  13. Just be more confident; in private

    Just be more positive; in private
    Just be calmer. In private
    Just be yourself in public… Because What you Practice you Perfect
    Lloyd Christie´s last blog ..10 ways to Master Positive Speech My ComLuv Profile

  14. Cristina says:


    Personal development cannot be done to you from outside and overnight. And there are no magic recipes. So, when you decided to look outside for guidance to improve yourself FASTER AND BETTER than you can do it yourself, it doesn’t hurt to hear as many ideas as possible, no matter how arrogant or stupid they may seem, until you find the one that “clicks”, as said before.

    One hint: if you realized WHAT YOU are missing to be successful (and this is not JUST a simple thing, it may be the most important! ), try to fasten the process by extensively placing yourself in situations where you are OBLIGED to act towards the desired development. So you will HAVE TO discover how to “survive” those situations with your own available means.

    I can give you an example that worked like magic for me (even if it is kind of frivolous…) I was 20 and dreaming to loose few kilos, but never pursued any corrective action that was taking more than few days to show the results. When the problem became stringent, I took a radical step: I cut short ALL my skirts, trousers etc, so I put myself for the next months in the situation to “face the shame” of showing-off, every day, what I was feeling bad about. It took less than 2 weeks to solve 2 problems: to loose half of the “imagined extra weight” and to realize that my charm/confidence/etc was, after-all, not depending on that…

    Do you think you can imagine something similar for your trainees? It might work! :)

  15. Hehe, it’s so easy to say just chill out, just get over it, just go with the flow, just be positive etc.

    But the thing is that these things don’t just happen over night. You have to practice them daily. Then after a few years of that you might start to get good at it and it may even start to come naturally. That’s my take:)

  16. Hi Eduard – Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your wonderful comment. I’m glad to have discovered your site over here. Your topic truly resonates with me. I’m amazed at the amount of advice that’s given without much consideration for the inner landscape of human beings. In fact, when I started poking around personal development blogs a few months ago, I was very surprised to see so much “just do it” advice, and now I’m exhausted by it. I also see a lot of advice that starts, “you should do this.” Emphasis on the should. Most people I know have way too many shoulds to begin with. They don’t need more. It may all be well meaning, as Belinda says, but personally, when I see it, I just shut down and move on.

  17. Eduard, yes, we don’t need a band-aid but healing and development from within!
    Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..Catch a Bus to Juice up Your Life! My ComLuv Profile

  18. Eduard says:

    Well, I’m impressed with all the ideas around this topic you guys (and gals :) ) bring to the table. Thanks for your comments.

  19. haha personal development assholes !

    there is a radiohead song called Just and the chorus goes

    “You do it to yourself, you do
    And that’s what really hurts
    Is that you do it to yourself
    Just you, you and no-one else
    You do it to yourself
    You do it to yourself ”

    I agree with people needing to stop looking outside for the answer. its always been inside !
    Rocky | R O C K O N O V A.COM´s last blog ..The Sacred Art Of Tonglen My ComLuv Profile

  20. oh! I forgot, if you get a chance, watch the video for JUST too all the way to the end. its pretty interesting….
    Rocky | R O C K O N O V A.COM´s last blog ..The Sacred Art Of Tonglen My ComLuv Profile

  21. Hi Eduard,

    I enjoyed reading your take on this. There’s a lot of “just be” solutions and lists floating around the personal development space these days, and frankly, a lot of people need more than that type of advice. In one way, I see where Alex is coming from in the human tendency to overcomplicate things… this is something many of us do. But, as you mentioned, a lot of these “just be’s” are behavioral changes and changes that require a shift in habitual thinking patterns, and those sorts of thing take some time to develop. That’s exactly why I started doing the Walking Gratitude Meditation I wrote about in my last article. Years ago when I tried walking meditation, and “just” quieting my mind and focusing on walking, I noticed that “just quieting” my mind didn’t work so well. I needed something to interrupt my habitual thought processes that where happening even when I didn’t want them to. The expression of gratitude helped me to do that.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas here, and echoing something I think a lot of people have been feeling lately.

    Miche :)
    Miche | Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Regaining Inner Peace, Clarity and Focus When You’re Busy with Walking Gratitude Meditation My ComLuv Profile

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