20 Unusual Facts About Self Development

I must confess that I love sharing self development information that either challenges conventional thinking, or just flat out destroys it. I guess it’s the rebel in me!

I’m sure that some of what you’re about to read you may already know, but I’m equally sure there may be some things that either you didn’t, or you’re skeptical about.

If it’s the latter, please feel free to challenge me in the comments.

Everything that isn’t opinion based is backed up by scientific research.

However, because I didn’t want to spend my entire day searching for the sources of the information you are either going to have to trust me, challenge me, or do your own research.

1. If You’re Stressed, You’re Fearful

In terms of how the word is most commonly used there is no situation where you cannot remove the word stress and replace it with scared or fearful*.

Stress is a fight or flight response picked up in the Limbic system (or more accurately your amygdala) which in turn triggers  the sympathetic nervous system. 

I don’t tell clients this to humiliate them because we all encounter stress and fear, but to help them think differently.

A fundamental prerequisite of any competent Life Coach is to help their clients think differently, because without a shift in thinking, nothing much changes.

Next time you’re about to tell the world you’re stressed senseless, change it to scared to death and see if it feels as acceptable or you’d rather change things and manage it more effectively.

The Take Away: Don’t accept chronic stress as being a necessary part of life, do something about it. ‘The Ultimate Stress Busting Post’ may help.

2. There Is No One Solution To Procrastination

I read an offer to sign up for a newsletter the other day that gave an ebook containing the cure for procrastination in 3 easy steps if you signed up.

There are a great many things that can cause procrastination such as overwhelm (too much choice), fear, uncertainty, lack of knowledge, lack of understanding of our core values i.e. what is truly important to us, and laziness to name a few.

Each may require an entirely different approach and many chronic procrastinators may have a combination of two or more reasons. 

As a Life Coach, clients with serious procrastination issues can be the trickiest to deal with.

It can be done, but not with a cookie cutter on a wing and a prayer.

The Take Away: Be honest with yourself about the real reasons you procrastinate and ignore one size fits all solutions.

3. Money Can Buy Happiness

Well no it can’t, but it can help tremendously.

Because there has been so much research demonstrating the lack of correlation between fabulously wealthy people and happiness some people assume there is no link.

If you are struggling to pay your mortgage or in massive debt, then that can contribute to higher stress levels (fear – remember?) and thus lower your happiness levels. 

Having said that, once you get above about a $200k household income then the link between happiness and your bank account start to diminish rapidly.

The Take Away: If paying your mortgage, having a nice vacation from time to time and being able to afford an iPad aren’t major issues for you, then that 20% pay rise probably won’t have much long-term effect.

4. Positive Affirmations Can Be Harmful

The self development industry loves to tell you that if you can keep telling yourself over and over again that you are a wonderful, worthwhile happy Human Being, that eventually you will believe it and thus it will come to fruition.

Unfortunately, if at a very deep level you don’t believe what you are saying such affirmations are not only worthless, but can be counter productive.

If you have low self esteem and take this approach and see no positive results, then guess what happens?

Yep, you think even less of yourself for not even being able to do something so easy.

The Take Away: Be careful of what some self development gurus tell you because they are often guruing out of their ass. If an affirmation feels uncomfortable to you then you’re probably better not using it.

5. People Can Change At Any Age

We love to use expressions such as ‘a leopard never changes its spots’ and ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ even though science has kicked these false beliefs to the curb, stamped on them and then run over them with a Mack truck several times.

You can’t change if you refuse to. You can’t change if you don’t believe you can. And you can’t change without doing any work. But presuming you are not mentally impaired, you can change, so drop the excuses and accept the truth.

The Take Away: It doesn’t matter how old you are, you definitely can acquire new skills, new ways of thinking and improve your happiness levels.

6. The Benefits of Meditation Beat Those of Exercise

I don’t think there has been a more heavily researched field than meditation and mindfulness over the last 5 years. Here are a few benefits for you to consider:

  • Increased focus and concentration
  • Greater empathy and understanding of others
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Increases our ability to deal with adversity
  • Reduces blood pressure in those people who have higher than ideal levels
  • School attendance levels rise when meditation is introduced
  • It can lower levels of depression
  • It makes people happier and more content
  • Improves overall health levels

To be fair, there isn’t one single type of meditation that will produce all those results.

For example, a Metta Bhavana or Lovingkindness meditation will help more with empathy, whereas a  breath meditation will help with concentration. Both can help with reducing stress however.

If you want to know more you can grab my free ebook on meditation aimed at beginners and skeptics, by clicking here and then downloading the book. No e-mail details needed!

The Take Away: Take up meditation.

7. You Probably Cannot Multi-Task (not effectively anyway)

About 98% of the population cannot multi-task and trying to do so inhibits performance because every time you move from one thing to another your brain takes between 1 and 3 seconds to catch up and refocus.

I had a client tell me recently that his son could be watching TV, doing his homework on his laptop and be texting his friends all at the same time.

My response was, ‘No he can’t, but he is probably honing his ability to be unable to focus in later life’.

The Take Away: Forget multi-tasking and do one thing as a time well, rather than 3 things badly.

8. You Are A World Class Adapter

You have probably seen other people deal with major life adversity and thought to yourself, “Wow they’re so brave and tenacious, I could never have done that”

But you probably could have, because you’re awesome at adapting to your circumstances. You have dealt with every single thing life has thrown at you and you will continue to do so until you die.

If you lost your job, you’d adapt. If you had to downsize your house, you’d adapt. If you get sick you will adapt. Trust me, you are an amazing feat of evolution and your adaptation skills are world-class.

The only downside is that you will also adapt to that 20% pay rise I spoke of in #3 and your happiness set point will quickly return to normal.

The Take Away: Whatever is to come in your future, you will deal with it.

9. You Are Terrible At Predicting How You Will Feel About Things In The Future

Whereas you’re a great adapter, you’re a terrible predictor.

As Human Beings we have a tendency to think that we will feel differently about things in the future than we do now.

We wouldn’t say yes to that party tonight, but it’s in 3 months time so I’ll be the life and soul by then.

A parachute jumps scares me to death today, but in 6 months I’ll be jumping out with the enthusiasm of a drunken lemming.

No way I’m babysitting for the lunatic kid next door tonight.

But what’s that you say, you won’t need me until November? Of course I’d love to look after the little rascal and hopefully he can try and stab me with a screwdriver again.

The Take Away: Make decisions based on whether, with all things being equal and there are no imminent major changes looming that will change your outlook, you would do them today.

memories on film

10. You Hold A Lot Of False Memories

Your brain doesn’t stored memories like a video, it simply remembers snapshots and pieces together the rest drawing from previous life experiences and what it expects to have happened.

Consequently, your brain makes lots of mistakes, especially when it comes to childhood memories.

The Take Away: Avoid being dogmatic and insisting your memory remembers an event exactly as it was. If you’re in an argument where somebody insists otherwise, then they are as likely to be right as you are.

11. Beliefs Are Not Facts

It doesn’t matter how much you believe something, there is no correlation between belief and truth.

I hear a lot of people say things like, “God absolutely does exist”, “God absolutely doesn’t exist” and “the fact of the matter is that England are shit at soccer” 

The latter is pretty close to being a fact as this World Cup has ‘proved’ but even though most English people would nod in sage agreement at that statement, it’s still only a belief.

The Take Away: Be careful what you insist on as being true and regularly question your beliefs, especially the ones about your own capabilities and limitations.

12. You Shouldn’t Just Follow Your Bliss 

I used to subscribe to Joseph Campbell’s quote of, “follow your bliss”. After all I heard it repeated again and again and again.

It would be a much better quote of it said, “follow your bliss if it’s remotely sensible and isn’t going to bankrupt you, ruin your closest relationships or kill you.

The Take Away: Ask yourself if following your biggest dream in life is really plausible. It doesn’t have to be easy, it just has to be physically possible. If the answer is ‘yes’, then go for it!

13. Written Goals Don’t Necessarily Work Better

Firstly, contrary to what you may have heard from some of the old guard in self development, there has been no scientific research into long-term goal setting.

None that I have ever seen anyway, and trust me I’ve looked.

There can be definite advantages to writing your goals down, such as clarifying them, making them appear more real and possibly improve your commitment toward them.

However, there can be downsides for some people with more time and effort spent on writing the goals down in detail than actually working on them.

And another albeit not that common side effect, is that some people think writing them down means they have already achieved them and they sit on the paper ad infinitum as a testament to inaction and procrastination.

The Take Away: If writing goals down doesn’t get you enthused, or worse still, makes you feel like you’ve put yourself under pressure, don’t do it. I don’t have any written goals for what it’s worth.

14. Visualization Really Does Work – And Probably Better Than You Realize

Would you be surprised if I told you that recent research showed that people visualizing working out actually accrued muscle mass?

Well they did. The results weren’t as good as actually working out, and the level of concentration and effort needed was probably no less than pumping iron, but they did it nevertheless.

If you have a fear of public speaking and have to do a speech, you’re probably already visualizing it. 

Unfortunately, you’re probably visualizing a catastrophe that has you vomiting on the front row of the audience, passing out and being carried off stage sucking your thumb and asking for your mommy.

You’re brain is very poor at knowing what is real and what is imagined and visualization builds neural pathways similar to if you were doing whatever it is.

That is why most world class sports people use heavy doses of visualization.

The Take Away: Visualize your success consciously because if you don’t then who knows what your brain is imagining under the surface and preparing you for.

Note: Good visualizers use as many sense as possible, so don’t think it’s just about using your internal vision. 

15. Every Human Action Or Behavior Has A Positive Intent

I don’t like the phrase ‘self-sabotage’ simply because it doesn’t exist. It’s easy to look back on the time you told your boss to’ “go fuck himself’ and then wonder what you the hell you were thinking about afterward when you got fired.

In fact, that very thing happened with a client of mine who told me that he uttered those very words a few years earlier to demonstrate to me his tendency to self-sabotage.

On further investigation it was apparent he hated that job and was glad he no longer worked there, so how can that be self-sabotage?

There will be events you can look back on that after rash behavior on your part didn’t turn out well.

However, there WAS always a positive intent underpinning your behavior even if it’s not always obvious.

That decision to drink a vat of tequila and then strip naked at a work party and jump into the pool was a poor one, but at the time your brain probably thought it was hysterical and it was having a whale of a time.

The positive intention was having fun and livening the stiffs up from the accounting department.

The Take Away: Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make poor decisions. Simply look for the positive intent behind your actions and vow to only drink half a vat of tequila next time.

16. You Probably Cannot Form A Habit in 28 Days

Yes, yes, I know Steven Covey said you coul in ‘The & Habits of Highly Successful People’, but science has proved he was wrong.

Habits are unconscious patterns of behavior and as such if you’re still pushing yourself to go to the gym after 6 months, or to stick with meditation after 3 months it’s because they aren’t habits yet.

The annoying thing is it’s often easier to acquire bad habits than good ones. 

Therefore, when you are trying to change things and replace a negative habit with a shiny new positive one, you will need time for the neural connections of the old habit to atrophy and die.

The good news is they will eventually. The bad news is that some life long habits can take years, even decades to remove entirely.

The Take Away: You have to really commit when implementing new habits. It may miraculously happen in 28 days, but the likelihood is it will take a lot longer and if you’re prepared for that eventuality, you’re not likely to start thinking you’re a failure when you hit day 29 and nothings happened.

17. You Have All The Confidence In The World

I often have clients tell me they’re not confident enough or that they don’t have enough confidence.

Here’s the deal with confidence.

You can never have any more than you have now.

That may suck if you think you’re lacking in the confidence department. But the good news is you’re not lacking.

Confidence is situational.

I’m sure you’re confident that you can brush your teeth without poking your eye out. Or that you can find your way back home from the end of your driveway, right?

So you don’t lack confidence, you simply won’t allow yourself to tap into it in certain situations.

That may be because you are intimidated by authority, think you need new skills to allow yourself to feel good about a situation, or that you need to be older, richer, cleverer, more attractive etc. (delete where applicable).

The Take Away: Give some thought as to the things you are confident about and then unpack them and try to see what are the triggers and traits are. Then map them over to a situation that has you shaking like a blind mouse who’s stumbled into a cattery on fondue night.

18. You Cannot Eradicate Fear

Fear is a hard wired emotion for most people (there are exceptions, some psychopaths experience little if any fear, but I’m assuming you’re not a psychopath – apologies if you are and I jumped to conclusions, please don’t kill me – I’m scared now).

We need fear to stop us doing dumb things and it’s allowed us to exist as a species for tens of thousands of years longer than if we didn’t have it.

Fear is seldom the issue, the issue is how we respond to it. Most people tell themselves they are being silly when frightened which ironically just serves to make it worse.

Accept that fear is ok and that it’s only an emotion that comes and goes like any other emotion and it’s almost certainly not going to kill you.

And I do realize this is tougher than I’m making it sound, although guess what can help?

Yep, our good old friend meditation again.

The Take Away: Don’t trust people who tell you they can help remove all your fears because not only is that a bad thing, but they’ll probably end up selling you a bridge in Arizona, some essence of snake and Hitlers diaries.

19. You Can Change Your Mood By Changing Your Body Language

It used to be believed that our body language was dictated by our mood.

In other words, if we were sad we’d slump and frown. If we lacked confidence, we’d make our bodies smaller and often try and cover our faces. And if we were happy we’d smile.

Fortunately, we now know this cuts both ways. 

If you smile (genuinely) our brain gets a message that we’re happy and starts looking for reasons why we’re happy, and will generally find them.

And if you stand upright, square shouldered and with your chest out you’ll allow yourself to feel more confident.

The Take Away: How awesome and empowering is it knowing that a mere shift in posture or our facial muscles can help us feel better? t’s a rhetorical question by the way because the answer is, very.

20. You Cannot Control Life

Life is for the most part out of your control. S

ure you can influence it by making certain choices around health, work, finances and many more areas. But by and large life does what the fuck it wants and doesn’t care what you think.

You will get sick. You will lose loved ones. And you will have bad days, including some very bad days.

When you think you can control life you set yourself up for a huge fall when life suddenly kicks you in the nether reasons and doesn’t even say sorry.

Security, stability and control are all illusions and if you can accept that you will deal with the vagaries of life much more effectively. Oh and by the way, meditation can help you do this to.

I think I have done meditation to death, so I’ll shut up about it now.

The Take Away: Accepting that you’re not the general manager of the universe frees you up to enjoy life a lot more and accept that what is, is.

Your Turn

What do you think? Are there any you disagree with?

Or do you have your own nuggets of wisdom you’d like to share that will help others?

In any event please leave a comment and if you’ve enjoyed the post I’d be grateful if you could share on Social Media using the buttons over to your right.

Featured Image: ‘RIP Guru Forever’ Courtesy of  Duncan C