is too much self-development a bad thing

Is too much self-development a bad thing? [PMP #130]

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably someone that’s interested in self-development. Whether that’s being more productive, being happier, being better at your job or growing your business. I’m definitely someone that’s always trying to improve myself and grow.

Don't want to read this post? Listen to the podcast instead:

I read non-fiction books and blogs. I listen to business and productivity podcasts. I follow people on social media who share advice about how to be better. I try and maintain habits like meditation and journaling but sometimes I get a bit sick of all this constant improvement. I feel guilty about watching Netflix in the evening when I know there are other people who disregard TV and use this time to read. Or I feel bad because I only journal every few weeks (often less) when others write every day.

I get to a point where I start to avoid self-improvement. I stop reading. Or I’ll pick a podcast that’s not going to make me feel guilty for not having a bigger business.

Do you ever get tired of self-development? Do you ever feel that because you’re chasing constant improvement you feel like you’re not good enough?Click To Tweet

And just to be clear, I’m not saying that self-development is a bad thing. I’m saying that too much self-improvement can be a bad thing. This is quite ironic coming from someone that primarily writes about productivity, self-development and business…

Why too much self-development is a bad thing

Self-development creates constant pressure to be better. The main reason I feel too much self-development is a bad thing is that it creates a constant pressure to be better. When you’re always reading books or listening to podcasts that tell you how to be better, you automatically assume you're not good enough, so you try and be better. The issue here is that there’s no endpoint when it comes to self-development. “There’s always room for improvement” as the saying goes. And when you have no clear goal, no way of finishing “self-development”, you end up chasing something that you’ll never obtain. It’s like a constant thirst that you’ll never quench.

Self-development makes you not appreciate where you are. When you chase constant improvement, you disregard where you are now and forget to appreciate what you already have. The desire to be better overrides any sense of accomplishment. Think about any time you achieved a significant goal. How long did that feeling last? Or was the feeling of achievement quickly eradicated by the desire to achieve another even higher goal? Last week I listed 10 things I have to remind myself every day and #3 was about remembering how far you’ve come.

You start looking for problems. Another issue I’ve noticed is that when you seek constant improvement, you’re constantly looking for problems to fix. This is the whole idea of self-development right? To look for weakness, flaws or bad habits that you can improve. The danger is when you take this too far and look for problems where there are none. Like watching Netflix in the evening. Some would see this as a waste of time. And if you like reading at night, good on you. But you know what? When I’ve worked hard at the end of the day, I want to sit down and enjoy some mindless entertainment without feeling guilty because I’m not reading the latest book about productivity or minimalism.

How to get the right dose of self-development

Give yourself permission to be okay with who you are. The first thing you can do is give yourself permission to take it easy. The pressure that I mentioned above is self-imposed. Only you can let it go. You’ve probably heard before that the first step to overcoming a problem is acknowledging the problem in the first place. Recognise that constant self-development may be hurting your self-esteem and give yourself permission to stop chasing it.

Don’t use other people as a measuring stick. Other people, whether it’s friends, family or “influencers” are a common source of self-development pressure. I’m guilty of comparing myself to others as I’m sure you are too. Even if you see people who seem to have their life completely sorted (they probably don’t), put them out of your mind. Stop using other people as a measuring stick for your own success. Back in episode #48 of the podcast, I talked about the danger of comparing yourself to others. We all operate in different conditions, are at different stages in life and have different resources at our disposal. You’re not running an equal race, so stop comparing yourself to others.

We all operate in different conditions, are at different stages in life and have different resources at our disposal. You’re not running an equal race, so stop comparing yourself to others.Click To Tweet

Find a replacement for self-development. Instead of reading another book or listening to a podcast, find a replacement for these sources of self-development. Read or listen to some fiction instead. You could also impose a self-development curfew. So maybe you listen to a podcast or read during the day but after 5 pm, stop self-developing and simply relax.

When you get the right balance of self-development in your life, you’ll naturally start to feel happier as you appreciate what you have and the pressure to improve diminishes.

This is a post I’ve been mulling over for a while. I’m really interested to hear if you too have felt this way about self-development. Let me know in the comments below!