What to do if Personal Development goals become an obsession

Personal development can be a wonderful journey. There is much to learn, explore and to achieve: Personally, financially, spiritually and in the relationships with others. But what if you are stressed out over the fact that you aren’t progressing as much as you would like to? What if you think you cannot reach your goals? What if your personal development journey is taking up too much time, producing little or no results and giving you a headache? What if it’s becoming an obsession?

You are not alone. The risk of personal development is to take it too seriously, to reach a goal that is not your own, to overdo it and to set your goals too high. The will to become a better person has become its own worst enemy. In my opinion there are 4 main reasons for this:

  1. Don’t let personal development become an obsession.
  2. The personal development path you are taking is not the right path for you.
  3. You’re on the right personal development path but are not doing it right.
  4. You were on the right personal development path, maybe for a long time, but now it’s time for a change.

1. Don’t let personal development become an obsession

For me, rule and reason number 1 for everything I do is to enjoy it. This applies to private life, work and also to personal development. If there’s no passion and no enjoyment, goals become a struggle and much more difficult to achieve. Don’t let your personal development become an obsession and the source of your stress. What’s the use of developing new skills if you’re not having fun in the process of learning them?

2. The personal development path you are taking is not the right path for you

Everyone is different, so are personal development methods and programs. What can do wonders for one person can have little or no results for the other. Are you sure you are following your own path and not someone else’s? Don’t let someone else make the decisions on your personal growth.

Let’s give an example. I think mediation is a wonderful tool. For me mediation is the cornerstone of my personal development. But that’s for me. What if you do not like to meditate and you are bored to death by it? Then it becomes a struggle and you need to find something else that is effective. Meditation isn’t the only tool that can raise consciousness and reduce stress. Remember there are different roads leading to the same goal.

3. You’re on the right personal development path, but are not doing it right

Let’s take the meditation example again. I have a family and a busy job, I am running two blogs and I also need time to study. My life is filled with activities. There is hardly any time left for something else. That means if I am forcing my meditation efforts on top of all the other activities in my life I run the risk of a major burn-out. Instead I meditation a little smarter and meditate whenever possible, even in places and situation that I normally wouldn’t think of. If I don’t have the time to meditate on a certain day; well, that’s fine too. Remember the best way to incorporate personal development into your life is to make it part of every activity you do.

4. You were on the right personal development path, maybe for a long time, but now it’s time for a change

This is a simple reason, but an often overlooked one. Something that was right for you 10 years ago may not be right for you now. You need to move on and make a change. Maybe you need to take a step back and think about it. Am I enjoying what I am doing? Am I on the right track? Do I need to develop new skills, or has the time come to stop developing myself and enjoy the results? What is the use of learning 10.000 new skills if I do not enjoy them? When is enough?

I’m a huge advocate for following ones passion. The body doesn’t lie and will show you exactly where you are and how passionate you are about a certain personal development tool or method. Just feel and listen to your body. Personal development should be fun and certainly not stressful. If it is, take a step back, evaluate the situation and make the necessary changes in your life. Remember:

  • Personal development should be fun. Are you having fun?
  • Don’t let someone else make the decisions on your personal development. It’s your life, you decide what’s good for you and what’s not.
  • Set your goals but focus on the journey. It is the journey that is important, not the final destination.
  • Do not set your goals too high. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
4 comments… add one
  • Jason Sep 15, 2009 @ 10:12

    Good post! One should embark on their journey of personal development by having no goals at all. Once you set goals, then you are limiting yourself, as well as being trapped in the movement of time which can postpone “action”.

    So the aim should be to:
    * be goalless;
    * be timeless;

    The above should invoke timeless action towards limitless development and growth.

  • Nothing profound Sep 17, 2009 @ 16:13

    Personal development and happiness must go hand in hand. If you’re seeking happiness through self-development, you will never be happy.

  • Find yourself with a smile... Sep 20, 2009 @ 3:40

    I’ve gotta say, Patrick, your number one rule is pretty powerful… If you don’t love it… why do it? If you believe you have to do it, then you might as well make it fun… 🙂

    It’s interesting that you brought up meditation… I see meditation in virtually everything… as I write this, I am breathing deeply, splitting my focus between the breath and writing… and gently returning my focus every time it drifts.

    But this is a result of my own path. Meditation has become a deep part of my life. There are many other methods and practices out there that will work powerfully for a wide variety of people… as you say, you must follow your passion… Rumi’s path was through dancing… which sounds beautiful to me… but I’m afraid I’m not much of a dancer.

    Thanks for this, Patrick… I occasionally get caught up and forget just how much I enjoy smiling!

    By the way, what’s your other blog?

    keep smiling,


  • karim Oct 11, 2009 @ 11:25

    Very thoughtfull post on Personal Development . It should be very much helpfull.

    Karim – Positive thinking

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