Why Personal Development is Letting You Down Big Time
I was having a conversation about winning last week — and specifically about winning at sport, in connection with the British cycling team — a team that swept the board at the Olympics, winning more medals than any other country.
One of the mantras the team coaches focus on is marginal improvements — small steps in other words. They believe that the team does so well because they focus on small changes that make a big difference. Sometimes it’s technical — increasing the gearing of the bikes, or not wearing gloves (yes really — that tiny change can make a difference apparently!), and sometimes it’s a new approach to their training.
And research backs this up. To improve our skill at a sport or any activity, we have to make small improvements or we become stressed (physically and mentally), and that stress sends us backwards.
But what about overnight success?
Much of the personal development literature has us believe that change happens overnight; that we just need to shift our perspective, “see the light” (usually whatever light that particular doctrine happens to be shining on us), and our lives will be a thousand-fold better.
So — how do these two perspectives connect? Or do they even connect? Is there a ‘right’ way to change your life? Well, clearly the British cycling team is doing something right. And, yet, I also believe that people can make a massive shift by looking at their world differently. Let’s have a look at that…
As a coach, I know that I can help my clients take something that is blocking them, turn it around and look at it in a different way. If they can see it differently, then that thing that was blocking them often dissolves completely. That’s called an insight, and the right insight can shift your way of thinking in an instant.
At the same time, though, if you want to get better at what you do, you need to work at it. That’s the place for making those marginal improvements. Maybe those marginal improvements come in apparent leaps, and then plateau, and then jump again, but the work to get there is an ongoing process, not a single shift.
If you want to achieve the best life and work possible, you need both of these to be in place: you need a new perspective that opens you up to the possibility of what you are capable of, and you need the skills to be able to get there.
Have you seen this happen anywhere in your life? Is there a challenge you’re facing right now? A place in your life or work where you want to create transformation, but where you can see a challenge or a block in front of you? Ask yourself whether you need to look at it differently, or whether you need to work smarter to get what you want. Because that’s how you create what you want in life.
I’d love you to post a comment and let me know where you’ve had that shift in perspective show up, and where you are taking small steps this week.