Personal Development for Smart People - by Steve Pavlina

26 minute read

ISBN: 978-1401922764, READ: 2017-01-30, RATING: 8/10

A great book with a very unique approach to self-improvement. The details of the holistic approach that he discusses in the book can’t be found in his blog. I need to reread this again some day.

See Amazon Page for details and reviews.

My Highlights

However, my greatest breakthroughs usually came from personal experimentation, not from devouring information products.

The goal of this book is to teach you how to bring all areas of your life into alignment with these universal principles. This requires injecting truth into your relationships, aligning your career with love, and bringing power to your spiritual practice. This is what it means to live as a conscious, intelligent human being. The more your life aligns with these principles, the smarter you become.

You can’t solve problems if you don’t admit they exist.

You aren’t here to endure such an existence. You’re here to learn how to create a life of your own choosing.

It’s okay to want something and have no idea how to get it, but it’s not okay to lie to yourself and pretend everything is perfect when you know it isn’t.

In order to grow, you must repeatedly tackle fresh challenges and consider new ideas to give your mind fresh input. If you merely repeat the same experiences, you’ll stagnate, and your mental capacity will atrophy.

Excessive routine is the enemy of intelligence. Exposing yourself to the same types of input over and over again won’t help you grow. You’ll merely satisfy your mind’s expectations instead of pushing it to form new patterns. If you want to become smarter, you must keep stirring things up.

The best predictions are the most accurate ones, but where self-reinforcement is concerned, it’s better to strengthen high self-esteem, positive emotions, and a reasonable degree of initiative, as opposed to low self-esteem, negative emotions, and undue timidity.

Without the presence of consciousness, we fall into reflexive patterns by default, living more like unconscious animals than fully sentient human beings.

When you make decisions from a certain state of mind and act upon them, you reinforce that same state, thereby increasing the likelihood you’ll respond similarly in the future

Area of Your Life Your Rating (1–10) Habits & daily routine, Career & work, Money & finances, Health & fitness, Mental development & education, Social life & relationships, Home & family, Emotions, Character & integrity, Life purpose & contribution, Spiritual development.

Take every rating that isn’t a 9 or 10, cross it off, and replace it with a 1. So

You see, if you can’t rate a given area of your life a 9 or 10, then obviously you don’t have what you really want in that area.

A 7 is what you get when you allow too much falsehood and denial to creep into your life. It’s a phony rating to begin with, a 1 in disguise. Either you have what you want, or you don’t.

Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to discover new truths. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you’ll gain insights you’d otherwise miss.

“Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.”

What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind.

Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” — HENRY MILLER

Perception is the most basic aspect of truth. If you want to improve some part of your life, you have to look at it first.

Let’s begin with an exploration of the key components of truth: perception, prediction, accuracy, acceptance, and self-awareness.

For example, if you want to know how your relationship is doing, a good place to start is to ask yourself: How do I feel about this relationship? What parts are working well? What parts need improvement?

A simple rule of thumb is this: whatever you fear, you must eventually face.

Whenever you’re faced with a part of reality you don’t like, and you feel powerless to change it, the first step is to accept the truth of your situation. Say to yourself: This situation is wrong for me, yet I lack the strength to change it right now.

As you strive to bring more truth into your life, you must cultivate a high degree of self-awareness. This includes becoming aware of your strengths, weaknesses, talents, knowledge, biases, attachments, desires, emotions, instincts, habits, and state of mind.

A significant part of personal development involves working to release your attachment to the lower states as you draw yourself into higher consciousness on a more consistent basis.

On a practical level, this means letting go of addictions, negative emotions, and fear-based behaviors and replacing them with consciously chosen, principle-centered actions.

One of the fundamental choices you face in every encounter is the choice to approach or avoid. You can try to connect with people, or you can pull away from them. You can immerse yourself in your day’s work, or you can procrastinate. You can approach any person, place, or thing with the intention to connect, or you can remain aloof and keep your distance. The decision to connect is the essence of love.

You may feel a certain affinity for a person, place, or activity without knowing why.

forming connections is clearly an integral part of human life.

Whenever you choose to make one connection, you simultaneously choose not to connect with all of the other possibilities.

To connect means to give something your attention, to think about it, and to engage with it.

As adults we often forget that the best way to fulfill our desires is to walk right up to whatever interests us and engage with it directly. Instead, we create all kinds of silly rules that limit our ability to connect with what we want.

If you want to grow consciously, you must deliberately decide which connections you’ll strengthen and which you’ll allow to weaken.

I observe that as I’ve deepened my own communion with myself by exploring my thoughts in writing, my external world has shifted to reflect that internal growth.

The richest form of communication is basic face-to-face conversation

When you understand that there’s no such thing as an external relationship and that all such connections exist solely in your mind, you’ll become aware that the true purpose of relationships is self-exploration.

Loving yourself unconditionally is the result of a conscious choice.

If you want your human relationships to be more loving and accepting, you must learn to love and accept more aspects of yourself.

The assumption that we’re all inherently separate beings is among the worst of those thoughts. A belief in separation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There’s no rule cast in stone that requires you to assume everyone is separate from you. Something rather magical happens when you presuppose that everyone else is a part of you, just like one of your own dream characters. The first thing you realize is that there are no strangers. There are no insignificant people in your reality. Since everyone is a part of you, everyone has something to teach you. Loving another person becomes the same thing as loving a part of yourself. Since all parts of you are worthy of love, no human being is unworthy of love either. Loving other people and loving yourself are ultimately the exact same thing.

Instead of having to break the ice with someone, assume that there is no ice.

The irony is that when you’re feeling disconnected, connecting with people is the cure. If you spend more time with positive, upbeat, interesting people, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling down in the first place. In truth, your disconnection from other people is a sign that you’ve disconnected from the best parts of yourself.

it’s easier to communicate with those who have something in common with you.

When you want to enrich your life with new connections, it’s wise to seek out people with whom you’re compatible, notably in terms of character qualities, values, and attitude.

When you fail to release incompatibilities from your life, you settle for mere tolerance and prevent compatible new connections from forming. Moreover, you create an even bigger disconnect within yourself. Tolerance is not an act of love—it is resistance to love.

Feeling at ease is the basis of effective interpersonal communication.

When you feel totally comfortable with who you are, your ego recedes into the background. You aren’t obsessed with thinking about how you look, what you sound like, or what others may think of you. You’re focused on the topics you’re discussing and the people you’re communicating with.

Love is not an accident. Love is a choice to recognize the deep nonphysical connection we all share. To love is to say, “We are the same.”

The Time-Travel Meditation

What would you miss if this person was gone from your life forever?

It is your ability to consciously and deliberately create the world around you.

When your power is strong, you successfully cultivate a life of your own choosing, and your environment reflects it.

As you succeed in growing your power, you’ll be able to fulfill your needs and desires with greater ease.

To deepen your understanding of power, let’s explore its six key components: responsibility, desire, self-determination, focus, effort, and self-discipline.

You can let yourself go and slack off in your career, eat lots of junk food, and yell at your family, but the mess you create will be yours to experience. The sooner you recognize that total responsibility is inescapable, the better off you’ll be.

Desire is the fuel of power.

Allow yourself to dream. Spend time cultivating your deepest desires, no matter how impractical or impossible they seem. It’s perfectly okay to want the impossible.

If you want to develop your power, you must accept your desires as they come, no matter how strange they may seem.

Only true desire summons true power.

Self-determination means that you’re completely free to decide what you want. You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval.

In order to wield power effectively, you must accept full responsibility for your life and be willing to make decisions under all circumstances. This includes ambiguous, challenging, and risky situations.

When you face important crossroads in life, exercise your power to decide consciously. Offer up a definitive yes or no. Don’t succumb to the blind default of silent approval.

True power exists only in the present.

it makes sense to focus your attention on the current moment since it’s the only place you have any real power.

The point of goal setting is to improve the quality of your present-moment reality. Setting goals can give you greater clarity and focus right now.

always ask yourself, “How does setting this goal improve my present reality?”

Set goals that make you feel powerful, motivated, and driven when you focus on them, long before the final outcome is actually achieved. Avoid setting goals that make you feel powerless, stressed, or weak. Treat this process as a way to enhance your present focus, not as a way to control the future.

Stop foreseeing doom and gloom on the path to get there, and imagine how each goal can improve your present reality before the goal is even achieved.

Whenever you set goals, you can envision a path of sacrifice and suffering by focusing on the illusion of the future, or you can allow the goal to inject your present reality with excitement, enthusiasm, and motivation.

Even though it seems like you’re setting goals for the future, you’re really doing so for the present.

When you become consciously aware of your life purpose, you can feel inspired and motivated whenever you want just by focusing your attention on your purpose.

this. this is why you need a purpose!

Sometimes your purpose will inspire you to set goals you’d otherwise be inclined to reject.

Your goals don’t actually need to be specific, clear, and measurable. You don’t need crisp deadlines, and you don’t need detailed step-by-step plans. You simply need a burning desire to take action. Only goals that align with your truest, deepest desires can summon that kind of power.

When I set goals centered on making a positive difference in people’s lives, I feel empowered and driven to get moving.

When you set goals that truly inspire you, you’ll feel naturally motivated to take action. You’ll work hard, but it won’t seem like hard work because you’ll be so inspired.

Your physical body is part of the process through which your intentions will manifest. True desires will compel you to get up and move. If you aren’t driven to act, it means your intentions are weak.

If there’s no motion, there’s no motivation.

If your goals don’t inspire you at least as much as going on vacation, they’re lousy goals.

Pick goals that are so exciting to you that making a serious effort feels almost effortless.

  • Your Bookmark on page 58 Location 1050 Added on Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:57:12 PM

Self-discipline is the willingness to do what it takes to achieve the results you want regardless of your mood.

Motivation starts the race, but self-discipline ultimately crosses the finish line.

If you can summon just enough discipline to get going again, you’ll often find that your momentum reboots your natural motivation to continue.

Problems, obstacles, and setbacks are no barriers for people with high self-discipline.

no problems are big or small except relative to your self-discipline. The more disciplined you become, the lighter your problems are.

You’re like a god who declares, “Let me be powerless.” And that’s exactly what happens.

Timidity is the mind-set that says you’re too weak, too small, and too unimportant to be deserving of real power.

Cowardice is the practice of using your power to feed your fears instead of your desires. Instead of creating what you want, you create what you don’t want.

Just like your muscle tissue, power weakens from lack of use and grows stronger when exercised.

A good way to build power and especially self-discipline is to progressively train yourself to tackle bigger challenges.

Master the First Hour

Finishing an important task early in the day is motivating and energizing.

I’ve experimented with both action-based and outcome-based quotas.

Worst First

if you complete your tasks in order of decreasing difficulty and do the worst first, then whenever you finish a task, you’re always rewarded with an easier job next. This will motivate you to maintain a fast tempo throughout the day.

If you’re a competitive person, then use your inherent nature to your advantage.

Rest is a key component of any weight-training program, and it’s also crucial to building your power.

Use cycles of exertion and relaxation to lift yourself up to higher levels of performance.

Accept responsibility for your life, and rise to the challenges in front of you. Your problems exist to help you to grow, not to beat you down. The weights are supposed to be heavy.

“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” — SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

love is the ability to connect by choice, oneness is the recognition that being connected is your natural state. Love is choosing to connect. Oneness is knowing you’re already connected.

Oneness is pure unconditional love.

Where is the joy? That question would help me listen for the right frequency, and once I got the frequency, the volume would gradually increase until I was feeling extremely joyful and connected.

Oneness creates an empathic connection between you and everyone else.

While in a state of oneness, you tune in to the joy as well as the sorrow of the larger body, transcending the lower single-cell level of awareness.

Humanity’s triumphs are yours to celebrate; the mistakes are yours to commiserate.

It isn’t enough to do no wrong. To honor the principle of oneness, you must commit yourself to doing good.

Loving actions don’t require willpower or effort when you recognize that everyone is you.

Lying to others is no different from lying to ourselves.

A sense of oneness encourages you to optimize and expand your contribution as an individual.

Oneness can make contribution even more rewarding.

by aligning yourself with the highest good of the body, your role takes on much greater significance.

Whatever anyone living or dead has ever achieved is yours to cherish as your own.

The principle of authority teaches you to purposefully blend knowledge and action to produce intelligent results.

There’s only one true authority in your life, and it’s you. You make the decisions. You take the actions.

there’s no higher authority in this life than you—not your parents, your boss, or your favorite supreme being.

If you fail to claim authority over your own life, someone else will surely claim it for you.

Effectiveness is the true measure of authority. Sound decisions must be backed by intelligent action to generate real results.

If you quit too early, you’ll never complete the shift from novice to expert, and the expert level is where most of the rewards are found.

To become competent in any new endeavor, you may need to invest a significant amount of time, often many years.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “Press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

If you’re clear about what you want, settle for nothing less.

Accept that success will take time, perhaps much longer than you’d like. Rid yourself of the fast and easy, something-for-nothing mind-set. Keep your head down, work hard, and know that your efforts will eventually pay off, as long as you keep learning and growing.

As you grow into your authority, you’ll gradually develop confidence.

The more honest you become, the more accurate your model of reality will be.

Don’t bother trying to fake confidence. It’s disingenuous and completely unnecessary. There’s no need to manipulate yourself into a false feeling of certainty when in reality you’re filled with self-doubt. It’s perfectly okay to feel doubtful and still take action

power can be applied to meaningless pursuits, or it can be channeled toward significant achievements.

Your ability to predict the impact of your actions certainly won’t be perfect, but you can still make reasonable determinations as to whether you’re wasting your time or putting it to good use.

Authority teaches you to make present-moment decisions that you predict will have positive long-term effects.

If you can’t honestly predict a positive long-term impact from your actions, admit that you’re wasting your time, and set some goals that really matter to you.

putting some unusual posters in your work space. You’ve done nothing seriously wrong,

Your assignment is simply to break the unwritten rules of social conformity, rules you aren’t required to obey but which you’ve been blindly following.

Make a list of your group-three projects and activities, and keep it handy at all times.

The ongoing practice of conducting experiments will condition you to be more productive because you’ll always be on the lookout for ways to improve.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” — HELEN KELLER

Love is the motivational force behind courage.

It’s our deepest connections that inspire us to be courageous in the first place.

When your mind predicts a positive long-term outcome but a negative short-term outcome from a course of action, courage is required to bridge the gap.

Courage is the application of power to break through short-term challenges in order to achieve long-term goals.

Courage is an essential element of conscious living because it enables us to choose long-term gain in the face of short-term obstacles

When you disconnect from your core self, you experience fear. When you then refuse to face your fear, you disconnect even more. Fear isn’t something to be avoided. It’s the arrow pointing back to your true self.

It’s your connection to your core self.


Before you embark on (any path) ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path.

“When a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him.”

The illusion of security is the primary aim of the false path.

When you realize you’ve disconnected from your heart, stop and ask yourself: Where is the path with a heart? This will help bring you back to your core.

Others transitioned more gradually, continuing their previous work to pay the bills while pursuing a new path in their spare time.

Life is waiting for you to make the first move. Use your power.

It’s a great idea to consciously intend what you want,

When you’re really hungry, will you wait patiently for food to arrive, or will you get up and make something to eat?

When your intentions are important to you, direct action becomes part of the manifestation process.

so true. a strong desire will inspire action

When you take the initiative, you pull back the shroud of fear and catch a glimpse of the opportunity behind it. You reveal the long-term gain behind the short-term pain.

People who go out of their way to avoid rejection only weaken themselves in the long run. They expend enormous amounts of thought and energy trying to manipulate circumstances, meanwhile allowing golden opportunities to slip through their fingers. All of this can be avoided with a few seconds of courageous action.

When you risk rejection, either you get what you want or you build some courage. Either way the outcome is positive.

Over time, these connections become so strong that they elevate you to a new level of awareness. At this level, you consciously commit yourself to a principle-centered life. This commitment is called honor.

The guiding force of honor is your conscience, which is your intuitive ability to discern right from wrong.

Honor recognizes that service to self and service to others are the same thing.

When you recognize that you’re in this state, stop and reconnect with the real you. Remember who you are. Reconnect with what excites you. Revisit those times in your life when you were on fire—not because of external events, but because you were aligned with your truth, your love, and your power.

Whenever you take a moment to plan your day, write out your to-do list, or think about what action to take next, stop and ask yourself, Where is the path with a heart?

Note that the word courage is found within the word encouragement. When we identify the path with a heart, we feel encouraged to take action.

Post the heart question in a place where you’ll see it every day, or set it as your computer’s screen saver, so you’ll be reminded of it often. Whenever you ask the question, you bring your logic and intuition into alignment.

“Good habits, which bring our lower passions and appetites under automatic control, leave our natures free to explore the larger experiences of life.”

We learn about ourselves by exploring physical reality, continually predicting consequences and gradually refining them for greater accuracy.

With disciplined, focused action, we create our own reality and honor the truth of who we really are.

In order to behave as a “smart person” in any area of your life, you must bring yourself into alignment with truth, love, and power.

Being authentic means expressing yourself congruently.

If you try to slant the truth in order to tell people what you think they want to hear, you disconnect from your true self, and you encourage others to live in denial of their own power.

Your creativity is the very mechanism by which you’ll achieve everything you could possibly want, including financial abundance, well-developed talents, fulfilling relationships, and meaningful contributions.

Self-expression requires both a medium and a message. Your medium is the collection of creative outlets you use. For example, I express myself creatively through writing, blogging, and speaking, so those are my media. Your message is the most powerful truth you wish to share. My message is to share conscious growth with others, and that includes the content you’re reading in this book as well as what you’ll find on my Website.

When I was 19 years old, I decided to make personal growth the guiding force of my life

very wise words

A commitment to growth was the solution to all of my worst problems.

The most intelligent thing you can possibly do with your life is to grow.

What inspires you most isn’t the achievement of any particular goal; it’s the endless flow of creative self-expression. You fall in love with the journey itself.

It’s common sense to predict that an apple will fall if you drop it. The real trick is figuring out how and why it falls. Once you learn that, seeing an object fall to the ground is no longer such a routine experience. Now it becomes a thing of beauty. Similarly, you’ll begin to observe the beauty of all personal growth challenges when you see them through the lenses of truth, love, and power.

Growth Blitzing

Habits are your mind’s approach to time management.

You must accept the greater truth that if you don’t consciously and deliberately alter your habits, you’ll continue reinforcing your existing patterns by default, and your predicted outcomes will likely come to pass.

Don’t let pride get in the way of results. Reach out and ask for help!

Power is perhaps the most important principle when it comes to habit change.

Don’t try to tackle an entrenched habit head-on by powering through

Aim to put yourself in a superior position by attacking the habit’s supporting structure. Change the circumstances to stop reinforcing your old patterns, and assemble the proper scaffolding to support your new desired behaviors.

A 30-day trial still requires some discipline and persistence, but not nearly as much as a permanent change because you can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The 30-day trial is a powerful but simple technique. When you commit to doing something every single day for 30 days straight, it’s much easier to bypass internal resistance and accept the challenge willingly.

With a truly horrendous first draft, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Reclaim other people’s wasted time for yourself. Visualize your goals during dull speeches. Write out your grocery list during pointless meetings.

Challenger. Deliberately make the task harder since challenging tasks are more engaging and motivating than boring ones.

Do it now! Recite this phrase over and over until you’re so sick of it that you cave in and get to work.

Evil eye. Practice your best evil eye in a mirror, and use it liberally on anyone who enters your space to interrupt your most important tasks.

One of my best decisions ever was to make a daily habit of working on my personal growth.

Think of your career as your primary outlet for creative self-expression.

“Work is love made visible.” — KAHLIL GIBRAN

Your career is your occupation; at a very basic level, it’s simply what you do to occupy your time.

Did you choose this path, or did you simply fall into it?

You deserve to have an empowering career, but that won’t happen until you fully commit to it. The obstacles and setbacks you encounter aren’t intended to keep you from reaching your ultimate goal. They’re merely part of the training course you must complete in order to prove you’re strong enough to hold on to your dream once you reach it.

Hold yourself to a higher standard of social responsibility, even if it requires making some sacrifices for the greater good.

Don’t labor just to pay your bills, to satisfy your boss, or to make someone else rich. Work for the ongoing betterment of yourself and others.

Where is the career path with a heart—the

When it comes to taking career risks, you must understand that in the long run, you control the odds. By taking the initiative again and again, you’ll eventually figure out what you need to know in order to succeed.

A lack of money can’t stop you if you’re determined. Are you courageous enough to risk going broke to pursue your dreams?

Bring truth, love, and power back into your life and you’ll realize that no amount of external success can compensate for betraying the guy in the glass.

“It is not easy for men to rise whose qualities are thwarted by poverty.”

attorney who records more billable hours than were actually worked,

If you dislike your current circumstances and want something better, it’s up to you to make it happen.

in order for our financial goals to be sound, they must reflect our truest, deepest desires. A goal is worthless if it doesn’t empower you.

And of course, half of my thoughts seem to originate from below my waist.

I see major incongruencies and unfairness, with some animals being valued as loving human companions while others are treated as edible substances, merely because of differences in taste and profitability. I see a living being that’s been reduced to a dollar sign.

I see falsehood promoted as truth, fragmentation presented as wholeness, and weakness pitched as strength. Eating large quantities of such foods lowers my consciousness and makes me less of who I am.

The truth is that if the average person wouldn’t consider your current health practices extreme, you probably aren’t very healthy.

Average is slow suicide.

In order to be healthy today, you must exercise your self-discipline to overcome the drag of social conditioning.

Don’t be intimidated by challenging physical goals. A weak mind creates a weak body. Turn the pursuit of health into a lifelong adventure.

“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.”

Our similarities bring us together, but our differences help us grow.

Apparently, the best way to break the ice with someone is to assume there never was any ice to begin with. This is especially true of those who are very conscious and self-aware. Such people naturally respond to friendly overtures from like-minded individuals, and hurtful rejections are rare.

We had to trust that aligning ourselves with truth, love, and power would lead to the best outcome for both of us.

Motivation and self-discipline are the twin tools of power

If you wish to become more loving, you must be willing to connect.

When you get clear about what you don’t want, you gain clarity about what you do want.

Recognize that your level of awareness doesn’t remain constant.

Your goals don’t actually need to be specific, clear, and measurable. You don’t need crisp deadlines, and you don’t need detailed step-by-step plans. You simply need a burning desire to take action. Only goals that align with your truest, deepest desires can summon that kind of power. You’ll learn a lot about yourself when you discover the kinds of goals that really drive you.