Why Personal Development Seminars and Books Don’t Work For You


Why Personal Development Seminars and Books Don't Work For You

Have you ever wondered why two people can go to the same personal developments seminars or read the same books and get completely different results? In many cases, one person ends up having massive success, while the other one has none.

I’ve always found this fascinating, especially when I see so many people struggling to reach their goals. It seems personal development seminars, books and other resources don’t work, even for those who are really into improving themselves. Is personal development useless, or is there more to it than that?

To answer that question, I’m going to let you in on 4 different categories that most people fall into. We’re going to discuss their primary characteristics and why they fail to see tangible results even when they regularly attend seminars or read self-help books. So take a look at these groups and see if you recognize yourself in one of them.

Type #1: Ms. One Day and Mr. If Only


People who fall into this category talk a lot but do very little. Few if any of the things they talk about will ever manifest themselves in the real world. They don’t really know about personal development or, if they do, they don’t have much faith in it. They have goals and dreams like anyone else, but fear, self-doubt, lack of confidence, cynicism, or a victim mentality keep them from taking action. As a result, nothing ever happens and their dreams die. They often find themselves saying things like “One day”, “If only…”, and “I wish”.

People in this category tend to use the following 5 phrases:

  1. One day I’ll quit my job and start my own business.
  2. One day I’ll travel around the world.
  3. If only I had more time I would write a novel.
  4. If only I had more money I would attend that seminar.
  5. I wish I could retire early.

A defeatist attitude is also pretty common for Ms. One Day and Mr. If Only. I recently spoke with a woman who fit this to a tee. When I mentioned my blog, she immediately told me that she didn’t believe in personal development. She then admitted that she felt increasing her below-average salary was impossible, regardless of what she tried in the future. That’s a very bleak attitude for a 27-year-old woman!

A constant obsession with free resources, self-improvement tips, and shortcuts to success is another clue that a person falls into this category. They don’t invest any money in any personal development seminars, programs or books, yet they’re more than happy to fork over hundreds of dollars to buy the latest gadget.

It goes without saying that people in this category probably wouldn’t read this article because they don’t believe in their ability to make real changes in their lives. Reading a personal development article would be silly for Ms. One Day or Mr. If Only. After all, they already know why personal development doesn’t work: It’s just a hoax!

Type # 2: I Already Know That!


People in this group are always reading personal development books and taking self-improvement courses, despite having little to show for it. They may have read dozens of books on the same topic, but they still haven’t been able to achieve their goals or fulfill their dreams. They’re among the many people who already know everything there is to know about a topic but can’t seem to make use of their knowledge. They seem caught up in looking for the proverbial “magic pill”.

For example, the majority of readers found my book on habits valuable, and they took immediate action as they read it. Yet there were some readers who didn’t get much out of it. Why do you think this happened? Do you think the readers who got value out of the book did so because they had little to no knowledge of personal development? That seems logical, but it’s rarely the case. One of the readers who enjoyed the book is a life coach with a deep knowledge of personal development. Some classmates from the business school I attended also found value in the book, despite the fact that they are highly educated and have been exposed to personal development seminars and books multiple times throughout their career.

In short, personal development junkies who can’t seem to get results aren’t struggling because they know too much. They’re struggling because they think they know too much. If Know-It-Alls truly knew it all, they’d get concrete results from the books they read on habits, productivity, and other areas they want to improve.

“I already know!” is a dangerous expression, because it closes off opportunities for growth. It’s astounding how often someone who says, “I already know that!”, doesn’t understand what they claim to know. They might know it intellectually, but chances are they don’t have the hands-on experience or intuitive knowledge necessary to get results. This usually stems from an inability to commit genuinely to and master the things they focus on.

You can’t learn how to drive a car by reading a book about it. You can read hundreds of books about public speaking, but you’ll never become a world-renowned orator without giving actual speeches. There’s no book, product, or piece of information that can make up for a lack of action and experience.

Action and personal experience is significantly more powerful than knowledge alone. In fact, that’s how our brains are designed. They respond well to hands-on experience. They aren’t built to learn from books and other passive sources of information. Our brains are wired to learn by doing.

This is a good thing. It means there’s nothing you can’t learn as long as you’re willing to do it repeatedly, persevere, and learn through trial and error. If you can do that, you’ll be far ahead of most people.

The bottom-line is this: You can’t truly know or understand something until you’ve done it multiple times. Until then, you just don’t get it. Period! Knowledge without action is a breeding ground for delusions.

Type #3 – I’ll give it a shot


These are the people who eagerly invest in personal development resources such as seminars, courses or books, and “give it a shot” for a while. They have the best intentions and sincerely want to succeed, but they lack the planning, commitment, perseverance, and focus needed to get the results they seek.

As a result, they fail to see changes, and quit in frustration within a few months. For The Give It a Shot crowd, quitting is the most common response when they aren’t getting results. When things get tough, they tend to jump to the next exciting opportunity. They fall victim to the lethal Shiny Object Syndrome that kills so many people’s dreams.

If you’re in this category, it may seem as if nothing you do is actually working and that the tools you’re investing in aren’t useful to you. You may believe that the books or courses are the problem, but you’re forgetting to take a look at the common denominator in the situation. What’s the main constant in this equation? What’s the one factor that’s involved no matter how many self-help books, courses, or information you consume? That’s right, it’s YOU!

More often than not, the content isn’t the problem. Rather, the real issue it is whether you apply it and, if you do, how you go about it. Your state of mind is an even bigger factor.

Here are the main pitfalls those in this category need to be avoid:

  1. Going too fast. This happens when you’re so eager to learn that you forget to take consistent action along the way. You don’t give yourself enough time to absorb new information, which would allow it to sink in until it turns into intuitive knowledge.
  2. Not taking action consistently. You don’t take action on what you learn or if you do, you aren’t consistent enough. It’s the classic Mental Masturbation problem, which is somewhat similar to the one above.
  3. Giving up too soon. You give it a try for a few weeks or months, but get discouraged and give up after a few setbacks.
  4. Not going back to the fundamentals. When you fail to see results, you don’t considering looking at the book, course, or information again to see what you may have missed the first time. The key is often in the details and you might be one tweak away from success.
  5. Not fully committing. You never genuinely commit to getting as much as you possibly can out of the tools you’re using. As a result, you find it difficult to generate concrete results from them.
  6. Not having faith in the content. This occurs when you don’t believe that the book, course, article, or seminar will deliver results. This lack of faith leads to taking half-assed action and, sure enough, you get half-assed results!
  7. Not focusing enough. This can happen one of two ways; you either consume too much information on a specific topic, or you try to make too many life changes at once. Either way, you lack the intense focus required to get real results.

If you find yourself trapped in any of these pitfalls, don’t worry. The following list explains what you can do to get out of it:

  1. Commit and give it your all. Once you buy a program, book, or another self-help tool, go all-in. Maintain a mindset that says, “I will squeeze every ounce of value that I can from this! I’ll do everything I can to get more from it than what I originally invested!”
  2. Take action on everything you learn. Never assume that you already know something unless you’ve done it repeatedly. Look at it this way: If even one person got great results from the program you’re using, you can keep learning until you get similar results.
  3. Master the fundamentals. In addition to accepting the fact that you probably don’t know as much as you think you do, you need to be willing to tweak things and try something new. Go through the content until you master it, no matter how long it takes. If you don’t get the results you expect, just think, “Am I missing something here? Have I really tried everything?”
  1. Focus on one book, course, etc. before moving on to another one. Don’t be the typical self-help junkie that takes course after course or reads book after book without getting significant results. Focus on one thing at a time and resist the urge to work on every aspect of your life simultaneously.
  1. Be consistent. Make sure you take some kind of action every single day. When you feel depressed, tired, or discouraged, focus on making minor tweaks to maintain momentum until your motivation comes back.
  2. Be patient. No matter what you want to change in your life, it’s going to take time. Be patient and have faith in the process. If you’re trying to make major, long-term changes in your life (like losing weight or starting a business), give yourself at least 2 to 3 years to do get it done, and make it your focus on a daily basis. Say no to any new opportunities that aren’t in line with your main goal, no matter how exciting. “That sounds interesting! But I’m doing X right now!” is something you have to get used to saying.

Whenever you feel yourself getting off track, put your focus back on your goal. Just think, “I’m doing X right now!” Say it aloud if that helps! When you feel like giving up, remind yourself that you have time because you’re “doing X for the next two to three years”. If you don’t see satisfactory results after 2 or 3 years of focusing on your main goal, it’s okay to consider choosing a different one. Keep in mind, however, that this is only acceptable after 2 to 3 years. If you’ve only been at it for 6 months or a year, keep on trucking!

Type #4 – It’s not over until I win


When people in this category commit to something, they know it’s going to happen. They adopt a mastery mindset with everything they do. They know that they’ll get something out of any personal development seminars, books or courses they decide to invest in. When they fail to get the results they want, they don’t blame the book or course. Instead, they question their approach and go back to the basics. They read the book one more time, go through the course again, or reread their notes from the seminar. In short, they keep reviewing things over and over until they finally “get it” and succeed. They have an “If this guy can do it, I can, too!” attitude. Whatever they do, they commit to mastery.

If they aren’t satisfied with their results they ask questions like “What am I missing here?” or “Am I truly doing what I should be?” They keep seeking until they find the answer.

If you’re in this category, you know that it takes time to master something and you remind yourself to be patient while focusing on your long-term objectives. Once you find something you really want to do, you adopt a mastery mindset and fully commit to it for the next several months or years, and you won’t stop moving forward until you reach your goal. People with a mastery mindset don’t have many goals, but they’re completely focused on them all day, every day. They spend most of their time working on or thinking about these goals. They always take massive action on everything they learn, but it’s no big deal when it doesn’t work out. They simply get back up and try again because it’s not over until they win!

What about you? Which category do you belong to? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

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The 5 Commandments of Personal Development

Comments 2

  • Thank you, very diffrent! Truth, you got my interest. Tell me more.

    • Thanks for your comment Bernardo. Glad you enjoy the article. You can check similar articles like this one: “7 Reasons Why You Arent’ Getting the Results You Want in Life”.

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