Personal Development for Smart People

"Finding the hidden order behind all conscious human development is extremely difficult because the solutions have to be fairly general and abstract, but it must also have abundant practical applications."

- Personal Development for Smart People, page xvii

Personal Development for Smart People contains a thought-provoking meta-model for how to approach personal development (PD). It is applicable not only while reading PD books or taking PD courses, it is applicable to understanding how to be the best possible you in everyday life.

While this book is actually applicable to anyone interested in personal development, there is a special appeal for ‘smart people’; those interested in the underpinnings that support the process. Steve Pavlina has put significant analytic effort into what the underpinnings—the basic elements of Personal Development—are and has organized them into building blocks.

  • Truth
  • Love
  • Power
  • Oneness
  • Authority
  • Courage
  • Intelligence

The first half of the book is a cogent argument for why these are the fundamental elements of personal development and their interrelationships. The second half of the book is a series of applications of these elements to areas of personal development.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Truth, Love, and Power are the Most Fundamental Building Blocks

"It took me almost two and a half years, but I eventually found the solution I was looking for. It consists of just three core principles: Truth, Love, and Power."
- Personal Development for Smart People, page xviii

Core to Pavlina’s meta-model of personal development is a picture of the seven PD building blocks and their inter-relationships.

Figure 1 – Meta-model Triangle (page 1)

The three vertices of the triangle represent the three most fundamental, stand-alone building blocks of the model.

An understanding of what Pavlina means by Truth, Love, and Power gives the reader a good understanding of why these are the three foundational principles and why three is a sufficient number of principles to support the meta-model of all aspects of personal development.

Truth is the first principle. Pavlina asserts that we learn by discovering new truths about ourselves and the world around us. Personal growth comes only through absolute honesty with ourselves. We must learn to embrace truth, no matter how frustrating or uncomfortable the truth may be. Truth exists whether we are willing to accept it or not; only through acceptance can we remove filters about how we see ourselves and make positive changes.

Love is the second principle. Love, while being recognized as an emotion, is also about the choices we make in every encounter we have with others. We can choose to isolate ourselves or immerse ourselves in interactions. We can choose aloofness or openness. Love is about open immersion in our interactions.  Love is caring about others, what they feel, and what they know. With open, immersive interactions we can tap into those feelings and that knowledge while sharing our own feelings and knowledge.

Power is the third principle. Power is how effectively you can control the world around you. Weakness leads to an inability to satisfy basic needs, let alone desires. Through power, you can shape your future, control outcomes and readily meet needs and desires. Power does not have to come from diminishing the power of others; power is about wilfully controlling your destiny and in doing so, contributing to the greater good.

Once we understand and embrace these three most basic principles, we can derive the other principles from them.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Oneness, Authority, and Courage

"Some of these principles will appear to be common sense at first glance."
- Personal Development for Smart People, page xviii

Pavlina suggests that Oneness, Authority, and Courage are not only the next set of building block principles, but that they each can be derived from combinations of Truth, Love, and Power. If the first three building blocks are understood, one can see how these derivations come to be.

Oneness is the combination of Truth and Love. Oneness is the understanding that we are all connected to everyone and everything around us. We are all part of a grander whole; we affect everything and everything affects us. There is a great truth and a great feeling of love with the realization of oneness.

Authority is the combination of Truth and Power. The blending of true knowledge and actions taken based on that truth are the essence of authority. Knowledge not applied is wasted. Effort not guided by knowledge is wasted. Only when the two are used in concert can one act with authority.

Courage is the combination of Love and Power. Love is the motivation behind courage; power is the courageous action taken when motivated by love. Courageous acts are based on using our power to better the situation of someone or something we love.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Intelligence is the Sum of the Other Six Building Blocks

"When truth, love, and power are harmoniously aligned, they produce the paramount principle of personal growth: intelligence."
- Personal Development for Smart People, page 115

Pavlina asserts that Intelligence is the sum of Truth, Love, Power, Oneness, Authority, and Courage.  Intelligence is the core; the ultimate outcome of all the other principles being embraced fully.

It is Intelligence that ultimately allows for effective personal development. PD requires Truth, Love, and Power. PD requires that we embrace Oneness, Authority, and Courage.

Embracing Truth is rejecting ignorance, falsehood, and denial in order to better comprehend. Embracing Love is forming new connections within ourselves and in or communities in order to increase capabilities. Embracing Power is shedding ourselves of idleness, timidity, and cowardice, allowing us to take action to grow. Embracing Oneness is recognizing that we are connected to knowledge everywhere.  Embracing Authority is recognizing that we are in control of our ability to acquire knowledge. Embracing Courage is acting to acquire knowledge despite adversity.

Intelligence, then, is the sum of the other building blocks of personal development. When we act with Intelligence, we act in alignment with all the building blocks; we act in our own best interest and the best interest of those around us.

Intelligence is the key to effective personal development. Through the meta-model presented in Personal Development for Smart People, we are introduced and shown how to embrace the six other building block principles that lead to intelligence in PD.

Once the meta-model is understood it is easy to approach all areas of PD. The second half of the book is a series of exercises provided to demonstrate how the model applies to specific areas of PD that most people are interested in to some degree or other.

The book is very thought-provoking. If you are interested in personal development at all, it will give you an insightful way to look at PD and how to approach it in the future.

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Chris Reynolds

ABOUT Chris Reynolds

Chris is a long time Business Analyst and Business Architect. He's passionate enough about it that he regularly speaks at conventions on these topics. Chris even wrote a book about Business Architecture because he was frustrated that far too few people knew what it was...
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