"Personal Development for
Smart People."

Can this Book Change Your Life?

I recently accepted an invitation from Steve Pavlina, creator of the number-one personal development website and blog, www.StevePavlina.com, to review his new book: Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth

Is the Author Brilliant... or a Nut?

I've visited Steve's website, blog and forum off and on for several years. While I've enjoyed, agreed with and/or learned from most of his articles and posts, some (such as one story about his dead friend encouraging him to gamble) have made me wonder if he's a nut. On the whole, I believe Steve is a brilliant man who has done more to help others than anyone I know.

I'm happy to report that Steve's book offers more of his brilliance with none of his nuttiness. As he put it, "The concepts in the book are universal, there's nothing inherently new agey or woo-woo about them."

What I found particularly refreshing is that Steve doesn't regurgitate other self-help gurus' advice. As a matter of fact, in most cases he contradicts them!

Universal Concepts: Truth, Love, Power = Intelligence

Steve's personal development advice is based on universal principles, which means they are applicable by anyone, anywhere, in any situation. Think about that. It's powerful stuff. But just as important to me, Steve's concepts are practical and generate intelligent real-world results.

The three universal principles are Truth, Love and Power. Intelligence is the alignment of those three principles.

Here are just a few of the many ideas in his book that resonated with me:

  • By embracing new experiences that are unlike anything you've previously encountered, you'll literally become more intelligent.
  • Excessive routine is the enemy of intelligence.
  • Think about where you're headed and ask yourself: How do I honestly expect my life to turn out?
  • When you accept the inherent uncertainty of life, your decisions will increase in accuracy. The key is to intelligently manage risks instead of denying their existence.
  • One of the most important skills to develop in the area of personal growth is the ability to admit the whole truth to yourself, even if you don't like what you see and even if you feel powerless to change it.
  • True power exists only in the present. There is no power in the past; the past is over and done with. There is no power in the future; the future exists only in your imagination. Focus your attention on the current moment, since it's the only place you have any real power.
  • Set goals that make you feel powerful, motivated, and driven when you focus on them, long before the final outcome is actually achieved. Instead of going after goals you think will make you happy in the distant future, focus on goals that make you happy right now.
  • Instead of merely learning from others, go out and create your own knowledge. Don't blindly follow the advice of experts. Find out what works best for you by conducting personal experiments.
  • Your greatest regrets in life won't be the mistakes you made; they'll be the opportunities you let slip through your fingers by failing to act.

An Eye-Opening Self-Assessment Exercise

Steve includes a Self-Assessment exercise in the chapter on Truth. If you've read other self-improvement books, you've probably seen similar exercises. It lists various areas of your life, such as habits & daily routine, career & work, money & finances, health & fitness, etc. You assign a numerical rating to each area using a scale of 1-10 (1 means you're not getting what you want, 10 mean's you're absolutely experiencing what you desire).

Most other self-help gurus will tell you that a rating of 7 is pretty good. They want you to feel good about yourself. Not Steve. He wants you to face the truth. Here's his advice: "Take every rating that isn't a 9 or 10, cross it off, and replace it with a 1. 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. When you rate some part of your life a 7, it means you're on the wrong path but don't want to accept it."

The Blame Game

I particularly like what Steve says about personal responsibility:

"You must accept total responsibility for your life. It's certainly possible to give up control, but final accountability always rests with you. It's entirely pointless to blame God, your parents, the government, or anyone else for your lot in life. Blame can only make you powerless. It doesn't matter who contributed to your current situation--all that matters is that you must live with it. No amount of blame can make that burden any easier. If you want different results, you must go out and create them yourself."

Smart People Don't Set SMART Goals

If you've read the most popular self-improvement books, you've come across the SMART acronym principle that tells you to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. According to Steve, that advice is wrong.

"Your goals don't actually need to be specific, clear, and measurable. You don't need detailed step-by-step plans. You simply need a burning desire to take action. If your goals look great on paper but don't fill you with desire and motivation when you focus on them, they're worthless."

Practical Tips

After defining the universal principles that will help you with every aspect of your life, Steve provides practical tips and suggestions on how to put them into action.

He has an entire chapter about careers. What it boils down to is this:

"You are completely responsible for your own career path, so it makes sense to build a career you want intead of settling for what you don't want. Your current situation is the result of your previous choices, so if you aren't happy with it, remember that you're always free to make new choices. The only one who can keep you trapped is you."

My Favorite Paragraph

There are golden nuggets on virtually every page of Steve's book, but here's my favorite paragraph:

"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."

But It's Not Perfect

Despite what I've said so far, I don't think Steve's book is perfect. For one thing, he only used his own life experiences to illustrate his principles. It would've been more interesting and helpful if he'd included examples and stories from or about other people.

Also, his writing is very clear, focused, organized and logical. It's not very emotional or exciting. For me, this was fine. But others may be a bit disappointed by his somewhat dry style.

And there are some aspects that I don't personally subscribe to, such as the "Oneness" principle--being one with everything and everyone in the universe (individual cells within one body). I don't need to feel connected to everyone to do the right thing. And I don't like the idea of being "one" with the likes of an Adolph Hitler or Charles Manson. So that concept didn't resonate with me. But that didn't prevent me from learning from the lessons tied to that principle.

There's a huge amount of information and insights crammed into this book. To benefit from all it provides, you'll need to read it more than once. But this is something you'll enjoy doing.

In Summary

I cannot imagine anyone not improving his or her life after reading this book. It will require more than just reading, though. As Steve says, "Applying what you learn from this book won't be easy for you. Real conscious growth is seldom undemanding, but it's always worthwhile."

Read and reread this book, and apply what you learn. Your life will change for the better.

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