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Deep down, most of us (all of us?!) have a strong desire to learn and grow – we just can’t help it. Part of being human is to constantly engage with the world and strengthen our understanding of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us. I cover this in the Mastery Course where we learn how to really get to grips with the way someone understands, sees, and engages with their world – so that we’re able to unlock so much more potential to take our skill set to the next level. 

There are lots of reasons for our thirst for development -survival, to thrive, the way the brain works – but actually finding learning and growth that is satisfying can be a bit of a challenge. On the one hand, we don’t want to get addicted to toying around with the next shiny thing (what my dad likes to call ‘walking up little hills instead of climbing mountains’), on the other, we need to be constantly evolving and challenging ourselves to stay sharp in life to access our true potential. 

But… How to get the balance right? How to know what to engage with? 

Here’s my advice based on the common pitfalls that so many fall into when pursuing their own development: 

1. The first pitfall or mistake: Thinking that personal development is unnecessary or that you ‘already know that’. Here’s the reality: true learning means being able to return to the same thing over and over again yet going deeper and learning something new each time. Just because you once read a book on ‘X’ doesn’t mean your learning on that is done – there are always new ways of applying and engaging with the learning that you do (it’s why I have a gazillion of books on Philosophy- each book giving me something different to the last). 

FIX: Not to discount something just because you’ve covered it before – treat it like a mountain to be explored instead of a little hill to be hopped over! This is the mindset of a master – someone who constantly hones their skill and refuses to settle with the knowledge they already have. 

2. On the flip side, something else which can hold us back is being suspicious of things we aren’t familar with resulting in not wanting to give everything development wise a go. But do you know what? You don’t have to agree with/like/already know, understand and approve of everything in a particular school of thought in order to learn something from it! 

FIX: To trust yourself to find and absorb what is useful and then, simply, leave the rest… allowing yourself to be surprised! Going outside of your intellectual/spiritual comfort zone can lead to totally new ways of seeing things. SO WHAT if the new thing turns out not to work for you?! Some things will work, some of it won’t, but at least you’re keeping your mind open and exploring… THIS is the mind of a student – someone who is curious and ready to step into the unknown. Think about what you really need in order to learn and grow instead of being fooled by the persona of the person you’re buying from. What you need is a space that will both nurture and challenge you. Which leads me to the next mistake I see with my clients allll the time… 

3. Being persuaded by promises of ‘xyz’ (whatever shiny result they hook you in with), or perhaps it’s more being part of a cool club, or even trying to buy into the success and energy of the person delivering the learning (spoiler: you WON’T be able to simply absorb their energy and success into yourself however much they make it seem that way!). 

FIX: Instead, what you really need is someone who will be able to see both your dark and your light, will help you to harness your strengths, and will also help you to embrace the hidden or rejected parts of yourself. THIS is what true growth is about. 

4. Lastly, to be careful of only pursuing the development you think it is ‘acceptable’ or ‘practical’ to do. I see a lot of people who are happy to invest in their business development but far more reluctant to invest in their personal development. But if you don’t give yourself the space to work on yourself at a deeper level then no amount of business strategy will help. If you don’t practice your own self care, you’ll burn out. If you ‘fix’ your business, relationships, or physical health, but don’t work at a deeper level, then all that will happen is the patterns you had in those areas of your life will pop up elsewhere in your life. 

FIX: Going deep on this is the only way to REALLY make the changes needed to be the coach you know you can be. Give yourself permission to work on yourself as a whole person and remember to trust the process… This is what will help you to truly level up! 

What would you add to this list of common mistakes? Whether you’ve guilty of making them yourself or you’ve seen them made by your clients. I’d love to hear more about your experiences and the things you keep in mind when choosing how to work on yourself, do comment it below or 

Dr. Helen Johnson

Dr Helen Johnson coaches creative, complex thinkers, and leaders in their field to challenge themselves, be more effective, and lighten up. Through her group programme, Deeper, she offers a way to hone your coaching and personal development skills while also doing the powerful work on yourself.

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