Six Techniques for Self-Development

I started this blog with the purpose to self-educate myself and get away from the university system. I felt I could learn what I want and have some fun with the process. To do this, I developed some self-development techniques that I felt is worth sharing.

Education is something most people stop after finishing their formal educational. We stop reading books. We stop learning new skills and ideas. We get into the same habits of going to work and paying bills. We come home play with the kids, watch TV, and sleep. We wake up the next day and do it all over again. There is nothing wrong with this but the idea that we will not learn anything new after age 25 is a shame. This is a trap that most people fall into. Where is the time dedicated to our self to expand and grow our minds?

I always had a drive to keep pursing new adventures. Whether it was through travel or through the pursuit of education. Once I finished my formal education over a year ago, I was looking for something more. My initial response to pursuing “more” was to complete another degree. I never fully understood the concept of pursuing education through your own means.

Self-development is not just reading or taking courses. It can be anything you want to pursue. It can be learning a new sport or language. It can be learning to do pottery or sew. It can be leaning a new instrument or computer programming. There are many things that you can learn in this world and we should look outside our comfort zone to find these things.

I was never a strong reader and it has always taken me a long time to read books. When I started this challenge of reading 52 books in a year. I was certainty skeptical and had my doubts.

This is much the same for writing, I can remember completing my first work-term report in college and submitting it to my work-term advisor. He went through it and covered it in red marks. The grammar and sentence structure were horrible. I could not formulate an original thought. And I certainly could not source things correctly. I had done technical communications courses, but nothing really stuck. In many of these courses the goal is to complete the course and get a passing grade. Not necessarily to learn something.

When I started on this journey of self-development. I developed some techniques along the way that help me through this process. These techniques basically developed into my way of life. Here are some techniques that I have developed over the last year for self-development!

1. Develop your habits

Basically, what you are doing when introducing techniques for self-development is replacing new habits to replace old habits. If your current habit is to watch TV when you get home from work and you are looking to start a self-education habit. You need to replace your watching TV habit with something new. The first thing you need to do is replace your trigger; this may be the TV remote. If every time you sit on the couch the TV remote is in the same place, this might be your trigger. To remove this trigger, you may need to put a book in place of the remote. And possibly put the TV remote into a drawer.

This might seem simple, but you are changing one thing in your cycle. And that completely changes your habit. It is very simple to go to get the TV remote out of the drawer. Although if you place a book in the remote’s location. You would then be triggering yourself to read, instead of watch TV.

This is a technique you can use with many other things in your life. For myself I know if I get up early and exercise, I will then follow with my regular morning routine. My trigger for following my morning routine is exercising, the rest of routine goes like I am running downhill. It now feels strange if I skip a step. Although if I if do not exercise right away, my morning routine goes astray, and I usually miss a couple of things.

As humans we are all just creatures of habit. If we want to introduce something into our lives, we need to develop new habits. This is not an easy thing to do because our old habits are deeply engrained into us. If we can remove previous triggers and introduce new triggers this can have a positive impact on our lives.

2. Learn what you are interested in

This may seem simple but when 2.5 million new books are published each year. It may be hard to figure out who and what to read. There are certain books it seems everyone is reading but this may not interest you at all. All you friends may be playing golf but what you really want to do is learn archery. You need to determine what your interests are.

If you can figure out your interests, you are more likely to stick to developing your new skill. I started taking golf serious last year before this I would play once or twice a year. To stick to this, I had to find my love of the game. It was easy to find a community of people to play with because in my circle there are many golfers. But last year when I started playing, I went a fair bit by myself. It was easier to go by myself and develop my love and interest for the game. I think you really need to have an interest in something to make it part of your life. To have an interest, you need to develop a love for something.

3. Find a community

I touched on this one a little bit above. Find a community of people with the same interests to introduce something new into your life. I talked about above how I was lucky to be surrounded by several people in my life who were golfers. Which made it much easier to introduce and make golf a part of my life.

Although if you are looking to learn the guitar but you know no one who plays guitar. Start by taking some lessons, sometime this can be a great introduction. And allow you to find other people that play guitar. Look for jam session around your community there are always people looking for musicians to play with. Do not worry if you feel like you suck, everyone does at some point. And by becoming a part of a community you will learn from others which will exponentially speed up your learning process.

Alcoholics Anonymous uses a twelve-step strategy to break habits. But what it also does is form a sense of community in people lives. This is one of the reasons the program is on successful it allows for another option for alcoholics. It provides people with a support system that they may not have. A healthy community can help you change the way you look at life. For AA it gives people another option besides going to the bar. They can go to a meeting to which turns a destructive habit into a healthy one.

4. Associate certain places/rooms with tasks

Everyone associates certain places with certain habits. Some people’s bedrooms are for watching TV, for others it is a place for sleeping. If you associate your bedroom with watching TV, you may find you have trouble sleeping. This is because you mind is looking for stimulus when you go into your bedroom. Although if you just associate your room with sleeping, your mind will associate your bedroom with rest. And you may have an easier time sleeping.

This goes hand in hand with changing your habits. If you are looking to read more, place your book next to your bed or on your pillow. Now when you go to bed, you will associate going to bed with reading a few pages or chapters of your book.

When I was trying to introduce a habit of reading in my life, every time I sat on the couch, I would read my book. And when I go to bed, I would read. This gave me two things to associate with reading sitting on the couch and going to bed. I also adjusted my bedtime; I go to bed an hour before I want to sleep so I have an hour of reading time.

You can use this tactic with any habit. I also want to form a habit of exercising every day, so I started get up at 5:00 a.m. to work out. Now whenever I get up, I associate this time with exercising. I do not question what I am going to do when I wake up. I put on my gym clothes and head to my home gym.

5. Get into a routine

A routine is the key for developing new skills/habits into your life. My routine may not work for you, so your need to determine what will work best for your lifestyle. I know when I wake up at 5 a.m. I will work out, meditate, journal, and write. The key to all of this is waking up at 5 a.m. and exercising.

Your routine may need to be completely different. When you get home from work, you put on your workout clothes, head to the gym, or toss on a workout video. Everyone lives are different, so you need to alter your routine to fit your needs.

Attaching activities to one another works very well for me. My morning routine is linked to working out. This activity triggers me to start my routine and once I start my mind goes on auto pilot. This even happens when I am doing my morning exercises. I do the same exercises every day, so I do not need to think about what I am going to do next. It all becomes part of my routine.

Your routine may go something like this. You get home from work change into your workout clothes and go for a run. When you finish your run, you mediate/journal, shower, and eat supper. After supper, you either read or do some skill development. The thing that started your routine was putting on your gym clothes. Once you put on your gym clothes, you are then starting your routine. Your routine acts like dominos, after once task falls the next one goes with it.

I understand that kids or other obligations may factor into your life. But if you schedule your routine around your kids you can make it work. There will always be interruptions in your routine. The key is to get back to it as quickly as possible. Falling out of a habit is much easier than forming one.

6. Appreciate the journey

All this is really for nothing if you do not appreciate your journey through self-development. I mentioned above self-development can be any healthy habit or skill you want to implement in your life. But you really need to appreciate the journey to get to the end goal.

You will never start out great at something, even though some people are naturally gifted at things. But I am willing to bet if you are reading this article you are not one of those people.

Appreciate the little gains you make. Appreciate when you finish your first book or online course. Appreciate when you hit the golf ball straight. Appreciate when you can play your first song on a guitar. These are the little things that keep you wanting more, that keeps you pursing your goals.

Even when you finally get good or even master your craft. You still will be striving to get better. Appreciate the little things; it makes the journey much more exciting.

If you would like to hear more from me, subscribe to my e-mail list or look me up on Instagram @the_52_book_challenge. Check back next week for my next blog post!

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