I talk with quite a number of people – clients and readers of my Personal Development Ezine – who explain to me that they have become far calmer, more aware and focused as a consequence of the various little “mental exercises” that they practice to banish stress and move themselves in the direction that they want their life to go. I often receive feedback from people who tell me that their lives have been transformed and that they have seen many of their goals achieved almost effortlessly. But others wonder why, if they are developing calm, clarity and presence of mind, nothing new and exciting seems to be happening in their lives.

In answering them, I often quote what a good friend from Northern Ireland said to me at the height of the so-called “Troubles”. He said “It must be that, for some people, doing their mental exercises is a bit like the way some of my fellow-countrymen go to Mass on a Sunday, kneel down and pray and, on a Monday, go out and blow someone up!” A well made point – if your efforts at personal development don’t have an impact in the ordinary course of your everyday life, there is really no point in fooling yourself into believing that you’re on the road to the life that you want. Personal development isn’t supposed to make you feel good for just a few minutes during the day, it’s supposed to transform your life and if it isn’t doing that, then you’re doing something wrong.

As I write this, I’m expecting a client who is going to spend the next few of days with me here in the Alps. He sent me an advance note – what he called his “agenda” – and, on that note, he asks how to bring the calm and focus that you develop during meditation or mental exercising into the cut and thrust of everyday life. My answer to him will be simple. During the course of the day, especially when the going gets tough, you’ve got to regularly stop yourself, notice state of mind and compare it with the calm and clarity that you get during your personal development exercises. If you’re state of mind has drifted from your benchmark calm then you need to take a momentary step back from what’s going on, take a few deep breaths, and restore the mental calm and focus that will make the difference to your actions and personal effectiveness in the here and now.

Personal development isn’t personal development if you’re not seeing concrete results in your ordinary life – if your life is still all over the place, you’re just lulling yourself into an even more dangerous place where you may well make decisions or taking what you think is action that may well make your life worse rather than better.

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