I’d like to thank Steve Pavlina for granting me the opportunity as a fellow personal development bloger to read and review his new book. This article is the first of two in which I will both review Personal Development for Smart People and recount my own thoughts that occurred while reading Steve Pavlina’s fantastic book.

My first thought was that surely a prerequisite for someone to write a book called Personal Development for Smart People is that they themselves must be a smart person. I know Steve completed a double degree in computer science and mathematics in record time by taking triple the standard course load. However, I don’t place all that much stock in academic achievements. In my experience book knowledge often fails in the crossover to the messiness of real life.

That said, by the time I finished reading the introduction I could tell that Steve was indeed a rather smart guy. The introduction begins with an account of a very low point in Steve’s life. At the time he first became interested in personal development he was in jail for grand theft auto and looking at spending two years there. Soon afterwards he was to be expelled from UC Berkeley.

While the details of the beginnings of my own personal journey of growth differs to Steve’s it is interesting that they are fundamentally the same. Like Steve my lowest low became the jumping off point to my highest high. In a long-term hindsight sense I’ve found that more often then not the worst things that happen to us are often the best things to happen to us. You can read about how my own personal lows produced the impetus in my article Failure is a Blessing. The shock of our experience tends to force us to really take stock and strive for positive change. What doesn’t kill us can make us stronger.

Pavlina continues by relating how through his experiences and learning about those of others he comes to suspect that there is a hidden order beneath the multiplicity of personal development experiences. In what seems a very mathematical way he began to seek out the recurring patterns and themes. His aim was to identify a set of universal core principles that all the effective universal laws of personal growth could be traced back to.

If you’ve read the About page on my website you would know I see there being a number of very fundamental forces at play in our universe. Laws such as Impermanence, Attraction and Entrainment. So to me this idea of Steve’s was very appealing and I think, quite brilliant. At this point I’m really starting to get interested and wonder if Steve can pull it off. I’m reading his book so to some extent he must have felt he achieved what he set out to do. I get the sense that Personal Development for Smart People might be quite different to anything I’ve encountered before.

Pavlina explains that through his mathematical approach to producing a personal development framework he has narrowed personal growth and development down to just three core principles: Truth, Love and Power. There are also four secondary principles that are the product of various combinations of the original core giving: Oneness, Authority, Courage and Intelligence. The goal of Personal Development for Smart People is to teach us to bring all areas of our life into alignment with these universal principles.

Personal Development for Smart People is structured into two parts. Part one describes and explains the seven fundamental principled of personal development. This is perhaps a more abstract section of the book. However I personally found part one immensely practical in and of itself. It is filled with anecdotes from Pavlina’s own personal experiences and includes many great exercises to strengthen the qualities discussed within ourselves.

Pavlina devotes a chapter to each of his seven principles of personal development. The first universal core principle of personal development discussed by Pavlina is Truth. As you would expect from a chapter on truth I found what Pavlina had to say insightful and interesting. Steve promises his book will bring some “Aha!” moments and I wonder if it will for me. I hope so because I have found that out of the “Aha!” moment comes a great deal of growth.

While certainly not an “Aha!” moment I love Pavlina’s idea that embracing novelty, new experiences and information helps us literally to become more intelligent. This is a cool idea and one that Steve explains very well.

I also like Pavlina’s discussion of decision making from higher-conscious states. Whatever we decide when we are in such highly conscious states we should stick to. I heard a guru once say that even if it feels like hell for ten years just do that. There will always be fluctuations in our state of being. At times we will find ourselves in a low-conscious state where we will question the wisdom of our decisions and whether we should continue along the path we have chosen.

I have experienced this a number of times in my life. Most recently with bloging. Despite my website receiving well over 20,000 visits in its first full month of being online I still questioned the wisdom of was I was doing and plan to do. That is as opposed to giving into the current socio-economic system and taking a high stress, low reward, money rich time poor position that furthers my “career”.

It is the resolve that comes from knowing I made my choice from a high-conscious state that has allowed me to stick with bloging. Regardless of the walls the have been thrown up in my path and the stress they have caused. Stress is a low-conscious state and often decisions made under stress are poor decisions. I always like to remember that the walls in our way are there to keep out those who don’t want it bad enough.

At the end of the chapter Steve provides what turned out to be an eye-opening exercise. Perhaps not an “Aha!” but I think the exercise illustrates a point very well and if you buy Steve’s book I think it will shine the bright light of Truth onto a broad range of different aspects of your life. I don’t want to say too much. Buy the book and you’ll find out for yourself.

It is always an enjoyable experience to read or listen to another person that I’ve never met before express the same thoughts and conclusions that I personally have had and reached. Particularly when that person is considered somewhat of an authority. It’s nice because it shows that many different paths can and do lead to the same destination.

In this chapter on the core personal development of Love Steve provides excellent advice for overcoming a disconnected mindset. Disconnection is a state that I feel many people if not most in the world today exist in. To some extent I know that I myself am on occasions disconnected. I am far from anything resembling perfect. However I can see how everything is interconnected and have and continue to use this realization to inform my behavior as best I can. I think a disconnected mindset may be the single most powerful source of human unhappiness. It comes as no surprise to learn that the word Yoga means Union.

Steve continues by dealing with some common blocks to love and shows how to skillfully overcome them. Then he provides a connection exercise to strengthen our ability to connect with love and so connect much more deeply then we normally do. Steve shows that we need to realize that love already exists we just need a shift in perspective that will allow us to give and receive love easier. There are a series of excellent exercises and visualizations to help do just that.

This is probably my favorite chapter so far. Steve clearly states that we cannot effectively make use of the power that is our birthright as creative human beings until we first accept responsibility for our lives. This is a subject close to my heart. I learnt this lesson the hard way through overcoming chronic fatigue and other health issues. Until I took full responsibility for my health it was impossible for me to become well again. Our lives really are what our thoughts make it.

Power is defined by Steve Pavlina as your ability to consciously and deliberately create the world around you. It should be noted that power is just power. In and of itself power is neither good nor evil. It is up to the consciousness behind it to decide to use power for good or for ill.

I think Steve brilliantly expresses a home truth about responsibility. Too often we have victim mentalities. We feel like our lives are doing us. When really as the first rule of kettlebell lifting safety states – if you get hurt it’s your fault! The state of your life is your fault! Whether the current state of your life be great success, joy and happiness or alone, miserable, overweight and broke, it is you who is ultimately responsible.

Conclusion of Part One
I feel like I could write a book on my thoughts regarding Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina. But in the interests of not putting you all to sleep I think now is a good time to conclude part one of this review. Pavlina continues in the first section of his book with four more chapters, one each on the four secondary core principles of Oneness, Authority, Courage, and Intelligence. I can assure you that they are each very interesting and eye opening.

Steve’s fantastic book has so far confirmed, solidified and expanded upon many of my own thoughts and ideas that are the product of my own personal development journey so far. I highly recommend this excellent book to everyone. I would be surprised if there is a person who would not take something of great lasting value from reading this book.

The more I read the more I realize that this book is something quite special. It contains potentially life changing information and perspective for anyone willing to spend a few dollars and read it. It is written so well that I think it will slap even the most complacent, on autopilot, unconscious person awake, at least for a little while. And that is really all one person can do for another.

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