One day my mentor, Mr. Earl Shoaff, said to me, “Jim, if you want to be wealthy and happy, learn this lesson well: Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” I must admit that this was the most challenging assignment of all. This business of personal development lasts a lifetime.
You see, what you become is far more important than what you get. The important question to ask on the job is not, “What am I getting?” Instead, you should ask, “What am I becoming?” What you become directly influences what you get. Think of it this way: Most of what you have today you have attracted by becoming the person you are today.
I’ve also found that income rarely exceeds personal development. Sometimes income takes a lucky jump, but unless you learn to handle the responsibilities that come with it, it will usually shrink back to the amount you can handle.
It is hard to keep that which has not been obtained through personal development. So here’s the great axiom of life: To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are.
Why focus on specific areas of personal development
The marketplace is a demanding place. There is plenty of opportunity, but you’ve got to get ready for it and prepare for it. We’ve got to spend a portion of this year getting ready for next year, and we’ve got to spend a portion of this decade getting ready for the next decade. Hopefully the reason we’re here, looking well, doing fairly well, is because we spent a portion of the last decade getting ready for this decade.
So a big share of life is spent getting ready, getting prepared, and part of it is the development of skills. I’ve got a good key phrase for you to start with in developing skills that make for success in the marketplace. First, it starts with personal development, self-improvement and making measurable progress.
Personal development is a push. It’s a struggle. It’s a challenge. There wouldn’t be any winning without a challenge. That’s what life is all about. It’s the struggle and the challenge to develop ourselves and our skills to see what we can create in the way of value in the marketplace.
Personal Development Areas
Life is all about creating skills and value and taking those skills and value to the marketplace and what it will return for you. Now it also has a social part, a spiritual part as well as a physical part, and we’re going to talk about some of those parts.
New habits don’t come easy, but they can be developed. Sometimes when you develop a lot of momentum in one direction, it’s not that easy to change, but it is possible. Somebody once said that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. You’ve just got to read the books, learn the skills, put yourself through the paces, do the mental pushups and get yourself ready.
Inspiration is fine, but inspiration must lead to discipline. It’s one thing to be motivated, but it’s another thing to be motivated sufficiently to take the classes, do the reading, do the repetition and go through it over and over until it becomes part of you. And those are challenges. They’re not easy, but they’re challenges that if you win and develop and grow, that’s what determines your place, your return, your equity—the worth you get from the marketplace.
My 3 Areas of Personal Development
I know when you talk about spirituality, you can get into an argument most anywhere, but I have a single belief that says humans are not just animals. Some people believe we’re just an extension and an advanced form of the animal species, but I believe humans are unique.
Spiritual qualities make us different from all other creations. Now I’m an amateur on that side of it, so I can’t give you a lot of advice there, but I would recommend you be a student of the spiritual side of your nature. And whatever you have to read and assimilate to develop in that area of personal development, I would strongly suggest you do.
The mind and the body work together, so we’ve got to give some attention to both. On the physical side, you’ve heard the phrase that says to treat your body like a temple. A temple. Not a bad word. Something you would take extremely good care of.
The only house we have to live in currently is the physical body we have, and that’s part of success in the marketplace. That’s physical well-being. It’s feeling good about yourself physically, so you stride into the marketplace with a sense of self-worth, self-confidence, having taken care of that end of it. It covers several parts, including good nutrition.
Then there’s physical appearance. Be skillful enough to take care of your appearance in the marketplace. It has a lot to do with your acceptance. A big share of it is how you appear to other people—on the job, performing, company, community. You say, “Well, people shouldn’t judge you by your appearance.” Well, let me tell you, they do! Sure, when people get to know you, they’ll judge you by more than what they see, but at first, they’re going to take a look. So, physical appearance is part of the physical area of personal development.
Be conscious of self, but not self-conscious. There’s a certain point that we need to be conscious of ourselves, take care of it, then let it go. Some people worry about their appearance all day and it detracts rather than adds. So take care of it, and then let it go. Do the best you can, and let that get the job done.
Here’s the third personal development area: the mind. Stretching your mind is developing good thinking habits and good study habits, pursuing ideas and trying to find ways to apply them to human behavior and the marketplace. All of that takes mind-stretch and mind-exercise. Part of it is stretching yourself in reading habits. You can’t live on mental candy, so you’ve got to have the full range of mental food in order to grow. We call that “mind-stretch.”
Your willingness to tackle subjects that are difficult and that most people have decided to let slide gives you an extraordinary edge in the marketplace. How can you master part of the high skills, the extraordinary skills that make you an unusual performer in the marketplace? It takes mind-stretch. Some people skip poetry and literature, history and a lot of things that seem a little difficult to attack. But if you always back away from something that seems a little difficult at first, you leave yourself weak. You leave yourself unprepared in the marketplace. So, don’t be afraid to tackle the heavyweight stuff. It may be a lot easier than you think once you get into it and learn skill after skill.
If you’re ready to begin your personal development journey but aren’t sure where to start, consider James Whittaker’s Win the Day Accelerator. It’s a comprehensive, 8-part personal development program designed to help you transform your mindset and unlock your full potential.
Adapted from The Jim Rohn Guide to Personal Development. This article was updated September 2023.
This article originally appeared on JimRohn.com and has been republished with permission.
Photo by Olena Yakobchuk/ShutterStock.com.