I was coaching one of my clients last week and we got talking about personal development. I mentioned to her that there’s a big problem I see in the self-help world, and that is that it’s almost as if we’ve adopted this belief that we’re not good enough by default, and that we need to be/do/have something more before we’re okay.

For example, I’ve recently been tweaking my morning routine (one of my favorite things to geek out on) and came across some routines lasting 3 hours or more.

I have to wonder whether these are really empowering the person or if they’re just including some things because they’ve read that they ‘should‘.

Wake up at 5am. Meditate. Drink lemon water. Journal. Get grateful. Visualize your ideal life. Practice forgiveness. Read for 1 hour. Exercise. Make coffee. Go over your most important tasks for the day. Etc.

Before you know it, you’ve spent half your day checking things off your list when you could have been making progress on your most important goal for the next 90 days.

In fact, Craig Ballantyne, someone I consider a mentor, suggests in his Perfect Day Formula that we should tackle our #1 task for the day BEFORE sitting down to do any of those things and treating them as a reward for getting the hard thing done first.

The problem with adopting all these ‘shoulds‘ is that often times, it comes from a place of lack or scarcity. I’m all for empowering daily routines, but it needs to come from a place of self-love rather than a place of “not-yet-good-enough-ness”, or we face the risk of spiraling back downwards if we miss a few days.

This applies to far more than just morning routines, which brings me to the moral of this story. What I wanted to share today is the same thing I shared with that client of mine on our call:

Personal development is not an additive process. It’s subtractive.

The truth is, we are born whole and complete. Our natural state is one of perfection. But over time, we become conditioned by society and influences around us that we’re not already good enough just as we are.

Some examples…

It’s not the way your body looks that’s the problem. It’s that you’ve told yourself the way it looks is a problem (side note: if your body is a reflection that your health is at risk, then obviously you need to address it).

Subtractive, not additive.

It’s not that you’re never on an overseas trip that you’re unhappy. It’s that you think you need to go on an overseas trip to be happy.

Subtractive, not additive.

It’s not that you’re single that you’re unhappy. It’s that you think you need to be with somebody in order to be loved, valued and appreciated.

Subtractive, not additive.

Where are you currently telling yourself that you’re not good enough? How can you strip away some of those beliefs and behaviors, instead of spending your energy trying to add things to patch them up? Where can you subtract instead of add?


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