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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Why traditional personal development has become passé for elite entrepreneurs

Setting new goals or revving up willpower can’t serve you as an elite leader seeking a quantum shift in effectiveness and success. Inner barriers must be overcome and unconscious mental blocks must be dismantled.

Why traditional personal development has become passé for elite entrepreneurs
[Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock]

Since ancient times, ambitious leaders have sought to increase their impact and maximize their potential through inner explorations and personal development. This practice may have started when Aristotle turned his observational eye back toward himself to ensure he was as evolved and attuned as he could possibly be, paving the way for other self-aware leaders to do the same.

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Centuries after that, Carl Jung’s work on individuation provided a framework for understanding and harnessing our developmental drives, and Albert Bandura revealed how self-efficacy could enhance our performance and support our success. These and other developments awakened the understanding that certain techniques and practices can change our behavior and improve our abilities to pursue and attain our goals. Yet deep self-analysis and mindful improvement were mostly reserved for visionary leaders and academics.

Then, in the modern age of business, personal development went mainstream. It evolved from a field of psychological study to a growing industry that, by 2021, was valued at more than $40 billion. Complicated concepts of self-analysis were watered down to reach a broader audience. Courses and books shrank in size, reducing complex and nuanced systems of personal improvement to a few simple steps. Popularity in personal development grew, but the power it was meant to instill in individuals became diluted.

PUSHING PAST LIMITATIONS

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This may be especially frustrating for those exploring the upper altitudes of entrepreneurship; those who have reached the pinnacle of their field and are searching for ways to ascend even higher. As an elite entrepreneur, you may find that most personal development resources available to you are weak and uninspiring, especially since many focus on the early phases of the entrepreneurial journey.

But it’s not just the resources, it’s also the philosophies. Excelling at a higher level requires thinking in a different way. The next level of success may not come from merely adding a new layer to the same foundation, nor by simply learning a new technique for observation or self-analysis. Rather, I believe it results from transcending the subconscious limitations that prevent you from stepping into your true genius.

For example, problem-solving is often cited as a key skill that can be honed through personal development.  Evolving this skill only scratches the surface for top founders and entrepreneurs, and you would be better served by learning to prevent problems from popping up in the first place. Problems remain a constant source of stress that must be managed, and constant stress can limit your bandwidth, keeping you from achieving your potential. For the uppermost leader, that limitation is not acceptable.

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SEEKING A NEW PROCESS

High-achieving entrepreneurs do not need a new tool that helps incrementally improve upon challenge areas. Shifting into problem-solving mode is a waste of your time and brilliance. Instead, you may require entirely new ways of approaching life; a process that dissolves your self-imposed limitations and can set you free from the inside out.

Traditional personal development may have become passé for many elite leaders because it calls on us to do more, learn more, and carry more without addressing the cracks in the current foundation. It can help advance your business, but it may not help you to elevate your potential as a human being to the next level.

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One reason for this shortcoming is that traditional personal development is highly analytical. Its exercises are designed to train us in new methodologies. It presents new strategies and behaviors but does not facilitate carefully crafted, deep emotional experiences that allow the mind to tap into and rewire the subconscious. When you are able to change your foundational, subconscious beliefs, you can soar to stratospheric heights.

EVOLVING PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

To empower ultra-high achievers, personal development must evolve. It should offer methodologies that allow the mind to unlearn old beliefs and embrace new ones. As a leader operating at this level, you are likely seeking to eradicate any beliefs that limit success and replace them with a new, hypercharged operating system—one that can empower you to attain astonishing success and incredible growth beyond your wildest imagination. Skills and reactionary strategies are useless to visionary leaders; you need to tap into the full potential of your brain and recognize the extent of your power.

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Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of traditional personal development is that it relies on motivational hype. It promises leaders that we will emerge transformed and more powerful than ever before, but simply can’t deliver on those promises. Leaders then fall back to earth when the euphoria fades and the old, habitual, limiting thoughts rush back in. In order to establish a new default pattern in thinking, you should engage with a process that delivers permanent, internal, and lasting change.

Setting new goals or revving up willpower can’t serve you as an elite leader seeking a quantum shift in effectiveness and success. Inner barriers must be overcome and unconscious mental blocks must be dismantled. Personal development should become a process that multiplies your effectiveness and success, rather than adding to it.


Jean-Paul Gravel is the founder and CEO of ThroughConversation.

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