“Personal Development for Smart People” by Steve Pavlina

“Personal Development for Smart People” by Steve Pavlina

As you might already be aware, I am a avid believer in living each day for fulfillment. I have undergone an awakening over the past year, realizing that living with purpose and awareness is so much more rewarding than going with the flow, living each day just to get by. I love reading books that offer a different perspective and deeper insight into living more meaningfully. So you can imagine that I was thrilled to be fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the book, “Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth”. I have just finished reading the book and I want to share my review with you.

Steve Pavlina

If you are unfamiliar with Steve Pavlina, I encourage you to check out his personal development website at www.StevePavlina.com. One could literally spend hours reading through more than 700 free articles of incredibly thought provoking information on that site. In the span of a few years, Steve has risen to the top echelon of personal development aficionados, attracting more than two million monthly readers to his site. When I first stumbled upon Steve and his website, I was amazed at the depth of his knowledge in personal growth. Steve’s tag line is to “live life consciously” and in each article of his that I read, I grow more confidant that he truly follows this mantra every single day.


Steve begins the book by taking us back to the pivotal moment in his life when he realized that he was interested in personal development. It was 1991, and he was sitting in a jail cell after being arrested for felony grand theft. It soon becomes clear that he has had his fair share of life experiences to build from. We learn that over the course of his life he has had many ups and downs, from bankruptcy to owning his own video game software development business (reaching levels of success far surpassing what many people can imagine), to the birth of StevePavlina.com. Each of these experiences brought him closer to answering the ultimate personal development question: What does it mean for us to consciously grow as human beings, and how do we intelligently guide that process? Steve believes that the answer to this question lies within three core principles: truth, love, and power. He goes on to explain that four secondary principles are then derived from these first three. Oneness - Truth + Love Authority - Truth + Power Courage - Love + Power Intelligence - Truth + Love + Power pdsp-triangle-large The book is organized into two parts. Part One goes into great detail on the theory behind these universal principles, explaining how to align yourself with each. These principles can and should be applied to every aspect of life. Part Two explores how to apply the seven principles to specific areas of life, such as habits, career, finances, health, relationships, and spirituality. Some examples would be injecting truth into relationships, aligning your career with love, and bringing power to your spiritual practice - things that many of us struggle to do. Steve admits that applying what we learn in this book won’t be easy and it wasn’t even easy for him, but he says that real conscious growth is seldom undemanding, but it’s always worthwhile. He goes on to explain that if you are dealing with a major problem in your life right now, that dilemma can be redefined as a problem of alignment with one or more of the three primary principles of truth, love, and power. If you change your perspective so that you can see it in that sense, you will be equipped with all the tools to right that situation. Also, you may find that you are stronger in one or two of the primary principles, and weaker in the other(s). The details laid out in this book will help you to gain a balance of all three. As you continue to increase that balance, life just starts to fall into place. Things happen that seem as if “destiny” brought them into your life (tying into the law of attraction). If you get off track, you will notice that maybe things aren’t so peachy anymore, and that is your cue to realign yourself with these principles again.

My Thoughts

I started out reading the introduction of this book wondering if I was in over my head. Steve is sometimes a very analytical writer, and he goes into “technical mode” right off the bat. I got a little nervous at first, thinking I might not be able to connect at this abstract level. I soon realized I was wrong, and by the time I finished the book, I had completely killed a brand new highlighter pen. Steve mixes soul searching type topics with personal stories, real-world examples, and exercises to illustrate the key points and deepen your understanding while keeping an overall easy-reading feel. No need to feel intimidated, we are talking about life here, not biophysics. Keep in mind, this book is not for the narrow-minded. In order to fully achieve the personal growth that this book offers, you have to approach it with an open mind. Steve has an almost brilliant way of defining each of the seven principles, but a lot of what he says directly calls into question much of what we currently believe as a society. My overall take away from the book is a feeling of true self acceptance. Personal Development for Smart People is a tool that allows us to remove the shell and gain a greater awareness and understanding of the vast amount of social conditioning that surrounds us. Our friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances contribute heavily to our understanding of reality. We are told that this is the way it has to be because that is what is accepted by our culture, society, religion, etc and we believe it. Not to say that social conditioning is always a bad thing, but it is something that many of us rarely question. By aligning ourself with the principles Steve speaks of, it gives a level of clarity and peace that is not easily achieved when we allow ourselves to go through life, ignoring the voice inside that tells us to question something doesn't feel right, but is accepted by society as a whole. Following is a list of a few more of my favorite “aha” moments and highlights from the book. The first step on your path of personal growth must be to recognize that your life as it stands right now isn’t how you want it to be. Perception is a key component of personal growth because we react to what we perceive to be true. When you fail to release incompatibilities from your life, you settle for mere tolerance and prevent compatible new connections from forming. The purpose of every relationship is to teach you how to love yourself from the inside out. Some belief systems teach us that powerlessness is a desirable trait, but nothing is further from the truth. There is no power in the past or the future, only in the present moment. We should set goals not to control the future, but to empower ourselves and improve our present reality. Exercise your courage to go after the prize of true fulfillment, which is so much greater than the illusion of security. Your greatest regrets in life won’t be the mistakes you’ve made; they’ll be the opportunities you let slip through your fingers by failing to act. Being authentic doesn’t mean being perfect. Risk taking isn’t gambling. Never close your eyes to the truth. If you want to grow beyond your current limitations, you must first learn to stop resisting where you are. Your relationships have a tremendous influence on your self-development. Surround yourself with people who naturally empower you. In a world that isn’t fully committed to health, the most natural and beneficial practices are often considered extreme. Average is a slow suicide. Summon the maturity to make intelligent choices for yourself, regardless of what throngs of sick people encourage you to do. Don’t wait for a crisis to strike before taking action to improve your health. Fear of rejection is one of the major blocks to aligning one’s self with love. My Favorite Message Power is a direction, not a position. The best thing you can do to empower others is to empower yourself. The message from the book that truly hits home the most for me is that living life purposefully means to live an inspired life, consciously using our potential to its fullest. As we do this, we become more intelligent, because we are truly aligning ourselves with the core principles of truth, love, and power. The closer in alignment that we are to those principles - the more we improve ourselves, and in turn, inspire others to do the same. Then, as those people follow in our footsteps, finding their own path, they inspire others, and the ripples go on and on down the chain. By living a fulfilled life, we are in essence contributing to the greater good. As we improve ourselves, we improve everyone. This point made so much sense to me, because I have found how amazing it feels to follow your passion, and by the same token, I am almost magnetized to people who I encounter that are doing the same. Altering Your Perspective There is a big difference between working with the flow versus letting go and simply allowing life to happen to you. Why do we just settle? We have power, we just choose not to use it. When we are operating with the flow, things feel good, like there is a powerful energy working through us. We know from the inside out that we are on the right path. I think this is where a lot of people could benefit from reading this book, just as much as I have, because we tend to think that we don’t have a choice. In reality we have all kinds of choices, we just tend to narrow our focus too much and we don’t see all that life has to offer if if we would let it. Tough Stuff The chapters on relationships and spirituality were the toughest for me to comprehend due to my own past beliefs. I like that Steve comes right out and says that you may disagree with things that he says and that is fine. His main goal is to get you to challenge your assumptions and make your own conscious choices. Religion is a touchy topic, but yes...he goes there, and I am going to go there too. I was raised Catholic, went to 12 years of Catholic school, and as you would expect, certain beliefs have been ingrained in me. Over my life, I have questioned some things regarding my own spirituality, because that is just my personality - I tend to want to know the how’s and the why’s, and I had trouble coming to grips with the idea of one religion being “right”, suggesting then that all others are “wrong”. As I read through the book, I was pretty excited to see that Steve addressed this very question. I realized that when I take a step back and think about spirituality without social constraints, I see that the more open I am to learning about different cultures and different religions, the more I am able to consider life and reality from multiple perspectives and gain a greater understanding of other people and the world. It’s Never Too Late I know what it's like to work in a job that is unfulfilling. I know what i is like to think, “Man, I want more than this,” only to follow that up with thoughts of feeling like I don’t know how to fix it or feeling powerless to the situation or contributing factors. Steve puts it so simply when he says, “The longer you follow that path, the more skill you build at something you don’t enjoy.” You may continue to gain seniority and experience in that line of work, but ultimately if it doesn’t fulfill you, you are just digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole. Sometimes it takes courage to withstand some short term sacrifices to get you to a long-term place of true meaning and joy. And then when you find the career that truly drives and empowers you, life becomes a journey, and we are no longer living day by day, striving for the destination of 5 o’clock, or the weekend, or retirement. Life is meant to be lived, not endured.

In Conclusion

We are not powerless because we have children to be responsible for, or because we currently do not have the income of our dreams, or because we are 50 years old. Its never too late to start changing your life for the better. And if you are inspired at all by what I have said above, I know without a doubt that this book could have a great impact on your life. I say “could” and not “will”, because ultimately, it is up to you to take all the knowledge that Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth has to offer, and apply it.
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