Let's face it, there is so much stuff out there on the subject of personal development. Books of all types adorn shelf after shelf in our nation's book shops. That's before we look at internet sales, and all the independent work out there (including mine).

It's enough to put people off completely - I mean, where do you start? The aim of my article is to provide you with a place to start.

I am widely read in the personal development category, and I would recommend it for people wishing to improve themselves. My reading has brought me into contact with many great ideas, approaches and models, some of which I found hard to understand! Most personal development writing comes down to a number of core principles that, if we learn and put into practice, will help us greatly. So outlined below are the eight key principles that will help you to live a great life.

To start with, I define personal development as the stuff that helps you to move towards living a better, happier, more purposeful life. Isn't this what we all want? Let's start then, the eight key steps to living a great life, not in order of importance.

Lesson 1 - Live in the present

Start living in the moment, focusing on what's happening right in front of your nose. Stop worrying about the past or the future. Most unhappy folks either spend their days worrying about the future (what 'could' happen), or raking over the past (what 'could' have been). Learn the lessons from what happened, and plan for your future by all means, but don't live there. The only thing you can influence is what you're doing at this moment.

Lesson 2 - Focus on others, not self

Happy people usually spend most of their time focusing on other people. They are absorbed in what others are doing, often helping where they are able to. Unhappy folks are more likely to be self absorbed, and even where they do show interest in others, it is a tactic rather than genuine interest (e.g. if I ask how you are, you might show interest in me). How many depressed people do you know who show much interest in how others are faring? Not many, in my experience. So unless unhappiness is your goal, focus on others.

Lesson 3 - Think positively

Thinking and talking positively is more likely to lead to contentment. Obvious isn't it? I don't mean that rampant positive talk that winds people up (what planet are they from?). But emphasising the best in other people and situations will help. Being upbeat might also make a great outcome more likely in any event. As the Henry Ford maxim goes, 'whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can't, you're probably right'. Quite simply, being positive makes a positive result more likely.

Lesson 4 - Be yourself

Call it personal integrity, authenticity (my favourite word!), call it whatever. Be true to your personal beliefs and values. You will not achieve things that matter to you through trying to impersonate someone else. At most, you'll be a poor imitation of this person. Instead, be your own person, because no one else can do that as well as you can.

Lesson 5 - Have quiet time

Some people meditate, others might take some exercise, do some fishing, or read a magazine. But have some quiet time in your life. It allows you to get centred, and brings the rest of your busy life into better perspective, as well as rebuilding your energy levels. Nowadays, people are incessantly busy, so quiet time is a must.

Lesson 6 - Act on how you feel

Keep in touch with how you feel, especially you guys who aren't paid to connect with them. They are an invaluable indicator to us of how we're faring. Do we feel good or bad at this moment, and why is this? But feelings are only a helpful indicator if we pay attention to them. Once you've noticed how you feel, do not be afraid to act on them where you need to.

Lesson 7 - Decide what you really want to do

You might call this a mission, personal vision, or life purpose. It may even be what you spiritually think you're here for. Whatever you call it, have some big idea of what you want to achieve while you're here in this life. Not only will this focus you on something that matters, it will also help you decide what to do now, so you don't fritter your life wasting time on minor matters.

Lesson 8 - Try different things

Variety really is the spice of life - many of these old sayings are largely true. Where's the fun in living the same life every day? Ground-hog day is no-ones idea of a good time. Most older people will tell you that it isn't what they did when they were younger that they regretted. It was the wasted opportunities, the things they didn't do when they could. What have you done differently today? This week? This month? This year? If the answer is 'not much', find something different to try.

There you have it - the vanilla based, hitch-hikers guide to personal development. Stripped of all the finery, these are the key lessons. If you are interested in certain lessons rather than others, there are plenty of great books out there that will give you more detail. I'm happy to give you my own recommendations on other writing if you contact me.

I will say this though. If you never read another personal development article, but you follow these rules in your life, you will see a big difference in how you get on.

Mark Eyre

Author's Bio: 

A published author and coach consultant, Mark has 25 years experience of helping people develop their leadership, power and career to become the best they can be. His motto is 'bringing personality to work, and work to life'. He owns Brilliant Futures, and can be found at http://www.brilliantfutures.net/