When I first started exploring “personal development” I was 17 years old. Now I’m 22, and I imagine that personal development will be something that I continue to embark on until the day I die. From where I stand, I don’t see any reason to stop. There are always things to improve upon in one’s life: health, relationships, career, finances, hobbies, talents, or other personal goals. So long as you are breathing, you are developing and changing as a person – I think that is something that should be embraced if we want to get the most out of our lives.
And from what I gather when writing this blog and interacting with others, people who are interested in personal development come from all different age groups. I’ve exchanged e-mails with people who are barely 16 years old, and then others who are well over 70. It’s actually pretty insane – but it makes perfect sense to me.
My belief that personal development is for all ages stems from my belief that personal development is a never-ending process. Once we experience success, there is always another plateau to be reached. Why stop? Just keep going, keep exploring your boundaries, and keep working on new skills and abilities. I think most people would be surprised on just how much they can accomplish when they really dedicate themselves toward making consistent progress.
In my utopia, I would make personal development a part of our schools’ curriculum. I think there are too many people graduating high school and college without any understanding of their values, beliefs, attitudes, and how they have come to know and understand their map of the world. I don’t think we are ever too young (or too old) to start actively working on ourselves.
It’s odd how the sole purpose of school is learning, yet we rarely learn how to be good learners. It wasn’t until I started reading NLP books in college that I realized I was looking at “education” through a completely faulty paradigm. Schools taught me how to regurgitate facts and get good grades, but NLP taught me that education is a process that has to be met with enthusiasm and an intense passion for the topic being learned. Since then, I’ve never looked back. The more I became passionate, the more I learned, and the better of a person I seem to have become. I imagine instilling this same attitude in children at a young age would lead to significant improvements in individual’s ability to succeed and prosper in life. I know that it is something that I would want my kids to learn as early as possible.
On the other hand, one can never be too old to start improving aspects of one’s life. And since people are never perfect (and perfection, if anything, is a myth), I believe this is a huge motivation to always want to make progress. I don’t know anyone who is successful that doesn’t still seek to expand themselves in different ways. It doesn’t mean one can’t be happy with their life, only that these individuals are always looking to test their boundaries. Their personal development is a constant expansion of themselves.
So long as you can think, feel and are conscious, you have the power to make decisions in your life and influence your world. It’s that simple. Whether you are a new-born or on your death-bed about to utter your last few words, you are making your mark – so make it count.
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Krista and Tatiana Hogan are a remarkable set of twins. From a quick glance, they look like your average 4 year olds – they like to watch cartoons, run around the house, and drink apple juice. But Krista and Tatiana share something special that few twins have: they are conjoined at the head. And not only are they conjoined at the head, but they share a neural bridge, a part of the brain called the thalamus, which allows them to do some really incredible things, almost as if they share the same mind.
For example, when the twins were first born, doctors noticed that when they did a medical procedure to one of the twins, the other one reacted to it (just as if it was happening to her). Their parents have also noticed other times when the twins seem to directly share the same experiences; they even suspect that each twin can choose to look through the others eyes. In another situation, Krista reached for her cup and announced to the group, “I am drinking really, really, really fast.” As she attempted her drinking feat, gulp after gulp, Tatiana’s eyes-widened, she grabbed her sternum, and exclaimed “Whoa!” She shared Krista’s super-fast drinking experience.
When neuroscientists hooked up the twins to an EEG, they flashed a light in one of their eyes while the other was blindfolded, and noticed that the occipital lobe (which is responsible for vision) acted in sync in both brain hemispheres. This suggests that both twins can indeed directly experience what the other is sensing.
Todd Feinberg, a clinical psychiatrist and neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, responded to this crazy phenomenon saying:
“This is beyond empathy — it’s like a metasensory experience. It’s like she has one consciousness and can witness another’s.”
What’s even more interesting to Feinberg, who is the author to the book Altered Egos: How The Brain Creates A Self, is how the twins can share the same head, and many of the same experiences, yet still retain their individuality. In the video below their mom, Felicia, describes how Tatiana is more laid-back and passive, while Krista is more proactive and aggressive.
The situation Tatiana and Krista find themselves in is certainly a remarkable one. It will be very interesting to see how their brain continues to develop throughout their life, and what new abilities they may discover. I’m sure they will remain a fascinating case study for many neuroscientists and psychologists, as there is a lot we can potentially learn from these two girls. To their family, however, they remain just ordinary kids who happen to live under extraordinary circumstances.
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It has been almost 35 years since the latest research study on the psychedelic drug LSD. Before 1972, there were over 700 medical studies demonstrating that LSD-assisted psychotherapy can reduce anxiety and the fear of death in patients who have terminal cancer. It was also shown to cure alcohol addiction and reduce the symptoms of several difficult-to-teat psychiatric illnesses. Other early studies showed implications that LSD could aid creativity, problem-solving, and spiritual awareness.
But since that time it has become incredibly difficult for any researcher to get government permission to do more research. Part of this may be due to the reckless promotion of psychedelic use that permeated the 1960s counterculture. Since then, psychedelic research has become a hot-button political issue.
However, in 2008 Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gassar was granted to do one of the first government-approved studies on LSD since 1972. His work is being sponsored by the Santa Cruz Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
The study is small, but monumental, because it may represent a change in the political and scientific climate regarding psychedelics being used in therapy. Gassar’s study examines the effects of LSD on anxiety and suffering associated with life-threatening illnesses. He is currently working with a modest group of 12 individuals. The last participant received his final treatment on May 26th, and now Gassar is going through some preliminary data analysis and preparing an article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
According to Gassar, the research looks promising so far, as it seems to confirm what previous studies have shown about LSD’s effects on reducing the fear of death in those who suffer terminal illnesses. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) hopes that this will spur future studies on the effects of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting, especially MDMA (ecstacy) in the treatment of those with PTSD, and LSD and psilocybin in the treatment of other forms of anxiety, depression, addiction, and OCD.
I’m personally looking forward to future research testing the effects on psychedelics. I believe that the lack of research over the past few decades has been mostly politically-driven, not based on scientific inquiry. I think the counterculture movement of the ’60s may have left a bad taste in people’s mouths, but it is time to re-focus on psychedelic use in a more sensible, therapeutic-driven setting, where it seems there is ample evidence that it can have positive effects.
Rick Doblin, the executive director at MAPS, has stated that since 1990, “open-minded regulators at the FDA decided to put science before politics when it came to psychedelic and medical marijuana research.” Current research into the benefits of psychedelics now involves about a half dozen studies around the world. It’s a small and underrepresented topic, but this could be the start of bigger things to come for the future of psychedelic research. It will be interesting to see how the field evolves over the next couple of decades.
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Self improvement is the study and practice of improving one’s life, especially our career, education, relationships, health, happiness, productivity, spirituality, and other personal goals. Common aspects of self improvement include goal setting, motivation, changing habits, improving awareness, identifying one’s values and beliefs, and self-actualization.
Self improvement has a rich history that includes influences from Ancient Greek philosophy, Eastern and Western religions, Existentialism, Psychoanalysis, Hypnotherapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Humanistic Psychology.
Today many concepts and theories in self improvement have begun to be tested scientifically in domains of Clinical Psychology (especially therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), as well as research in Positive Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Neuroscience.
According to a recent poll on my sidebar, about 45% of visitors on this blog are individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Another 19% of visitors haven’t been diagnosed but they suspect that they may have a disorder. Those are really high percentages, although I guess it makes sense since this blog is about psychology and personal development, and who better to need advice than those who may have been put into an unfair disposition.
In light of this poll, I wanted to ask myself, “What is one piece of advice I would give to those who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder?”
Then I was reminded of something I one time read on a forum for individuals with bipolar disorder (I don’t personally have bipolar disorder, I just like “getting in the trenches” and learning more about disorders by talking to people who actually have them). The person said something really thought-provoking. He didn’t understand why people say “I’m bipolar.” He found it too identifying. He mentioned how we don’t hear people with cancer say “I’m cancer,” or people with depression say “I’m depression.”
Isn’t bipolar just a condition like any other physical or mental condition? Why should those with bipolar disorder then identify themselves as “bipolar?”
I believe the truth is that even those with other mental disorders often identify with their disorder. It begins to become their whole being. It’s a thought that lingers behind everything they do; they wake up in the morning and think “This is me. I am a person with X.”
Now, of course, a mental disorder can play a large role in who we are – but I think we should always be cautious when we narrowly identify ourselves. No, you’re not just a person with bipolar disorder or ADHD or schizophrenia, you might also be a mother/father, a friend, a coworker, an artist, a movie enthusiast, etc. There are so many facets to your being besides your mental condition – don’t forget about them.
I understand that this advice may be easier said than done, but I urge you to actively expand your view of yourself. In fact, I urge anyone to actively expand how they view themselves. Our “self” is a psychophysiological entity that is in a constant state of flux. It is always taking new shapes and forms, from moment to moment, and from year to year. This blog often emphasizes this changing nature.
Those with mental disorders (or any illness) should try extra hard to expand how they perceive themselves. I strongly believe that we choose to define ourselves by creating our own meaning in life. And while I understand that many mental disorders are biologically determinant, and not exactly inside our control, how we define ourselves is very much inside our control. It’s a mental attitude, however, that takes consistent practice to cultivate. I believe that so long as you don’t fully identify with your mental disorder, there is plenty of room to improve your life.
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