Review: Personal Development for Smart People

As you might know, I’m passionate about personal growth. That’s why I was excited when I heard about a new book entitled Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina. It’s a book that aims to find universal patterns and principles behind personal growth that can be applied to all aspects of our life. Personal Development for Smart PeopleAs the author put it:

I set out to find the common pattern behind all successful growth efforts, to identify a complete set of core principles that would be universally applicable.

The principles must be something that can be applied to your health as well as your relationships, your career as well as your finance.
Does the book succeed? Let’s see.

Inside Personal Development for Smart People

The book begins with an explanation of the universal principles:

It took me almost two and a half years, but I eventually found the solution I was looking for. It consists of just three core principles: truth, love, and power. Four secondary principles are directly derived from the first three: oneness, authority, courage, and intelligence. Oneness is truth plus love. Authority is truth plus power. Courage is love plus power. And intelligence is the total combination of truth, love, and power.

These principles form the foundation for the rest of the book.
The book is divided into two parts with a total of 13 chapters. The first part explains the seven principles one by one, while the second part explains practical applications of those principles in several areas of life.
Part I. Fundamental Principles
1. Truth
Truth is the first core principle of personal growth. If you want to grow, you must first recognize where you are and accept it as it is. Only then can you take action to take your life to a better position.
Some of the things that may block you from truth are media conditioning, false beliefs, and addictions. You can become more truthful through exercises like self assessment, journaling, and media fasting.
2. Love
The essence of love is connecting. To become more loving, you should be willing to connect with others. To connect here means to think about them and to give them your attention.
It’s a simple but nice way to describe love. Just try it yourself. Give someone else your genuine attention and you’ll feel the existence of love there.
3. Power
Power is your ability to create the world around you. It’s your ability to make things happen. Some components of power are responsibility, focus, effort, and self-discipline.
There are a lot of good ideas in this chapter to help you make things happen. For example, the point of goal setting is to improve the quality of your present moment. It’s useless to create goals that doesn’t help you do better in the present.
Also, it’s important to build your self-discipline. You need motivation to start, but self discipline is what you need to finish.
4. Oneness
Oneness is a secondary principle that comes from combining truth and love. Oneness is the awareness that you’re connected with everybody else. While love is about choosing to connect, oneness is about knowing that you’re already connected.
When you look from the point of view of oneness, what is good for others is also good for you and vice versa. Consequently, things like honesty and compassion will naturally flow out of you.
5. Authority
Authority is a secondary principle that comes from combining truth and power. Having authority means having the clarity of how you want your life to be and having the power to make it happen.
To exercise authority, you must take responsibility for your life. You need to do what matters to you and measure the effectiveness of your effort. You can then use the feedback to adjust your actions.
6. Courage
Courage is a secondary principle that comes from combining love and power. To be courageous is to confront fear with the power that comes from your deepest connections.
A major part of being courageous is to follow your heart. Whenever you feel that you’re no longer connected with your heart, stop and  ask yourself: Where is the path with a heart? Then have the courage to follow the path.
7. Intelligence
Intelligence is a secondary principle that comes from combining the three core principles: truth, power, and love. Consequently, the definition of intelligence is alignment with truth, love, and power.
An important of part of being intelligent is to master the art of creative self-expression. You should be able to share what is most important to you (your message) in the right way for you (your medium). The medium here, for instance, could be writing, speaking, or painting.
Part II. Practical Applications
This part applies the seven principles covered in Part I to several areas of your life: habits, career, money, health, relationships, and spirituality. There are plenty of specific techniques in each chapter that I can’t possibly cover here.


Personal Development for Smart People is a thought-provoking book. While the principles in the book are not new, the book arranges and connects the principles in a clear and concise way. I especially like the way the four secondary principles are derived from the three primary ones.
Honestly, there are some views in the book that I disagree. That being said, Personal Development for Smart People contains a lot of ideas that are useful for personal growth. I plan to apply many of them to my life. It also has a creative way of looking at some issues (like goal setting in chapter 3) that makes me rethink my approach on them.
This article is part of October 2008 theme: Winning Attitude


  1. There are many books and paths on personal growth. This book is a discussion and exploration of the topic from an intelligent standpoint. I’ve approached personal growth through poems and short stories to allow life experiences to inspire and encourage us.

  2. Usiku,
    That’s an interesting approach you take.

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