So you’ve decided you want to improve your life but have NO idea where to start and your bank account’s staring back at you blankly?
I totally get it!
When it comes to personal development, there are so many incredible free and paid resources out there that can help. Whether it’s an inspiring podcast, working one-on-one with a coach, doing an online course, being involved in a facebook community, reading personal development books or watching YouTube videos – the opportunities are endless!
And while having so many options is amazing, it can be completely overwhelming. Plus we’re often left with the question of whether we should pay for help or if it’s just as good to figure it all for free. So in today’s blog post, I’m going to show you how to start your personal development journey without spending any money. I hope you find it helpful!
FREE VS PAID RESOURCES
First of all, I just want to chat about the benefits of free vs paid resources as they both have their advantages! Let’s talk about paid personal development resources first (like coaching, an in-person event or an online course).
One of the big benefits of going with a paid resource over one you can get for free is that you’ll probably tend to invest more time and energy in something you’ve paid for. Which means you’re more likely to get results and to get faster than you would otherwise (but you determine your commitment level and you can be just as committed to a free resource as a paid one if you want – I’ll be talking about how to do this later in the post).
Another benefit of paid resources is that they’re generally more personalised or more intimate and better support is provided should you have any questions or need help. Generally, with a free resource, there’s no personal feedback and there’s no accountability. This means you’ll need to work a little harder or for a little longer than you would if you paid for personalised help.
Another great thing about paid resources is that they often give you detailed step-by-step instructions, whereas with free resources you’re left to piece the steps together yourself (which can be overwhelming). But as with anything, there are definitely exceptions to this and there are tonnes of amazing free step-by-step courses and guides (you just need to know where to find them – more on this soon).
The benefits of free resources? Obviously, they’re free. So that’s a benefit! Plus they’re easily accessible.
One of the drawbacks of free resources is that we tend to undervalue them purely because we haven’t paid for them (which means we’re less likely to apply them and less likely to get amazing results) and another drawback is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to find ourselves trying to make sense of conflicting advice, choose where to put our focus (and when to focus on what) and left to create structure all by ourselves.
It’s for all of the reasons above that I personally chose to use a mix of paid resources and free resources.
At the moment, I pay for Brooke Castillo’s monthly online program Self-Coaching Scholars (which is bloody amazing) and I also work with a coach every week to help keep me on track and grow my business. I also listen to podcasts whenever I’m driving, read books whenever I choose to make the time and love diving into in-depth blog posts whenever I need advice on something specific.
How do I find the time for all of this? For one, I’m a huge personal development nerd – so this is what I like to do in my downtime! But basically, I prioritise 30 minutes every morning to work on Self-Coaching Scholars, I meet up with my coach for an hour in person every week and I use free resources to fill in the gaps. Though, to be honest, lately I’ve definitely been making an effort to consume less and apply more, which means my consumption of the free stuff has gone down a bit so I can make the most of what I’m paying for!
It’s really all about finding out what works for you and your financial priorities.
Brooke Castillo’s course is a significant monthly investment for me, but I LOVE everything she creates and jumped at the chance to be able to get step-by-step guidance and incredible video classes instead of just her usual free podcast (which I also adore btw, if you didn’t know that already). At the time of writing this, I’ve been doing her course for 2 months and have never regretted the investment for s second!
My business coach is also a significant investment, but I know that by getting someone to help me manage my mind I’ve been able to grow and improve myself much more quickly than when I was trying to figure things out on my own (particularly before I got good at calling myself out on self-sabotage and was procrastinating all the time – the accountability has been HUGE for me).
And for me personally, at this stage in my life, investing in my mental wellbeing is just as important (if not more important) than investing in my physical wellbeing. So personal development is a financial priority for me and I’m willing to make sacrifices for it!
Related: 10 Ways I Invest In Myself
FINDING THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR YOU
I’ve just shared what’s working for me (at the moment). And while you might like to use that as inspiration, it’s important to find the right approach for you.
Take a moment to think about the following:
- How much time are you willing to invest into becoming your best self?
- How much money (if any) are you willing to invest in becoming your best self?
- How important is it that you get results in a short period of time?
- How important is it that you have someone to keep you accountable and show you your thinking?
After considering those questions, you might decide that you would like to make personal development a financial priority. Or maybe it doesn’t make sense for you at the moment. Either way, keep reading this blog post to learn how I would improve my life if I wasn’t in a position to make a financial investment. I hope you find it helpful!
STEP 1. CREATE A SPECIFIC GOAL
I think the most important thing to do when you’re starting your personal development journey is to have a specific goal in mind. Of course that goal can (and will!) change over time, but I find it’s best to start by focusing on just one specific area of your life that’s troubling you rather than trying to fix the whole thing at once. This also makes it easier to find the right teachers and resources to help!
My focus has really always been to try to figure out why I sabotage my own success and how to stop doing it (I share the very best of what I’ve learned here). You might be interested in changing your money mindset, stopping over-eating, creating better relationships, figuring out your career goals or something else. Obviously, there are a million different things you could choose. But having this in mind will help you find the best people to help (and since everything overlaps, you’ll start to feel the benefits in other areas of your life too).
STEP 2. FIND YOUR TEACHERS
Once you have a goal in mind, it’s time to find teachers that can help you with your goal and whose teachings resonate with you. My recommendation is to spend an afternoon searching Pinterest, YouTube or google for advice on the topic you want help with and see who that leads you to.
Here are some of my favourite teachers:
STEP 3. LIMIT YOUR TEACHERS
One of the reasons I love personal development so much is because it’s SO inspiring. The only problem is that learning about how other people achieved their goals can make me feel so motivated and excited that I find myself consuming, consuming, consuming and never doing.
When it comes to personal development, learning feels like doing. Which is why it can feel so productive to be reading personal development books and listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos. But unless you actually set aside the time to do the exercises and have the experiences your teachers recommend, you’re not going to make progress. It’s easy to get inspired but intellectual knowledge is not enough to create change.
Because of this, it’s super important that you have the time and space to apply what you’re learning. I’ve found the best way to do this is to limit my teachers and I recommend the same to you!
I want to be clear that I’m not recommending that you follow someone blindly without ever having your own opinion about what they’re saying. But all too often, we surround ourselves with so many teachers that it starts to get confusing. Whose advice should we follow? Where should we put our focus? What should we do when their advice conflicts?
The thing is, there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do it. Most approaches work if you do the work. But to be able to do the work, you need to be focused and you need to keep yourself out of confusion and overwhelm.
I get it, FOMO can be real and we don’t want to feel like we might miss something life-changing. But I’m not suggesting you choose whose advice you want to take for the rest of eternity! I like to recommend a 90-day approach. Choose someone’s work you’re going to follow for 90 days (or more if you’re like) and then commit to applying what they teach for those 90 days. The experience will be so much more powerful than if you haphazardly try to reconcile and apply advice from a handful of teachers, I promise you! And it will give you the space and energy to really go all-in and make a change.
If you’re not sure who you want your teachers to be, give yourself a period of time that you can listen to different people and get different recommendations. But decide on a date that you’ll choose your teacher (or teachers) for that 90-day period and then commit to following their advice. If you really have FOMO, you can listen to other advice on the side – but only if you apply what you learn from your main teacher and it’s not detracting from that!
STEP 4. ACT AS THOUGH YOU PAID FOR IT
Once you’ve chosen a teacher, it’s time to get to work! And I find the best way to figure out how much work to do is to pretend you paid $1,000 for whatever it is you’re consuming.
As I mentioned earlier, psychologically you’ll tend to view things you’ve paid for as more valuable than things you haven’t. So ask yourself how you would act if you paid $1,000 for the free content you’re consuming and then act as if that you really did pay that much.
To take this one step further, here’s how you can make the most of different personal development resources:
If you paid $1,000 to be subscribed to someone’s podcast, here’s what you might do:
- Listen to their podcast with a notebook and pen, take notes on anything that you think will be helpful to have in writing or any thoughts and ideas the podcast episode prompts (I like to do this because I find I pay much more attention when I’m taking notes)
- If there were any recommendations made during the podcast about journaling exercises or if there were any recommendations about the next steps you should, do them! And do not use the whole ‘too busy’ thing as an excuse. If you paid $1,000 to be subscribed to someone’s podcast you’d make the time to apply their advice. It should be no different just because their podcast is free.
And don’t hesitate to listen to the same episode multiple times – including when you’re on the go. I often prefer to listen to one episode twice rather than different two episodes – whenever I go back a second time I always notice there were things I hadn’t really heard the first time. And often it takes a few times for a message to sink in!
Even if you do this with just one podcast episode each week, the impact will be incredible.
My recommendations: Read my roundup of The 10 Best Podcasts For Ambitious Millennials and listen to my podcast, The Smart Twenties Podcast.
I know books aren’t free, but they’re pretty damn inexpensive (especially considering how much time authors put into writing them). I’ve written a whole blog post about how to make the most of personal development books, make sure you check it out!
My recommendations: The Best Personal Development Books For Women In Their Twenties
FREE EMAIL COURSES, CHALLENGES AND GUIDES
This one is pretty simple, if you’ve signed up for a free course or challenge or guide – make sure you actually do all of the exercises that have been recommended! Often these resources are just as valuable as the paid courses offered by the teacher (the same goes for podcast, books and blog posts).
- My Ultimate Morning Routine Guide
- 7 Simple Days: A Free Simple and Intentional Living Challenge from Jennifer at Simply Fiercely
- 7 Day Mindfulness Challenge from Catherine at The Blissful Mind
STEP 5. CREATE A PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT ROUTINE
I’ve found that the easy way to do daily personal development work has been to make time for it everyday (instead of hoping to ‘find’ the time).
I like to spend 30 minutes learning (and then doing what I’ve learned) after my morning workout. Part of the reason I do it this way is because it really sets me up for an amazing day but if I’m honest, the biggest reason is because it just doesn’t happen if I leave it until later!
Know that when you’re creating a personal development routine, just like a morning routine, it’s going to be challenging at first. You’re literally trying to work against your brain’s autopilot settings, which is easy while you’re motivated but harder once that motivation’s gone! With repetition, your personal development routine will become your new autopilot. But until then, don’t expect yourself to want to do the work every day (even if you feel super excited about it now) and do everything you can to make it as easy as possible to stick to! And make sure you start simple, even just 10 or 15 minutes of daily work will be enough to have an impact!
If you need some help putting a routine together, make sure you download my ultimate morning routine guide!
BONUS: DOCUMENT YOUR JOURNEY
I have a daily vlog called 365 Days of Personal Growth that I use to document my personal growth journey. Not only has this taught me so much about myself but I’ve also found that I have naturally amped up the amount of personal development work I’m doing, so I have something to talk about! Plus it’s so amazing to look back on old videos and really see how much progress I’ve made (as personal development can be intangible at times, I’ve found this to be so encouraging).
If you’d like to take your personal development journey to the next level, I highly recommend documenting it – whether publicly or privately! You could start a blog (get all my advice on how to start a blog here), write a daily reflection in your journal, record a podcast or create videos – it’s really up to you! If you’d like a guide to setting up your own 365 Days of Personal Growth, please let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to create one!
I hope this blog post has helped you! As always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
P.S. If you’re a procrastinator, keep reading to learn about my online course for procrastinators called Get Out Of Your Own Way:
Take your life to the next level
Four years ago, I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of procrastination and guilt. Whenever I tried to do simple life tasks (like going to the gym, eating right and organising my time) it felt like I was trying to move mountains!
After work, I was too exhausted to do anything more than make food and lay in bed watching another episode of my favourite show. I kept telling myself I deserved a break, but I never enjoyed it. I felt guilty for wasting my time but I didn’t stop (and when I did find myself with time to do the things I wanted, I just kept procrastinating – gahh!).
And I wish it stopped there, but then I beat myself up for procrastinating! I felt like I was behind everyone else and letting everyone down, so I procrastinated even more.
No matter how many hours I spent reading motivation articles on Pinterest or how many times I filled out a new planner, I just couldn’t make myself change – even though I knew I was the one stopping myself from progressing. And I had all the advice right in front of me!
And because this whole situation was frustrating AF (and I knew I was better than that, even though I didn’t have the evidence to prove it) I dedicated myself to figuring out how to stop sabotaging my own success.
After trying hundreds of different things, it finally clicked! And this year I’ve been able to quit my full-time job for blogging, I’m more productive and focused than I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve finally stopped feeling like I’m behind! Plus it’s actually easy to workout everyday and eat healthy (which I never thought would be possible).
And since everything I’ve learned has COMPLETELY changed my life, I decided to put the very best of it together in a step-by-step course!
My online course for procrastinators
Get Out Of Your Own Way is a self-paced online video course that gives you the tools and mindset shifts you need to stop procrastinating, follow through with all your plans and have the courage to finally pursue your dreams – even if your life is totally overwhelming and you have no idea what you want to do!
I’ll just let you know that this course won’t be for you if you’re looking for quick-fix procrastination tips (let’s be real – you’ve seen all those already and they haven’t worked) or you’re afraid to dig deep and uncover the real reasons you’ve been holding yourself back.
But if you’re ready to make a change and need someone to guide you through the very first step – it could be just the thing you need!
I love love love all the tips and advice in this post. Especially co-coordinating your goals with your teachers, that makes perfect sense because sometimes we can love listening/watching someone we admire but have no connection to how to apply their advice to our lives because our goals are not in line to what they are teaching.
Thank you for helping me see that clear and simple concept.
Brooke Castillo is #GOALS absolutely love how powerful and valuable her content is, and I also love love love Smart Twenties, too! Thanks for sharing such a well thought out post with us. I think I’m going to ask for an online course from a fellow blogger for Christmas – would love to be able to learn from a gift this year.
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