The 3 Layers of Learning in Personal Development

There are many ways to learn and grow as an individual, using a variety of tools. But not all of them work as effectively, and each tool entails a unique mix of advantages and disadvantages.

I’ve been involved in the personal development field for more than a decade: first as a practitioner only, then as a trainer, and now as a coach. In time I’ve reached the perspective that there are only 3 major tools a person can use in their self-improvement, and each one signifies a certain layer of learning.

The higher you go with these tools and the deeper you go in these layers of learning, the better results you achieve in your self-development. So I’d like to talk about these layers and help you get a better image of what you can do to see the changes you want to see in your life.

Layer #1: Articles

The internet is riddled with how-to articles on every imaginable personal development topic. Such articles are the first and most basic tool for self-improvement.

Articles are usually short and simple, each one only takes a few minutes to read, they are fairly easy to find, and most of them are free. So it’s obvious why, when facing a problem in life, people are quick to jump online to search for some articles with advice on how to solve it.

The trouble is that, although reading articles is a good start to learning how to deal with a certain problem, if the problem is fairly complex (and most personal development problems are), it will not be nearly enough.

This is why often, people who try to solve intricate issues like a lack of confidence, poor social skills, anger problems or toxic relationships just by reading some articles, although they make some progress, they fail to fully fix the issue or they take a reaaaally long time. The tools of the next layer may just do the trick though.

Layer #2: Books

booksBooks are the next level in personal development. When you feel like you’re not getting good enough solutions for a problem from articles, it’s wise to look for and pick up a good book addressing your type of problem. This can be a physical book, an e-book, an audio guide, etc.

As a general rule, books provide a much better learning and growth experience for a few keys reasons:

  • They offer more in-depth advice, which works better when put into practice than the more superficial advice you find in articles.
  • They address the multiple facets of a problem, from more angles than articles do, because they have the space to do so.
  • They typically organize all the info into a system, a method, which is much easier to apply then a bunch of scattered tips and advice.
  • People who write books tend to be more competent than people who write only articles, which makes for a higher quality of information on average in books.

Of course, books have the disadvantage that they cost money, although usually not that much. Price tag considered though, if you’re serious about making a crucial change in an area of your life, it’s highly valuable to get at least one book on that topic instead of stopping at reading articles.

I’ve read many personal development articles over the years, but I’ve also invested in many dozens of books, and looking back, it was definitely worth it.

Layer #3: Coaching

Coaching is in my view the most advanced tool for personal development, and it reaches the deepest layer of learning. By ‘coaching’ I mean any type of one-on-one learning, whether it’s coaching, counseling, therapy, etc.

Coaching people on a daily basis, I understand its dynamics and I’ve witnessed its benefits clearly. The main reason why coaching is a very powerful tool has to do with the fact that, being a one-on-one experience, everything is entirely customized to deal with your particular issues, in your particular circumstances.

When you work with a coach, you move from, for instance, “here is how to gain confidence in general” to “here is how you can gain confidence, given your specific beliefs, personality structure, lifestyle, and life experiences.” Plus, you get constant support to implement effectively all the insights you’ve gained. And that matters, a lot.

The major drawback of coaching is that it costs, and it costs considerably more than books. While you’ll usually spend $20 to $50 on a good book (physical, digital, or audio), you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for a full-fledged coaching program.

Provided you find a good coach, I believe it’s definitely worth it though. But I also realize that for many folks, such a financial investment is too much for their current possibilities.

So if you have a meaningful goal you wanna achieve and you can afford some coaching to help you, I definitely encourage you to use it. You’ll see much, much better and faster results with reliable one-on-one support. Otherwise, consider both books and articles.

Of course, working with a bad coach will probably help you less than reading a good book and applying it on your own. And a bad book will likely help you less than a few good articles. But a good coaching program is net superior to a good book, which is net superior to a few good articles.

On the assumption of competent authors and providers, it’s worth shifting your self-improvement from articles-based to books-based, and then, if you can, to coaching-based. By investing some money in the right tools, you save a lot of precious time and you get way better results.

For more personal development and social success advice and articles from me, I invite you to join my free newsletter. And to take your learning to the next level, check out my Conversation Confidence audio-book.

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