Steve Pavlina: Why Personal Growth is So Important

Photo by Matthew Fang

In the core of your consciousness, what kind of being are you? Are you brave or cowardly? Are you truthful or dishonest? Are you generous or selfish? Are you responsible or irresponsible? Life in the physical universe exposes your true inner qualities.

These are challenging questions by Steve Pavlina in the following conversation with Mary Jaksch. Read on to be inspired by what Steve Pavlina, one of the most successful authors on personal growth, has to say about personal development:

Mary Jaksch: Steve, you’re easily the most successful personal development blogger on the Internet, attracting more than two million monthly readers to your website And your new book Personal Development for Smart People is about to become a bestseller. I hear that it’s just cracked the Amazon top 100 list. And it’s still three months away from release! When I read your website, I get the feeling that you are totally passionate about personal growth.

Why do you think personal growth is so important?

Steve Pavlina:
I think growth is the primary reason we find ourselves here on earth.
I came to this conclusion while pondering the seemingly unavoidable fact that someday I’m going to die, and I don’t even know when that will happen.

You must realize that everything you’re experiencing in your human life is temporary. Your body, your home, your career, your possessions, your human relationships — all temporary! When you die, all of those things will be left behind.
The only thing that can possibly survive your physical death is your consciousness, your awareness of existence. Now you may believe that even your consciousness won’t survive, and that’s fine. But at the very least, you must recognize the simple truth that nothing rooted in physicality can endure forever.
Facing the inevitability of death can be rather disturbing at first. But if you fully accept this as true, it helps you see the physical world in a whole new way. You realize that there’s no point in living for anything physical because in the long run, it’s all dust. But you still find yourself here in the physical world. Why? If it all ends in dust, then what could possibly be the point? Why exist as a physical being with a sense of consciousness and self-awareness? How shall you live if you know with certainty that it’s all going to end someday?
The answer I found to these questions was growth. By growth I’m referring to the development and expansion of your consciousness, the very core of your being, independent of your physical experiences. If you find the word consciousness too abstract, you can loosely substitute the word mind.

In the core of your consciousness, what kind of being are you? Are you brave or cowardly? Are you truthful or dishonest? Are you generous or selfish? Are you responsible or irresponsible? Life in the physical universe exposes your true inner qualities. Your human experience ultimately reflects back to you who you are on the inside. Consequently, human life gives you the opportunity for deep self-understanding, enabling you to experience growth and change. The physical world gives consciousness the opportunity to experience itself objectively. This is a tremendous gift.
We all experience growth while we’re here, but most people still grow unconsciously. Life constantly reflects back to them who they are, but they aren’t fully aware that this is happening. Once enough lessons have been learned in the unconscious stage, the next step is to progress to conscious growth. At this point we accept that the reason we’re here is to grow — to use the physical world as a tool to examine and expand our inner selves. For example, do you want to be more courageous, more honest, more loving, more powerful, or more peaceful? Physical life will offer you the opportunity to experience whatever form of conscious growth you desire. There are fears to face, truths to discover and accept, love lessons to learn, challenges to overcome, etc.
When you center your life around conscious growth, life reveals a truly magical beauty.
Mary Jaksch: I’m particularly struck with your idea that “the physical world gives consciousness the opportunity to experience itself objectively”! I love the fact that you are not just concentrating on your own growth, but are passionat about helping others to develop. You reach out to many on your blog. And now your upcoming book Personal Development for Smart People will help many more people.

What are the most important ideas that you want people to understand through reading your book?

Steve Pavlina:

The most important idea is to learn and understand the 7 principles of growth: truth, love, power, oneness, authority, courage, and intelligence. These are the tools you’ll use to develop your consciousness. The first three principles of truth, love, and power are the most important since the other four can be derived from them. The first half of the book explores these principles in detail.

The second half of the book explains how to apply these principles to improve your results in every area of your life, including your habits, career, finances, relationships, health, and spiritual development.

What’s unique about this book is that it takes a holistic approach to personal growth instead of a fragmented approach. You don’t have to learn different rules and strategies for your health, relationships, career, etc. You only need to learn and understand the 7 core principles. Since these principles are universal, you can use them to help you grow in any situation. These principles are especially useful for diagnosing and solving tricky problems, like figuring out whether or not to leave a shaky relationship… or deciding how and when to make a major career move.

The core idea of the book is simply this:

The most intelligent thing you can possibly do with your life is to grow. Focus on bringing more truth, more love, and more power into your life, and everything else you desire will follow.

Mary: I’ve been reading some of your articles on I think you’ve now written about 700. The quantity and consistent high quality is truly dazzling!

Which of your articles is your all-time favorite?

Steve: Tough question! Perhaps my all-time personal favorite would be The Courage to Live Consciously. I wouldn’t say it’s the best article I’ve written, but it’s very special to me because it’s the first article I wrote for I poured a lot of myself into the writing. I especially love the closing paragraph, so much that I included a variation of it in my book:

Don’t die without embracing the daring adventure your life is meant to be. You may go broke. You may experience failure and rejection repeatedly. You may endure multiple dysfunctional relationships. But these are all milestones along the path of a life lived courageously. They are your private victories, carving a deeper space within you to be filled with an abundance of joy, happiness, and fulfillment. So go ahead and feel the fear – then summon the courage to follow your dreams anyway. That is strength undefeatable.

I think the article I enjoyed writing the most was 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job. I originally wrote it as a satirical/humorous piece, laughing the whole time I was typing. I was surprised when dozens of people wrote to tell me that it was the push they needed to quit their unfulfilling jobs. I found it interesting that a humor piece could have such an impact.

The most difficult article for me to write was The Meaning of Life: Intro because it was about a very dark time in my life. I had to relive some very intense experiences as I wrote it.

Mary Jaksch : Your article The Meaning of Life: Intro is quite extraordinary. You’ve certainly tasted the lows of of life, as well as the highs. It seems that the hard experiences forged your life purpose. You’ve listed your life purpose as:

  • to live consciously and courageously;
  • to enjoy, increase, and share peace, energy, passion, and abundance;
  • to resonate with love and compassion;to awaken the great spirits within others;
  • to fully embrace this present moment.


Which life purpose is the most important in your eyes?

Steve Pavlina:

Every line of this purpose actually says the same thing from a different perspective, so they’re all equal in my eyes. For example, living consciously is the same thing as being centered in the present moment, and that’s the same as being in a state of unconditional love.

For me the first line gives me the most guidance. Living consciously and courageously means that I must keep turning toward whatever I fear. I live by the mantra, “Whatever I fear, I must face.” Whenever I give in to fear, I turn my back on truth, love, and power.

Mary Jaksch: In your article Quantum Leap you state that personal growth is very, very hard.

What’s your advice to someone starting out in personal growth? What’s the first step?


Steve Pavlina:

Nobody is really just starting out because we’ve all been having growth experiences since we were born. Learning is ongoing. We can’t prevent it.
However, what we can do is assume direct responsibility for our ongoing growth. This is what it means to live consciously. Instead of letting others decide what you’ll learn and how you’ll grow, you decide. You hold the reins.
At this point the first step is to stop and ask yourself, “What do I want?” You don’t need anyone’s permission to decide what you want. You just decide. You have the freedom to choose whatever you want. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s possible. Just give yourself permission to dream. Allow yourself to experience desire.

I reached this point when I was sitting in a jail cell at age 19. I finally woke up to the fact that my life was a train wreck. While sitting in that cell for a few days, I decided it was time to take responsibility for my life. I couldn’t just let life happen to me anymore. That path had literally sent me to jail. Being in jail was a powerful incentive to make some changes.

I began to get in touch with my desires. My first desire was to get out of jail and to stop doing what had landed me there (shoplifting). After that I began setting new goals for myself. I couldn’t fix all my problems over night, but within a few years, my life had improved dramatically, and I was happily pursuing a positive path of my own choosing.

So the first step is to decide. Start focusing your energy on what you want instead of what you don’t want. Give yourself permission to dream.
Mary Jaksch: Dreams are related to passion.In your article Passion vs Self-discipline you wrote: Passion is simply an emotional state, and a temporary and unstable one at that. The reason passion gets so much credit is that it helps motivate action. And action is what generates results.In contrast, you wrote in your article The Meaning of Life: Discover Your Purpose:Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about.

What is your view of passion these days?

Steve Pavlina:

My understanding of passion has certainly evolved since I first launched in 2004. Here are my current thoughts about it.

As you experience life, you’ll find that certain people, activities, situations, and ideas strongly resonate with you while others don’t. Given enough trial and error, you gradually learn which “energies” are compatible with you and which aren’t. When you fill your life with compatible energies, it can be said that you’ve found your passion. In this state you’ll naturally be drawn to take inspired action to achieve your dreams.

Some people stumble upon their passion seemingly by accident, but for most of us it’s not so easy. We have to experiment a lot to discover our best matches in life — the people, activities, and ideas that set our hearts on fire.The role of self-discipline is that we must recognize when we’re stuck in incompatible energies — draining relationships, unfulfilling work, destructive habits, or disempowering spiritual beliefs — and summon the will to get out ASAP. Many people are really bad at disciplining themselves to do that, so they get stuck in situations that are clearly wrong for them. Consequently, they lead low-energy zombie-like lives where escapism (especially through idle entertainment) substitutes for real passion.

The best piece of advice I can give here is that once you’re able to conclude that something isn’t really compatible with your true self, whether it be a job, a relationship, a habit, or something else, QUIT! There’s no honor in remaining loyal to a path that’s clearly wrong for you. Your true passion will not come knocking while you fearfully cling to a poor substitute. If you know your current path is wrong, stop. Just stop. Then try another path.You will surely make some mistakes along the way, but each one will help you clarify what you really want out of life. As you fill your life with compatible energies and release the incompatible ones, you’ll experience ever deeper levels of passion.

For example, before I worked in personal development, I ran a computer game publishing company for 10 years. I enjoyed working in that field when I was in my 20s, but eventually I realized I didn’t want to devote my life to developing entertainment software. Game development was no longer compatible with me. So I made the decision to let it go in order to pursue a new career that I believed would be more compatible with the real me. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m far more passionate about the work I’m doing today.

Mary Jaksch: You have achieved a lot in life already, Steve. But I’m sure that you’re never going to stop developing further.

What is your next big goal? How and what do you want to develop in the future?

Steve Pavlina:
My next big goal is to overhaul my current business model. This is already in progress.

For the past few years, I’ve been generating income mainly from joint-venture promotions, affiliate sales, advertising, and even donations. This model certainly worked well for me as a blogger, but I’ve reached the point where I need a more expansive model. The new business model I envision will include books (Personal Development for Smart People is the first), downloadable products like audio programs, video, speaking, consulting, workshops, and seminars. I might do teleseminars and webinars too. I’ll definitely have to experiment to figure out what works best.

While blogging has been a terrific medium for sharing certain ideas, it has some significant drawbacks. On many occasions I’ve felt unable to express the full richness of some ideas through my blog. Blogging just isn’t a great way to express ideas that are too complex, expansive, or interconnected to compress into an article or short series of articles. For that I need to take advantage of other media that will allow me to explore ideas with much greater depth and expressiveness.

The shift to other media is creating a shift in my business model. Instead of selling advertising, I’ll be selling products. I expect to continue posting free content in my blog, but generating income from product sales will allow me to explore certain topics much more deeply than I’d otherwise be able to.

One major consequence is that this will allow me to turn into an ad-free site, so even visitors who only come for the free content will enjoy a less cluttered presentation.

Mary: Thank you for your wonderful answers, Steve! Here at Goodlife Zen we all appreciate your inspiring responses.

{ 9 trackbacks }


  1. I loved hearing about Steve’s new plans. I also really liked his ideas about passion. I myself have let go of unsupportive relationships and career paths. I just love hearing someone else reinforce it, it brings everything home so much more clearly.

    Thank you!

    Nathalie Lussiers last blog post..Money Talks: How Do You Talk Back?

  2. This is a great read, Mary.

    I’ve never come across Steve Pavlina’s writings and this is certainly interesting.

    I like how Steve suggests that the first step on any pathway to change is to ask oneself “What do I want?” – or indeed, “Where do I want to go?”.

    As with any real life journey, if we don’t have a roadmap before set out, we run the risk of getting lost.

    Worse still, we might take the wrong path completely.

    With personal goals to guide us, we are much better equipped to find our way to true growth.

    Thank you for such a great interview, Mary.

  3. Hi Nathalie!
    It’s hard to let go of paths that don’t work in life. People expect us to tough it out. But that doesn’t makes us happy.

  4. Hi Scott!
    Steve really has something to say. And he says it well.

    I agree about mapping out a path. But maybe we also have to be flexible about how we follow it.

  5. Personal Growth is indeed the most powerful when combined with unconditional love. Very good questions, the interview went perfectly. 🙂

    I submitted this to: Stumble, Digg, Reddit, & @ I encourage everyone to share this indeed 🙂

    Have a Consciously Flexing day,
    ~Nicholas @ Conscious Flex

    Nicholas Powiulls last blog post..Follow Me and My Personal Life on Twitter

  6. Al at 7P says:

    Hi Mary – this was a great interview! I really liked reading some of the
    answers that Steve gave. The quotes from Steve that you highlighted were
    really great lines.

    Al at 7Ps last blog post..The Hero with a Thousand Jobs

  7. Hi Nicholas!

    Thanks for giving this interview a leg-up in the social media. I hope many people enjoy it!

  8. Hi Al!
    When I researched Steve Pavlina for the interview, I compared his first articles with his last. I was interested to see how a writer would develop after writing 700 articles.

    But the amazing thing is that all his articles are of a high standard!

  9. Zendad says:

    I feel stagnant and unproductive when I’m not working towards personal growth tasks. Good Interview!

    Zendads last blog post..Why Kids Are Always Testing Your Limits

  10. CG Walters says:

    The most inspiring thing about Steve’s message is his sincere passion that all should benefit…in the manner best suited to their own spiritual needs.
    Thank you, Mary, for another excellent bit of work.
    Many blessings to you and all you hold dear,

    CG Walterss last blog post..This ‘End of the World’ is a Very Interesting Concept to Us

  11. Hi ZenDad!
    I agree. Life is so short. I want to do so much. Using goals I can really use each year and fill it to the brim and more…

  12. Hi CG!
    Yes, Steve’s passion is infectious. The work is not just for him. He wants others to be happy as well.

  13. Bengt says:

    This is a great interview and it gives me a new view of Steve Pavlina. I have looked at his blog before but found it so-so, now I will give it a second chance.

    Bengts last blog post..Past lives, Consciousness and Oneness

  14. Hi Bengt!
    I’m glad you like the interview. I’ve found some great treasures amongst his 700 articles.

  15. Way to go on landing Steve Pavlina, Mary! I think it’s interesting that he was surprised about the response to 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job. That was one of the first articles of his that I read, and it definitely grabbed my attention. I never would have thought that it was just meant as a work of humor!

  16. Mary,
    Excellent interview! You are able to plumb the depths of a person with your questions — a rare talent. Thanks!

    I like your perspectives and insights, especially this one from your Meaning of Life post: “I strive to dump beliefs that curtail my ability to access my potential while strengthening beliefs that unlock more potential.”

    SpaceAgeSages last blog post..Self-Knowledge

  17. Hi Hunter!
    Yes, Steve’s article “10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job’ was definitely written with tongue so far in the cheek that you can hardly notice the humor.

  18. Hi SpaceAgeSage!
    Doing interviews is my new writing passion. Check out my interview with Liz Strauss over at

  19. Mary,

    This is about the best interview article on personal development that I read.

    You did a great job of bringing out a cohesive view of not just Steve’s work, but of practical and meaningful stages of personal development.

    I was captivated by it. Really well done.


    John Rocheleaus last blog post..3 Reasons and 7 Ways to Live in Creative Joy

  20. Hi John!
    Thank you for your kind words.

  21. This is an informative interview. It is remarkable how each person can learn to evolve and face fears. This is the key to living a more enriching life.

  22. […] Einer meiner Liebligsblogs in der von Steve Pavlina. Mary Jaksch von Goodlife Zen hat mit Steve ein Interview darüber geführt, weshalb persönliches Wachstum so wichtig ist: “Steve Pavlina: Why Personal Growth is So Important“. […]

  23. […] intellectually is a powerful one. It probably helps to explain why Steve Pavlina’s book has entered the Top 100 list three months before its release date. Pavlina writes long, dense, multi-faceted posts with almost […]

  24. I agree with your post. Which is not something I will usually do! 🙂 I enjoy reading a post that will make one think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  25. Jessica says:

    Hey Steve I’m currently in the middle of reading your book and it’s so incredibly inspiring and empowering. Every day I read it my view of reality changes as does my consciousness. I also experience crazy synchronicities. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  26. […] Einer meiner Liebligsblogs in der von Steve Pavlina. Mary Jaksch von Goodlife Zen hat mit Steve ein Interview darüber geführt, weshalb persönliches Wachstum so wichtig ist: “Steve Pavlina: Why Personal Growth is So Important“. […]

  27. Vic says:

    I remember when I get first attracted at Steve’s website. It was when I read his very popular article about 10 reasons why you should never get a job. I even email it to my friends who are very attached to their employment. Steve has done a very exceptional job in his blog. And I think the secret behind is the quality and the length of his posts. I usually don’t like long post, but when I read and get into the middle of his stories, it kind of something is in there that will attract any readers.
    .-= Vic´s last blog ..101 Self Improvement Tips to Optimize Your Life =-.

  28. […] mit Steve ein Interview darüber geführt, weshalb persönliches Wachstum so wichtig ist: “Steve Pavlina: Why Personal Growth is So Important“.Roland Kopp-Wichmann von “Vorsicht: Persönlichkeitsentwicklung!” nennt die […]

  29. […] secret lies in the  fact that you have to become a better person first — one who understands that happiness comes from within — one who understands that by changing […]

  30. […] secret lies in the  fact that you have to become a better person first — one who understands that happiness comes from within — one who understands that by changing […]

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