Reading & Applying Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina – Chapter Two, Love

“One of the fundamental choices you face in every encounter is the choice to approach or avoid.” – Steve Pavlina

The second of Pavlina’s three core principles is love, and chapter two explains and explores the idea fully. I think this chapter nicely captures Steve’s strengths as a writer and thinker; by applying his experimental, programmer’s mentality to a subject as squishy as love he shows that it is an exceedingly practical quality and defines ways to develop it. His somewhat formulaic writing style is, paradoxically perhaps, perfectly matched with this particular topic, and it’s been my favorite chapter so far.

As the opening quote suggests, Steve defines love simply and effectively as connection and engagement. Crucially, this connection is a continuum that can include the ways we feel about work, hobbies, and inanimate objects as well as animals and people. He says, “In the long run, your life becomes a reflection of what you choose to connect with most often.”

Direct engagement is a prime virtue in his view—if you’re interested in someone, for example, you should just walk up to them and say hello. And, we should resist “silly rules” that keep us from engaging. For example, we shouldn’t let religious strictures keep us from examining other religions. He cites his veganism, which grew out of a month long long experiment with vegetarianism that he undertook simply because it, “seemed interesting.”

In other words, there is no substitute for connection and engagement. Reading and thinking and observing will only go so far; direct experience, of some form, is valuable and unavoidable and it’s a form of love.

Defining love this simply makes it possible to define ways to improve at love. For example, one can deliberately learn communications skills which will, in turn, improve connections with other people and increase the amount of love in your life.

One idea he proposes was new to me; “… as I’ve deepened my own communion with myself by exploring my thoughts in writing, my external world has shifted to reflect that internal growth… The more I commune with myself on the inside, the deeper my relationships with others become.” In other words, Steve has found that by feeling more deeply connected with himself he has more or less automatically found himself in deeper connection with others, and that people open up to him more readily, even in initial conversations. Since journaling is one of the methods he suggests for deepening this internal communion, and since I’m recommitting to the practice after the recommendation in chapter one, I should (if Steve’s right) begin to experience this myself and I will update this entry with my thoughts after a few weeks. In truth, as I write this, just a few days of journaling and evening meditation already seems to be deepening my connection with my partner, and with work associates.

Steve then mentions inherent connection, the idea that at some level or in some way we are all one person anyway. And thus, he connects one of the most sublime of spiritual ideas with self-improvement—I like that about Personal Development for Smart People. He says:

“You don’t have to blindly accept the philosophy behind this idea in order to benefit from it. You can apply it just by using your imagination. The next time you’re with a group of people, imagine that each person you meet is already connected to you. Assume the bond of love is already there, and see what happens.”

The chapter closes with some practical tips for overcoming fear of rejection and poor social skills, and some exercises. One of them, the ‘Time Travel Meditation’ interests me and will be easy to apply in my evening meditation period. So, in the spirit of the chapter, I’ll directly engage with it and update this post with my observations.

In short, I thought this was a great chapter. It puts forth interesting and useful ideas, and is perfectly suited to Steve’s fairly dry writing style. It also contains a personal story, about Steve meeting his (now ex) wife, and the sense of connection that was fundamental to her personality.

Next post: Power!

Steve Pavlina’s blog is here.

P.S. If you like this essay, you’ll love my new eBook, Confessions of a Heavy Thinker.

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