The Seven Deadly Sins of Personal Development

Personal development’s seven deadly sins are especially dangerous because when you are the sinner, you may not see it. In such a state of sin against your own growth, you often blind yourself to the truth of what you are doing.

It is critical to learn to identify when you are blocking your own growth. Here are the seven deadly sins, as well as how to know if they apply to you. If none of the following are relevant to you, then refer to sin #1 or #7, or both.

1. Arrogance

Motto: I am better than you.

If you have a better than complex, you’ll have a hard time finding reasons to grow. After all, you are already head and shoulders above the rest. People should be looking to you as a standard of excellence, right?

How to know if it applies to you: You only compare yourself favorably to others, failing to see and acknowledge their strengths, especially when their strengths outweigh your own. You get anxious around people with high levels of knowledge, skill, expertise or other admirable qualities, fearing your won’t measure up, or needing to prove you are better than.

2. Resistance

Motto: Back off!

Resisting is like defensiveness. You want to avoid the issue at hand. You don’t want to explore whether or not you were rude to your wife, for example. If you do enter the discussion, it is to defend yourself or point out how your actions are justified.

If you have a basic resistance to hearing anything uncomfortable, you are missing out on most of your opportunities to develop as a person. Much of personal development involves understanding your deficiencies or lack of enlightenment and moving on to new and more productive places. If you resist your lack, you pass on the opportunity to move beyond it.

How to know if it applies to you: You use the words yes, but a lot! You feel bodily tension anytime you are confronted with something emotionally painful. You tense up and fight back when someone thinks you are wrong. You don’t like to be contradicted. You feel victorious whenever you are proven right. To you, there is nothing quite like winning an argument and feeling vindicated.

3. Greed

Motto: More, more, more!

Ah, the good things in life! You can’t get enough money, cars, and food, yes, but social recognition and status, even more so! At some level you are not convinced there is enough to go around, so you pursue the good things as if involved in some sort of contest. The greediest people are stingy with the most precious resource of all – time.

Of course, the good things in life come to generous people, too, only generous folks tend to enjoy them more because they also get the pleasure of sharing and contributing to their family and community. Greedy people miss collaborative opportunities, genuine connection to other people and the pure joy of sharing. If you are greedy, you may not even see most of the real opportunities for happiness that pass you by every day.

How to know if it applies to you: If you wonder whether or not you tend to be greedy, you should begin to ask around. Begin asking people if you are selfish, greedy or hesitant to share the spotlight, share the wealth, share the glory. Or, ask the other way – do others think of you as a generous person or not all that giving?

If asking others about your potential greed annoys you, then you probably have a greed problem. Or refer to sin #1 or #7.

4. Fear

Motto: I can’t.

The little voice in your head whispers in mildly sinister tones: You can’t do it. You aren’t good enough. You will fail. Too many things will go wrong. It isn’t safe. The result is fear of failure, or general anxiety and avoidance of risk. It keeps you in a box, on solid, familiar ground. You know the voice is merely a haunt from the distant past, but it is very powerful nevertheless.

Giving in to fear is perhaps the most common block to growing. We fear the unfamiliar. Growing always takes us into unfamiliar territory.

How to know if it applies to you: The above paragraphs hit home for you. You have unfulfilled wants and dreams that you suspect are achievable, but you resist moving forward with them. You can hear the subtle voices in your head, reminding you of supposed limitations.

5. Ignorance

Motto: Huh?

Since we don’t know what we don’t know, we are all ignorant to varying degrees. The goal, then, is to reduce our ignorance on a consistent basis through reading, connecting with others, coaching, skill building, education and so forth. The less ignorant we become, the more problems we can solve. The more we know, the more we can offer valuable service to others.

Who can build an inter-dependent life around ignorance? Nobody.

How to know if it applies to you: To the degree you are ignorant, you depend upon other people for the necessities of life. High levels of ignorance require high dependency. Total ignorance equals total dependency. Low levels of ignorance make independence and interdependence possible. To what degree are you emotionally dependent upon other people?  This will correlate to your level of emotional intelligence.

The solution? Educate yourself. Get coaching. Hang out with people who know what you want to know. Get on the path toward personal enlightenment and you will soon find yourself able to make an incredible contribution to your community.

6. Blame

Motto: It’s your fault.

Such a handy little device, blame rescues the insecure from having to take responsibility. And it is so versatile. You can blame anything on anyone. One time my son hauled off and smacked his sister. After she came to me crying, I set out to investigate. Of course, my son didn’t do anything wrong, according to him. I was just holding my arm out and she ran into it, he said.

Yep, there a million ways to blame others, even super sneaky ways, like hurting yourself. One client told me he wasn’t looking for a job or considering going to college because his parents sucked. “Why should I make any effort to live a wonderful life when they were so crappy to me all the time?” he asked. I am the son they raised. This is what they get.

It is impossible to grow as a person if nothing is your responsibility. If others are to blame, then only others have the chance to make course corrections.

How to know if it applies to you: You feel resentment toward others. You feel like life is not fair and you can’t improve yourself because of it. You don’t believe there is anyone capable of supporting you emotionally. In short, you are angry.

7. Denial

Mottos: That’s not true. It can’t be so. It doesn’t affect me. It is irrelevant. I don’t understand. Nothing is wrong. I’m not mad at you, no. Everything will turn out just fine. All is well. And so on!

Here it is, folks, the mother of all personal development sins! In fact, all of the other sins, including the ones not mentioned, contain elements of denial. Denial is so powerfully oppressive that it can cost you your life. Denial has had a role in a million divorces, a billion jobs lost, millions of premature deaths, and endless reigns of terror by dictators, religious fanatics and cult leaders, sociopathic personal growth gurus and even the Holocaust. The power of the human mind to believe something other than the obvious is as magnificent as it is dangerous.

Denial consists of a simple blindness to the truth.

It is not my fault. How could it be?
Just one more drink won’t hurt anything.
Let’s bite the bullet and get that luxury car. We will be able to afford it soon.
If I had more X, I’d be happy.
Yeah, the divorce didn’t affect me.
If it weren’t for the (racial group) we’d be happy.

How to know if it applies to you: Denial certainly DOES apply to you. The question is how and where and at what cost. Some people deny life-altering truths like the fact that they do not really love their spouse. Others deny harmless things, like how long it will take to weed the garden.

What are you denying? If you really want to know, get in the habit of asking yourself the question “What do I NOT want to know right now?”


In short, the seven deadly personal development sins apply to us all (if not to you, again, see #1 and #7). How we manage them makes the difference between a life well-lived and one that we’d rather forget.

Your challenge for the week

Listen for the mottos mentioned in this article coming from the little voice inside you. If you hear one, give it consideration and see if you can resist the temptation of sinning against your growth as a person.  It will involve becoming more honest with yourself and possibly others. It will require vulnerability and possibly having to say you are sorry. This is good. It means you are growing as a person. It creates happiness. Now that you all know what these sins are, you are responsible for not doing them anymore.

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