In Personal Development for Smart People (see my book review here), Steve Pavlina lists the three core principles of personal development as Truth, Love and Power.

When you combine the principles, you get the secondary principles of personal development; Truth combined with Love gives you Oneness, Love and Power combine to give you Courage and Truth with Power gives you Authority. All together, the six principles combine to give you the seventh core principle of personal development: Intelligence.


Steve says that these core principles are universal and cannot be broken down into smaller chunks. I’ve been thinking that if these truly are the core principles of personal development, then their inverse should also be true.

Personal Atrophy for Foolish People


The core principles of personal atrophy, as opposed to personal development, should then be Falsehood, Apathy and Powerlessness.

When you refuse to face the truth, you deceive yourself and live in falsehood, also known as denial.

The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. When you hate, you’re still polarized, but when you’re apathetic you can’t even get yourself to care enough to hate, much less love.

And when you’re powerless, you can hardly muster any ability to change your life.

The more you direct your life towards Falsehood, Apathy and Powerlessness, the more you’ll regress in your life instead of improve.

The secondary principles of personal atrophy are Separation, Timidity and Submission.

When you live in denial and can’t be bothered to care, you feel separated from your life, your surroundings and other living beings.

When you’re powerlessness and apathetic, you live life timidly because you don’t believe you have the power to overcome challenges, and you lack the motivation to even try.

Living in denial and powerlessness causes you to live in submission, or passivity. Instead of being the power in your life, you allow yourself to bow down to circumstances.

The six principles of personal atrophy in their totality become foolishness. Whereas moving towards Truth, Love and Power is a more intelligent way to live your life, moving towards Falsehood, Apathy and Powerlessness is a foolish way to spend it.

Personal Development Vs. Personal Atrophy

I’m not looking to add on to Steve’s book here, I think he did a pretty good job of it already.

I offer the principles of personal atrophy as food for thought, and whereas the seven core principles of personal development are a good gauge to aim for, the seven core principles of personal atrophy can serve as warning signs to tell you where you don’t want to go.

P.S. By the way, I didn’t consult The Steve when I made this…I wonder if I nailed it. What do you think?

P.P.S. After emailing The Steve, I changed ‘Fear’ to ‘Timidity’; Steve reminded me that Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it. I also changed ‘Weakness’ to ‘Submission’, which also makes sense as the opposite of Authority.

P.P.P.S. After thinking more and more about it, I think Steve nailed it in his book. Especially since the inverse principles seem to hold true as well.