I have bought, studied and avoided more personal growth programs than most people could even name!There are a good number of valuable and results-producing programs out there. My purpose in this article is simply to give a review of what qualities and characteristics anyone in the market for a personal growth program should be looking for – before they buy into one.The number one thing to watch for in any program? You must be not only allowed, but expected, to take personal responsibility for your own thinking, feelings and actions throughout the program – there is no attempt or expectation for you to hand this over to someone who tells you how to feel, or what to think or say or believe, or what to do.Corollary to this: there should be no push or even subtle expectation that you become a follower (adept, believer) of any single person in the organization providing the materials. The teachings or processes are the important thing to follow – not the personality of their presenter(s).However, it is always good to keep in mind the attitudes and behaviors of the people you will be listening to or studying with as you do the program. Do members of the organization and the teachers “walk their talk”, that is, are they consistently and naturally open-minded, nonjudgmental, positive in word and deed, respectful and loving of practitioners – even if the latter use more than one program to achieve their personal objectives?Corollary to this: do the people leading/presenting the program give you time and space to use the processes on your own – at your own pace, in your own time – without expectation of “deadlines for progress”? Here it is all about comfort and independence as you do the program.Do the providers of the program expect or oblige you (via an auto-ship, pre-pay or other type of program) to buy additional products to “complete” the basic package you have already purchased? Certainly you should be free do so if you get clear and valuable benefits. But if the “basic program” is presented as “complete and all you need” to achieve what the providers state is the outcome of their program – be wary of the requirement to purchase anything else to “achieve the results you came for”.The program you follow should allow you to personally experience the change(s) it promises. If nothing happens in your personal experience, you are not growing – so leave! It is never enough for a teacher to say, “Now you have changed by doing this.” The bottom line test is that you feel a difference, in your own perception, for the better.Corollary to this: does the program have even a simple “measuring tool of progress” for you to use on your own?Next, you really need to start any program in a personal comfort zone – and expect that your zone will be (gently) challenged and then expanded by the program and its processes.A comfort zone, in my view, starts with language: Does the program use, right from the start, words and language that you both understand and are meaningful to you? You should not have to learn a new language to improve your life! Does it give you clear, basic guidance and clearly answer your basic questions to your satisfaction? If you are expected to learn special terminology or ways of speaking – how practical is the process in your everyday life?Elitist? Effective? A special vocabulary may make the program you’ve chosen sound “elite”, but if you are in the market to improve your life – would you rather have “elite” or “effective”? Effective tools are tools that you will use every day – and using them every day is what is going to change your life around, right?Related to this, does the program ask that you make radical changes in any part of your daily living? Ask yourself (and answer honestly), “Will I stick with this new way of doing things?” “Will I give it all up because I am not ready or willing to make anything but gently incremental changes?”Has the organization and its teachers got a track record of success with its past and current students or practitioners? In other words, do they willingly give you testimonials (audios, videos, texts) from real people that have successfully used the program? Are the organization and its teachers people you can trust, even though the process or program they present seems to challenge you? (Remember that to grow means to be challenged!)Does the process, method or program have an inner consistency or thread running through it that speaks to you and that gives you ways to measure your own success or progress in using it?Would you be happy or reluctant to share with loved ones or even strangers what you are doing? That is, are you able to speak in ordinary language about the program? Or are you embarrassed to do so? We are probably better off choosing something that we can share with those around us (if it came to that) because – after all is said and done – you are in the program to make life improvements, right? If someone in your life notices that you have changed and asks you about it – would you rather have the willingness and the words to tell him how you did it… or be in a position to prefer denial that anything has happened?