What is personal development?
Some people scoff at personal development and see it all as another of those New Age scams. Others cannot see any need to improve themselves as they are clearly already perfect in every way, in their own minds if not in others. Still others are reluctant to indulge as, at some level, they are frightened of what they may discover. And of course, personal development activities can threaten the equilibrium of fragile constructions of personality or world view.
But in a world in which personal development is often a workplace requirement and a prerequisite for advancement, the luxury of denial is often a luxury some can no longer afford.
If you google this phrase in a search engine or in Google Images, you will almost certainly be led to sites or images that are more ‘Professional Development’, the intention being to make you into a more productive worker.
As wonderful as this might be for your employer or your bank balance, the real goal of Personal Development is more your development as a human entity rather than as a work resource (although it can have the same effect).
The glut of self-help books of the last 30 or so years is one manifestation of the burgeoning Personal Development industry, while the latest seems to be the growing industry of life coaching. And like those books, in the gamut of courses, coaches and gurus who promise personal development in a huge variety of methods or experiences, there are a few gems amongst a lot of dross – and some gurus who should have health warnings attached!
The benefits of personal growth and development
As an individual, there are good reasons to engage in some personal development without letting it morph into an obsession.
The ancient Greeks coined the dictum “Know thyself!” as the first step in any path to personal growth as an individual. And getting to know yourself, what drives you and what may be holding you back from achieving your goals or desires in whatever area of life in which you feel the need is surely the most profound reason for starting the journey along the road to ‘Personal Growth and Development’.
If you learn a bit more about how and why you think and act as you do, if you can work out what unconscious influences may be blocking your progress, how can this have anything but a beneficial effect? The problems of our society are often played out by people who refuse to examine these drives and inhibitions, who would rather stagnate and entropy than grow and blossom, or who are simply so completely unaware of what moves them to behave or live their lives as they do, that they function more by impulse and instinct than any discernible direction. Personal development can free them (and often the people condemned to suffer alongside them) from their psychological bondage.
And at its best, personal development can lead to happier and enormously fulfilling relationships and lives, and to a sense that wherever you see your major contribution to the world (e.g. your career) can bring you a greater sense of self-actualisation.
You may engage in personal development courses and activities to achieve any or all of the following benefits:
- a greater self-awareness and self-knowledge
- improved sense of identity and self-worth
- the development or definition of motivation
- the discovery and/or development of strengths and talents
- spiritual development
- identification of what would result in greater self-actualisation
- achievement of one’s potential
- building employability and ability to function in groups
- enhancement of quality of life
- improvement of mental and physical health
- fulfilment of goals and aspirations
- developing the courage and commitment to make major life changes
- improving your social abilities and relationship potential
- improving your financial security and potential for financial success
Should we be trusting our intuition after all?
Intuition was belittled for most of the 20th Century as part of the superstitious nonsense rational man (always “Man”) should never heed. Thus ‘Women’s Intuition’, was usually associated with a joke, and the whole idea of acting on your instincts was downgraded and ridiculed.
But recent changes in thinking, even in quite surprising quarters, are suggesting that we should perhaps be listening to that inner voice more often.
Strictly designed and controlled experiments by the US Institute of HeartMath have shown subjects demonstrating statistically significant results, suggesting that they were able to anticipate being shown a distressing image, as opposed to a pleasant one, 5-7 seconds before actually seeing the image. Researchers concluded that the consistent results strongly suggested an intuitive anticipation by subjects of what they would shortly see. Such results have been replicated in a variety of quite different sorts of experiments in different places.
This has given increasing credence to the idea that intuition does in fact exist. After all, animals certainly seem to show it, if their behaviour prior to natural disasters is any indication.
And even the US armed forces seem to be getting on board, as they have been setting up similar experiments after some soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq reported feeling a sudden sense of imminent danger just before being attacked by enemy forces.
So, if you get the sudden impulse or feeling that it might be a good idea to do some personal development, perhaps you should act upon it!