Personal development happens – either consciously or unconsciously. The unconscious life is characterized by reactions to a life unchosen. The conscious life requires some work but provides access to personal power and choice.
Unconscious personal development occurs naturally and begins as a matter of survival. If we didn’t develop as persons, we would remain dependent for our entire lives. But most of us do develop over time.
Our belief systems are developed according to the meanings we have attached to the experiences of our lives. Initially, we are not aware of this developmental process.
Our bodies develop according to the natural maturation process partnered with our beliefs about food and physical activity and are influenced by who we associate with in our lives. Out of concerns for fitting in and avoiding rejection or criticism, this is one of the first developmental areas many consciously attempt to influence.
We develop habits and patterns associated with the emotions we feel. We suppress them, freely express them, or use them persuasively. This too, at least at first, is an unconscious developmental process.
We develop our minds through education and influence, initially consuming information until we begin to judge that information as right or wrong, important, or not.
We develop spiritually as we accept the answers to the unsolved mysteries of existence provided by our families and society. Gradually we may reject these ideas or consciously pursue them more deeply.
You may not be aware of the process, but you are involved in some form of personal development.
Conscious personal development occurs when we realize we can have a say in how we develop.
At the core of most of our development lie our beliefs – thoughts that we embrace as true. If we don’t question our beliefs, they rarely change. Conscious personal development begins with an awareness of how one has unconsciously developed.
A common beginning for conscious personal development is marked by some sort of a breakdown. That can look like a financial or career crisis. It can look like a failed relationship, consequences of addiction, or disappointment, discouragement, or failure in any area of life.
The breakdown gets your attention and naturally, you attempt to identify the cause. At first, many assume that the cause of the breakdown is outside of their control or responsibility. They may try to get control of the external circumstance that seems to be source of the breakdown. They might get a new job, put themselves on a budget, threaten to leave their spouse or partner if they don’t change, find a new relationship, move to a different state, etc.
It may take years to recognize that you are the common denominator in repeating patterns. “Why do I keep getting these crappy jobs?” “Apparently all the good men/women are taken.” “The politics in this state are stupid.” These are all thoughts of someone who has not yet realized that rearranging external circumstances puts the cart before the horse.
When, finally, we see that we have the power and the responsibility to make changes, we begin our conscious journey of personal development.
The old saying is that if you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.
I agree. Do something different and you will probably get something different.
Trying and failing to change is a painful experience that can erode self-confidence and could lead to believing change isn’t possible. But it is possible to do something different if you understand why you do what you have always done and are willing and able to go through the discomfort of change.
What do you want your life to look like? How would someone with a life like that believe, think, feel, react, and act?
What would it take to learn how to believe, think, feel, react, and act in that way?
I have experienced all I have described here. I was about 45 years old before I began to effectively influence my personal development. I found a method that helped me to question my thinking and change my beliefs. Then I found a way to heal my past emotional wounds.
I didn’t exactly find power over the circumstances of my life. While I am happy with my life circumstances, they don’t determine my happiness.
But I did recognize that I have the power to honestly look at what makes me tick. I have the power to look at myself and I have the power to choose healing and repair and reinvention.
Conscious personal development can answer the important questions in life:
Who am I and who am I not?
What makes me think, feel, and act as I do?
How can I change the thoughts, feelings, and actions that aren’t working for me?
what do I really want in life?
How can I start living the life I want?
For years I developed unconsciously. It wasn’t until I took responsibility for my personal development that my life reflected an updated version of my personal values and preferences. I know who I am, I understand what makes me think, feel, and act as I do, I know how to change thoughts, feelings and actions that aren’t working for me, I know what I want in life, and I know how to live that life.
You can know these things too if you are willing to consciously take responsibility for your personal development.