Photo by asim alnamat

Personal development doesn’t happen in a single therapy or coaching session, weekend retreat, or self-help book. Personal development is a journey- not an event.


What does it mean to be on the journey of personal development? For some it might mean self-improvement. For others it could mean self-discovery and exploration.


What, the traveler may ask, can I do to improve myself? I wonder what makes me think, feel, and react as I do? How can I live my life in a way that gets me more of what I want and less of what I don’t?


Many on the journey wouldn’t characterize their experience as personal development. But no matter what we call it, the desire to change and improve and the capacity for self-reflection seems to be built in.


We all involuntarily react to circumstances from automatic thoughts, feelings, and impulses. For many, the quality and substance of life is pre-determined by programming they are unaware of. Some whose internal influences produce unsatisfactory outcomes feel they are at the mercy of uncontrollable circumstances.


Early in the journey of personal development, because of the correlation between triggering circumstances and undesired experiences, we assume that circumstances are responsible for our suffering. From this perspective, we try to change circumstances hoping to find relief. Failing this, we seek other methods to manage our discomfort.


Eventually, many endure, tolerate, and survive their lives, believing nothing more is possible. But this can lead to unbearable restlessness which demands a solution. A well-timed conversation, a good book, or a social media post strikes a chord and sparks hope and a willingness to find another way. The personal development journey has begun.


Armed with hope and a belief in possibility, the novice traveler becomes a student of personal development. They become eager to learn and are eventually willing to experience the discomfort of truth. Finding an approach that works, they begin to make progress. This generates enthusiasm and optimism and inspires curiosity.


Self-study reveals the automatic nature of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and reactions. Curiosity about this automaticity generates a sense of personal responsibility and yields access to personal power and choice. As more attention is focused on self-awareness, the traveler’s perspective clears up and increasingly reveals a more accurate view of reality.


They shift their attention toward their inner world and develop an increased awareness of the relationship between their responses and their perspective. Awareness expands to reveal the unworkable and automatic patterns behind undesirable outcomes and experiences. This provides the contrast needed to develop empowered responses informed by a clear lens.


The student develops a preference for clarity and, when upset or confused, begins to pause to gain clarity. The pause grants access to inner resources that enable empowered responses to triggering life circumstances. Joy and enthusiasm begin to emerge.


Yet the habits formed during years of operating with a distorted lens persist.


Advancing in their personal development, the student begins the next leg in the journey. They take on the challenge of completing the unresolved past that has fueled and triggered the old reaction habits. The journey continues with ever increasing access to personal qualities and liberties only available when life is viewed through the clear lens of the authentic Self.


Using this article as a key, where would you place yourself on the personal development journey?


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