I have the feeling that I have to write this post. I really want to get out what I think personal development is and especially what it is not. Because what can be confused is that personal development in itself is the only way. Also you could go to another extrem and neglect any positive effect personal development might have for you. It depends on how you define personal development of course. And especially how narrowly or widely you define it.

In my post What is Personal Development? I defined it as:

“Personal Development is the conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills.” ~ Myrko Thum

What personal development is not…

Sometimes you see the notion from the spiritual side that there is nothing real to achieve by personal development. On the other hand you have intellectual hardliners who put spiritual living in the moment into the “mumbo-jumbo” space.

Both perspectives are too extreme and ignorant of what else is out there. Neither of them is what I want to express with Personal Development that Transforms.

Confucius said:

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

And we must aim for not being ignorant, which starts of course with noticing that you are ignorant in some way or the other. I’m not saying improve yourself and ignore the rest and everything will be perfect. And I’m also not saying ignore working on your body and mind and just live in the moment. Both have their place.

Sometimes I also see the idea of personal development is too hard work, you miss life while doing it and eventually it doesn’t pay off anyway. From my perspective this view is flawed on two sides: First personal development doesn’t have to be hard work. At least not your whole life. Of course, sometimes you need to face a challenge in life in order to make progress. And by doing so you master the challenge so you don’t have to face the same again. Which would happen if you would avoid any challenges, they keep coming back. You have to grow.

On the other hand there comes a time when changes are not that hard to do, or even not much inner change is even necessary, because you are on your way and you know who you are.

And what personal development is…

For me personal development is also about finding and going your own way so you can really shine. Then personal development becomes a very enjoyable activity that isn’t hard at all AND still produces great results.

I especially enjoyed what Genpo Roshi said with his triangle of a human being bringing the human and the being side together. Integrating conscious living with self-improvement is no contradiction. From my experience it is the right way to live when you give room for your mind and your spirit as well. The critical distinction here is that you are aware of your spiritual side. That means you know that you can’t “find” yourself in self-improvement. Enhancing your sense of self (ego) may feel good for a while but is no final destination. But that doesn’t mean that self-improvement is wrong. From my point of view, the important thing is the awareness of the spiritual side. And then make the conscious decision to still do self-improvement.

So when you combine self-improvement and spirituality in the idea of personal development you are not ignorant of either side. This is the way I would like to define personal development. That’s why I define it as the conscious pursuit of personal growth with expanding self-awareness.

In the western world view we sometimes are too caught in the doing and the successes, people getting better and breaking records. That’s what gets coverage. I think we need to balance that striving with being as well and need to include that into our personal development to achieve a certain balance in our life.

6 comments

  1. Comment by Myrko

    Myrko Reply September 20, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Sounds good, just do both, that’s the balance.

  2. Comment by Vijaykumar NNN

    Vijaykumar NNN Reply September 19, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Beautiful!! Still I feel I am always striving to become Best in my field. Doing much in net and reding books also used to go mediation retreat yearly once. How to balance myself?

  3. Comment by Myrko

    Myrko Reply September 12, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Derek, exactly my point. Sometimes it looks like people and society seems to prefer polarizing standpoint, when in fact the truth isn’t black and white but mostly the union of all above.

  4. Comment by Derek

    Derek Reply September 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    This is refreshing and verbalizes the inner conflict I used to have between spirituality and self-improvement. The middle way is always the best, albeit the most elusive!

  5. Comment by Myrko

    Myrko Reply September 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Nicely put Kate. The one cannot be without the other.

  6. Comment by Kate

    Kate Reply September 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    “That’s why I define it as the conscious pursuit of personal growth with expanding self-awareness.”

    This is a beautiful way of explaining it!

    So often it seems folks get caught up in doing – learning this skill, reading that book, etc. and they forget to simply BE and thus they lack integration between their ‘work’ and their ‘self’.

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