“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Yesterday I was at a birthday party of one of my best friends, who just turned 30. One of the guests asked me what I currently do, so I told him I’m building something in Personal Development …

… which earned me a blank stare from him! As the seconds ran by I could literally see him articulating the question: “What is Personal Development?”

So I was trying to find common ground by telling him Personal Development is a bit like Self-Help, but more proactive from my perspective. Just like Self-Improvement, which he had an understanding for. The fact that he obviously was lacking some real personal development of his own, got me into elaborating on the topic more and more, earning more and more interest from him…

A Definition of Personal Development

Personal Development is the conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills. [Tweet this!]

Those skills include my mind, my body, my spirit as well as my level of success in all areas of life, however I may define that. The ultimate goal of Personal Development for me is to be a self-realized human being. That means living consciously at my full potential and reaching real happiness in my life.

By progression I mean that there are essential steps to take when starting out with Personal Development. I believe that in the process of personal growth there are specific milestones to reach, and that without tackling these, personal growth is not really possible or at least not complete.

Maybe you are still not convinced that Personal Development is for you and you may still ask “Why?” The reason is simple:

Life is just better when we have done work on ourselves. [Tweet this!]

And that includes our mental, physical, emotional, social and financial life. I think it’s fair to say:

Personal Development makes you happy. [Tweet this!]

You can’t really argue with that goal…

How to Start Personal Development

So how can you get started on your own journey of personal growth. Or if you have already started to consciously follow personal development, how can you get to the next level? During my now over 10 years work on that topic, I identified several of those milestones mentioned above.

There is the basic motivation to improve yourself. It’s either coming from inspiration and you are looking to get better than you already are, or it comes out of desperation: something unpleasant challenges you to grow. For instance, what brought you here today?

One of the first things you need is something I would sum up as acceptance. Acceptance means to see your life / your situation as it really is and accept that. Stop rationalizing things you are truly unhappy about and tell yourself the truth. That may also mean you have to look at areas of your life where it really can be painful to accept the status quo. If you connect to the truth you have laid the most important basis to really grow. You have to know where you stand. From there you can move forward. Without that it’s just not working. Period.

I think the most essential things in Personal Development deal with how you look at the world and how you see yourself in the world, which then determines how you act in the world. Are you a victim or a winner? Do you see yourself as self-confident or not? Are you in control or not? Are you successful? Are you happy or not, and in what parts of your life.

Making the Unconscious Conscious

Much of it is about making the unconscious conscious. That’s what this blog is really all about (and then to do the work). It’s always the first part to become conscious of how we really work on the inside. Only then we can get control over it. For instance the idea from above of telling yourself the truth, acceptance, is just the same: to make the unconscious reality, that we may have ignored before, conscious. Just that we can make progress now, while before it wasn’t even on our radar – in was just unconscious.

In psychology this is called the four stages of competence:

Quote from Wikipedia:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Makes sense. And in Personal Development we are talking about this process for our whole personality. During this process we make unconscious beliefs that limit us conscious (see my article How to Change Self-Limiting Beliefs). We take responsibility for ourselves and stop pointing to others for results that we are responsible for. (see Take Responsibility in Your Life). This moves us back to power again, since we are the one in the driving seat. We are response-able, which enables us to dream again, set a life-vision and set some exciting new goals for our life (see The Fastest Way to Set Motivating Goals).

We learn to get more energy (see How to Increase Your Energy) and how to use it intelligently. We get more self-awareness and improve our mental focus (see How to Develop a Laser-Sharp Mental Focus). We develop a personal development plan that will guide us to where we really want to go.

There are a lot of more things to improve in our own personal growth. But with those mentioned tackled, I think we start to lay a strong the foundation for Personal Development.

So, next time someone asks me  “What is Personal Development?” I may just give him a link to this post.

And coming back to the question, what would you have said?
What is Personal Development for yourself?