Tough, Challenging & Beautiful

This post looks at recent journal entries from 11 years ago to provide guidance about the process of personal development. In doing so the post offers reassurance that, although it sometimes seems hard, it is the most fulfilling work we can do for ourselves. It can be difficult, demanding and frustrating, but it is also captivating, illuminating and empowering.

The inspiration for this post is a presentation on ‘Personal Development & Transactional Analysis‘ I gave last week to a team of people. Their feedback afterwards suggested they had all been given much upon which to reflect. They found themselves questioning their behaviour and taking a closer look at themselves. Some did so in a tentative way, as if they might not like what they see. Others had begun to analyse themselves before the presentation had even ended. These are all natural and familiar reactions when we are shown the reasons for our behaviour and the effects of our interactions with each other.

The idea that we make strategic decisions very early in our lives is a fascinating one, if a little unnerving. When we are told those decisions are based on the environment we grew up in, we immediately begin to reflect. And when we look for more clues, focusing on the (parental) messages we received during that time, we realise we have a weight of evidence to consider. Thereafter, it is only natural to begin to question things and to experience some insecurity regarding the significance of it all. And that isn’t easy.

This becomes clear in the post ‘Progress Report’, which summarises much of my situation at the time, eight months into my four-year training. It is a hard account of where I stood and it serves as a reminder of how difficult the process can be. It starts on a positive note about how well I am doing, but goes on to explain how demanding the work is and how self-awareness means tackling life’s pain on a conscious level. Looking at it like that, we can be forgiven for drawing negative conclusions.

Indeed, during last week’s presentation, and again afterwards, I stressed that everyone needs to remember the positives of who they are and know that they already have a great deal going for them. The work of self-awareness and personal development simply aims to make us even better, even more effective than we already are. For that to happen, we have to focus on the aspects which need improving. But we should not lose sight of what is already good. That is just as important and is highlighted in the post ‘Positive Reflection’.

All too often we get caught up in analysis. Analysing uses the mind and it has been well documented in these pages (here, for example), how our mind can make life difficult for us. So following the presentation I directed the attendees to a blog entry I had posted that morning from my journal. ‘Observe Rather Than Analyse’ tells us there is no need for analysis because observation, together with the way we feel when we observe, will tell us all we need to know. This is reinforced in another recent journal entry, ‘Stay With the Feelings’. Analysing may seem like a good idea and sometimes it is, but it can often distract and mislead rather than help us.

Impatience is another stumbling block. When we start on this work the natural desire is to sort things out immediately; to analyse and to fix everything now. But that is not possible. Nor is it advisable to even try. We must remember to be patient. ‘Transformation Takes Time’ is a short post which raises this point; and the most recent journal entry from 11 years ago, ‘Slowly’, refers predominantly to daily tasks, but is equally as relevant when applied to personal growth.

Nobody who has achieved greatness has done so quickly. And they have all had to work hard at some stage. Wherever I look in the sports pages of newspapers and magazines, I read about how hard the successful teams and individuals work and how they apply themselves in a disciplined way to their goal of becoming the best. Of course, there are people from all walks of life who have a natural talent and so do not have to work as hard as others. But they are at risk of wasting some, most or all of the talent they have because of this. Or at least, of not being able to appreciate what they have as much as the less talented who have worked twice as hard.

I wrote a post about personal development being like learning a language. When I was learning German I used to envy the bilingual people who had grown up being able to speak two languages without even trying. But, as it turns out, being able to speak fluent German remains one of my greatest achievements because I worked so hard to achieve it. The other great achievement of my life is my personal development.

It takes time but eventually we see that we are making progress, which is the subject of the entry, ‘Becoming More Effective’. Having said all of this, I have to point out that one of the best aspects of personal development is that we can start straight away. As soon as we open our eyes we begin to see and, even with this initial level of awareness, we are compelled to behave differently.  I spoke to one attendee of the presentation who, within hours of it finishing, was making changes to the way he communicated.

One final point is the level of intensity with which we work on ourselves. My journals are being published here in real time. They will run from March 2011 until October 2014 and they contain the account of the four years I spent working on myself and training for the work I do now. It was an intense experience. That approach is not for everyone. I did it that way because I wanted to, but it is equally possible to take a more relaxed, moderate approach. In fact, it is my aim to offer my clients the same intensity of learning I received but in a gentler way.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how we do it. There are always going to be times when it is tough and there are always going to be times when it is challenging. But there will also always be times when it is beautiful.

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