This post is about a couple of people I know, whose opinions of personal development have changed dramatically over time. Their examples add further weight to the argument that this work is applicable to everyone’s life. They were both clear about their stance from the very start, communicating their thoughts with an immediacy which suggested they had already given the subject some consideration. In time, however, they changed their minds. One did so over the course of a couple of years, the other in the space of a few months. My role in both instances was to accept their initial assertions and carry on regardless. I never set out to change their minds because the nature of this work means there is no point in persuading someone when they are not interested or don’t believe it can help them. All I know is the difference this work has made to my own life and how much sense it makes when observing the human condition.
The first example is a friend of mine whom I met back in 2011. When I told him what I do he responded immediately, telling me he has no need for such things because he has a strong work ethic, is able to motivate himself easily and gets things done. Indeed he does and he is the kind of person whose ability and drive serve only to highlight the need for others to step up. We have had many conversations in the meantime and he has shown increasing interest in my subject, such is the fascination of hearing about why we behave the way we do, how we can deal with everyday human relationships and what we can do to improve our lives. In my eyes, his transformation was complete when he texted me last weekend to say he would be staying in to do some self-reflection. His awareness of his own shift prompted him to add, ‘How have I come this far?‘ I smiled to myself and responded with a check-mating glint in my eye (don’t get cocky): ‘Self-reflection is inevitable for the wise.‘
Satisfying though it is to know that even the dismissive can change their minds, the second example is one I will be talking about for a long time to come. She was a client who came to me via a recommendation from a mutual friend. Just like the previous example, she was clear with me from the very beginning, telling me at the start of our first session that, ‘I don’t believe in self-awareness, but I need to do something‘. She had a deadline to meet and a future to pin down, and for the next four months we worked closely together to achieve her goals. Having succeeded in reaching both targets, she requested we meet to review her process. She seemed pleased to have learnt so much about herself and about how she can improve her life. She works hard, is a multi-talented woman and is one of life’s winners, so one could argue – just like my friend – that she didn’t need to do any personal development work.
It remains my opinion, however, that everyone needs it. The only exceptions are the enlightened few. And they are only enlightened because of the strength of their humility, brought about by intense self-reflection and a greater awareness of how life works than the rest of us could ever imagine. So if you ever think that personal development work is not for you, think again.