Personal Development is a well thought out process that is inspired by the work of the great world thinkers. People like for example Confucius, Aristotle, Buddha and Mohammed. Positive psychology has gathered these and other great ideas and put them in a form that you can now use to live the good life.
It used modern research to test how useful each idea is. How relevant it is to us in our daily lives. And it found that we get better results when we build on our strengths than we do when try to get rid of our weaknesses.
Thanks to their work you can now use these ideas to learn how to perform well in each area of your life. The choice is yours. You can choose to do this now and for the rest of your life. To reach forward and prepare for what lies ahead. To develop the skills you will need to excel both now and in the future.
Putting Personal Development in context
“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.” – Peter Drucker.
That’s it. Personal development is about chosing how to manage our life. As Peter Drucker suggests we should. There is more to it than personal growth. We also need to use self-regulation if we are to achieve what we want from life. Self-improvement is essential for all of us if we are to achieve our life goals. And meet the challenge of managing our own life.
So how does personal development work?
Those who were able to manage themselves in the 1920s had a liberal education. Here is how it helped the English upper-class to manage themselves in the changing world of those times.
“The life, the fortune and the happiness of every one of us depend on our knowing something about the rules of a game infinitely more difficult than chess. The chessboard is the universe, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe.
The Player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with the sort of flowering generosity with which the strong show delight in strength. And he who plays ill is check-mated – without haste and without remorse. What I mean by liberal education is learning the rules of this mighty game.” – Thomas H. Huxley (1948).
As Huxley suggests if we are to be successful we need to learn the rules of life. We can use personal development strategies to do this. And keep up to date with them. Because these rules change as we move on to each new phase of our life. It is a life long learning process. It is about improvement. About learning how to adapt to the environment we are living in right now. Dealing successfully with the key people in our life. And to changing situations we have to cope with now and in the future.
Huxley believed that a liberal education was the answer to this challenge. And it was the best answer available at the time. We now know that it is only part of the answer. We also need to build on it with realtime learning and continuous development. We must learn to use our intelligence to increase our knowledge. Our understanding. And our skills and judgement. We can learn part of this through formal education and training. And the rest of it from how we create and use experience. Which is the nub of personal development learning.
To do this we need to learn to experiment. To practise and reflect on the outcome. To question, observe and listen. To challenge our opinions and actions. To challenge others. To respond to each challenge that arises. The key to personal development is to learn to live our daily life in ways that improve our ability to learn. And to adapt to situations as they unfold. These are the rules of life.
Personal Development is also about building your strengths
The emergence of Positive Psychology in recent decades has added a new dimension to the rules of life. For example, we now know that when you build on your strengths you will have more success than when you work on your weaknesses (Lopez and Louis 2009). You go from zero to +10 rather than from -10 to zero. You have resources you can use to achieve success in many areas of life. Use them to do what you do best because it leads to higher levels of engagement and productivity (Seligman, 2009).
You can also use a strength to compensate for a weakness. For example, if spelling is a weakness you can use spellcheck for every thing you write. This is just a simple example of what is possible. It shows that when you use your strengths in this case your computing skills. It helps you to flourish and achieve more. Which is the aim of personal development.
You can develop your strengths by measuring them. Then when you know what they are if you use them often they will develop like the muscles in your body. The more you use them the more able you will become. And the more satisfaction you will get from work and from life in general.
Using your strengths is part of your rule for life. It is the key to personal development. To help you to identify them and develop them I suggest you read the Strengths Development: How to checklist. And the other strengths posts on this site.
Building on strengths is not the only influence that Positive Psychology has on our approach to personal development. The body of research flowing from it covers many areas of behaviour like for example self-regulation. That we can use to update our thinking and upgrade our skills. Confident that what we are learning is based on careful and professional research.