PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH SELF-CARE, A SENSE OF HIGHER PURPOSE AND CONNECTEDNESS TO OTHERS
We must learn how to predict in advance how best to ensure that we are in the best possible conditions and build routines around our lives that enhance them. In many ways, it all begins with how we learn to adopt structures for sleep, diet, and exercise that help us to be healthy. We must also be careful of the risks we take with them, and learn how to do the things that will repair and replenish them when we hurt them.
This is often referred to as self-care. We must learn how to develop personal habits that allow us to tend to our physical needs, our journey of growth and development, and the realisation of who we think we might and ought to become. This is not self-indulgence. This is placing ourselves in a position where we can become the best version of who we might be at any given point in time.
If we retain a purpose for this process of self-care that is self-centred, we cannot go on to live the fullest life possible. We know that lives based around the accumulation of things and the fulfilment of immediate desires are less satisfying and more destructive than those which focus on delaying reward now for the promise of a greater and more fulfilling reward later. At the same time, we also know that the development of a sense of purpose that moves beyond our own needs to care for the needs of others is essential. In Africa, this is sometimes referred to as ubuntu – I am because you are.
We must, therefore, learn how to place the needs of others before those of ourselves if we are to make the most of The Pathway to Excellence. Yet this does not mean that we should sacrifice ourselves needlessly and recklessly along the way. We deserve to care for ourselves and to be cared for by others – this is the reciprocity of relationship in which personal development is nurtured. We are, after all, social beings and we are meant to live in community with each other.
So, we need to build up our strength, our resilience and robustness, through self-care, a sense of higher purpose, and connectedness with our family, friends, community. In other words, we need to take care of our humanity on all levels in our lives: personal, relational, communal, and global. We become stronger by embracing our humanity and all of the strengths and limitations that come with this. We become more resilient and robust by knowing who we are, not by denying who we are or seeking to be something which ether we are not or might not reasonably become.
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH FEEDBACK AND CHOICE
We need more than the combined strength of our resilience and robustness. We need to learn when to exercise these qualities – when to be resilient and when to be robust. These choices are very important in helping us to know when to move with the times and when to hold steady. We need to develop an understanding of the factors that will influence these choices and which option will be more likely in a given circumstance or a situation that presents itself to help us to make progress and to be well as we do it.
So, while we are learning about how to build resilience and robustness by improving our our health and wellbeing, therefore, we also need to learn about how to improve our choice of which option we might select by learning about who we are in terms of our emotions and our capacity to reflect on our own situation. For us to do this, we need to step out of our own sense of ourselves and our place in the world and take on the perspectives of others. This means that we have to develop routines where we welcome and accept the feedback of others. We can’t become slaves to this feedback. We need to become more able over time to distance ourselves from the emotional impact that both praise and negative criticism have on what we do and why we do it. To do this, we need to be aware of this impact and how it affects our choices, our behaviours, and our relationships. Thus, while feedback is important, it must be tempered by our own sense of judgment about what is good and right for us in our lives – our values and beliefs. It must also be balanced against what we have come to know about the world that we live in through our academic development at schools and through other institutions.
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT FROM THE INSIDE-OUT
In short, we must form our own conclusions about how to approach the world and the progress we are making on the learning journey that we are taking within it. We need to base these conclusions on our judgment about the relative merit of the evidence that we have gleaned from the feedback of others and our physical and cultural context. This will allow us, over time, to map out the stages of the journey and to select the objects and goals of each of these stages. External rewards for attaining success can be pleasing but are always short-term in effect. The achievement of our goals and how we feel about them in ourselves is what will, on the whole, give us the strongest incentive to keep moving forward, bolstered by our capacity to view setback as temporary, to regard resources as adaptable, and to continue seek success in the objectives we have set, even if the planned route to them must and will change from time to time.
In fact, our lives will be enhanced by accepting that it is more likely than not that change will occur at every step of the way. We cannot control most of any of the large changes that are going on around us. We can instead seek to master our responses to these changes and influence outcomes for the benefit of those around us as best we can. To do so requires us to acquire both adaptive expertise and self- efficacy as essential tools for our personal development. Adaptive expertise means how we grow in character and the competencies of learning, living, leadership and work and how we use these to solve known and new problems. It is, in essence, our commitment to growth. Self-efficacy means how we organise ourselves and our learning, living, leadership and work to optimise our character and competencies so that we can thrive in their world. It is our capacity to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
The Pathway to Excellence, therefore, is about a journey of inquiry in search of meaning and the discovery of truth and relevance. Every step begins with questions that for which the answers may not be immediately clear, but which requires us to develop ourselves from the inside-out:
- Learn the self-awareness of knowing ourselves through asking: who am I?
- Live in relationships built by earning our places through asking: where do I fit in?
- Lead as a servant who goes on a journey from me to you to us through asking the question: how can I best serve others?
- Work vocationally and find our calling by asking the question: whose am I?
LOCATING PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT IN OUR LIVES
In the end, we believe that everyone can learn about and develop who they are by:
- Building your capacity in emotional intelligence – how you manage your own feeling and the feelings of others in your life
- Adopting a set of reflective habits – how you routinely and constructively question what you are doing and who you are becoming
- Working through the best ways to boost your health – how you make specific choices about what you will and will not do to become healthier physically and mentally in the short and long term
- Locating your personal development within an holistic approach to your wellness – how you place what you value, believe and do within the context of how well you feel as a result of your learning, living, leadership, and work