A human being is always learning, evolving, and becoming better. Have you ever had a random realization that you have everything you need yet you are not satisfied and not leading a full life? Nothing to worry about as it is completely natural and a wake-up call that is supposed to drive us to the realization that we need to switch the auto-pilot mode off and get behind the wheel of our exciting and adventurous life.
Self-development is an integral lifelong “mending and boosting” process, that does not cease and goes on for a lifetime. It is a complex yet simple process of shaping ourselves in a better human being with each passing day. Complex- as it takes a lot of self-realization and being honest and true to oneself; Simple- as it is all about assessing our skills, qualities, considering aims, setting the goals to maximize our potential and let’s face it, who knows us better than ourselves? It enhances self-esteem, raises confidence, and leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life. It also in turn, leads to personal empowerment because of the positive choices and optimistic decisions for a better future. It is a long process, but it is worth giving a shot. The process of self-development starts with Self-Actualization.
According to an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow (1970), every individual has an actual in-built need for self-development or the personal development that occurs because of the process called self-actualization.
The level of development that a human being is capable of, is different for different individuals and it is determined by a “Hierarchy of Needs”. With time, as an individual makes progress in his or her life, satisfying basic psychological needs and progressing to a higher level in the hierarchy, does the level of need for improvement of someone’s behavior change. He also added that all the people have limitless room for improvements and scope for growth.
The bottom of the hierarchy or the first level holds the basic psychological needs for survival like food, drink, sleep etc., the second one comprises of the needs for safety and security- physical as well as economic sense, thirdly the need for satisfying love and belonging, the fourth level highlighting the need for self-worth and self-esteem for self-empowerment, fifth describing the need for a deep understanding and search for the meaning of life or an abstract idea like curiosity while the sixth level related to the aesthetic needs- the need for art, beauty, symmetry, order and creativity and then finally, on the top lies the need for self-actualization.
Self-actualization is self-fulfillment- the desire of becoming everything that one is capable of and to reach the full potential. The hack is being in touch with oneself, our emotions, feelings, concentrating on oneself and experiencing life to the full extent.
Managing personal development-
Developing vision: Developing a clear idea of “who we want to become, in what duration and why” is the first and the foremost step when it comes to self-development. When we have a purpose in doing something, it becomes more exciting and motivating to do something. Finding the purpose acts as the fuel to keep us going with the improvement and the learning. Thus, it is a crucial part of self-development to find the personal vision about what you expect from yourself in a few months or years and where do you see yourself is going to lead you to that eventually. Moreover, getting to know about our emotional intelligence to modify how we perceive and respond to things is essential and it can be done by analyzing where our emotional states come from by paying attention to what improves or worsens our mood. Moreover, instead of looking at oneself as a victim, one should take responsibility for the actions and the consequences of the same.
Starting the improvement
Crucial planning: Once you figure out “what” you want to become, start working on the “how” part of the same. Planning your development plan may not sound important but it is as essential as the timetable you follow for the school, homework, college or even at the workplace. Drawing up the plan for the self-development process and breaking it into small objectives at a time instead of trying to acquire the bulk result is a better way to go about it. A plan is an indispensable subpart of goal-oriented action and amazing ideas fail because of poor planning or goal setting. The five important principles to be kept in mind while setting a goal are commitment, clarity, complexity, challenges, and feedback. Setting the goals and reflecting upon them builds a success ratio. Planning involves identifying the areas for the development and the improvements by doing a SWOT Analysis– Examination of the existing situation or the reality check of oneself or an organization by looking at the “ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”. It a strategic planning tool used by many businesses for several years because it allows seeing an all-round view. It is a simple and easy-to-apply method. On a personal level as well, the SWOT analysis helps people in identifying the areas for development. Identifying the thing you have, would like to have, want to change or things you should not do and would love to do. Whatever helps you move towards improvement and growth is worth trying.
It helps in identifying the areas where one can have an advantage and score opportunities by utilizing that skill or resource (strength), the area that needs to be worked upon to do better in the future (weakness), the possible areas that one can excel in or successfully achieve goals (opportunities) and the things that should be avoided as they act as hurdles in the journey, standing as a barrier between a person and the goals.
There are several different techniques and styles of learning that one can adopt and follow the work plan according to their preferences to indulge in the process of “learning and improving” to get the sweet fruits it bears.
Stepping out of the comfort zone- test, risk and achieve
Every single person creates a comfort zone for oneself, a behavioral space where all the activities and behaviors are confined to a set pattern and routine, minimizing risk and stress. It is difficult to leave the comfort zone because of the mental security and ease yet it slows and blocks our growth. A safe comfort zone is good when we need to relax, reboot and recharge yet staying stuck in that space alone is not the solution. Sometimes, our habits slow down our personal growth, so it is crucial to analyze what habits are harming us or hampering our growth. The habits are nothing but our behavior established over a long period of time thus it is difficult to spot and change them as they become a part of us yet one should keep the willpower and fight one’s enemy residing in oneself.
Trying something new and facing what frightens us might feel a little uncomfortable or awkward but it really helps a person grow and then even if some unexpected events unfold, the person would be able to lead the way with passion and commitment. Challenging oneself makes a better version of us. What you are not good at is what you avoid but it is about time you muster all your courage and step in the arena. Confronting those areas would lead to growth, new experiences, improved skills and awakening the inherent wisdom. Once you achieve a certain goal you never believed you would and gained a new skill, you naturally feel better about yourself for developing a certain area in your life. The more you indulge in this process, the better you feel and more confident you become.
“The real failure lies in sabotaging oneself, living off the what-ifs.”
Keeping a track of progress and development
Keeping a record of personal growth and jotting down the key developments that reflect the progress made by oneself helps in examining where one stands and keeps the motivation going. A learning journal or log goes a long run in terms of self-development because self-improvement and personal growth is strongly linked to positive thinking and optimism. Negativity or pessimism halts the development and progress because there is no motivation for getting better when we accept that everything happening to us is terrible thus accepting our defeat instead of putting efforts into turning the tables around. Thus, it is necessary to detect and deal with the negative thoughts, look at mistakes as a scope for improvement.
Renewing and revising the plans
Learning is a cycle, that needs a timely check the same way one checks if the bicycle tires are working well, whether they need more air or maybe it is time to change them altogether. For effective self-development, regular review of the development plan holds vital importance. Ensuring that the personal development plans that one is following are leading to the goals and the vision is relevant with passing time as well as changing circumstances is extremely important. The changes and challenges in our lives demand a well-equipped and prepared person willing to excel in all areas of life.
Maintaining balance between EQ and IQ
IQ or intelligence quotient is the score derived by people after taking one of the several standardized tests that are designed to test the intelligence of an individual while EQ or the emotional quotient/ emotional intelligence is the measurement of the ability of an individual to control, identify, evaluate and express the emotions. IQ determines the academic abilities of a person and helps identify individuals with intelligence by a series of questions triggering several different sphere and areas like logic, reasoning, general knowledge etc. and helps check the ability to understand, analyze, learn and apply information. The test determines the ability of an individual to deal with the questions using only the mind power and no other resources. The average score is 100 and above 140 is genius-level IQ score or elite category (A well-known genius Isaac Newton, had an IQ Level of 190). Some popular IQ tests are Wechsler, Stanford-Binet test, Woodcock-Johnson test etc. One can always take these IQ tests frequently to check where they stand and improve their performance by getting better. On the other hand, evaluating, controlling, expressing emotions, and perceiving others’ emotions, understanding emotional meanings is tested by EQ tests. People with high EQ are exceptionally successful when it comes to teamwork, leadership, relationships, and collaborations. Some popular EQ tests are- Daniel Goleman model Score, Mayer-Salovey-Caruso test etc. Both EQ and IQ are equally important to have a socially balanced successful life. A person with one cannot shine in all the spheres of life hence maintaining the balance between both of them by taking the test at different stages of life and working on oneself accordingly to score better, is essential for overall development.
“A high IQ will get you through school, a high EQ will get you through life.”
Four phases of self-development:
The process of self-development is divided into many phases and begins with self-discovery. Once we find out who we are, we can build ourselves and move forward from there. Gaining a deep understanding of oneself, the needs, character, and values allow us to be more aware of our interests, hopes and potential. Gathering information about the skills, aptitude and competencies followed by a critical review gives the basic information required to strengthen the process of self-development.
Self-development is the process of developing aspects of our body and mind by carrying out exercises and challenging tasks. It involves enhancing talents, skills, knowledge, and competencies to seek self-fulfillment and eventually leads to self-mastery.
Self-mastery involves mastering the ability to understand, control and make the most of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional self. It is carried out by improving the performance and increasing self-confidence.
Ultimately, we reach self-actualization or the realization of our full potential. We must maintain the consistency after reaching this phase and not drown in over-confidence as that is a step backward.
Self-development broken down into different age groups and stages of human life
Every single stage of human life has its importance and relevance. Infancy is the stage when the brain is wide open to all the new experiences and possibilities that would help the baby to grow and develop an understanding of the world. Adolescence has its importance as it is the time when the physical health development of the kids is at peak and the body as well as their mind goes through a lot of changes and development. Some people argue that the one acquired after adolescence, is the most important stage than any other stage as the human beings have finally acquired most of the wisdom and textbook knowledge acquiring the necessary wisdom. Yet, the wisdom gained from experiences in life is still not fully acquired at that stage and as experiencing is a lifelong process hence, every single stage of our life is equally significant. While an 8-month old kid and an 8-year old are both considered as children, yet both these stages comprise of different cognitive skills, nutritional needs, motor abilities, emotional or mental capability etc. and the same is true for an 18-year old adult and an 80-year old adult. Each stage has its own “unique” gift to contribute to the world. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the self-development going actively so that all the stages give their contribution in the best way possible throughout the human cycle.
Early Childhood (Age<12 years)
The child has all the options in life, full of new experiences awaiting right around the corner along with an unlimited source of energy fueling the process of play and learn. The sense of an inner subjective self is developed, and the imagination has a great role. Children also acquire social skills and begin to deal with the people around them. The nutritional needs are high as they are at the basic development stage of the body and brain. The children learn the basics of the language and keep getting better each year. Moreover, the involvement of grades of the school builds a sense of competition and comparison between self and the people around/ friends. The motor skills are refined, the physical activities like games play a great role in keeping them active and interaction with fellow kids leads to making friends thus getting a taste of social life as well.
For self-development, people this age should keep learning, making mistakes but not repeating them, dreaming big for their future, studying, observing, learning, playing and just ease the way through life and enjoy as childhood is the most precious time of life that one can never get back. Maintaining a balance between fun and learning is the key. Moreover, asking as many questions as possible in this age is the best part because it is the learning stage. Children are supposed to have queries and clarify them even it sounds bizarre inside the mind to ask from the right person because you can, and you should.
Adolescence (Age 12-20 years)
A period of an unleashed powerful and dramatic changes-sexually, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically, causing sexual maturation with all the hormones kicking in, also known as puberty, is a time when new possibilities and abstract concepts are thought of and fantasized about. Concepts of freedom, fear, and love play a role in creating a sense of invincibility that puts kids this stage, under a prevalent risk yet where there is risk, there is also a hope for unbelievable growth. A lot is supposed to be thought upon and decided during this period that is the “game-changer” bearing life-long consequences.
For self-development, it is utmost important for people this age to connect with the deepest inner zeal of oneself and then decide how they wish to go on with shaping their lives by deciding the field they want to specialize in, the hobbies, the company of friends that they want to keep in life and many more crucial decisions, that are made in this stage. It is an overly sensitive time and it is of utmost importance to take a significant amount of time and put thoughts into the actions. The passion in this age is fruitful enough if used effectively in the right direction. Yet, it is also mandatory to keep in mind that you are still a kid who still has a lot to experience in this life so even if you mess up a little, it is still an opportunity to learn and move on with your life. Never let any failure or your hormones mess with your mental peace. Make friends, learn from your surroundings, and keep yourself away from bad company or anything that does not contribute to your success and progress.
Try your best to explore all that life has to offer to you as a teenager, let your creative side dabble, ask yourself what kind of career you want to build, why you want it, who is your role model and start working on yourself. You may find that your childhood dreams are not realistic, or you have a different goal now and that is completely fine. Life is unpredictable and the unpredictability makes it even more adventurous and mysteriously beautiful. Never lose hope by comparing yourself with other people rather compare yourself to the person you were some time ago, getting better than your previous self is an achievement that marks an improvement. Try to focus more on the career at this age as there is a whole different stage meant for going on a search of love and relationships. If you do find a person and build a healthy relationship, value it, and give it some time as well. There is a whole lot in life that you must achieve and demands for attention. Be productive, learn new things, take care of your health as there are physical as well as hormonal changes happening in the body, study, enjoy and most importantly accept the small changes happening all around you or inside you as it is a part of growing and everything has its place in life.
Another important thing that children tend to ignore at this stage is that your parents want nothing more than your respect and a little bit of the time that they deserve, and you know that. Things may get a little twisted and complicated with the age gap or misunderstandings, yet the bottom line is that your family is the most important part of your life.
Early Adulthood (Age 20-35 years)
This includes an accomplishment of the responsibilities like searching for a good job, finding a motivating profession, finding a home, settling with a partner, building a happy family and many more. A stage when people are at the psychological peak- a time to make the right choice, believe in oneself, focus on the future, putting energy and skills to build the status of a full adult in the people’s eyes. Both love as well as work are primary concerns during early adulthood. Evaluation of the needs to become a professional in your preferred field like experience, degree, skills etc. is done for proper training and acquiring the needful.
People need to understand that this stage is sensitive as well and not everybody has the same definition of “adulting”. Giving interviews also include facing rejection healthily and constructively, getting a new job would mean leaving the current job and the colleagues. It is all a part of this stage. Some people may not find the love of their life at the perfect age and it is fine. People need to do their best, try to do better and not judge oneself based on the stereotypes. Make your own rules and play by them, it is all fine if you are moving forward.
Middle Adulthood (Age 35-50 years)
This is the phase in which adulating, and aging becomes a little more noticeable and a peculiar period when many people are at their peak of productivity. Yet, people can be going for job hunting, looking for a mate, gaining expertise in any field, finding the solution to the problems more efficiently than before, gained wisdom with struggle and experience and a realistic approach is developed that helps in differentiating between dreams and reality, what is possible and what is likely.
The element of contemplation enriches this stage of life. It is the stage when people are still working, relatively healthy as compared to the late or mature adulthood while some are still struggling with jobs and settling in their own homes. For self-development, people can evaluate their positions and where they want to be, come up with a plan for themselves evaluating their interests and skills for the career-related conflicts and try to overcome the hurdles at a better pace. For those, struggling with settlement issues and emotional conflicts, it is time to set the priorities straight and see where you have been lacking as sometimes we tend to be in a toxic relationship that hampers our overall growth and is not worth it. One should try to get the jobs done, set the priorities straight and work in a focused manner. Evaluate your needs and expectations from your life as it is time to pull your socks and get the best out of your resources, skills and abilities combined with the gained wisdom from experiences and mistakes.
Mature Adulthood (Age 50+ years)
People should take a break from the worldly responsibilities and focus on the deeper meaning of life and new understanding. People have mostly raised their families, are mostly well established in their work lives while some are approaching the retirement age. Becoming a contributor to the betterment of society, volunteerism, philanthropic mentorships etc. are taken up in this stage. Giving more of ourselves to the younger people who need the wisdom and get familiar with your experiences that might help them stay on the right track and learn. Guiding others with the acquired rich repository of the experiences is a win-win situation as it is one of the best things one can do in this stage by using the source of wisdom that exists in each of us helping us to reap the benefits of life lessons and grants the feeling of satisfaction by guiding and helping other people with their life issues simultaneously.
It is essential to hold on to the value of living and not take our lives for granted. People start losing hopes as they tend to grow old, misinterpreting this golden age as a burden or deterioration of skills, energy, or health. What one needs to do is look up to the idols who changed the world at old age with the help of the gained wisdom and utilize this time as the golden opportunity to give as much as you can to the youth. Even if you help one youngster with your experience, you have contributed a significant amount and that would bring you a lot of positivity and peace.
Life is much better when we have worked on ourselves investing our time and dedication in a full-time job that caters us for the lifetime ensuring all the stages are given the care they deserve, resulting in a blossoming life to the fullest.
“Investing in oneself is the best investment one can make. And development is a luxury, not a race.”