The term is well-used. You may, like me, have a personal development plan. The ubiquitous PDP. It seems universally viewed as a good thing, to develop, personally.
But what counts as developing personally? If I go on a time management course, is that developing personally? Is learning to play saxophone developing personally? Maybe I want to learn to practice mindfulness – is that personal development? Is learning to drive? Learning to walk at 15 months even?
Those things would all seem to give me skills. Useful skills that may make me more effective, give me enormous pleasure in my free time, help me be more relaxed or just more mobile and independent.
I’ve been on courses before that were recommended, for my development. Many years ago I attended a negotiating skills course. I remember our trainer talking a lot about children and eating their greens to get puddings. I remember also the horror of being videoed and then made to watch myself back. It didn’t feel like personal development. Training yes, but not development.
So is there something about the development giving me something I want, something of value to me, something that enables me to fulfill my potential, to live my life to the max, as I perceive it?
In order to do that of course I need to know me. What matters to me, who I am, what satisfies me, makes me happy. My dreams and aspirations. Self awareness in effect. But then to be self aware I need to be curious. To want to understand me and how I function, motivate myself, learn, grow. Also to understand how I limit myself. I need to be open to self exploration. Open to self discovery. That way, as I explore myself I can become more self aware.
I also need some sense of my place in the world, what gives me meaning and purpose and how I propose to shape my future to fulfill that. Self realisation in a sense.
So is personal development really about self? About exploration and discovery of self? About awareness of self? About development of self, so that we can be who we think we are? Actualise our sense of self. Complete oneself to the fullest potential?
Maslow talked about self actualisation. I believe he once described it as “intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately of what is the organism itself.”
Is this personal development?