Self-development is the process by which a person’s character or abilities are gradually developed, Dictionary.com suggests. So far so good, huh?
Nah, it kinda lacks context. It’s too simple, I’d say.
Let’s point out the most important words used in the definition of self-development. These are:
A process is a series of steps or actions that need to be taken in order to achieve a particular end. Hopefully, a happy one.
I’ve been thinking about the process or mechanism behind self-development, and this is the only one I’ve been able to come up with so far.
“The process of self-development is about developing gradually, or in other words, slowly and moderately.”
The complete process of self-development requires certain phases that an individual has to go through. Let’s break them down and see why I think they are important.
Do you think self-development starts with planning, setting goals, and hustling like a mad lad? I highly doubt that.
Personal development starts with seeing or hearing other people do something.
For example, my self-development journey started when I heard a cool story about a “son of my mother’s friend” who became a developer and made it to the U.S. Apparently, all mother’s friend’s sons are successful. However, I had never had a chance to see one.
Although, having learned about the famous “nobody,” I strongly believed that I should be as successful as this guy.
Back then, it wasn’t about scraping money for a flat, car, or any of that stuff. I simply heard how passionately my mom was talking about this guy who made the impossible. I thought if my mom was talking about me the same way I’d be the happiest person in the world.
When the phase of awareness has been there for some time, it kinda gets you excited and interested in the topic.
I was really into knowing more about the success of this lad who went to America. I didn’t care how hard his life might have been or might be at the moment, all I was thinking about was that he was probably living the American dream.
Interest is what cultivates your natural curiosity to explore things.
Exploration is the “learn more” phase of the self-development cycle which comes after interest.
The cool thing about exploration is that you start figuring out more and more things about your topic of interest.
This point of the self-development cycle is the one that tells you whether or not you should continue digging into the topic or should you abandon it and focus on something else. During the exploration stage, you validate your ideas.
Even though this phase is the “learn more” one, the picture doesn’t get any clearer. You still have no idea what is ahead of you. Moreover, you become really worried and uncertain about your future since you have no clear plan.
Recommended: “Feeling Lost and Uncertain About My Future: What Should I Do”
However, that is exactly what ignites your desires.
If all of the previous stages were more or less successful, you formulate a desire and understanding that this is something that you want.
If you’ve got to know my site a little, you might have seen that Life to Make is about helping people find out want they want to do in life.
When it comes to learning what you want from life, you should keep in mind the following stages:
Awareness -> Interest -> Exploration
Supposedly, these are the 3 stages you have to go through again and again before you understand your true desires. In fact, new desires keep popping up without your “conscious participation.”
During your lifetime, you’ve collected just enough historical data (incomplete “desire seeds”) to start working with. This is why I recommend you check out my free self-development book:
Recommended: “Know Your Desires”
In this short book, you’ll find a useful exercise that may help you figure out your life patterns and give you insights on what you may want to do in life.
When your desires are clear, this is where you start planning. No, it’s not about writing self-development plans. Cuz you know what?
Self-development is certainly NOT about:
It’s not any of that stuff. Yes, these are goals, but they are somebody else’s goals. Not yours. They might be yours too, of course, if you’ve gone through four previous stages of the self-development process.
When you read articles about self-development ideas or tips, you find all sorts of things like “wake up early”, “eat healthily”, etc. All these things are great, but all of them lack context or purpose that is relevant to your situation, capabilities, and desires.
Anyway, planning starts when you’re 60+ percent sure about what you want. Usually, planning requires deep research and very concrete documentation of your steps. In reality though, it may not always be written on paper. It might simply be well-thought-out.
This phase is the “consciousness” phase. It means that you probably know a lot about your topic of interest, and you can name famous YouTubers, bloggers, celebrities, or even your acquaintances who are interested in it too and talk about it extensively.
Also, you’ve probably sketched out a rough plan of how you’re going to execute it – be it a trip to another country, gym membership, graduation, big purchase, etc.
Oh, hello there. Seems like your plan doesn’t work according to the plan at all.
Yeah, the execution phase is insanely hard for a number of reasons:
Plan execution is no fun at all. You go from anxiety to extreme happiness and from happiness to anxiety again and again. That’s more of a survival phase.
However, it’s not always that bad. Your mood and feelings at this stage depend on your previous experience, situation familiarity, and emotional intelligence.
What do I mean by “situation familiarity?” You might have seen the process of plan execution in movies, among your friends, or elsewhere. Some people feel confident and empowered from simply knowing that what they do is possible because they saw it somewhere.
When you implement what you’ve planned and leverage your knowledge and skills your current abilities are tested. However, in case of success, you’ll gain new or broader skills and knowledge. Moreover, you’ll have the experience.
Finally, you’ve come to some measurable results. After weeks, months, or even years of hard work, you can see the fruits of your labor.
The result may be satisfying or disappointing. If your results frustrate you, it may not always be because of poor planning or execution.
For example, a very skillful businessman makes a lot of money. The process is awesome, the journey is beyond imagination. However, when he is sitting on a pile of money, and the money is enough to live a decent life for generations to come, he is not happy.
The result is not satisfying. Why?
The problem is probably hidden somewhere at “desirability stage.” It’s all about what you want, but most importantly, it’s about what you’re willing to sacrifice for it, and why.
The businessman might have always wanted to have a family, but he thought that money is what was going to help him build his family and live a happy life. Apparently, that turned out to be wrong.
The validation phase is quite short. However, this is the exact period of time where you question your results and the whole self-development process:
Ideally, the validation phase has to be right after the desirability phase. Otherwise, you may get yourself in trouble if your self-development journey extends for a lifetime.
Let’s just recap the stages of the process of self-development and extend them.
Awareness -> Interest -> Exploration -> Desirability -> Planning -> Execution -> Result -> Validation
Awareness -> Interest -> Validation -> Exploration -> Validation -> Desirability -> Validation -> Planning -> Validation -> Execution -> Validation -> Result -> Validation
While it’s obvious that you can’t validate anything at the awareness stage, you can definitely start exercising “validation” during each future stage.
Even at the interest stage, you have to start with:
This exact formula may or may not be for you. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be able to start this early because it wouldn’t probably make any sense.
However, I’d definitely keep in mind the purpose. As soon as I get a chance, I’m constantly asking myself why am I doing what I do, and what results do I want to get, and most importantly, what am I willing to sacrifice for it.
Alright, that thing might have become too complicated already. It might seem that this self-development mechanism is hard and is not applicable to real life. Let’s try to break this myth.
Let’s just recap. Self-development is when your abilities or character is gradually developed. In other words, if you’ve learned something new, even a tiny bit, that’s already a fraction of self-development.
|Phase||Simplified example||Standard example|
|Awareness||A new TV series called “Chernobyl” comes out.|
People talk about “Chernobyl”. So realistic, so cool. Woah, stunning.
Your best friend tells you “Chernobyl” is awesome.
|Jim Carrey played “Jumper” song on acoustic in “Yes Man.” |
Your friend plays acoustic guitar.
You saw a live performance on the street.
|Interest||Alright, why is everybody talking about it? |
What’s special about this TV series?
Is that really so cool?
|Woah, acoustic guitars are awesome. |
What if I could play one?
Would I get girls, fame, or just good vibes?
|Exploration||You google it. |
You read about it. You check out the reviews.
|How to play acoustic guitar? |
You google everything about it. Looks very easy.
|Desirability & Validation||Impressive! I want to watch it because I like seeing raw, dramatic movies that are based on true stories.||Seems like you’re a born acoustic player. Music has always been your field of interest. You want to play it.|
|Planning||You think about the new TV series every evening. After school/work you go to the grocery store to buy some snacks for the movie.||You google the best guitar. Not the most expensive one, but not the cheapest. A guitar that is just enough for you to start. |
There you go. You buy an acoustic guitar.
|Execution||You watch it like crazy smashing several episodes/seasons in and burning out. You’ve had enough.|
Later, you come back to it and watch it till the end.
|You grab the guitar. You have no idea how to hold it and strum. It just doesn’t work.|
However, you try your best. By watching tons of tutorials on YouTube you finally get to your first song.
Chord by chord, you’re gradually developing your skills. Your playing skills get better.
|Result||An awesome TV series. You’ve learned something from it. You felt it. It moved you deeply.|
You are able to handle conversations on that topic and even talk to strangers about it since it’s your common interest.
|You’ve nailed it. You’ve learned the basics, everybody is commenting on your awesome skills. |
What adds to your awesomeness is that you’ve learned acoustic by watching Youtube videos.
You’re the king.
Personally, you’ve gone through a whole variety of challenges and learned many great skills in the process which have nothing to do with music:
Discipline Patience Self-educationResearch Stress resistance Emotion managementSelf-critique Self-analysis Skill assessment etc.
|Validation||“Chernobyl” is a great movie. It’s exactly for you, and you’ve totally enjoyed it. |
Guess what? Self-development occurred when you watched the movie. You’ve noted down different aspects of the movie:
– Director of the movie
– Public resonance which you can now relate to
– Feelings, emotions, etc.
The TV series has become a part of your life and experience. It contributed to your cultural growth and awareness.
|You’ve proven to yourself that you’re worth something. Moreover, you are able to learn new skills which you’re passionate about.|
You feel like your journey is not over, and you’re ready to get to more complicated guitar playing techniques including fingerstyle, percussion, harmonies, etc.
Music has become a part of your life on a deeper level. You don’t regret it at all because you’ve got so many skills that you can apply in other fields.
Despite the pain, it was a lot of fun. You can now join the community of like minded people if you haven’t yet and enlarge your network.
Self-development is a process. It’s never streamlined. Think of a self-development process as a tree with branches and roots. You take one path, but as you grow, many other branches (skills) grow too.
When your seedling grows, it’s very fragile. It is affected by weather, animals, environment conditions, etc. But if your seedling makes it to the big tree, it will become home for many other species. That tree (a set of skills) will protect the animals and affect the climate and weather.
Validate the ground and environment you try to grow your tree on. And when you’ve learned that the environment is good enough, protect your seedling until it transforms into a tree. Don’t quit too soon.
Knowing what the self-development process is like, you can work out a formula that is relevant to your life, and use that formula to understand at which stage of your self-development process you’re now. That knowledge will help you determine what you should do to get to the next level.
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