While one’s most substantive self-growth comes from engaging in appropriate other-focus, early growth experiences usually entail a lot of self-focus. For example, early on I learned not to engage in negative self-talk but rather generate words of encouragement when I recognized I could have handled something a bit better. However, I found my greatest growth gains happened when I spent more time engaged focusing on aspects such as “What personal problem may be motivating this person to behave in an unpleasant manner?” Or “How can I support them without compromising the best solution?” Or, “How can I tell them ‘no’ while helping them to save face?”
In my early years as a manager, I sometimes would return home from a professional development program with a workshop high, only to lose the fervor a week or so later. The programs would sometimes offer specifics to follow, so what went wrong?
Companies today don’t invest in professional development unless there is evidence of a return on their investment, which may explain why we’re seeing more professional development programs offer post-workshop accountability processes designed for a minimum of 4 weeks to satisfy the time frame research is suggesting is necessary to jell new behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs.
Still, what more can one do as a workshop graduate or a recipient of coaching or other professional opportunities for growth? Regardless of the source of your professional or personal development, accept that there will be slip-ups from past automatic behaviors, so simply observe it with gentle tolerance and get back on track. My co-founder, the late Dr. Jim Farr, would say, “Every single mistake you make is a perfect mistake,” because it is how we learn and grow and get better at life.
Learning from my own past failures as well as from decades (yes, I have some years on me!) helping others as not only a licensed clinical psychologist but also a coach, consultant, and workshop facilitator, here are a few tips to help one stay the course during or following any kind of professional intervention.
- Don’t pay attention to any naysayers out there who are not in your corner and are neither genuinely interested in your success.
- Recognize if a new behavior you’re supposed to put out there from your professional development plan doesn’t feel natural right away, it’s probably because you’re still rewiring/reprogramming rather than because it is not the right response.
- Likewise, recognize daily trials and challenges are a part of your growth package, and stay positive.
- To stay positive, express gratitude for what is good in your life (e.g., family, health) and troubleshoot with positive, expectant energy rather than with the energy of anger or negativity.
- Admit fault when appropriate, and ask for help when legitimate.
- Get familiar with wholesome vulnerability. People follow real people and can sense over-inflated postures of grandeur/intended intimidation.
- Regard those who might annoy you as simply unaware rather than seeing them as “bad” (we can call this empathy), while refusing to get hooked by their stuff.
- Similarly, do not perpetuate professional and personal relationships that work against inner peace (e.g., someone who stopped communicating for no apparent reason foregoing media failure).
- Hereby vow to remain true to whatever your personal mission statement in life that contributes to others’ betterment (e.g., “When appropriate and legitimate, I serve others to attain a higher quality of living, loving, and leading”).
- What else has helped you as you continue on your path of betterment? You fill in the blank, so others can learn from you: ___________________________________.
My personal self-development work (both formal and informal) has spanned a few decades now, over which time there have been multiple opportunities to experience life’s humbling lessons. In making these lessons my friend, I continue to find opportunities for growth in the mundane. Still, I could not enjoy emotional freedom today had I not had the courage to unblock those emotions housed at root cause that were obstructing my path to self-awareness/happiness. Only then can rich personal growth take place that perpetuates appropriate focus on others rather than self.