What is Personal Development?

When I first became interested in self growth, there were hardly any books on the subject at my local bookstore. Today, there is a large section full of personal development resources and dedicated to this most fascinating subject. However, despite this fact, when my friends discover that I run the leading personal development website  White Dove Books they will still often ask me the question, ‘what exactly is personal development?’ So, in this article, I want to provide an answer.

Let’s start off by talking about who you are and who you think you are. They are probably not the same thing. As John Wooden once said, ‘you should be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is who you really are whereas your reputation is merely what others think you are’. It’s a great quote of course, but it also says exactly who you are. The inner-person – your true self – is your character; the outer-person is your personality.

There are many ways we could define personality, but it is simply your social mask – the person most people think themselves to be. But you are much more than your personality. For each of us, therefore, there is a personal journey to be made. It is this spiritual journey to find and listen to our true self that is the essence of personal development. I confess I have not always believed that life holds a definite purpose for everyone, but it is something I have come to believe over the course of time.

With an understanding of your life-purpose, it is a natural next-step to be thinking in terms of mission and goals – in other words, how do we achieve our life-purpose? And that is what much of the material around this topic is mainly concerned with; what we might call ‘success literature’ which, according to Stephen Covey – author of the 7 Habits of Highly effective People – has been around in the USA since 1776. Interestingly, as Covey himself points out, much of the early success literature was character-based; whereas much of the more recent material is personality-based.

So there we have it: personal development is about that most interesting of subjects … you! It concerns your personal journey to discover your true-self and your life-purpose. At our main site, we have lot’s of great resources to help. But I suggest you start with our free book the 7 Keys to Success which is concerned with the subject of life-purpose.

Wherever I Go There’s Always Pooh!

Today I was taking my morning walk with the dog, down at Culvercliffe. It was quite a miserable morning, in terms of the weather that is, and I was thinking that I must be nuts getting myself soaked as I took in the morning air. As I walked along, I began to take notice of my physiology. I noticed that I was walking in a hunched-up kind of way; a little bent forward and my eyes were engaged with the pathway.

Then, as I was thinking about my posture, another thought came to me. I remembered how a person who attended one of my personal development workshops had told me that everything had changed for her when she started making a habit of doing one simple thing. She told me that by making this one simple change to her posture, people started seeing her differently and treating her differently. It gave her more confidence and it all came about with a simple change that she worked on turning into a habit.

She told me that everything changed for her when she ‘started looking up at the world rather than down at it’. It is something I have always remembered because I think the phrase, as well as the principle, is such a good one. So, as I was taking my walk today, I started to think to myself that I should straighten myself up and, as I did so, almost instantly, I felt a little better about the world. Then, I took in a few deep breaths of the crisp morning air and began to notice how beautiful the surroundings were.

So there I was, walking in a different manner, looking up at the world and enjoying my walk when I felt my foot slip a little and glancing down … well … there was the dog poo! Without wishing to dwell on the matter too much, I will just say that little package had not been left there by my dog. Despite the momentary annoyance, I could not help laughing about what had happened. If I had continued walking in my previous manner, hunched-up against the weather, I should certainly have spotted and avoided the stuff.

Just then a little poem by A.A. Milne came to my mind:

Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

I have always loved A.A. Milne’s writing. It is the kind of thing that speaks both to the kids to whom we read it and also to ourselves as adults – it’s very clever. So I thought that today I would dig up a little of A.A. Milne’s philosophy and that led me to the video above; it contains a lovely message – I hope you like it.

Character Strengths: Developing Awareness

As a writer, life-long learner of positive psychology and a student and leader for activating character strengths, I often am focused on how to integrate my character strengths into my daily life. I speculate about the strengths of others while shopping and how their challenges could be less stressful if they were to apply their inner strengths to address each challenge. I create new ways to apply strengths when I tackle daily chores or when I am having a problem sleeping. You could say that my character strengths are to me what the Olympics are to the winners of the award.

Perhaps the best definition of ‘strengths’ comes from Linley, author of Average to A+. He describes strengths as a “pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance.” Character strengths are present to some capacity in every individual. Christopher Peterson, known as the godfather of personal strengths research, defines character as “a family of individual differences; distinct strengths that people possess to varying degrees.”

My niche in my professional life has developed into helping folks uncover their strengths and activate them to achieve their dreams. I call myself a Life Strengths Detective.

I have learned that discovering and activating my innate strengths has been beneficial to the stress I have encountered from over 30 years of coping with the challenges an auto immune disease can cause. The first doctor that was able to give me a name for it (fibromyalgia) in 1982 also advised me, “Don’t let fibromyalgia control you; you learn to control it.” But it did take awhile for me to realize the true extent of my character strengths and how they have impacted me to assist with these challenges.

I was no newcomer to body blows. I had been severely burned as a young housewife, when my washing machine exploded while I was loading clothes. I was burned over 50% of my body. Then, I have been hit by a car, fallen and broken my coccyx (tail) bone, had cancer and radium treatment. I learned very slowly (without the knowledge of the powerful character strengths at my disposal) that my body needed my full attention. I had to learn to be in control of the healing of my body. This started my journey of self knowledge and, in addition, I began educating myself on nutrition and other aspects of health.

All of this constituted a wakeup call. This is when I had to start identifying my true inner self. I realize this is true today, in retrospect, since I was not conscious of it at that time. My search would extend over a period of 30 years. Now, I know you must be thinking, “I sure don’t want it to take that long for me.” You see, that is why my mission is such a burning one; I assist folks in finding their greatness by having them discover their unique strengths – their ‘signature strengths’. This takes them on a journey that  reveals the action steps they must take to realize their success. This in turn, delivers extraordinary inspiration, personal growth, love, health and happiness in their everyday life.

During my long journey, I used my own signature strengths instinctively. Had I been aware of the powerful strengths I possessed sooner, I would no doubt be at least 20 years ahead.

My signature strength of curiosity led me to all sorts of unexplored territory. After 25 years of marriage that ended in divorce, I moved from Texas to Southern California. This is when the unconscious signature strengths kicked in, big time. I was compelled to think of new and inventive ways to do things. I realize now, it was and is a crucial part of who I am. I am never content to do things in the conventional way if a better way is possible. If I had been aware of the struggle I was about to encounter, I would have curled up in a ball like a snake – ignorance is bliss!

This was also when the painful fibromyalgia began to show up. The sleepless nights; sensitivity to pressure points on my body; foggy brain (referred to in the fibro community as ‘fibro fog’.) And also when I began working full time in the business world, fibromyalgia was letting me know, loud and clear, that I needed to change my health habits, especially my diet. I changed from the southern fried food that I grew up with to steamed vegetables and fresh fruit.  The gift of curiosity led me to a career in real estate and then to skin care specialist.

As I have settled into my ‘golden years’ I am finding that I am relying on strengths that I was not so much aware of as a younger person. For instance, my gift of maximize, I have found that taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something excellent takes just as much effort but is much more rewarding. These days, I am all about conserving everything, energy, effort, and exertion. I am finding that I am searching out signature strengths wherever I go, whether mine or someone else’s and it is fascinating to me. I feel like a diver for fine pearls, I watch for telltale signs of gems of beauty and strength.

I choose to spend more time with those who appreciate my special strengths. Also, I am attracted to others who have discovered and activated their own strengths. I spend more time relishing my life and being grateful for my signature strengths. I have learned that I can remain grounded in whatever situation I find myself. I pride myself that I have taken the time to understand who and what I am and also to understand my true values. I know that whatever challenges are thrown at me, I will remain poised and composed and will be rarely shaken.

My husband has often commented, “You are a woman with a steel rod for a spine.”

This could not be said of me as young person. This why my mission is, to encourage and inspire people to live the life of their choice, on their own terms. When their inner strengths are revealed, the next step is to develop their strengths and propel them to the success of their choice.

“When you experience the discovery of your innate strengths and discover your own power, your journey of achieving your chosen destination of success will be accomplished with ease.”

Article by Joci James, Life Skills Detective.

To find out more about me and my methods and also to receive your free copy of How to Make Clear Conscious Choices, please visit me here … http://www.jocijames.com