In my consideration of what ‘personal development’ actually means, I recently came across the following, interesting blog post on the subject of spiritual growth. Essentially, the writer makes a good case for categorising personal development as something fundamentally different to spiritual development. In fact, she suggests the following levels of classification might be useful:
1. Personal Development
2. Spiritual Growth
3. Quest for Enlightenment (Moksha, Samadhi, Nirvana, Redemption)
The main argument, as I understand it, is that personal development need not be connected or concerned with spiritual growth at all.
However, if there’s one thing that characterises those writing in the personal development genre today, including the author of the above post, it is the recognition that forming some kind of connection with a higher plane of existence is in some way fundamentally connected with the process of self improvement.
Some writers, including myself, prefer to use the term ‘God’ in describing this personal connection, but many others prefer alternative labels, such as ‘the universe’ or ‘the collective mind’ or ‘creative consciousness’. Personally, I have no difficulty with any of these terms since I simply see each of them as attributes of God.
Furthermore, I would actually go as far as saying that God himself is actually in the personal development business. What I mean is that he is, and always has been, in the business of personal transformation. When we take on the task of becoming the person we need to become in order to reach our most important goals, I believe that we are essentially engaging in God’s business for our lives.
In Christian tradition, this process of personal growth, which has often been described as becoming more Christ-like, is perhaps best described in the epistle of 2 Peter, which encourages the believer to:
Add these characteristics to your faith: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7 (paraphrase)
Other religious traditions teach similar concepts to those addressed by the personal development genre. For example, consider these four factors of fulfilment from Buddhism: wealth, worldly satisfaction, spirituality and enlightenment.
In my own workshops, I have sometimes been informed by delegates that many, if not all the concepts in my personal development courses are wholly represented within Islam. This post certainly supports that proposition.
Religious scriptures from many traditions, if they remain divided on lesser issues, seem to be completely unified on many of the larger issues relating to the human condition, what will bring us happiness and how we should relate our fellow humans which, just in case you somehow missed it, means, with love.
God, I believe, is bigger than religion and he is, and always has been, in the business of personal development. In other words, your own personal growth and the process of becoming the person you need to become to reach your goals is a spiritual process fundamentally connected with finding and achieving your life-purpose. And that, I believe, is God-given.