TOPAZ Issue 7 / 2003
A gallery of personal portraits
To carry forth the Olympic Spirit
Personal development
Film prompters
Healing - its inside the value and purpose of life
Research and discoveries in the garden
Drawing - the unseen hand
Children with ADHD win confidence
A new and original colour combination for ADHD schools
Colour Curios

Personal Development - Realising our Potential

Roland Böhringer is a lecturer and founder member of the German Template Network. In this article, Roland explores the terrain of personal development and uses a trace of recommended film clips to highlight aspects of the journey of personal development. Every so often you will find a small note in the text that says ‘film prompter’. This refers to one of the film clips that will be described here, and which will offer imagery and example to what is being talked about in the text.

Personal Development is an entirely natural process. In every child we witness the journey of discovery - of the world around them, of their bodies, their senses and language. They learn to walk, to speak, to understand and to question. This is automatic and natural, but as adults we find the ability to handle change less easy and development a more challenging prospect, unless we take a determined position about the continuing potential for development. (film-prompter 1). I believe that personal development is a natural process for everyone, no matter what their age, and it is the possibility of conscious development that separates us from all other forms of life. What then is personal development and why do we need to consider it? This article is not addressing skills based training offered today to help with a career or to put oneself on the stage, but is looking at a more fundamental and comprehensive view of development. And it’s about nothing less than coming to grips with the question and quest of - Why is the human on earth? (film-prompter 2)

To understand something in a fuller way, it needs to be considered and placed inside a larger context than itself. It is usually only then that it is possible to understand its nature, purpose and function. Some examples follow to try to explain this further;

A. To identify the task and function of a specific type of algae you have to consider all the influences in the same ecology, the other species, the amount of light, other organisms in the water, the temperature, concentrations of phosphates or oxygen, water pollution, and many other factors.
B. To understand the stomach it is necessary to consider the whole human design, including understanding something about the circulation, the nervous system, the digestive tract, the endocrine system, the effects of different food, and also the effects of other organs, such as the spleen, kidney and brain.

In the same way, if we are to more fully understand human development we need look to the function, task and significance of the human in a much broader context:

1. The Human between Microcosm and Macrocosm - some framework facts:

  • The atmosphere on our earth is dependent on an exact and precise placing in the solar system. An orbit akin to that of Mars or Venus would destroy all life on earth because of the extremes of heat or cold it would expose it to.
  • If we compare the size of this planet with a soap bubble, the atmosphere would be as thin as the skin of the bubble. And yet this thin skin of air has an exact chemical make up that enables us to breathe and to live.
  • Our brain contains as many cells as there are stars in the Milky Way. Each cell can have up to 1000 connections. It makes you wonder whether we have been equipped with such a mega-system simply to think about ourselves or to fill in our income tax return. Neurophysiological estimates place 85% of our brain as not actively engaged. What potential is awaiting discovery?

The engineering involved in setting up the exact conditions for our existence here in this world are beyond belief. This surely begs the question ‘why?’ Why this effort? What is the human for? How do I view my own existence as a human being? Are we here for ourselves, or did Earth create the conditions for our existence in order for us to contribute something special, something the Earth cannot do herself?
These are just some few small examples and understandings that suggest that our existence is the result of a great design and is not accidental.

2. Change and Personal Development

Change is a feature of life; part of its fundamental make-up. Everyone knows life is dynamic, vibrating, energetic and not always foreseeable. It is a continuing process, always moving on, nothing in itself ever finished or staying unchanged. ‘Panta Rhei!’ the ancient Greeks call to us, ‘All is flowing.’
We experience this in the constant flow of our thoughts, feelings, and moods. Each day offers the chance for change. Each hour, each minute. (film-prompter 3)
Change can take an upward or downward direction. It can lead to growth or it can lead to decay. Both are part of life. However the human can consciously decide how to handle this change. (film-prompter 4) They who do not tense and resist, but accept and welcome change in their lives are more able to handle life and to flow within its ever meandering stream.

3. Obstacles and Building Blocks of Personal Development

Change happens, but we are either one of those who consciously live their life or, as Heidegger put it, “we are being lived” (film-prompter 5) “Persona” in Latin means “mask”. So there is an aspect of personal development which is to do with recognising the masks we wear, often as an adopted portrayal taken on so that we do not appear different, and conform to the normal and acceptable - which can arrest us. In this respect we end up with far less individuality than we may think. This in turn means that people become removed from their natural selves with many consequences. As a German newspaper wrote, “Never has a culture been technically more advanced, and never has the number of psychological deficiencies been higher than today”.
There is an increasing instinct in people today to seek change. However, change requires development, which in turn requires a strong resolve and the necessary know-how. The first question facing someone wishing to enter a journey of personal development is: What do I want? What is important to me in life? It is from such questions that the maxims and principles of a life are fashioned. This later prompts lines of enquiry concerning ways of living in relation to other people, the planet and other living creatures, and more.

A later step involves reviewing the way we live our lives in relation to the idea of leaving this world a better place than when we arrived. (film-prompter 6)

For example:

  • Confirming the qualities and aptitudes in others when it is due
  • Intending and living in the way of causing no harm towards other people, the environment, nature and all living beings
  • To live a life that by its application gives tribute to the powers that sustain life (whatever name you wish to give them) and to which we owe our lives.

Further, it is important to be able to grow into the new changes and leave behind what blocks those changes. One way to assist with this is, for four weeks, to remind yourself every day what you want to change. Give yourself ways to remember to do this, such as a note on the bathroom mirror or an object, deliberately placed on a spot where you can’t ignore it, such as a tin of beans on the bedside table.
What we are able to leave behind determines our next step in this journey. Each step constitutes a new chance to reset and take control of our lives, and as we then move on to new goals there is always an opportunity to refine on what we did previously. We are an aggregate of all we do in our lives, and it is the why and the how that forms our fundamental character. Personal development works if it is along the natural pathways that are true to the original concept of human existence and its design.

Personal Development improves creativity, reliability, perception, depth, reactivity and personal religion. Personal Development demands fairness towards yourself as well as understanding, tolerance, new knowledge, discipline and consistency. It needs time and patience and certainly doesn’t happen quickly, but on the basis of one step at a time. It is, however, accompanied by self-respect and a deep inner settlement and joy for life. Personal Development makes life exciting, scents the air, enriches experience and strengthens belief and shows how unique and worth living life is.

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