Working in the fields of change, leadership development and coaching, I\’ve witnessed countless transformations of many of my clients and colleagues.
Over the years, I have attended a vast amount of learning workshops, seminars, certificates, lectures and more on the topic of Personal Development, where we have explored how people learn to be a better version of themselves.
Topics have ranged from mental health, psychology, coaching, change, learning, and everything in between. My own journey has been a long one. As a teenager I had so much anger that one of my friends recommended me to see a therapist. But because I never do things the easy way, I took the scenic route.
Part of my transformation started, back in the mid-90s with my Life Plan. Javier Quiroga, my Organizational Development professor, asked us to create our vision for 2016 or so. To do so, we should start with the story of our lives. It\’s not that my memory is so good, by the way, I just found the paper a couple of years ago and I re-read it.
When sharing our past and our vision in class, we started uncovering parts of ourselves. Those moments of self-awareness started the process that has continued for more than three decades. The majority of the stepping stones have been the result of understanding and facing the ugly truth of my own shadow.
Others have been easier steps, colored by compassion and understanding of myself, as I wanted to develop a more effective way of dealing with issues. Very few, if any, took place in a nice and comfortable setting. And exactly zero happened in a luxurious place or in a comfortable way.
Becoming your best self before life demands it of you is certainly better than learning as a result of a crisis. But that doesn\’t mean that the changes will be easy. This is the difference between horizontal and vertical development.
This is why it\’s important to understand the difference between knowledge, skills and attitudes. Knowledge can be obtained from a book, from talking to someone or learned in a workshop. It will open up your mind, but because you don\’t know what you don\’t know, you won\’t be married to the knowledge you held, unless there were values that sustained/restricted your knowledge.
If what you need are skills, things may be \”easier\”, depending on your inner dialogue. If you see your need for improvement as a way of being more effective, your inner dialogue will be positive and the stress will be less than if you see it as incompetence.
Values, however, are more challenging to change. Values change when we learn a lesson, when we stay some time in the discomfort zone, when we disconfirm our beliefs. If we open up and learn from it, we will get a breakthrough in our thinking.
Values are related to who we are, and birthing a new self is way more painful than adding new features. Another way to explain it is by contrasting horizontal and vertical development.
Horizontal development is usually related with knowledge and some skills. It\’s what you need to perform more roles or functions. Techniques and methods that are to be followed by any person, and that will most likely work for any person. It is the equivalent of installing new programs in your computer.
Vertical development is related to the state of being, with who you are as a person. More complex situations require vertical development. It is the equivalent of upgrading your processor for a more potent one. A person who doesn\’t share the values and have the skills needed to successfully perform a complex task, won\’t succeed even if they know the steps of the process.
So, my best advice for personal development in times of complexity:
- Don\’t lose hope. Change is a process
- Changing values requires disconfirming ourselves. It\’s ok to do so
- Dealing with complexity requieres new ways of being
- Don\’t be afraid of facing your shadow
- Go back to your vision. Who do you want to be?
- Think of your higher self and start showing up like them
- Breakthroughs happen in reflection or in a 1 on 1 session (usually a more confrontational one). Be mindful what or who you choose for that
- Values in used are usually different than the espoused values. Try to be more authentic
- Vulnerability hurts as hell (maybe it will stop at some point, I don\’t know), but is truly appreciated
- Treat yourself and others with curiosity and compassion