Personal Development — What is It, Exactly?

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Personal development, personality development, or personal growth.

They all mean the same (well, more or less).

And different people use them differently. Take, for example, personality development training companies.

These folks want you to believe that personal development (or self-growth) is mainly about different skills and how to sharpen them. For instance:

And by communication skills, they mean how fluent you are in English. Also, they argue that personal development is about:

  • Group discussions
  • Resolving conflicts between two parties
  • Role-plays
  • Facing interviews (what type of underwear gels with what kind of trousers) 🙂
  • Getting a job, and things like that.

Now, I agree that getting a job and earning a livelihood is a part of life, but it’s just a part—a means to an end, not the end itself. There’s more to life than just earning a livelihood.

So, that’s that.

Next in line is our positive thinkers. The New Age Gurus, you know.

Personal Development and Positive Thinking

These Gurus assert that personal development is another name for positive thinking.

Think positive. Feel positive. Act Positive.

In other words, change your thoughts, change your life.

Well, not exactly.

A positive mental attitude is crucial on the path of personal development, but it’s just a milestone, not the destination itself.

So, if personal development is not about honing different skills or developing a positive attitude, what is it, exactly?

Well, it might be a little difficult to swallow, but here you go:

Personal development is becoming your own master—having total control over your mind.

But isn’t it the same as being positive?

No, there’s a subtle difference.

Let me explain.

Positive Thinking Vs. Personal Development

Here’s the thing:

Right now, your mind is controlling you. And not vice-versa.

You know what I am talking about because you’re experiencing it every single day.

Those uninvited, unwanted thoughts (that you don’t want to think) clutter your mind most of the time, right?

It’s like sitting in a car that runs and stops as and when it pleases. In other words, the mind is the master, and you are its slave, and that’s where personal development comes in.

Personal development is about asserting your ownership—telling the mind that you are the master.

And that brings us to the question.

How Do You Control Your Thoughts?

Here’s a step-by-step process:

#Acknowledge

The first step is to acknowledge that you have lost control of your mind. Because unless you recognize the problem, the solution cannot appear. And it could happen only if you’re sick and tired of being tormented by unwanted, negative thoughts coming and going on their own.

#Turn Negative Thoughts into Positive Ones

Once you acknowledge that the mind has become the master and it’s time to assert your ownership, the next step is to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.

Start honing your intuition when you start thinking positively (at will) and gain some control over your mind. In other words, learn to ask for guidance.

For example:

“Should I take this job or that one?”

“What is better at this time—searching for a job or starting my own business?”

“Should I choose a career in the medical field or sports?”

You will start getting the knack of figuring out what’s right for you, and it shall feel incredible.

But there’s more.

Remember how I said there’s more to personal development than just positive thinking?

The next step is what I meant by that.

#Start Watching Your Thoughts

Once your thoughts are comparatively more positive and joyful, start watching them instead of getting identified with them. Osho calls this process, Witnessing, being a Sakshi.

The moment you watch a thought, it starts disappearing. And when there’s no thought, you’re back in the Present Moment. That’s exactly what living in the present moment is.

So, the more you watch your thoughts, the faster your thoughts disappear.

And then a day comes when you realize you don’t need to think anymore. You don’t need to think even positive thoughts.

Not that you can’t, but because you don’t need to.

And when you start to live without thinking, your life becomes miraculous.

You no longer need to THINK what to do.

Now you KNOW what to do.

You became your own master.

As you must have figured out by now, personal development is a long-term thing. You can’t just jump to it. You can’t take a quantum leap. But you can indeed move towards it.

And that’s where personality development comes in. You start working on improving your skills and becoming a better person every day. And by and by, move towards the final destination of becoming your own master.

So, here are some tips to help you develop your personality.

How to Develop Your Personality

If you are to grow as a person, you need to accept yourself totally as an individual.

That’s the foundation of personality development.

And to do that, first, you need to know who you are as a person. You need to clarify (with yourself, of course!).

How do you see yourself, your likes and dislikes, and how do you feel about yourself? And mind you, there’s no such thing as a perfect personality. So, don’t waste your time chasing something that doesn’t exist.

Sure, you can get better at who you already are. You just need to accept yourself the way you are—with all the flaws and weaknesses and ‘bad’ behaviors.

Remember, you’re HUMAN. Get over it!

So, the first step is:

Understand What is Personality

Now, your personality has two aspects:

Core: Who You Are

Circumference: The Skills You Have

Your core remains unchanged throughout your life. Because that’s your real nature, that’s who you are. While on the other hand, Circumference keeps changing and improving as you learn newer and better skills. In this article, we’ll talk about the Core.

Find Out Your ‘Core’

Let me give you my example to help you understand.

I, as a person, value my individuality. In other words, I am a solo player. I like being alone, working alone, and enjoying life alone.

Not that I dislike being around people, but I prefer my privacy. And I am kind of crazy about it.

You see, watching a movie all by myself is a breeze for me. I can go alone to restaurants and parks. Yes, if someone wishes to come along, that’s OK, but I don’t need company. I feel comfortable that way. In fact, I feel more lively when I am alone.

So, that’s my Core.

Now, you find your core. Maybe you’re a solo player just like me. Or perhaps you love being around people, working with them, and collaborating with them. Whatever it is that you feel you are at your being is your Core.

Accept it. And don’t care what anyone says.

Your Core is Permanent. Don’t Waste Time Changing It.

Not trying to change your Core is a challenge.

Because most people want you to follow somebody, copy them, and try to change yourself so you could be more useful, to them of course.

But that doesn’t do you any good. In fact, it harms your like anything.

The more you try and be like others, the more miserable you get.

If you let people influence you—your classmates, parents, and society in general that it’s wrong to work alone—that you must be a team player, then you’re screwed.

Because the more you try to change your core, the messier your life gets. And then, you start doubting yourself. “Oh! There must be something wrong with me. Why can’t I become a team player?”

And, here’s the irony:

The harder you try, the harder it gets.

Let me explain.

When I completed my 10+2, my cousin was doing a computer course.

And since I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to enroll in a short-term computer course at the same institute.

Essentially, I wanted to test the waters and then decide if it was the right option. But my father thought otherwise, “You should do the same as your cousin. Why don’t you enroll in a full-term (3 years) course?” He said.

I didn’t want to. But I had no option other than to say yes. And within the first three months, I realized it wasn’t my cup of tea. I somehow dragged myself for two years and then quit.

The time, the money, the efforts—all went in vain.

Beware of the Trap of ‘Fitting In’

Never do anything just because somebody else is doing it.

Never.

So, that’s that.

I know I like playing solo, so I don’t wish to become a team player.

People indeed try changing who they are to get approval from their peers, family, or society. And that’s the reason why there’s so much misery in the world:

Everybody is trying to be something else he’s not.

Now, I am not saying something’s wrong with being a team player. No. I am asserting that you must stay true to your Core to who you really are.

For example, cricket is a team sport, and only good team players can excel at that. While on the other hand, bodybuilding is an individual pursuit, and people who can work alone are more likely to succeed.

So, you see, there are unique and different fields and career options for you to choose from.

All you have to do is to find out who you are and choose your own path.

Release Your Suppressed Emotions

The fear of offending someone is more powerful than the fear of death.

It’s true.

We all try to please people (consciously or unconsciously) to get accepted.

And that’s why we often don’t express ourselves fully—we suppress our emotions.

And guess what, anger is the most suppressed emotion. (Remember how you pretended to smile when in reality, you wanted to kick that motherfucker in the balls?)

When you control or suppress anger, it poisons your whole life. It becomes a part of you.

Your body, your mind, your being—everything gets untrue and phony.

Let me give you an example:

You were angry at your teacher for something. And you wanted to say nasty things to him but couldn’t.

Why?

Because you must not yell at elders—that’s unacceptable.

So, instead of releasing your anger, you suppressed it to appear respectful.

Now, where do you think that violence and rage will go? It will go deep within your subconscious mind, and it will start getting accumulated there. And when it becomes too much to handle, it shall begin affecting your day-to-day life: You’ll get irritated at even the most trivial things. Somebody just pushed you in the Metro because the coach was overcrowded, and you’ll lose your temper.

And it’ll get worse with time.

You’ll start getting tense even sitting alone—it’s the same anger that you’ve been suppressing for quite some time now. It’s taking control of you.

So, what’s the solution?

Release it.

Most physical activities help release suppressed emotions.

Here are some ideas:

Dancing.

Running.

Aerobics.

Boxing.

Exercising.

Pick what you like, and then include it in your daily routine. It shall help.

If You’re Serious About Personal Growth, Consider ‘Dynamic Meditation’

Dynamic Meditation.

It’s a meditation technique devised by Osho.

It’s the best method to release your suppressed emotions. And not just anger but also sadness, depression, and many other negative emotions.

Here’s how to do it.

Wear comfortable clothes. Play some loud music, preferably heavy metal or any other music, to awaken the wildness, the craziness within you. And then go crazy for about 20-30 minutes.

Do whatever you feel like—dance, shout, cry, scream, or make faces. Allow yourself to express whatever you feel.

In the beginning, you’ll need to pretend, but after some time, you’ll get the knack for it.

And then you’ll realize that if you could let go, the body starts expressing itself.

If you can’t practice it at home and happen to be in Delhi, consider visiting Osho Dham.

They organize various meditation camps throughout the year along with Dynamic Meditation.

Log on to OshoWorld.com for details.

Don’t be Over-concerned About Others’ Opinions

It was 1991.

I was spending summer vacations in my village. One afternoon my father asked me to start wearing pajamas instead of trousers.

He explained.

A ‘wise’ person in the village was offended seeing me wearing trousers because he never wore anything except ‘kurta pajama.’

Can you see how stupid some people can be?

I am not saying that you should not listen to others; you should.

Others’ opinions can help you clear your perspective, and you may also learn a thing or two. But don’t let others decide how you should live your life. That’s a little too much.

There’s a fine line between understanding someone’s point of view and letting them intimidate you with how they think you should live your life.

Make sure you know the difference.

Want Confidence? Be Vulnerable

Quite often, in my personality development workshops, I ask a silly question to the attendees—”Do you watch porn?”

Most of the students get the shock of their lives.

Girls blush. Boys try to suppress their laughter. Some sit with their mouths wide open in surprise, while others look disgusted.

Almost always, nobody answers.

And then, after keeping mum for some moments, finally, I speak—“Well, I do.” Then comes a burst of loud laughter followed by pin-drop silence.

It’s not a question of watching or not watching porn.

The point is, are you willing to be vulnerable?

We all are humans, with almost the same weaknesses and strengths. What can you possibly hide from others that they don’t already know?

What Are You Hiding?

Most of the time, we try way too hard to hide our ‘secrets’ from others.

And in doing so, you feel afraid that no matter what, somehow, others will get to know your ‘dark side.’

You remain tense all the time. And this same tension is the reason you feel low on self-confidence.

Don’t think only you have secrets. All of us do.

Everybody is busy projecting their clean images. And the people, to whom they are hiding their secrets, too, are busy protecting their secrets.

In other words, everybody is afraid of everybody else.

It doesn’t matter if you drink.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t take a bath every day.

It’s your choice whether you eat chicken for dinner or a green salad.

The point is:

Don’t get bogged down, don’t feel guilty, and don’t try to hide too much.

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