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Its not personal, its business

I am about to go to conference. This is good for me. I used to be a bit sniffy about conferences and certainly sceptical about them as a way of learning. I am much more open about them now. The formats tend to be more creative, more diverse and often designed with the understanding that so much of the learning actually happens in the spaces between the sessions. It made me think about a submission I was writing this week asking how I help people create a personal development plan and I was asking myself how much of the good practice I described there I had actually done for myself, in choosing to go to this conference. It’s not bad, I have stuck to the top three things I always suggest to people when thinking about their own development.

1. Don’t go it alone.

There are lots of things best done on your own, and many things which should be kept private which aren’t anymore. Planning your personal development isn’t one of them. Of course you know yourself better than anyone else but a good conversation that stretches and challenges your thinking is invaluable. Are the things you think of as strengths something you can still build on, are you blind to some areas of development that others can see? And crucially are you constraining yourself with self-limiting beliefs that hold you back from being really ambitious about what you can do, who you can be, what you might achieve? Be open to testing your thinking with someone else, it will make all the difference.

2. It’s not all about you.

Well of course it is, it is your development. But a useful way of framing the question about what you could do, is to think about how your knowledge, skills and behaviours would benefit those around you. Flicking through the conference agenda there were things that peeked my interest but inevitably they are the things I am naturally interested in. What has helped me think differently is to ask myself, which if these subject areas would be really interesting to some of my clients. Even that slight reframing of the selection process has meant I am now attending things I wouldn’t have first thought of as interesting, and now I’ll get to know something about a completely new area of work. By thinking about how what you do benefits those around you, you might find a new energy to explore something very different.

3. Be open to the possibility of change.

Most of the work I do starts with some kind of contracting, agreeing the rules of engagement and ways of working. One key prompt to people, suggested by a colleague, is to ask people to be ‘open to the possibility of changing your mind’. This feels enormously important at the moment. Public discourse is so oppositional; entrenched views on all sides, projection not discussion, dogma not debate. The most important thing in your personal development work is to continuously check yourself for how open you are being. No manner of exceptional, creative and stimulating development experience is going to provide any learning if you are not open to it. There is nothing any development can do for you if you haven’t prepared yourself to think differently, be different, be curious, be open to change. The real work in personal development starts at the moment you ask yourself – what possibilities am I open to?

Don’t think you can do this all on your own, don’t think it is all about you, but do really challenge yourself to open your mind to something different. Because personal development might be about being better at your work, but really its about being better at being you.

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