On the importance of self-development

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pegadaWith Education to Freedom, my social enterprise, I am developing a workshop on professional development through personal development.

Often people have asked me whether it is about professional or personal development. And my answer is always the same, that they are inter-related. It is not possible to consider professional growth and fulfilment dissociated from increased self-awareness and self-knowledge. Likewise for all other spheres of life.

We cannot stop being ourselves, therefore we always bring who we are -our way of being, our thoughts, our fears and joys, our hopes and expectations, our personal history- with us wherever we go and in everything we do.

This is a simple and powerful understanding, which may have an impact in the way people address opportunities of self-development and growth, and the way training is understood in different settings and contexts.

I am convinced self-development is essential to all human beings. It is a must, not a choice, to ensure that schools and other education providers (formal and non-formal) offer enough opportunities for growth and learning about one-self and our way of relating to others and the world.

And of course every one learns out of life experiences, considered there is a reflection on the experiences of course. Still that is not enough and there is a need for other learning experiences to take place, to boost self-awareness and eventual life changes that might be necessary or latent.

I firmly believe that one of the greatest joys of being a human is to learn something new, and especially something new about our selves. Something that we discover by ourselves, and not something taught to us by someone external. The real empowerment is in this small but really crucial difference: learning by ourselves or learning because someone taught us. Not to mention that the embodiment of the learning might be completely different in one case and the other. It is most likely that learning from an external source will take the form of a static piece of knowledge, while learning from ourselves and our life experience will probably take the shape of a more complex form of learning, that is about knowledge, skills, attitudes and values: head, hands, heart and soul.

This is the reason why self-development benefits a lot from experiential learning, that consist in group learning experiences based on direct experience of situations and latter reflection on those. This pedagogical approach enables participants to be themselves in a guided learning experience that is real, together with other participants, and therefore get a deeper insight about him/herself in relation to the rest of the group and to the experience.

Outdoor activities (like the hiking proposed in the workshop mentioned at the beginning of the post) offer powerful experiences on this type of learning. The contact with nature, the possibility to be away from daily life landscapes (all sort of symbolic and physical landscapes), the challenges on the way, the contact with other people in a environment which requires engagement in group work, are strong in bringing people out of their comfort zone, and getting this way a chance for learning something about themselves and perhaps change. Chance that participants may embrace or not. Everything is up to us, in life as in personal development experiences!

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