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Have you ever heard the phrase “man’s work is never done”? This does not just apply to a man’s or woman’s job; it applies to virtually every area of one’s life. For example, you go to college, get a degree, and go out into the workforce. At first you may think you are through with education but the real world shows you otherwise. You may be through with school, but education is a lifelong process. Another saying is that “knowledge is power”; therefore, you can never have too much of it. All of this works the same way for those who make personal growth and self-development a lifelong habit. Because this area of your life is based on psychology—and that is a social science—it is ever-evolving, so you have to continually educate yourself if you want to learn more about yourself and why you do what you do.
Perhaps another reason why self-development is a never-ending process is because we will never be perfect. The only thing we can do is be willing to always improve so that we can be the best we can be. You may have noticed during your school days that knowledge is also endless. That is, the more you know, the more you realize you do not know. There is so much knowledge going back centuries that we will never know everything. It can get pretty overwhelming, especially when we have smart phones that basically give us access to all of this knowledge, and it is literally in the palm of our hand. Note: with a smart phone, you can read self-help literature or an app while you are waiting at the store or bank.
Besides academic knowledge, if anybody has ever worked the 12-steps (there are many out there) of any Anonymous group, you will notice that the last three steps are a lifelong process:
· Step 10 is about taking a continuous moral inventory of ourselves.
·Step 11 has to do with continually finding ways to improve our conscious contact with God.
·Step 12 has more to do with being a mentor and teaching those who are willing to learn how they too can experience personal growth and overcome whatever struggles they face in their lives.
Since the commitment to self-development is tied to knowledge, and knowledge is endless, how do we keep from becoming overwhelmed with the pursuit of knowledge that leads to self-development? This answer is easy. Like most activities in life, we humans tend to overcomplicate by over-thinking them. It also has to do with an activity called mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness involves living in the moment. Another way to phrase this is to always be present. Letting go of the past eases our depression while not focusing too much on the future puts anxiety at ease.
Does this mean that we should not have any long-term goals? Absolutely not! Our goals are what give us purpose in life and keep us going. Without goals we would have no purpose. If you ever took the time to look at the symptoms of depression, it would be quite obvious that the most of them are tied to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. The body can heal itself of certain maladies, like depression, especially when we perform activities such as eating right and working out.
The process of setting goals involves planning and preparing for the future, while mindfulness is more focused on simply enjoying the journey and not becoming so focused on goals that have not been actualized yet to the point that we become depressed. Many old-timers would just call it “taking life one day at a time”. Another way to put it is to remember that wherever we go in life is more of a journey than a destination. Enjoy life wherever we are since we are not promised tomorrow or thereafter.
This puts us at the top of the pyramid reflecting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization is where we are truly happy and content where we are at in life. In Buddhism, it may be called reaching our Nirvana (not the CD on your shelf from 25 years ago). This is the purpose of self-development and personal growth and it does not stop once we hit a certain level of maturity because there is always something to improve upon. Man’s work is never complete. If we stop then we just become stagnant and begin to move backwards.