This is the second part of my thoughts on self-development, and builds off of the article “On Self-Development”.
As I have mentioned in the “On Self-Development” piece to some degree or another, self-development is actually an incredibly simple thing. It is in fact so simple that it doesn’t inherently need to be taught. We as humans are naturally inclined to develop ourselves, and the general knowledge of how to do so is written into our being, comparable to our knowledge of how to eat and breathe.
The factor that separates self-development from breathing (which I claim is inherent knowledge) is that we can develop attitudes, receive societal conditioning and indulge in instant-gratification that works to distract us from the importance and methodology of self-development. To expand on the analogy, it’s similar to if one who is used to sea level moves to the mountains. It will be hard to adjust at first, but their breathing will eventually adapt so that the thin mountain air becomes the norm. Once they go back to sea level, they re-adjust to that thicker level of oxygen in the air and would have trouble breathing in the mountains once again, even though they inherently have the ability to do so. When we are accustomed to not developing ourselves, we perceive beginning self-development (breathing in the mountains) as painful and hard. In addition, society subtly frowns at and discourages those who develop themselves and promotes uniformity and “fitting in”. Also, things like fast-food, mindless television and other things we would never have access to during our development as humans cause us to prefer instant gratification and overshadows the delayed gratification of self-development. Why learn and perfect the skill of cooking when there is McDonald’s on every corner?
Along these same lines, learning self-development is incredibly simple but paradoxically complicated at the same time because it’s not a matter of finding new information, rather it is realizing information one already knew. Learning self-development is like losing your glasses only to find they are sitting on your forehead. It may take someone to point that out or you might figure it out on your own. This situation is comically ridiculous, yet it describes most people in regards to self-development.
The true key to self-development is not the knowledge itself, but the persistence and consistency to apply this knowledge over a long period of time until the point it becomes a part of you. That is the part where most fail—self-development isn’t interesting enough, the gratification isn’t fast enough or they consider themselves too busy to change their lifestyle in a way that incorporates self-development. This is the thing about self-development: you are making microscopic gains every single day and these gains pay dividends. It is like learning an instrument. It will take a lot of time before one is even competent at playing said instrument, but they do not have to become a full-fledged master before they can profit from their skill. Most who pick up an instrument quit out of frustration or perceived futility before they have a chance to be competent!
Along the way in the journey of self-development, you will consistently be making microscopic improvements in yourself that seem non-existent at first. Even so, there will be landmark events that give context to your journey and then your accumulated growth will be clear to you. These events can often be an interesting comment from the perspective of another, tackling a situation that you would not have been able to previously, or if your introspective ability is well-developed, you can sense your own improvement from the inside.
That being said, introspection is a key tool to self-development. Without introspection, self-development is like repairing a machine you’ve never seen before. Unless there are glaring issues, you are unlikely to find the problem quickly, and often will be working in the dark as you have to use your limited knowledge to tediously test all possibilities. In this way, you can end up making the problem worse before you make it better by changing something that was working in the first place. Introspection is like the machine’s manual; it is a map that allows one to see where they are in the process and how to progress from there. You can also use this map to see how far you have come. Introspection is a skill that is essentially the ability to read and understand yourself. The tool of introspection is not only indispensable in regards to self-development, but in regards to everything else because you cannot master anything until you master yourself. The most important part of this is being truthful to yourself as one can never improve if they cannot accept their own limitations and weaknesses.
Lastly, there are different sets of roadblocks and phenomena that come at different benchmarks to a person developing themselves. I plan to document some of these roadblocks and phenomena at a later time to create a comprehensive guide to what most will experience along their journey. The difficulty with that is everyone, including myself, is merely a student. Self-development is a lifelong discipline. That being said, one can only give insight into the stages they have already been to as there will undoubtedly be more they have not achieved yet.