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The Best Version of Ourselves

If you were to ask a person directly if they wanted to develop themselves personally I’m sure most people would say yes. Who doesn’t want to improve their lives for the better and progress towards being a more all rounded person? I’d guess the numbers are slim, as there is always something in a person’s life that they wish to improve…whether that be to be more successful, be more assertive, travel more, be more honest, or understand ourselves better through reflection and introspection for our own personal growth. The thought of this idea makes me feel slightly giddy…how to be the best version of me I can be at any one given time. However, I’ll be the first to admit…this can be very hard and not something everyone has time for in our busy lives.

I recently attended a workshop provided by my counselling training course that covered all aspects of personal development from; counselling models to personal development, personal development goals and the range it covers such as interpersonal awareness, exploration of our pasts, establishing new goals for ourselves and improving our levels of empathy and cognition as well as obstacles that get in the way of individuals being able to undergo personal development for themselves.

For anyone who’s sat in a personal development group will know, they can be deeply uncomfortable at times yet fruitful at others. I personally, as a shy person who finds himself with feelings of anxiety at the very thought of sitting in silence, with no direction, awaiting for someone else to speak recognise the obstacles to this. However, I find myself wanting to do it more…as I know that for me to overcome the barriers that stand in my way…such as fear of public speaking will only serve me well in the future and help me personally develop.

The second part of our day covered existentialism. An idea that I am extremely fond of and wish to learn more.

We were first asked the question of ‘what is the self?’ which can certainly make your head spin when you get into it…but after a few deliberations it was established that perhaps we have many parts of self and can show these aspects of ourselves at different times in different scenarios. As a singer-songwriter this idea immediately took me to one of my song lyrics that I quickly jotted down in my note book….

“There’s many parts of me and they’re all a different shade, I’m this whole other person, it just depends on the day”.  Quite fitting I thought, for the topic in hand.

We then moved on to discuss happiness and how it is fairly common for a person to be in pursuit of happiness…especially when considering personal development. Because everyone wants to be happy right?

It was at this point that I learnt a new term…. that will stick with me…. Eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia is drawn from the ancient Greeks, meaning fulfilment. This is what really sparked my interest…. that to have fulfilment is to encompass pain and suffering alongside all the good stuff. So, it’s a recognition that negative experiences in our lives can be used for personal growth and from an existential stand point, to find meaning in that suffering.

I think this is useful to hold in mind at the more troublesome, difficult periods of our lives. Certainly in comparison to happiness….which is  not always achievable and is  often a by-product of other things, which suggests it is almost certainly pointless chasing happiness. Because we can’t be happy all of the time and eventually it will just happen.

Existentialism, however, isn’t all doom and gloom. There is a strong emphasis on philosophical ideas of; understanding oneself, making sense of our own existence and then to find meaning and purpose in our existence. All quite heavy stuff….but extremely relevant to every person and will have at some point in a person’s life been a question they’ve asked themselves. “What does it all mean?” “What is my purpose in life?” “How can I live to my full potential?”.

During this part of the workshop we then worked through a series of questions, which helped us consider some of the above. In particular I liked the questions about finding purpose and meaning…

  1. If you knew you couldn’t fail and were going to succeed at whatever you did, what would you do or be?

  2. If you had 100 million pounds in the bank, what would you do or be?

  3. If you knew you only had 6 months left to live, what would you do or be?

It was suggested that to review your answers to these questions everyday (or at least once in a while) may help you to stay on track with doing what means the most to you and that you love doing.

For me I firstly answered question 1 with another question. Would it be fulfilling if you knew you couldn’t fail? Or does the feeling of fulfilment come with a challenge and the risk of losing it all?

Once I got past this stage I was glad to have found in my answers to certainly the first two questions that I’d still be counselling. It’s nice to recognise that what I’m doing now is still what I’d wish to do if I had enough money in the bank to not need to work.

I feel it’s important to look at our lives from these different perspectives and know in ourselves what we really want out of life and to point us in the direction we want to go.

Through personal development and reflection on existential ideas we can become more comfortable with our everyday lives, by knowing who we are, what we may want to improve and how we’re going to achieve it and by having a clear picture of what each of our own purpose in life may be, therefore to be the best version of ourselves.

Here’s to anyone else who’s on the same venture.

Workshop & exercises Delivered by Emma Garrard & Colin Feltham (2018)

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