Personal development was not a phrase or a term I was well acquainted with back in the early to mid-nineties, although it is something I so desperately needed.
My life was in turmoil and I courted disaster after disaster as I veered off the rails and headlong into a place of dark negative thoughts and actions. I was a pessimist. I had self-restraining beliefs, no discipline, and I blamed a host of life events for my situation and predicament. Life had dealt me a bad hand. I lived in a tent for 4 months on the west coast of Scotland until I found an isolated old shell of a caravan in some nearby woods, overgrown and forgotten, and left in a state of decay.
As the days and months passed the caravan shell had become home to me and my partner, a young male Dalmatian, and my closest companion, called Mac.
Once the emotional rollercoaster had calmed, it became a time of reflection, soul-searching and increasing self-awareness. I worked 7 days a week in a local pub. Although there was no running water, electricity or luxury to speak of, we got into a routine and lived day to day. At the pub there was a small marina where I could shower in a small cubicle and wash my clothes. I had one hot meal a day from the pub I worked in. I was content and somewhat happy for the time being.
I was reeling from the death of a close friend at the time and the quiet and simple lifestyle massaged my pain. The months passed, and time had given me ample reflection on where I was in life, and more soberingly, what I wanted to do with the rest of it. I was only 28 years old.
It felt good for me to write my emotions and feelings down and I regularly put pen to paper. Recently I browsed through one of those notebooks and as I flicked through the old stained and dirty pages I stumbled on a page that revealed me at my lowest ebb.
It simply said;
‘Is this it?’
‘Is this what it’s come to?’
‘Is this all I’m good for?’
I remember vividly the heart-breaking pain I was in as I penned those very words. As I wrote them I was experiencing the agony of a failed life. I drank the night away drowning my sorrows as things had finally come to a head.
However, I woke up the next morning very early and felt remarkably clear. Almost as if it had been a type of cleansing. My mind bombarded me with new thoughts. I felt compelled and driven towards change.
‘I’m not done yet, I’m not finished,’ were strong silent statements that raced through my mind. These are thoughts that had been lying and boiling away in my subconscious. Things had to change…I would have to change. I got out another notebook and started scribbling what would need to change in my life and how I would go about it. I also acknowledged I had some powerful bad habits I would need to challenge and overcome. It was the day I took ownership of myself.
What is Personal Development?
Personal development is simply progressive self-improvement. It involves developing an increasing self-awareness of what kind of thinking holds you back, identifying the beliefs that prevent you from challenging your fears and insecurities, and forming the habits of discipline and focus for taking the actions needed to make change happen. You are essentially creating a whole new mindset. At the time I knew nothing of the world of personal development out there. Modern Gurus famous in that field like Tony Robbins, Jim Rhon and Brian Tracey were strange names to me, I knew nothing of them. All I knew was that I wanted to improve my situation and I did that with a refusal to accept my current circumstances as my final reality.
I set about creating a rigorous course of self-improvement that would change my life forever. I’d had enough of being the person I was. The first thing I focused on was my health, diet and fitness. Cigarettes and alcohol would have to go. The next was my self-talk. I swore, a lot, and I realized there were a lot of negative emotions like anger, blame, and frustration attached to the language I used. I set about making a conscious effort to change that.
I thought deeply on what I would like for myself. A job, a nice car, clothes, money and…a future of some sort. I suppose I was goal setting. I became optimistic in nature, smiled more, and I created an inner self, a new Max in my mind who would be my best friend. He was everything I wanted to be. He was confident, secure, happy and smart. I took a deep look inside, I visualized him and conjured him up regularly and stepped into his figurative shoes as often as I could. I gradually became him and embraced the qualities he had. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was slowly making progress, going forward, and for the first time in a while, the future looked brighter.
I made the decision to move and made my way back to Edinburgh. I got a job and I found some accommodation. It was a good start. I began to be organized, planning my day, and dedicated myself to creating good habits. As the months passed I began to feel empowered by my new way of life. The new habits I was forming became stronger and I enjoyed the liberating feeling of a new life on my terms. I put positive energy into all my efforts, believed that I could do whatever I put my mind to and I soon got my mind into a winning run. I dealt with problems differently. I tried desperately to find solutions and my confidence levels increased massively as a result. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t live a life free from problems, but I was focused on dealing with them as opposed to living and carrying them on my back, which makes a huge difference in how you are affected by them. Problems are always there in any walk of life, that’s just how it is, it’s how we deal with them that changes the situation.
It is easy to slip into a negative posture that supports the emergence of damaging emotions. Click To Tweet
I had been coaching myself simply by being very self-aware of how I thought, spoke and moved. It is easy to slip into a negative posture that supports the emergence of damaging emotions. I was able to develop my awareness in checking my negative emotions and regain focus quickly. As my fitness improved I rekindled an old interest in the martial arts and sports psychology. I began to follow my sporting heroes closely, reading about them and how they trained their minds for performance.
One bright summer morning I was walking down Leith Walk in Edinburgh and I saw a pile of books stacked with rubbish outside a tenement stairwell. The book on top of the pile caught my eye. It was Mindstore by Jack Black. I picked it up and started reading it and I finished it that very same day. It introduced me to the world of personal development, goal setting, success and stress management. I loved it and I started to set about finding other authors in the field and I read them as well as any sports performance books I could find. I was hooked! My own personal development took new form as I adopted and experimented with new techniques and incorporated them into my own plan for personal success. That book still sits in my bookcase today among another few hundred books on the topic of human development and achievement.
Personal Development Coaching
Coaching takes many forms and over the years I have had the pleasure of experiencing coaching from experts in various fields of development. Along the way, I’ve gathered and honed some of the key skills needed for effective coaching. In this article, I will highlight 3 of them. Firstly, my own method of coaching is to increase a person’s level of self-awareness, identify their level of potential and work with them to grow their confidence and develop the qualities of focus that will take them towards their goals.
- Identifying potential: Cus D’ Amato, the famous boxing trainer once said, ‘I discover and then I uncover.’ A coach needs a client to have a strong inner desire to change or succeed in their personal quest. Personal development coaching is different to therapy or counselling. The focus is on stimulating your coachee to learn for themselves while the coaching is blended with mentorship in key areas. A coach cares about their client and challenges them to push past obstacles and strive for their own level of excellence.
- Empowering: My strategy is to strongly encourage people to maintain belief in themselves, develop a winning mindset, and cultivate good habits that enable them to perform under pressure. This involves developing characteristics of resilience to push through limiting beliefs and make them aware of all the good reasons why they should believe in themselves.
- Focus: A coach needs to be able to communicate on their client’s level. That means having the ability to see things from the coachee’s point of view and moving towards what works best for them at the current stage in their development. A good coaching programme will set someone up for success while keeping their morale high.
This is by no means exhaustive. There are many things to consider when we discuss what makes a great personal development coach. I believe that we should all strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be. It is when we get into fixed mindsets and limiting beliefs that we stagnate and put blocks in the way of our own potential and what we can really achieve in life. Every successful person has a coach, they did not do it alone, but the essential ingredient and qualities successful people do possess is a burning desire to grow and be better.
I look back now on the person I was all those years ago. I was under-confident, insecure, fearful and I avoided any kind of personal challenge like the plague. One decision backed by action can change your life. All you need is a little belief, a drive to improve, the conviction to be disciplined and the enthusiasm in knowing that you can do whatever you set your mind to.