Personal Development is usually described as a process that is undertaken for life improvement.
At every stage in our life, there are new goals we aspire to achieve based on the requirement of the situation. It relies greatly on the clear and critical self assessment of the existing abilities and skills we currently possess. This would enable us to understand the areas that need attention and improvement. As a process, it is a life long development program, after all there will always be something that we need to learn and acquire the knowledge of.
Unlike Personality Development, Personal Development is undertaken by those who seek to improve themleves for their satisfaction and happiness and not for the admiration in the eyes of the public.
Being highly dependent on self motivation, Personal Development is a process that not all may consider to be a factor that can enhance the pleasure of our existence. Sadly, many remark that due to the time they spend on their work and the rest of the time on trivial inconsequential activities, they get little time to develop themselves.
Victor Frankl (1905-1997) the world renowned Neurologist, Psychiatrist, recipient of close to 30 honorary degrees, a prolific writer who astounding works reflect a deep and intense understanding of human psyche, translated to over 40 languages once said,
“Striving to find meaning in ones’s life is the primary motivational force in man”
A statement of this nature compels us to ask us a question, “Would we be in agreement with Frankl, if our need was to only survive a pitiable, bestial, tortured, impoverished and starving existence?”
If the satisfaction of the basic human needs, such as food, shelter and clothing is not met, how is it possible for us to think on a higher plane of philosophical thinking like Frankl believes? How can we even remotely be compelled to think of personal development ?
We need not look further than from reading his own life story to understand the tragic circumstances that inspired him to formulate this conclusion regarding human behavior.
As a happy and bright little boy who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Frankl is known to have had the innate awareness of human compassion and benevolence at a young age. His dream since childhood remained steadfast, to be in a profession that he could heal others – a physician.
But amidst the darkening war clouds and a troubled era of hatred and violence, Frankl’s life was to endure an unimaginable upheaval.
In September 1942, the newly married Frankl along with his wife Tilly Grosser, and Frankl’s parents and brother were suddenly deported to a concentration camp.
Within six months, Frankl’s Father passed away from starvation and pneumonia. Frankl labored in the camp under excruciating conditions as a physician and psychiatrist and for a while as a slave laborer. From 1942 to 1945 April when he was released, Frankl witnessed all his family members (except his sister who had by then emigrated to Australia) perish one by one in the concentration camp.
This was the phase of Franklin’s life that tragically and ironically enlightened him to develop his unique approach to psychological healing and made him come to the conclusion that we strive to find meaning in our existence. Our discovery of this meaning is what, according to Frankl motivates us to be bravely survive even during the traumatic and painful times in life.
In his work, his experiences at the concentration camp taught him that humans, if they desire can exercise a unique freedom that they are entitled to even in captivity and horrifying existence.
This freedom is none other than our ability to exercise our liberation to determine our psychological well being and perspective towards life. According to him it is not our conditions that determines our attitude regarding our well being but our attitude alone. An attitude that is born of our comprehension of our unique meaning in life.
He realised that many perished in the concentration camp from this lack of attitude or meaning in life. They sadly believed that they have nothing to live for.
From this true story alone, we are taught that winners or achievers are not those who have never faced what appears as insurmountable challenges but they just never thought of quitting even in the most traumatic moments in their life.
And more importantly, they continued to develop themselves at a personal and professional level with zeal and determination.