Thoughts on human development

How do you want to spend your life?

Every person has a lifetime. Obviously, for some a lifetime can be very short. For the most unfortunate ones, it will even only last for a few seconds or minutes before death strikes. For the most fortunate ones, this might be 100 or more years. Obviously, “fortunate” is a relative term in this context. First and foremost, because the sheer number of years does not mean “happy”, “enjoyable” or “valuable” years. Probably everyone heard Abraham Lincoln’s quote “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” at some point. Now, the average human will get between 60 and 90 years old these days which of course, heavily depends on what part of the world you live in, as well as environmental, genetic and individual circumstances. Assuming our life has a “normal” length and we are not haunted by an early death or blessed by an extraordinary long (and happy) life, what is our goal in life?

Do we want to develop as much as we can within the years that are given to us? And if that is the case, in what sense do we want to develop ourselves? Of course, there is physical
development, which will happen automatically but can within certain genetic boundaries of course be significantly influenced by ourselves. By the food that we eat and the activities that
we do and these days there is another, relatively new way to “develop” physically with the help of plastic surgeries. The physical development is something, I do not want to talk about in this paper, however. So, when I talk about a person’s development, what am I talking about then?

All of us will develop mentally over time. Like physical development, this will happen automatically, simply by the process of growing up as well as being shaped by the environment
around us and experiences that we make. Furthermore, we have the chance to develop ourselves for example through studying, activities (physical as well as mental) and experiences.

Asking around, a lot of person’s goal in life will be to climb as high on the professional ladder as possible. Their vision is to become a director or even CEO some day. Their sole focus of
development is professional development, considering a higher position in the corporate hierarchy equivalent to more happiness and meaning in life.

Now, the question is, how much meaning does work give your life? Assume, you are getting old and you have had a successful professional career, becoming director, CEO, CFO or even
owner of a well-running business, does that mean you will be satisfied with your life, when death is closing in? Do you think you will feel like your life had more meaning because you managed to become a director and did not spend your days being an Executive or Assistant Manager? Is that, how you will rate your own life? By how high on the corporate ladder you have managed to climb during your working years and how much you have developed professionally?

If the answer is “yes”, probably you can stop reading here. If the answer is “no” or you are just curious, maybe you want to invest a little bit more of your valuable time to read the rest of this article.

Assuming your status in the corporate world will not give you eternal satisfaction when your life is ending, what would you want to achieve in life to die with as little regrets as possible?

How about personal development? Do you think, your last few weeks, days, minutes or seconds will be filled with lesser regrets and more satisfaction if you invested more time into personal development and less into professional development? Do you think, developing as a person will be more important to you than developing as a professional?

If you think, being a valuable person to yourself and others will be more important than being a valuable employee or employer, then how can you develop as a person? What are ways to
develop as a person?

Obviously, different persons will have different answers to this question. One answer, you will get a lot, is by having a family. Marry, raise children. A lot of parents will share with you, that raising children is the most important, enjoyable and rewarding experience in their lives and that having a family with children totally changed them and the way, they look at the world. Children give these persons a meaning, their life has not had previously.

Others will tell you that developing their spiritualism or spending more time on their religious beliefs made them develop as a person much more. Generally, these people will be convinced about their own righteousness and think of themselves as “good persons” because they spend a lot of time, reflecting on themselves, being active in churches, meditation or whatever other practice they have committed to. Unfortunately, their righteousness ends with their spiritualism and religiousness at times and does not translate into everyday life.

Others will find happiness in doing volunteer work. Other than happiness, these people will find, that volunteering made them develop as an individual tremendously. Going to countries where the poorest of the poor live in the most miserable conditions, you can imagine surely makes your view of the world and your own environment change a lot. Especially in days where our “friends” in social networks like to announce their eternal sorrows openly to the world because every individual feels treated more horribly by the world than anyone else! Helping people with real rather than perceived problems surely develops your mind and makes you realize how much you have and what actual problems and sufferings are like. The less adventurous or ambitious ones however, simply choose to do something good not for the poorest of the poor but for the needy ones in their own community. If you really want, you will always find people who are more in need than you yourself and your family are. Most likely, you can take something away from spending time with and helping them and through that develop as a person.

A few others will even tell you to just give everything up and travel the world, if possible on your own, is the best way to develop as a person. They will say, it helps you to get to know and
understand not just the world but also yourself. And isn’t it crucial to know and understand something first, before you can develop it? These people will not be rich and they will not stay in luxury resorts around the world but rather travel the way the locals do, stay in hostels or cheap guesthouses and take every path untraveled they can find. For them it’s not about seeing the nice and safe sides of a place only but to actually experience a place with everything that is part of it. The good and the bad because only that makes you truly understand a place and its people. By being out there in unfamiliar environment, surrounded by people you do not know and whose culture you do not share, yet have to adapt to, you will learn not just about them, but most of all about yourself.What do you enjoy, what do you not enjoy, what can you or can you not take and why? What are you capable of? Only by doing it on your own, you will find all these things out because there is no one else you can get to do things for you. You have to take care of yourself, find all the basic things you need in life yourself.Where can I eat? What can I eat? What am I eating? Where are the washrooms?Where can I sleep? You have to get all these information and sometimes without being able to communicate properly because you do not speak the same language as the persons who hold all this information and no travel agent and resort staff is there to take care of these things for you. Some say challenging environments are the only ones, that make you develop.

Whatever you decide to do to develop yourself, eventually work will still have to be part of your life again. At least to a certain extend. Then what to do? If we can not live without work, but actually would like to spend time developing as a person rather than as a professional, how can we balance our needs and intentions?

The best case would be to find a job which combines professional and personal development. A job that gives us the chance to earn the money we need to live and feed our family while maybe even climbing up the corporate ladder and at the same time makes us develop as an individual. Obviously, the random corporate career won’t offer us this opportunity.

But what to do, if we have already spent too much time, working on such a career and developing professionally, to let all this go to waste and start anew? Well, a consideration often
mentioned is “But if I change careers now, so many years I have spent working on this career will go to waste!”. True, all those years working hard on your career might go to waste, but if you do not change, is there a chance your entire life will go to waste? Is it better to keep doing something for the rest of your life simply because you have already done it for a long time and do not want to let the time you have spent on it so far go to waste? Or is it better to let the time you spent on something you do not enjoy doing go to waste and start anew, maybe from the bottom in order not to let your entire life go to waste by spending it doing something you do not want to do and do not enjoy doing? This question can only be answered individually, so you answer it for yourself!

As we say in FOCUS Adventure “if you do something for a living that you enjoy, you will never work a single day in your life anymore!”.

Some people might want to do something different but find out that they’re simply not good at whatever they would like to do. Instead they happen to be good at all the things they do not
enjoy doing. Maybe they are lucky enough, to find the job they are good at even though not necessarily enjoying it in a company that makes you enjoy the work. Maybe because this
company does not just give you the chance to perform (in) your job, but also to develop as an individual while doing your job, for example by giving you the chance to pick a field of your
choice and liking and spend some of the time you have to spend at work, performing in the field you have chosen for this company. In FOCUS, we would call that “Secondary Role” or “The Leadership Challenge!”.

Maybe more companies and leaders should explore this option to get more performance and productivity out of their employees who might otherwise spend a lot of time just going through the motion of doing their job while being mentally absent and dull, maybe even just pretending to be busy working a lot of times. After all, this can create a win-win situation since the company will improve productivity of their employees, while the employee will spend time doing something, they are genuinely interested in and not just killing the time they have to spend being physically present at work. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said about Leadership: It is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”