The True Purpose of Self Development Or Arete

Personal Development dates back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. In those days, Personal Development was a quest to reach “arĂȘte” which means, Personal Excellence.

ArĂȘte, or personal excellence, was sought in order to attain Eudaimonia, commonly translated as “happiness.” Times have changed but the common desire to attain happiness has not. And what was true in Aristotle’s day is still true today. The surest way of attaining happiness is through Personal Development.

Definition of the term Personal Development.

Personal Development means exactly what the words implies, developing our personal resources to its full potential. Seems easy enough to understand yet, it is probably one of the least understood term.

For most people, Personal Development means learning new tricks of gimmicks to get what we want. That’s not Personal Development. At best, it’s an insincere form of behavior and in its worst case scenario it’s just plain deceit.

The objective of Personal Development is arete or personal excellence which can be found in the character of the individual and not simply in a form of superficial behavior that the individual can adopt.

In other words, Personal Development is a quest to develop and optimize one’s original resources to make the individual more effective, better equipped to face life’s challenges and better apt to reach the objectives necessary to attain the state of self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction and happiness.

True Personal Development increases a person’s worth. It belong in the realm of personal character and not simply in the person’s behavior.

Personal Development aims to build in and build up Aristotle’s basic virtues such as: courage, temperance, generosity, friendliness and magnanimity.

Now I know that this is not exactly what people seek when they are involved in Personal Development. Mostly they seek quick fixes and slick approaches to acquiring money and material success. No wonder that after years of practicing so called Personal Development principles no lasting changes have been observed.

Does that means that the teachings of Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar et al are not worthy? Of course not. However we are all guilty of hearing what we want to hear.

Jim Rohn says something to the effect that, if you want to succeed, work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll succeed. He said, work harder on yourself… he did not say learn some slick tricks. He did not say learn this formula and apply it. He said, “Work on yourself.” To work on yourself means improve who you are as an individual. Improve your character. Be a better person. Develop the basic virtues of courage, temperance, generosity, friendliness and magnanimity among others.

How can a virtue be developed? The best way to do that is by raising it in the hierarchy of personal values. We tend to protect more what we value most since losing it would cause considerable pain. So, by raising that virtue in our esteem it will increase in importance in our eyes and will be better protected and practiced.

It can also be done by emulating someone that we admire and who demonstrates that virtue prominently. Emulation is a power tool that can be used with great effectiveness. Whether we know it or not, we are highly influenced by those that we respect. That characteristic can be used consciously or unconsciously and naturally, it’s a lot more effective when we use it deliberately.

Personal Development also means self-transformation. Learning something but not changing who we are is useless. Knowledge is only effective when it is used. Years ago I would go to motivational seminars. We would get all hyped up and get back home ready to turn the world upside down. Sadly, the feeling would only last a few weeks at most.

Positive permanent changes do not come easy. Our brain is quite resistant to changes. It is said that the brain is like a muscle and that analogy is especially true as far as personal transformation is concerned. It is not easy to sculpt and transform a muscle. It takes work and dedication. The same applies to acquiring new and more empowering habits and behavior.

Alexis Carrel author of Man the Unknown said something to the effect that, the transformation of man is not an easy task for he is at the same time the block of granite and the artisan who must, through powerful blow of the hammer, sculpt and fashion the masterpiece that he wants to become.