What is self development? And how can it help you with the stresses and strains of everyday life and with your bigger challenges?

First to explain the forest fires and hotel evacuations! 

My husband Nick and I were away recently with our 10 month old son in Portugal.  The older boys were enjoying a week of being spoiled by their aunt, uncle and nanna! 

There had been forest fires in the area of Portugal we were due to stay but we’d called our travel company before flying, and apparently everything was fine. 

Our hotel was quite remote and we’d needed a hire car, I’m so glad we did!  

We drove from the airport to the hotel in the late evening and were less than 2km from the hotel when we first saw the fires in the distance.  By the time we arrived at the hotel the fire was across the road and up a hill, no distance at all. 

Nick stayed in the car with the baby and I went to enquire with the hotel reception about what we should do, we certainly weren’t going to be staying! 

Inside the hotel lobby people were waiting, some with children.  Listening to the conversations, they were all asking about the fire and what they should do.  I waited a minute or so to speak to the receptionist and started to see people running from the hotel with their cases.

The hotel wasn’t at official evacuation stage (that would come about an hour later) but if people wanted to leave, the hotel were arranging a place to stay.   I agreed we would go to their suggested hotel and waited a few moments while she phoned for confirmation that they would have room for us.

During this probably brief wait, my husband was in the car with the baby texting me that we should leave NOW.  I did wait until the replacement hotel was confirmed, took the postcode and left as quickly as possible.

Driving away, I really felt like we were the lucky ones having a car to take us safely away.   Everyone else was waiting for taxis.  I kept thinking of the children in the hotel lobby and wishing we could have taken one or two with us.  They did all get evacuated safely though.

The replacement hotel was very good to us and the next day our travel company got in touch to move us again to one of their hotels.  There was a lot of admin and some heated discussion between the hotel and the travel company rep before we could leave and get settled in the next place!

We made the most of the rest of the holiday considering ourselves to be more fortunate than many.   As my husband has said, it was more of an experience than a holiday!

What really stood out for me was the travel company rep’s comments, repeated a few times over the week.   He said that I had been amazingly calm.  Most people were getting angry, probably feeling very disappointed that their long awaited 5* break had been “ruined”.

He was very surprised by my attitude, I took it all as it came and focused on the positives and the fact that we were safe and had a nice hotel to stay in. 

I’ve pondered on my reaction to the situation including the wait at the hotel with the fire so close by.   Should I have done something differently, should we have left straight away in a panic with nowhere to stay? 

I did feel scared and I realised that if I waited too long, Nick would leave with the baby if he felt it was too unsafe.  I knew this as I waited but still felt it was the right thing to do, we needed somewhere arranged for us to stay or we risked driving around all night. 

In the past I wouldn’t have been able to make a decision like that, I would have flown into a complete panic and not known what to do for the best. 

I also wouldn’t have dealt with the upheaval, admin, changes of plan etc very well either.  I’d have let it spoil my holiday and looked for others to blame. 

Instead I remained calm and able to make clear rational decisions.  I used a favourite phrase of mine at the moment “our thoughts create our reality” and so we decide if we have a ruined holiday or not, and I decided not. 

As the travel rep repeated again to Nick before we left that he was amazed how well I had taken everything, I looked at my journey over the last 3 or so years and realised that everything that changed my life (and that I now teach to others) is what I employed without a second thought, it has become second nature.   

Meditation has changed my brain (it does that) so that I panic less and can think more rationally.  I’ve seen this effect in my everyday and in how I handle a sometimes pressured career.  

The same with gratitude, I deploy this now without consciously thinking of it, I just automatically look for the good in the situation rather than the bad.

I know these tools have helped me, and continue to help me everyday.  But I see now that their effect extends beyond being calmer, less stressed and more focussed at work.  Their effect is to help deal with scary, potentially life threatening situations and with disappointment and anger (I didn’t even feel these emotions I don’t think).  

While I’ve been mulling this over, I was sitting in a coffee shop listening to two young ladies, maybe in their early 20’s if that.   One asked the other “what is self development” ? I couldn’t hear her friend’s reply and couldn’t catch anymore of their conversation unfortunately as I was really intrigued to hear the answer. 

I also loved the question.  I teach “personal development” that’s what my programmes and coaching is and it’s what my happiness workshop is really about.  But, I’ve never actually answered the question, what is self development?   

Just over 3 years ago I didn’t know what it was either.  I’d heard people talk about personal development and I’d filled out a life satisfaction survey and rated zero under “growth” or “personal development” because I didn’t even know what it was, let alone do any of it. 

Simply, its development of self.  But what is that? 

I think it’s learning about yourself.  Learning about what you really want from life, what you really enjoy doing and spending your time and energy on.  

As a lawyer I had an identity.   I was defined by that role.   I’d introduce myself as Hannah, and I’m a lawyer.  As I went down the path of self development, self awareness, self awakening if you like, I decided I wasn’t “just” a lawyer.   That was my job, my profession, but it wasn’t ME.  This isn’t an easy path often.  I realised at first that I didn’t know who I was and part of that was also not knowing what I wanted to do and be in the world. 

What I wanted, started with a journey.  I wanted to be happy.  Plain and simple.  I wanted to stop chasing the next goal or achievement for my happiness because I’d realised I was never actually going to be happy that way. 

I learned how to be happy.  But I also learned so much more.  I learned how to cope better with stress.  How to make clearer decisions. How not to panic first and think later.  What I learned is the reason I reacted the way I did on holiday. 

I’ve heard that only 1% of the population know what they want from their life.  Perhaps self development is being part of that 1% and taking the time out from “busy-ness” to look inward and ask yourself, what do you want from your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver). 

Perhaps self development is being part of the 1% looking inward and asking yourself, what do you want from your one wild and precious life? 

Personal development changed my life beyond any recognition.  Not only did it change what I do everyday (running my legal business & coaching/training/writing my first book!) but it’s helped me to rediscover who I am and what I love to do. 

Maybe I also have a part to play in something much greater than me in the world and that’s pretty exciting! 

What about you, could personal development change your life or career for the better too?!

If you’d like to learn more about self development and the proven tools & exercises I use with my clients, feel free to drop me an email to hannah@authenticallyspeaking.co.uk or visit my “Work With Me” page. 

to your happiness, 

Hannah x

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