Madhu Einsiedler

Personal Growth

We can live the busiest of lives, rack up myriad experiences, travel the world, see everything there is to see; we can clamber up the career ladder, overcome challenges, purposefully tackle problems, keep our bodies fit and active. We can even train our minds in terms of gaining influence and earning pots of money (and maybe even succeed…).
But none of this (either individually or in conjunction) is any indication that we ourselves are growing as people or, indeed, that we ourselves have actually grown up.

It is often precisely those so-called successful people that demonstrate forms of behaviour that would rather tend to indicate that precious little personal growth has taken place.

A few examples:

  • They point to other people as the root cause for their own personal sensitivities („it’s his/her fault I’m getting annoyed!“; „if only he/she were just a bit different the project would do better, I’d be less hassled, we’d be more successful“) and are totally unaware of it
  • They openly carry their personal sensitivities into every situation, usually unconsciously, and claim that makes them genuine
  • They behave the same whatever the situation, show no emotion whatsoever and claim to be professional and have themselves well in hand
  • They have one, maximum two leadership strategies (for example „Creating and exerting pressure“; or „Showing caring and fostering relationships“) and deem this to be the only possible/successful professional leadership behaviour
  • They assume- unconsciously- that everyone functions like them; asked about it, they will deny it intellectually, but are annoyed when someone behaves differently to what they expect
  • They think of themselves in terms of strengths and weaknesses; whereby behaviour that they themselves have defined as a weakness is often rationalised and relativized, as in „we all arrive late sometimes“ or- see above- pin the “blame” on someone else.
  • They are perfectly well aware intellectually that they can also make mistakes, but of course that is never the case in a given individual situation; they are totally convinced that they are right.

Maybe you recognise good friends, acquaintances and colleagues in this. Maybe even bits of yourself? Get in touch and we can have a confidential chat about how you can use this to extend your cognitive and behavioural options.

The psychology literature sets out various “Growth theories” and “Growth steps” (Wikipedia)

Other fields also providing sources for statements, approaches and models concerning personal growth are brain research (Gerald Hüther being the best known in German), philosophy (the most comprehensive is Ken Wilber) and literature (the most famous being Joseph Campbell).

These theories and models towards personal growth share two things in common. All growth theories assume

  • That growth takes place along the extrospection-introspection path (see below)
  • That when asked to grade themselves within the models, people always rank themselves 1-3 levels too high.

We always consider ourselves more grown (up) than others find us to be.

Let me share with you a few thoughts about intro- and extrospection in respect of personal growth.

We all need a feeling of personal security and recognition if we are to feel well both mentally and emotionally, but different people get these feelings of security and recognition from different things.

If we are extrospective, we seek our personal security and recognition outside.

And the multiplicity of management and success literature serves this need. There are countless models and processes which, if the promises are to be believed, need only be followed to the letter and, hey presto! we will have become just as successful and recognised as the author. Yet by following these models we remain stuck in the same automatic mode- we are seeking direction and security from the outside.

The more we grow, the more this search takes place on the inside. Personal growth takes place when we become oriented from the outside in.

The first half of our life is marked by extrospection.

This begins in the womb. Some brain researchers go so far as to claim that as much as 80% of our “neural wiring“ is formed during pregnancy.
As babies and toddlers we need the outside, to feel safe and accepted. We learn how relationships work, how we are seen and want to be seen. We learn to see and to understand ourselves from the feedback we receive from the outside.

Thus emerges an identity defined by the outside.

A general feeling of personal safety in the world is born, a feeling of being personally accepted and also of having personally arrived. Behavioural automatisms emerge, that allow us to effectively navigate the world.

We learn that we are this identity. We identify ourselves with this view of ourselves that we have learned from the outside and the personal automatic behaviour we have learned. And we identify ourselves with the feelings triggered by these assessments we have learned about ourselves.

At 30, 40 or 50 we have a pretty set idea about who we personally are and how we more or less function. Most of these ideas we have learned from outside and internalised as our own.

In the absence of personal growth we maintain this strategy of seeking personal security and personal acceptance from outside.

We seek our personal stabilisation in our career, through the feeling of responsibility, the turnover or market share achieved, in our new home, the super yacht, the powerful (fast) car, the family, the kids, the trophy partners.

You can probably think of examples amongst your friends and acquaintances.

Nor does personal growth have anything to do with the current trend towards self-optimisation, which again merely serves to fulfil our own target images (adopted from the outside)– faster, further, higher, prettier, younger, richer.

This is the automatic reaction that hampers personal growth: Whenever discontentment arises, or maybe even a virtually imperceptible feeling of insecurity, we have learnt to immediately make such feelings disappear through an outside action, or else we distance ourselves from them by externalising them, in other words by “pinning them on someone else“.

Personal growth means, however- and here all the various theories and approaches concur- always seeking and finding on the inside that personal security and recognition that we have potentially spent 30, 40, even 50 years seeking on the outside. This finding-on-the-inside brings with it the freedom and authenticity we have been seeking.

This also means questioning all the hitherto held “truths” (which provided security) and certainties about ourselves and our view of the world, and finding our own answers beyond what we have learnt and assumed. And to achieve this we must permit uncertainty, at least for part of the way.

Really Good Coaching towards personal growth provides the safe space that makes it possible to allow this uncertainty for a certain period of time. It is within this space that the switch from outside to inside can take place, and personal growth occur.

Each personal growth path is unique. Really Good Coaching supports and fosters your own unique personal growth.

Personal growth is always about giving up an idea we have about ourselves.

For a while we continue in the absence of an idea and embrace this vulnerability within a safe space. We then often adopt a new idea, only to release that idea some time later too, in the next round of personal growth.

Really Good Coaching provides the safe space and framework within which we can confront these uncertainties and direct our attention from the outside inwards towards ourselves, our assumptions, our modes of behaviour, our automatic reactions and triggers. Respectfully and caringly and with due rigour and clarity we can then assess and test them for well-foundedness, effect and validity- the very rigour and clarity that constitute a critical success factor for you in your job, thus making you more successful.

Seeking greater clarity about your personal growth? Contact me.