A stunted approach to personal growth

Like most folks working in corporate America, every year I am asked to identify areas of professional development. For the past four years I have been going to the Editors Forum, a conference that brings together writers and magazine editors from the world of higher education to exchange ideas, explore uncharted territories, and look at the work we do with new eyes. It’s helped to network with peers in the industry, discuss institutional challenges, and learn something new. Every year, I’ve returned to my job invigorated and ready to “rock ‘n’ roll.”

As I deliberate on which conferences to consider for the year ahead, I’m also wondering why we, in general, don’t spend more time investigating personal development opportunities.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go on a retreat at least once a year for oneself? Just take some time off from the 8-5 routine, its demands, its challenges, and its excitement, to look inwards. Doesn’t it make sense to introduce some pause in one’s life, so one can introspect, review, and regroup? It’s great to have that mandate from management (and the dollars) to invest in one’s professional development — couldn’t we then have a mandate for ourselves, akin to a resolution, if you will, that allows us some time to think about our personal goals, our passion, our beliefs, our relationships, ourselves…? It might not result in us feeling rejuvenated or clear-headed (I suspect, most of us would come back to the “real” world questioning the craziness we surround ourselves with), but I do think we’d come back grounded and in better touch with our “self.”

You’re probably saying that’s what vacations are for — our escape from the commotion of everyday living. But, think about it — do you really spend time questioning, challenging, discovering yourself? Isn’t it more about the family, the kids, and sightseeing. Vacations provide relief, not food for thought. Certainly not fodder for growth.

Resolutions aside, checking in with yourself may be the most important thing you do this year.

If you’ve been on a personal retreat, I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you have any ideas for professional development in the field of higher ed writing/editing, please drop me a note.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “A stunted approach to personal growth

  1. 🙂 ok no splurging.. that makes it little easy to manage. I agree even an ordinary road trip can be a retreat, it gives you lot of time to think, reflect and imagine about yourself. Last time i had such retreat was 5 years back and i would say I was lucky, most of us, in our present life styles dont even get that much. They say “impossible is nothing”, but they do not knwo that not everybody is like Rancho (3 idiots) or Mahatma Gandhi. Almost all of us have to be practical in our choices and priorities, there are burdens, there are constraints. “Life is like a race, if you will not run, you will be a broken unda (egg)” (3 idiots). funny , but that is the hard truth. We are running after more and more. One of the very first lessons a kid is taught in KG is of “tortoise and hare race”, we are brainwashed at that very moment not to stop and just keep running (at our own pace, just like that tortoise). And when you do that, there is no time, no time to reflect, no time to go to park and sit for half an hour and think, no time for retreat.

    I am not good at words, so while trying my hands I tend to confuse people, so in case did that, I will summarize my view in one line:

    In current (Indian) society and present lifestyles that we have got, retreat is a super luxury item.

    • I agree with all that you said, Vikas. We are accustomed to it given our upbringing and social circumstance, but we also have brains … an intelligent mind to think for ourselves, not follow herd mentality. Instead of seeing it as a blur of activities that we’re endlessly roped in, we can choose to hit the pause button now and then for our own sanity. Is that too much to ask of oneself?

  2. mansi, mansi, mansi…

    Welcome to the world of fools. but why so late..anyways.. better late then never 🙂

    The question you asked in the third paragraph is the second most intriguing and unsolved problem i have ever faced. The first one is why, in our society for all practical purposes, it is woman’s career which has to revolve around a man’s career for a marriage to be successful. I do not have answer to either of them, I do not see myself getting answers in this lifetime. Maybe the next life, i will find them. Maybe answer lies in the kind of world we have created around us over a period of thousands of year starting from the days of life in caves. We humans are so smart (that we play with words to justify being part of the existing system) and adaptive (we are wonderful in adapting to any kind of situation, and feel normal after sometime). Not to mention that the cost of being an outlier is humongous. Tell me this: who can afford to to go on a retreat at least once a year for oneself in their early stages of career (i.e. a decade or two after leaving the college)? I would say be one in a million, but that is not answering your question because there is no answer. Only hope is in trying to bring up a new generations which can get these changes in the society and as a results, some good answers to these questions.

    PS: Vacations will also need a redefining. Practically for everybody during most or early if not most part their of lives, vacation time is in fact a hectic time: there is no relaxing, it is about running around, planning things, catching up with schedules, and crashing late nights, where is the relaxing and thinking part.. maybe only during the flight, but that is not answering the question here.

    • When I mentioned going on a retreat for oneself, I wasn’t suggesting splurging. One can go on a retreat to a park…stay in a room…sit by a lake. Wherever one finds peace of mind and an opportunity to reflect. Most of us don’t make time for ourselves…but it really isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be.

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