Continued development – you owe it to yourself

GadgetSo you bought the flowers, booked the table, possibly even tried your hand at a love-sweet sonnet. That’s Valentine’s Day, done and dusted. While we are still in February – which, by the way, has 29 days; nudge, nudge ladies – I would like to suggest something wild, something that many of us find difficult…

Why not love yourself for a change? And by this I mean to go beyond the usual “hello gorgeous” as you wipe the sleep from your eyes every morning.

Invest in yourself.

Not necessarily by booking a Swedish full body massage, although that can go a long way in putting back the ‘I’ in ‘invest’ and probably leave you a much nicer person to be around. Invest in something that develops you as a person. If Maslow’s hierarchy is anything to go by, we are wired for much more than provisions and procreation; but one rarely moves up that scale by chance and self-denial is really only advantageous if it comes to carbs and sugar.

When last did you learn something? Either about yourself or about a discipline, hobby, sport – anything that stretched your comfort-seeking grey matter beyond the status quo. If you are fortunate enough to work in a place where your employer encourages work-related training and development, do you make use of such opportunities?

“Oh, but I’m too busy; there’s too much to do!”

Really? I eventually figured out that excuse probably stems from my amygdala – that part of your brain that regulates the freeze/fight/flight instinct: Heavy work burden equalling heroic fighting to make it happen combined with a good dose of victim mentality (“I wish I could also… if only…”).

If only? If only I (employee number 2 341) were not so utterly indispensable to the survival of the company… If only leaving my desk did not mean that the sky might fall and no-one besides me could catch it… If only going on company-sponsored training would not look so much like ‘putting myself forward’… If only I did not have to ask a day or three’s extension on a deadline that was either unrealistic to begin with or was self-imposed…

If only… Dreadful phrase.  What about, “It’s busy now, but this course will really help me to improve on … I can manage the workload by…”? One thing that I have learnt is that there is always a plan to be made – we are often just too lazy, rushed or browbeaten to think it through.

And those who do not have the luxury of a company-encouraged skills development plan? How long will you dream about piano lessons? If you’re passionate about helping people in emotional pain, why not volunteer at a helpline or as a volunteer carer at a hospital? If your heart goes bump at the sound of a remote controlled whatever taking off, why not join a local amateur radio or robotic club? If the thought of speaking in public makes you choose the backseat every time, why not confront the fear and join Toastmasters? If your accounting skills resemble 19th century impressionism, why not enrol for a beginners course?

It does not have to be big, but whatever you decide to do to improve yourself this year – just do it!

  1. Take 30 minutes by yourself (lock yourself in the bathroom if you must) and think about five things you’ve always wanted to do or know. Cautionary note for the workaholics: this will frighten you because you have not thought about yourself as an individual with diverse skills and likes for a long time…
  2. Prioritise your list (both in terms of ‘most wanted’ and possible expense).
  3. If money is a challenge, start with the least expensive – write it in bold in your diary, on the shopping list, on a post-it note stuck to the bathroom mirror (“Hello gorgeous, today you’re phoning the chess club!”).
  4. Phone the chess club, commit, and fight off that ol’ killjoy called guilt or whatever your fall-back is.
  5. Look forward to your ‘date’ as an opportunity to broaden your horizons, stick to your date and savour being able to celebrate a new skill.

You really are worth it.

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