A Unicorn’s Take on Personal Development

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Ever feel like you don’t know where to begin? Or like you forgot along some path to take a step back and re-evaluate? Maybe, you didn’t even realize you needed a moment of reflection until it fell into your lap.

That last feeling is exactly what happened to me this year when I was offered to take a 3-day personal development course through my work. I assumed it would be about being the best employee or improving my work outcomes. However, rather than a bunch of games on how to be an effective colleague, the focus was – to my surprise – on me. We discussed our visions for 5, 10, 20, 50 years down the line. We shared our personal and career aspirations. And we learned about how we retain stress and recharge our batteries, our optimal ways of communication, and how we can best capitalize on our personal strengths.

It was the question of “When do you know you’re being yourself?” which made me understand that while I come off as a friendly extrovert, I need my alone time to feel centered. I also discovered that despite feeling like I “don’t know where to begin” with many of my life goals, according to other participants’ observations I had things pretty well thought out. However, my most important reflection came from a discussion on emotional intelligence when I realized that not only is it important to empathize with others by asking “How do others feel?”, but to put empathy into action by asking “How do others want to feel, and what can I do to make them feel that way?”.

After 3 days I felt refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the world! After all, by taking time for myself, I knew I already possessed the starting points to make a difference in the world.

Only problem was, like many personal development courses and other work trainings, learning something in a crammed 3-day session doesn’t always equate to retention of the concepts and application in everyday life. I started out well intentioned with my mantras about task management and active listening, but within one week I could barely get through my emails, let-alone focus on my interactions with co-workers or the long term project I needed to finish by the end of the month!

When we started thinking of an online learning course at NOW, the element of transferring learnings into real life was a key goal. Like many personal development courses, our new FLOW course includes plenty of reflection and learning about your own behaviors, opinions, and tendencies. However, through interactions with a diverse community of NOWers, personalized coaching, and topics that expand our understanding not only of ourselves but also of how we can put our skills to use for positive social change, FLOW wants to transcend the online world towards real-life application throughout. Hopefully by creating this environment where we all learn together by doing, discussing, sharing, and learning some more, FLOW participants will be better equipped to apply the lessons from the course in their life for the long run.

Along with this aspect of real-life application, what excited me most about creating the NOW online learning course was the idea of using NOW’s key focus – diversity – and applying it to personal development. Even though personal development is a lot about oneself, you cannot properly reflect without feedback from others and an awareness of yourself within a broader picture of the world. While my coworkers provided key insights throughout the course, in many ways we lacked diversity as a group: we were all part of the same organization, with similar views of the world and similar career goals. FLOW’s online nature and emphasis on inter-diversity learning will allow us to bring together a group of diverse participants. My hope is that this will enrich the contributions made throughout the course and allow each participant to step outside their comfort zone and listen to others without judgement.

Finally, while personal development and mindfulness are core to being strong, balanced changemakers, knowledge about diversity, privilege, global challenges, and the interconnectedness of it all are key to being inspired, unicorny changemakers! We want to instill key knowledge and lots of creativity and playfulness into traditional personal development topics, equipping both seasoned social entrepreneurs and those who “don’t know where to begin” with the right balance of reflection and tools go out and make a positive impact in their everyday life.

Regardless of whether you need a kickstart, are hitting the pause button, or don’t even know how you found this blog article, I’ll leave you with my pitch: NOW is the time to join FLOW and connect with other NOWers on this exciting journey of reflection, growth, and positive change.