Personal Development – Taking Responsibility

Responsibility for my own personal development is something I’ve always strived for. In a former life, I trained and worked as a librarian  and learned the importance of professional development and how it echoes the sentiments of personal development and I have constantly aimed to improve my life in both areas ever since, first as a librarian and now as a coach and mentor.

Whilst my path has taken me away from the world of librarianship, I have never cut my ties with it completely as I love the profession and am still involved with it in a number of ways. This involvement led me to contributing to a blog – written for a library and information audience but with relevance to everyone. In January of this year I wrote the following blog post and it was posted on LIS Network. I repeat it here because whilst it may not appear to directly relate to some of the themes this site is about, the central theme is entirely pertinent. If you want to get to a different place in your life you have to take responsibility and make it happen. Or put more bluntly…

Personal & Professional Development – it’s time to take responsibility

It’s a new year and in the spirit of all things traditional I have made my resolutions. One of them is to go cold turkey on a hard line addiction I appear to have acquired over recent years.

Yes, I am a training course junkie.

I love them. I love learning and as it turns out, my learning preference lends itself quite happily to short, intense courses – soaking up the theory and then working out how to apply it in practice. The internet means I could easily never leave my laptop and wantonly learn forever, stopping only for the obligatory chocolate break and other such necessities. In the past couple of years I have self-studied and taken qualifications in project management, change management, emotional intelligence and am currently studying for qualifications in personal coaching and NLP. The list of things I’d like to study when ‘I have more time’ includes German, flower arranging and my History GCSE and a spot of psychology wouldn’t go amiss either. The list is endless and I like it that way but it does mean that I should probably be taking a course in time management…

Now, I realise that constant learning isn’t for everyone – certainly not my version of it. However, if we are to progress in our lives, whether professionally or personally, it requires time, effort, energy and commitment. Without these, all the courses in the world won’t move you forward. Yet all too often we abdicate responsibility of our learning to others’ – schools, universities, friends, family, colleagues. And employers. All too often I have listened to someone lament their lack of career progression because of cuts in the training budget or a manager who doesn’t think it’s necessary. My answer to this is somewhat blunt but simple – Do it yourself!

Ok, there are some courses that cost thousands of pounds and if your employer is looking for you to study for a specific course at a particular level then of course they should be willing to support this, both financially and in terms of time. But I’m not convinced that most people are looking for that level of support, or indeed need it. The truth is there are as many learning opportunities available to you as you could ever hope to fulfil and many of them are affordable. For example, how about taking one of the free Open University courses available through OpenLearn, Alison or BBC Learning. How about learning a language online – take a look at Byki or Free Language. Or perhaps you’d just like to dabble with learning in a number of different topics in a relaxed and informal way? Then why not sign up to MakeUseOf or eHow. If you prefer task-driven courses and want to take your LIS learning to the next level then 23Things or Jane Hart’s Social Media course may be for you.

It seems to me that there are five main reasons people don’t feel able to progress with their personal or professional development (PPD) and have stated these below – my answers to these are given in bold:

  1. I don’t have the time to work on my PPD. There are 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, no  more and no less for anyone, what makes you special?
  2.  I don’t have the money to pay for PPD. Happily, you don’t need any. Yes, some things can cost but lots don’t so do those!
  3.  I’m too old. I wasn’t aware learning had a cut-off point. When is it?
  4.  I have little/no experience – I need this before I can develop it. Wrong – having little or no experience is the reason to do something, not to avoid it!
  5.  PPD doesn’t guarantee you a job/promotion these days, there’s no point doing it. This may or may not be true but do you really only want to learn for the sake of more money? If you do that’s fine but I’d like to suggest that when you do something for fulfilment, the rewards are much greater.

I realise it may seem I’m being harsh. But see, here’s the thing – PPD is a choice. You can choose to do it or not. Yes, you may need to not do something else to fit it in and it may require you to think really hard about what you really want from your life and why you are doing it. Let me ask you this – if you were to choose from this point forwards, to do only the things you wanted to do and not the things you thought you *should* do, how would you life be different? Would it move you closer to or further away from your personal/professional fulfilment? What would you be doing that you aren’t doing now? What’s stopping you? What’s holding you back?

There is a saying in coaching circles that if your ‘why’ is big enough, you’ll find the ‘how’. In other words, if you know why you want to do something and it’s strong enough, the practicalities of making it happen will become both obvious and feasible. That’s not to say it will be easy but it does mean that almost any goal you set yourself is attainable. That’s a powerful insight, should you choose to accept it. Nobody is responsible for your personal or professional development except you. After all, if you don’t give it the time and energy it deserves, why should anyone else give it to you?

So, if I believe so strongly that PPD is important, why have I made a resolution to go cold turkey and not book any more courses in 2012? Easy. I booked them all in 2011…

Taking ownership of your PPD is as easy as deciding to do so. The positive changes that will result from this one decision will be immense. I would like to leave you with a challenge – commit to taking one action on one thing you would like to move forward on in your life. Just one. It’s your life – take responsibility for it and enjoy the rewards that come with doing so.

Annette Earl


If you enjoyed this blog post about taking responsibility for your personal development and would like to read more of my ramblings you can find them here.

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