Personal Development: Contemporary Relevance

Dr. Ronit Lami, MSc, PhD

Ronit Lami

Money Wealth and Relationship Consultant/Coach/Psychologist

Personal Development: Contemporary Relevance

The paradox of our time in history is that we have
Taller buildings, but shorter temper;
Wider freeways, but narrow viewpoints;
We spend more, but have less;
We buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgement;
More experts, but more problems,
More medicine, but less wellness

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We have learnt how we make a living, but not a life;
We have added years to life, not life to years.

We have been all the way to the moon and back,
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space;
We have cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul;
We have split the atom, but not our prejudice.

We have higher incomes, but lower morals;
We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character;
Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare;
More leisure, but less fun;
More kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;
Of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window,
And nothing in the sickroom;
A time when technology can bring this letter to you
And a time when you can CHOOSE either

            To make a difference, or to just hit delete…

(The Paradox of our time, Internet/email spread, author unknown)

1.1       The Relevance of Personal Development Notion

One of the unanswered questions is where the notion of Personal Development comes from and how it has evolved up to our time? 
Dryden and Vos in “The learning revolution” (1994) talk about being in a time of a key historical turning point, that we are now facing. They argue that around 10,000 years ago our ancestors first learned to grow crops, and put animals to work. This ushered in the agricultural revolution. Around 250 years ago they unleashed the power of steam, and pioneered the Industrial Revolution and started to ‘move away’ from religion. Religion has started to lose its central ground in Western civilisation, and a fragmentation of the culture has occurred. Particularly over the last one hundred years or so, many sciences and disciplines have emerged in order to replace the many functions and meanings religion had for most individuals. Science seems to some to be the ‘answer’ for all as it is considered to be grounded in reality as well as being measurable. Creating the technology revolution. Over the past 20 years we have entered the age of instant information and the world will never be the same.

Early compilations of excerpts from the Bible showed how a person could better oneself in life, which led to the emergency of Positive Thinking early this century, and to the myriad of techniques and methods that are now looking for some common denominator under the umbrella of Personal Development.
It is part of human nature that, consciously or not, we are striving to increase our vitality, our effectiveness in life, and our capacity to evolve in ways that are in tune with our times. It is not surprising then that many writers, educators, scientists and many others talk about our time as being a time of birth and of great change (Chopra, 1989Dwyer, 1998; Handy, 1994; Spezzano, 1999; Dryden & Vos, 1994).  How did "our times" change in the last 100 years or so? 

It is our "worldview" that tells us. Tofler, in "The Third Wave" (1980) and Maynard and Mehrtens in "The Fourth Wave"(1993) claim that it is our "worldview" that tells us, and reflects the birth and the change. They talk about our time in terms of the Fourth wave. After the time of the Second wave - coinciding with the Industrialised Society - and the Third wave - still gathering pace today in the post-Industrialised Society - there is a Fourth wave emerging.

In The Second Wave relationships were seen as one being isolated from the other, and therefore there was a need to compete. Authority was something externalised, power was seen as outside oneself. Values were rooted in materialism and the supremacy of man. Security was seen in material terms. The mode of inquiry stressed linear thinking. Decision-making was an act without awareness from unconscious scripts to rational decision-making. From these there was a move to the Third Wave where in relationships people saw themselves as connected to each other and needing to co-operate. With regard to authority an inquiry began to how external it is, and sought to retain a personal locus of authority to take back power.
Values started to manifest a growing concern for balance and sustainability, and material foundation as the basis for security was questioned. The mode of inquiry started to incorporate intuition and non-rational processes, and in the process of decision-making people had become more aware of intentionally and the need to act with intent.

With the evolution from the second wave to the third one, it is not surprising that a Fourth wave is now emerging, emphasising that in relationship is to see ourselves as one with the other, and choose to co-create. Authority manifests collaborative systems, where authority is fully internalised and power seen as being within the person. Our values are focused on the integration of life and responsibility for the whole. Security is viewed in terms of personal inner trust. The mode of inquiry moves beyond intuition to tap the full range of human abilities, and in the decision making process we recognise the centrality of intention.

Table 1: Waves of Change





see ourselves isolated and needing to compete

see ourselves as connected and needing to co-operate

see ourselves as one and choose to co-create


externalised- power seen as outside oneself

beginning to question external authority and retain personal
locus of authority, take back power

manifest collaborative systems  where authority is fully
internalised, power seen as within the person


rooted in materialism end the supremacy of man

manifest growing concern for balance and sustainability

focused on the integration of life and responsibility for the whole


seen in material terms

material foundation questioned

viewed in terms of personal inner trust


stresses linear thinking

Incorporates intuition and non-rational processes

moves beyond intuition to tap full range of human


act without awareness from unconscious scripts, rational
decision making

become aware of the intentionally and the need for
acting with intent

recognise the centrality of intention

(“The Forth wave”, Toffler, 1980)

Dryden and Vos (1994) stress that humans are born without the skills that secure their survival.  We have to learn how to walk, how to talk and so on, although we are born with the natural capacity and drive to learn these skills. The ability to learn languages is innate; it is the language that varies. The quality and the vitality of our mode of transmitting relevant knowledge and life skills to the new generations are the keys to the survival of our race.  In order to be in tune with "our time" we have each and every one of us to add something to what we receive from those before us, if only to make all that we receive our own, in order to use it as an individual, in our lives.  More and more we also have to adapt or invent new ways of our own to deal with a world that is changing faster and faster.  At an ever-increasing rate, the knowledge and skills passed down from generation to generation, in the family and via personal contacts, are becoming outdated within the individual’s lifetime or even less. Technological changes can make skills redundant in a few years; the advent of the PC replaced typing skills with word processing skills. Leaving the individual to cope with a totally new reality, that requires new sets of skills and a different level of thinking that no one has equipped them with.

The educational system does not fare any better as Gordon Dryden and Dr Jeannette Vos go on to say in "The Learning Revolution" (1994):  “…because true education for all is a major pert of the answer. But we’re not talking about academic education. We’re talking about personal growth (which includes self-esteem), life skillsand learning-to-learn”. They make a clear distinction as to what an individual may need in order to take advantage of the current explosion in technology and communications between "academic" education and personal growth, life-skills and learning-to-learn. They argue that one has to "raise your vision in a world where almost anything is possible". They take over from Charles Handy (1994) who says in "The age of Unreason" that: "Education needs to be reinvented.  Education will not finish with the school, nor should it be confined to those who shine academically at 18.  Learning…happens all though life unless we block it." Handy sees a very grim alternative to that: The danger of doing nothing is that the underclass (that new alarming world), excluded from the world we are moving into, takes its own initiatives, substituting terrorism for politics and bombs for votes, as their way of turning the world upside-down. 

Right now, the established ways to impart and transmit education, knowledge and skills have come under a tremendous attack from all parts of society.  Personal Development seems to emerge from the failure of the established system to provide what is needed for the effective progress and survival of our race. It has been developed and provided mainly by ‘rebels’ ‘against’ the establishment (Richard Bandler, Anthony Robbins, Deepack Chopra, Wyne Dyer, Chuck Spezzano and many others) and by those with an entrepreneurial nature, outside established institutions or systems. This can be reflected in the establishment of Anthony Robbins Mastery University, where courses like ‘Life Mastery’, ‘Wealth Mastery’, ‘Date with Destiny’, ‘Mastery Mentoring program’ (to name only few) are provided. As these programs are designed to help one “create an extraordinary quality of life”, and are taken by people from all walks of life. CEO’s (Sony Pictures), authors (‘Men are from Mars women are from Venus’), athletes (Andre’ Agassi), army Generals (H. Norman Schwartzkope), media (Larry King), MD’s, housewives, screenwriters (‘sleepless in Seattle’) to name only few(Anthony Robbins Mastery University Brochure, May 1999). Programs aim to provide us with those life skills, which traditional streams of education do not equip us with.

Harvard Professor Reich estimates that “…by the year 2020 the top fifth of America’s earners will account for more than 60 percent of all income earned by its citizens. The bottom fifth will take home two percent –unless we change our priorities and educate and retain most our people so that they develop the skills and abilities currently used by the most affluent. And increase arrays of forecasters say that dramatic new forms of education provide the key” (Galbraith, 1992). There are a number of observed benefits that are offered by different kinds of processes, which can be included under the umbrella of Personal Development. Some of the most significant benefits are in the area of equipping individuals with tools for life. These are the tools that support the individuals so as to be able to find, and continuously review their own way, of adapting, inventing and reinventing themselves when faced with the increasing changes present in our time, and which affect more and more the individual ontological position (Robbins, [Mastery University Brochure], May 1999; Landmark Education Brochure, 1995; Riggio, [The Mythogenic Self Brochure]).

Moving in our existence from one level of thinking to hopefully a ‘higher’ one can be reflected in describing our time as “The Age of Aquarius”, and in the developments of the “New Age” and “Human Potential” groups. Starting earlier on this century, Gurdjeff and others, who aimed to promote self-realisation and enlightenment, spreading out concepts like Positive Thinking, Freedom of Limitations, Breakthrough Thinking and Transformation. Using a myriad of techniques and methods that are now looking for some common denominator under the umbrella of Personal Development. 

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