Achieving aspirations and growth

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Achieving growth, fulfilling personal aspirations

by | Nov 1, 2019

Personal aspirations are achieved by growth and movement, not by staying still, according to Anaïs Nin. She wrote that ‘life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.’ She added: ‘Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.’

As a coach, I work with entrepreneurial and professional families. They certainly do not want to ‘elect a state and remain in it’. Quite the contrary, they have bold and expansive personal aspirations. They want to move forward, to grow and develop.

Let me tell you a story about Jenny. Jenny was a rising star behind the camera whose name often appeared on the credits of TV programmes. She wanted to cut her ties to the shoelaces of television producers and develop her own business.

Kitting herself out, looking for new clients, making films independently of television is her aspiration. Getting there requires a good deal of personal development – and money. Jenny buys a camera and not just any old camera. For what Jenny wants to do, she needs a serious and costly piece of kit. Jenny also needs to get trained in its use. At the same time, she is learning to tell her own story, market her business and sell her services. She also spends money on developing the many other skills and personal strengths needed to build a business.

Achieving personal aspirations

I work through this with her. Unsurprisingly, this involves spending money. We put together a life, business and financial plan to help her achieve her aspirations. As I do so, I realise, I am developing a plan for her own personal development. Without this, it is unlikely she will ever achieve her aspirations.

Jenny has used her money for her personal growth and to fulfil her business and personal aspirations. Now, she chooses her own clients and has control over her life. As a consequence, she has made time and space for her family and boat on the South coast.

The moral of the story: personal development and achieving personal aspirations is one of your money’s most important roles.

The common goals most of us aspire to usually include developing a better relationship with your spouse or partner. Achieving greater personal integrity also comes high on the list. Better education, creativity, and helping your local community also feature, as do aspirations for your business or professional life. All require a degree of personal growth and development.

It’s all about the journey.

One word epitomises Jenny’s story, and all those similar stories I hear – ‘journey’. Jenny and others feel that staying still is not an option. They also understand that growth requires a journey into an unvisited or new part of ourselves or the world. Like all journeys, it will come with an emotional, financial and physical cost.

Take Scott Harrison, CEO and founder of charity: water. His journey started from scratch in 2006. With no previous experience, he established a charity to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in the developing world. According to its website, charity: water has since brought clean water to over ten million people in twenty-seven countries.

Harrison describes his journey in his book, which begins with his meaningless time as a New York night club promoter. His search for meaning and need to make a difference take him to the Mercy Ships in West Africa. There, he realises that clean water can, literally, change the lives of millions. His subsequent courage, desire to learn and resilience take his organisation from nothing to what it has become today.

Money plays a part, of course. However, back in 2006, Harrison had just $1,100 in his pocket, which he uses to set up his charity. That isn’t going to go far, so he asks others for their money. His first fundraising foray is to throw a birthday party at which he raises $15,000. In subsequent years, charity: water raises over $300 million to bring clean water to those who need it.

Money has played a crucial role in Harrison’s story. Without his own money, little though it was, and that donated by others, he would not have witnessed the achievement of his aspirations. (Watch Scott’s journey video at the bottom of this post).

Why does ‘journey’ work?

Alain de Botton gives an excellent explanation in his book The Art of Travel. De Botton tells us that ‘the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are’. De Botton is saying that we entrap ourselves in a false life through an overemphasis on the home. ‘Home’ refers typically to where we live. In personal development terms, of course, it also means your mindset and broader personal circumstances.

Every time we move out of the gilded cage of our home, and into a new world, we challenge ourselves. It is almost as if we were going through a unique initiation ceremony every time we open the door. In her book A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong describes initiation rites in traditional tribal societies. The initiate is taken from his secure and familiar home. In a ceremony, the initiate dies to his old (childhood) self and is reborn as a man. The trauma helps him to understand that ‘death’ is a new beginning. It is ‘a rite of passage to a new form of existence’.

Armstrong emphasises that this happens every time you leave the comfort and security of your home. You go through the trauma and stress of a transformative journey. Each time, you die to your old self and are reborn a new person. The more you do this, the more you grow and develop.

What’s in a journey?

We usually think of moving physically from A to B when we talk about journeys. Your journey of personal development growth, however, will require more. It will be about an emotional, physical or intellectual move from where you are now to a new place.

  • For Armstrong, a novel should be ‘written and read with serious attention’. When it is, a book ‘can help us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another’.
  • When you travel, you will discover new ideas (or even old ideas), new people, contemporary or ancient cultures, different lives and new perspectives on the world.
  • If your journey is professional, it will involve conferences, coaching or business retreats. The really valuable (and expensive) programmes are transformative. They help you to implement some new model, process or vision, rather than just think about it.
  • Building a better relationship with family and friends is often at the top of your list of aspirations, so you may want to travel to visit relatives and friends. 
  • You may use your work skills and expertise to help others in different parts of the world. In helping others in contrasting environments, you learn as much about yourself as you give to those you are working with. One of my clients, a recently-retired doctor, now travels frequently to Southern Africa. Here, he uses his skills to bring comfort and healing to others. At the same time he, too, grows.

Growth, journey, personal aspirations, money

Up to now, ‘travel’ has probably sat towards the bottom of the expenses column of your spending plans. You attach a figure to it and take holidays out of this category. Instead, I suggest you recognise money’s immense potential in your personal development. I advocate best practice in personal finance should be to give the highest prominence to your ‘travel’ category. So, first, let’s rename it ‘Personal Development’. Then, give it a top priority as transformative travel, personal growth and development.

Money in this category can be used to visit friends and relatives, to educate yourself and to care for yourself. Alternatively, it could be used for more outward-looking projects. You could use it to discover your fellow human beings and their history, culture and lives. You could teach or care for others, explore and be adventurous. This is money’s real purpose – to take the ‘ordinary’ you and transform you into the ‘essential’ you.

And while growing personally, you will probably discover new meaning and purpose in your life. In turn, this will enhance your personal happiness and satisfaction with your life as you achieve your personal aspirations.

Growth and aspirations at the heart of spending plans

When you shift the emphasis of your planing to personal development, you experience an increase in your self-worth. You break out of our own private prison, become less reliant on others and become a world changer. Through personal growth and transformation, you stop being part of the problem. You become part of the solution, to use that well-worn and useful phrase. In so doing, you enhance your own respect for your self and your worth in the eyes of others.

Money is not the only catalyst for personal growth and development. Your head and heart also have a significant role. However, money’s potential role in your personal growth puts it at the heart of your development plans. So look at your spending plans now. Make a real commitment to increasing your planned expenditure on travel, growth and personal development. Invest in yourself and put your money to use creating real personal wealth for yourself.

References and credits

  • Harrison, Scott, Thirst, Currency 2018
  • De Botton, Allain, The Art of Travel, Penguin 2002
  • Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Myth. Cannongate, 2005
  • Photo by mauro paillex on Unsplash

This is the sixth article in a series of articles on the roles that money plays in our lives.

Scott Harrison’s charity: water story


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