Personal Development: The Basics in 6 Short Chapters

by Suzie Doscher

Article originally posted on by Suzie Doscher.

A brief overview of the basics of Personal Development as I experience the process based on my coaching practice.

1. The Present

Eckhart Tolle refers to living in the now, which means being able to see and feel what your life is in the present moment.

The present-day buzzword for this is to be mindful by practicing mindfulness.

Standing in a beautiful park, by a calming body of water, or attending your child’s school play or other family event, and actually seeing the trees, feeling the flow and energy of the water, enjoying the play or event while feeling joy instead of being lost in your thoughts (which are taking you elsewhere) is experiencing the now, the present moment, being mindful of that very moment.

Thoughts can propel you into an entirely different location even if you are not there physically. It seems odd that we do not just naturally live in the now. After all, almost everyone would agree that the present moment, the now, is all we have.

When you are able to live in the day life becomes more relaxed and enjoyable. You empower yourself by influencing what you can influence.
This becomes a powerful technique to step out of stress.

This is not to say you should never think of the future and plan to reach your goals and avoid pitfalls.
It is more about how this is done. Keep your energy where it is needed – in the day.

Examine your present-day reality and determine what is working and what is not working.
Explore what you can influence and what not.

Deal with issues and problems as they arise.
By doing this you keep yourself strong to deal with the present-day reality.
Your self-confidence and self-esteem will thank you.

2. The Future

After having examined the present and worked through issues that block you or stand in the way as obstacles, is a good time to think ahead.

Your mind will be clearer now to think ahead.

Where do you want to be in the future?
What do you need to get there?
What are your goals?

Goals are usually around:

What / How you want to be
What you want to do
What you want to have

The actions you take, or avoid – offer clues. Regard these clues as opportunities to learn. You will gain insights for self-reflection.

A goal is not necessarily a target but a desired outcome of how and where you see yourself in the future. Once you have achieved it you will have enhanced your life in some way.

3. The Past

Everybody has a past. Without it we would not be alive or be who we are. Living in the past, however, robs you of the present.

Carrying the past with you is not only a load of emotional baggage to drag along, but it can also block you from seeing what the present has to offer.

In my coaching practice, exploring some of this baggage is sometimes necessary to find out what exactly my clients are still hanging on to.

Pain that remains should be healed, and beliefs that sabotage with constricting behavior patterns should be replaced by healthier ones. If you carry any ‘I have to’ or ‘I should’s’ it is best to exchange these with a new more effective perspective.

New, exciting, energizing people and things can appear in the space created by leaving behind all that no longer serves your present-day life. Sometimes people, things or opportunities appear out of nowhere once you have created some space in your life.

Allowing part of your life to be lived in the past means you are compromising what you could have in your life now. Enjoy the memories, allow them to energize you and offer you creativity, but do not hang on to anything no longer of value – and in fact irrelevant – to your present-day life.

Issues related to unhealed wounds that carry a lot of pain are topics that can be addressed with one of the traditional therapies. I find hypnotherapy can be very helpful.

Letting go of the past and bad habits left over from the past allow the future to be rejuvenating.

4. Change

Thoughts about change usually only occur when life no longer offers you the feeling of being satisfied. These thoughts can also emerge when things are basically all right but there is room for improvement. The difficulty frequently lies in finding out specifically what you can improve, what you should move on from, and/or what you should let go of.

Change is not easy or simple. It can only really occur if you are ready to take action. Research shows 90% of the strategies designed for change assume people are ready to take action and follow through.

In reality only 20% of the people already involved in some process of change are actually ready to take action. This helps explain why so many people who attempt to succeed with New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail.

Often in the workplace and/or relationships a change of behavior is suggested by someone else. If you are not convinced this is necessary you are more likely to fail at completing a change process.

Even if you know changing is for the better, it might provoke fear.

I like to think of the process as climbing a ladder – take one small step at a time at whatever speed suits you, your lifestyle, and your personality. You will reach the top provided you try not to rush it. Be patient and kind with yourself along the way.

Once you have made up your mind that “something has to change,” this is a good time to start. If your motivation comes as a result of trying to please someone else, then realize that you might not succeed.

Do this for yourself, not for someone else.

One of the most important aspects of change in my opinion, personal and professional, is that change best comes from both intellectual understanding and emotional shifts.

If you know something in your mind it does not mean your emotions feel the same way!

You might wish to start with better self-care but yet, your eating habits are based on emotional comfort. In such a case examining when you reach for certain foods is a very good exploration. Raise your self-awareness to your own behaviour. Observe yourself. Get to know the ‘you’ as you are now in real time! I know that something is going on when I reach for chocolate!

At this point support is not a bad idea. Whether this comes from a friend, family or a professional coach as long as you start and get yourself on a better self-care path.

Engaging the support of a friend or life coach for encouragement, motivation, understanding and accountability can be helpful and will increase your chances of success. Specifically, how your support person can be helpful varies from individual to individual, so make sure you communicate clearly how you need.

Believe in the steps you are taking – know that handling yourself better does lead to change and a better future.

Keep yourself motivated and know it is okay to make mistakes along the way. That is not to say you cannot make a change with a decision and follow through (e.g., stop smoking, change your eating habits, stop using certain words, etc.). That is entirely possible. Some, however, take a little more time and practice.

Coaching is about behavior change, which is the reason I am so passionate about it. Although change takes time, it is achievable. In my practice I have learned that when I am interviewing potential clients, if during this chat I hear “Yes, but…” often, I know the first part of our coaching relationship will be focused on establishing and anchoring our work with their motivation to change and follow through.

When you no longer remember how you were before, that can be
seen as a measure of success.

5. Choice

When it feels like you are pushing a large rock uphill or you keep walking into the same wall, it is difficult to realize that you have choices and there is more than one any given problem.

Feeling there is no choice can make you feel helpless and blocked, as if you were at a dead end with absolutely no way out. Knowing there are choices gives you the sense that you have some influence over the outcome of a situation. Personal growth is ongoing throughout your life. The practical life skills you acquire along the way improve the quality of your day-to-day life. One important life skill to learn is how to find those choices when faced with a difficult decision.

Finding the alternative choices available to you means unleashing your creativity in some instances. Allow yourself to let your imagination run wild if appropriate, and above all do not forget to listen to that inner voice, your gut feeling, your intuition, if it is trying to speak to you about a choice you might have.

When life puts you into a situation where there is nothing you can do, this is the time to understand your choice in that moment is acceptance.

This is indeed a choice, albeit a difficult one.

The restrictions and challenges Covid has brought into all of our lives is a good example of adapting by accepting certain new realities.

6. Life Skills

Not everybody has the same dream. Find your way forward based on your own strengths, values, dreams, and goals. The success of some people is not a matter of luck; they will have learned how to manage their life, and they will have acquired the ‘software.’

Understanding that life is about change, which is inevitable, is one of the first steps on this ladder to the top! Acquiring (or enhancing) life skills is the ‘software.’

Let us say you are in a checkout line in the supermarket. The cashier is clearly tired and in a mood – probably fed up of smiling all day while mostly being ignored or even treated badly. You are tired and hungry, want to get home, and you perceive the cashier’s behavior as rude. In that moment you have a choice to react, judge the cashier, get annoyed and lost in your negative thoughts – they might even ruin the next twenty minutes for you. OR you can react with empathy by offering a few kind words. I like to think of the saying “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” You will not only feel better, but you will also have touched someone else’s life in a kind way. I think of this particular life skill as a) not being judgmental and b) having empathy. These are both valuable in life as well as at work. I am sure you can imagine an equivalent scenario in the workplace rather than in the supermarket.

Acquiring these life skills might feel time-consuming. Once you have them, knowing when to reach for them will save you a lot of time you are now wasting by being emotional and stressed.

Emotions tend to enter when a difficult situation arises – at home or work. Once your emotions have been triggered, the issue is no longer only a rational one, it is now an emotional one. With emotions having kicked in, your cognitive resources are the first to be disrupted and depleted. This is a scientific fact. In other words, “you cannot think clearly” in the presence of your emotions.

This is the moment you will want to reach for the appropriate life skill which is to wait until your emotions are somewhat settled before you decide what comes next. In other words: Stop yourself from reacting until your brain can function clearly again without emotions clouded the way.

Life skills make a huge difference in how you handle the realities of day-to-day life.

One step at a time with patience and kindness with yourself. Remember to allow your emotions to catch up with your mind. For this I offer “The Autobiography of Change in 5 Short Chapters,” by Portia Nelson:

Chapter One
I walk down the street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in
I am lost….I am hopeless
It is not my fault
It takes forever to find a way out

Chapter Two
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I pretend I do not see it
I fall in again
I cannot believe I am in the same place
But it is not my fault
It still takes a long time to get out

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I still see it there
I still fall in….it is a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault
I get out immediately

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street

Article written by Suzie Doscher, Executive and Life Coach focusing on Personal Development and Self-Help Author.


As long as she can remember people looked to Suzie for support and guidance. Having applied all growth and life skills she offers her clients to her own life, she knows what is possible!

From her desire that everyone have access to simple techniques helping them move through life’s challenging situations ‘Balance – A Practical Handbook and for Life’s Difficult Moments’ was born. Frst edition in 2014, updated in 2018.

Born in New York, educated in Switzerland and England she now lives back in Switzerland since 2006.

An international upbringing allows her familiarity and comfort with cross-cultural lifestyles and consequently she enjoys an international client base. Continuous education and self-reflection spur on her own personal development and growth while enhancing her coaching skills. Suzie strongly believe in ‘keep on moving forward’ and enjoys supporting her clients while they move forward.

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