Questions – Lifelong Learning
1. What are today’s barriers to personal development and growth?
In the present day world, we find ourselves pressured and constrained by a variety of external influences. Mass media, organizations, people, and social forces impact the ways we perceive things and change our attitudes and beliefs regarding personal development and growth. On our way to individual and professional excellence, the most serious challenge we face is the need to critically evaluate “how and why our presuppositions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about the world; of reformulating these assumptions…; and of making decisions or otherwise acting upon these new understandings” (Braman, 1998). In other words, whether we are able to achieve our strategic goals totally depends on our ability to critically reconsider our personal and organizational experiences. In this context, being systematic and fighting with the impact of mass media and social forces are probably the two most serious barriers we may face as we strive for achievement. “There are powerful social forces that act through the mass media to influence the ‘meanings we give to things” (Paul & Elder, 2002). While mass media shape our worldviews, we are also bound to comply with social norms and standards, which do not always favor our strivings; and here, critical thinking and reasoning may resolve the majority of individual and professional complexities, showing us a better way to individual and professional highs.
Certainly, external influences and social forces are not always negative by themselves, but with the desire to promote opportunities for individual self-realization and self-fulfillment, and given that “uncritical use of the media in the learning process engenders in us a great deal of activated ignorance, prejudice, misconception, half-truth, and over-simplification” (Paul & Elder, 2002), we should be prepared to the difficulties of life-long learning. Our ability to overcome barriers in personal development and growth and to promote life-long learning as the direct pathway to perfection will depend on our ability to seek information outside the mainstream and balance the positive impact of social forces with the principles of sustainable personal and professional development.
2. Where would you look for resources to support personal growth and development?
Dealing with issues and inconsistencies is one of the most serious issues in personal development and professional growth. The way we analyze and critically appraise our experiences shapes our vision of the particular situation and reveals the hidden facets of familiar things. Thus, when looking for resources for lifelong learning, we should be particularly attentive to the meaning, which each of these resources carry for us. First of all, mass media are not always a good source of useful information, and where we seek to succeed in our lifelong learning initiatives, we should use information from “news sources outside of the mainstream, sources such as The Nation, and Counterpart”(Paul & Elder, 2002). Second, looking back into the past and rereading the sources of earlier experiences may provide us with valuable primary information and support us in our striving to lifelong learning. “This provides us with a unique perspective and the ability to step outside of the presuppositions and ideologies of the present day” (Paul & Elder, 2002). We can readily evaluate the changes that occurred in the system of critical thought over the course of centuries, and apply those principles to resolve the issues that emerge in the course of our daily interactions with others. Third, thorough discussion, aesthetic experience or detailed examination may become the sources of the so-called “disorienting dilemma”, producing a perspective which contradicts to the individual’s worldview (Braman, 1998). These disorienting dilemmas are the sources of critical transformative thinking and should be used as the tools of unbiased evaluation and critical reflection. Finally, our knowledge of the decisions we took during childhood and adolescence may produce a different vision of common phenomena, giving us another chance to reconsider the most complex issues from a different personal angle (Paul & Elder, 2002).
3. Why does personal growth and development seem more urgent in today’s workplace than in earlier decades?
In today’s environments, the role of critical decision-making cannot be underestimated. Moreover, scholars and business professionals promote and advertise the role which critical thinking and decision-making may play for the development and implementation of individual and professional strategies. In the context, where individuals face a whole set of barriers on their way to individual excellence, and where critical thinking skills determine the success of all organizational initiatives, the need for personal development and growth becomes even more urgent. Obviously, there is only one step from critical thinking to conflict resolution, and that conflict resolution skills should be successfully integrated with the basic personal growth initiatives is doubtless.
With the advent of the new technological era, and with the emergence of the new quality of professional relationships, personal development and growth have become the essential components of a high quality educator’s performance. By transforming persons from fearful and defensive to responsive and confident we shape the basis for creating and disseminating critical information and establish the need for high quality lifelong learning (Braman, 1998). The more we are pressured by external social forces and the more we find ourselves constrained in our inability to resolve daily conflicts, the more urgent the need for lifelong learning becomes. “We learn that others must undergo their own evolution, their own development as critical thinkers and that we cannot give to others the products of our thinking, when it is unorthodox, without their going through the process similar to the one we experienced” (Paul & Elder, 2002), and in this context, the urgency of lifelong learning is determined more by the needs of others, than by our own desires and concerns; and to teach others being successful we should be able to promote the importance of our individual development and growth against the pressure of conflicting external forces.
Braman, O.R. (1998). Teaching peace to adults: using critical thinking to improve conflict
resolution. Adult Learning, 10 (2): 30-32.
Paul, R.W. & Elder, L. (2002). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your professional
and personal life. Prentice Hall.