Posted by: Susan Hendrich | April 21, 2017

The Spaces Between: Taking time for your personal development

What if you spent 30 minutes on your personal development every day? Reading. Blogging. Journaling. Drawing. Imagining. Networking. Planning your future. A half hour. Every. Single. Day.

A friend recently told me that in a “How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” seminar, she learned that we should spend a certain amount of time each day focused on our personal and professional development. Each day? Wow, that sounded like a lot. I mean seriously, how many meaningful moments do you average each day, working on developing your strengths? Or your resume? Or your network?  Pffft, my answer to the question wasn’t all that great, so I decided to try out the concept.

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For one month, I’ve spent 30 minutes each day with focused attention on my personal development. Reading, writing, sharing, listening, and absorbing myself in energy focused on my growth as a professional and as a person. The results are predictably exciting and positive, but not for the reasons I’d expected.

Of course I learned a lot through tuning in to authors and speakers and mentors and idea-makers. But it wasn’t those active learning moments that made the biggest difference. It was the spaces bewteen that yielded a refreshing and unexpected rush of creativity, clarity and focus.

I believe that investing in your personal and professional growth is an iterative process best achieved through small, meaningful steps over time. Just like a great athlete or musician or speaker, it takes sustained and consistent effort to build the muscle memory needed to become fluent in any worthy pursuit. Intentional practice in directional increments is often said to be the secret to reaching a development goal. But I believe that in between those efforts of intention, the silent “pauses” are just as important. A pause can be a time of silent introspection or just a rest from the norm of day-to-day goal pursuit.

The pause is for me is about allowing thoughtful spaces between my rushed and hurried emails, calls, and meetings. It’s about protecting and valuing those spaces, rather than rushing to fill them with urgent-but-not-important matters…Allowing those spaces to be dedicated to developing my strengths and focusing on where I want to be, not just where I am.

English musician Gordon Sumner, better known as The Police’s Sting, once said,

“Paradoxically, I’m coming to believe in the importance of silence in music. The power of silence after a phrase of music for example; the dramatic silence after the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or the space between the notes of a Miles Davis solo. There is something very specific about a rest in music. You take your foot off the pedal and pay attention. I’m wondering whether, as musicians, the most important thing we do is merely to provide a frame for silence. I’m wondering if silence itself is perhaps the mystery at the heart of music? And is silence the most perfect music of all?”

What are you doing with the “spaces between” in your life?

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