Personal development: Find out how to do it better


Personal development writer Karen Northshield offers advice on how to plan for your goals.

To be, to do or to have, that is the question. The auxiliary verbs ‘to be’, ‘to do’ and ‘to have’ lie at the foundation of the English language. Grammatically speaking, and when used as main verbs in a sentence, there is a fundamental difference between each of them. Semantically speaking, they imply different sets of values. Within the context of personal development, they can be arranged in an order of importance. 1. To have, 2. to do, and 3. to be. At their most basic level, ‘to have’ implies a meaning of possession – a prize possession – something we give value or esteem. ‘To do’ describes an action or is called an action verb. The verb implies something that you strive to achieve. Lastly, ‘to be’ describes a state or a feeling. “I am this or that”. In its simplest and purest form, it implies a state of existence: “I am”, “You are.”

Personal development is about the self-directed evolution of one’s self, in extracting the most from one’s talents and potential as a person, thereby advancing towards the realization of one’s dreams and aspirations. In its broadest sense, the overarching goal is to enhance the quality of one’s life and ultimately reach a state of satisfaction or happiness. This begs the question, what is your most treasured dream? What is it that wakes you up in the morning, drives you throughout the day and makes you look forward to the next day? Asked differently, what exerts an irresistible force of attraction on you? The answer lies in being able to capture your dream, in defining what drives you in life. You can remain in dream state or you can make your dream a reality. In other words, the evolution of one’s self is about making your dreams a reality.

Identifying the auxiliary verb that correlates with your heart’s desire helps to understand the nature of your dream. Is it something you want to do such as sailing around the world or competing in a race? Is it something you want to have (a sports car, a big house, money, etc.)? Or is it someone you want to be (a professor, a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, a scientist, etc) or even standards you want to live by (e.g. set of values)? The first step in realizing your dream is understanding and being able to define it. There is no better way than to put your desire (or goal) into words. In doing so, identifying the auxiliary word that relates to your dream is a good place to start.

The fundamental difference between the 3 aforementioned verbs is as follows:

    • 1. To have. Your dream can be to obtain something. It can be a goal in itself. However, possessing something does not necessarily make you evolve personally. There is nothing wrong in desiring something but there is danger in the possibility of losing it. What happens if your heart’s deepest desire (money, house, car, etc.) is stolen or taken away from you? Possession can be dangerous and even turn into a vice. When lost, it can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction, dashed hopes, disillusionment… If you lose your dream possession, what do you do now? What remains when everything is taken away from you? To me, it boils down to who you are. Your competences. Your talents. Your person. Your aura. And this leads to the next 2 auxiliary verbs: ‘to do’ and ‘to be’.