Most of us will probably only think about working on ourselves, in terms of personal development, when we actually identify that we have a problem we want to solve. We trundle along with what feels ‘normal’ for us, whether that’s actually a good baseline or not. But it feels normal, so we don’t necessarily see that we have a problem.
Then, perhaps when we actually get around to identifying that we have a ‘problem’ that we want to solve, then, and only then, do we look to make improvements. Maybe there’s a member of staff that you’re having trouble with, and you realise you need some help with leadership. Or you become unwell, and find that you can’t cope with how negative you feel as a result, so you seek some help with positivity.
This seems to make sense as a way of being – why seek help unless you need it?
Well, let’s look at this idea of our ‘baseline’. The baseline is where you are under ‘normal’ circumstances. It takes into account your level of positivity, ability to deal with stress, productivity, leadership, and so on.
We go through life with our baseline probably feeling reasonably comfortable, wherever that baseline might be (and even if it’s on the low side) – mainly because that is what we are used to. It’s a comfort zone.
So the obvious reason for raising your baseline would be to go through normal life with greater positivity, greater productivity etc, and it figures that this might feel pretty awesome. Makes sense, right? And this is true. But there is an even better reason for getting your baseline nice and high for normal everyday life. It increases your resilience when times are tough.
It would be fantastic if life was easy and normal all the time. Sadly it isn’t. Even if bad things don’t happen to us directly, we can be affected profoundly by what happens to those around us. When close friends and family become seriously ill, for example. Or imagine how you might feel if you found out that someone very close to you had been subjected to domestic abuse for years without anyone knowing. How would you deal with that?
Under circumstances like that, let me first say that it is completely normal to feel horrible, and sad, and down, and angry, and all sorts of other emotions that, let’s face it, don’t feel very nice. They are unavoidable. Wherever your baseline is, you’re going to experience a dip.
But if you start out with your baseline being fairly low in the first place, or anyway not being as high as it could possibly be, then the danger is that when your feelings dip into the unpleasant ones I’ve mentioned, then you might cease to function properly at all. If you’re already somewhat negative, how negative do you become afterwards? If your role really needs to be a supportive one, for the patient or victim or family, then you want to be able to function reasonably well.
If, on the other hand, your baseline is fairly high, then your resilience to the difficult circumstances is going to be much better. I’m not for a second suggesting that you won’t feel horrible for a period of time – you’re bound to have an emotional response and that’s ok. But if you have learned how to be generally more positive in life, and have techniques for functioning productively and effectively and dealing with stress, then you are better equipped for dealing with the difficult times. You’re doing yourself a favour, and will be better able to help those around you.
Of course, the other huge advantage of working on your personal development when you’re functioning at your baseline (or above it) is that you’ll find that you develop more effectively, and more quickly. If you let your feelings fall below the baseline before you work on yourself, you’ve got further to go, and all the more negative emotions or circumstances can get in the way of your progress.
So even if life feels just fine right now, take a long hard look at things, and if there’s something you think could be even better, work on it now, before you ‘need’ to. It might involve stepping out of your comfort zone, but be courageous – take it from someone who really knows from experience, it is worth it when times get hard.
© Liz Wootton, 2013. All Rights Reserved.