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Personal Mastery: The Never-Ending Quest for Self-Discovery (PART 3 of Six)

March 29, 2010

Updated November 7, 2014

Personal Mastery is the expression used to describe the discipline of personal growth and learning. People who possess high degrees of personal mastery are continually increasing their abilities to create the results they seek. Their never-ending quests for self-improvement and self-discovery underlie the spirit of organizations that buzz with excitement and creativity.

When we speak of personal mastery, it’s important to be clear that we’re not just referring to skills and competencies. Personal mastery includes spiritual growth and approaching life as a creative work. It means that we continually clarify what’s important to us and continually learn how to see the real world more clearly.

People who possess a high degree of personal mastery share some basic traits.

First, they have a strong sense of purpose that supports their personal visions and goals.

Second, they’re individuals who work with change, not against it.

Third, they feel connected to others and to life itself. And perhaps most importantly, they live in a continual learning mode.

Systems thinking brings out the more subtle aspects of personal mastery; for example, combining reason and intuition, seeing the interconnectedness of events in the world, compassion and commitment to the whole. To embark on a journey of personal growth means that one has made a conscious choice. It’s impossible to force an individual to engage in personal growth. As Peter Senge says, “It is guaranteed to backfire.”

There’s a key lesson here for managers: you can’t push against a string. People must want to change. Managers help create the environment, which includes modeling the desired behaviors.

Managers must work daily at creating a climate that promotes personal mastery. They must, above all, establish an environment in which people feel safe to create their personal visions, where they can challenge the status quo, and where inquiry and commitment to the truth are the norm.

If managers live this on a daily basis, personal mastery will be strengthened in two major ways. First, it will reinforce the notion that personal growth is indeed truly valued in the organization. And second, it will provide a sort of on-the-job-training, an essential part of personal mastery. The manager who is serious about her own quest for personal growth will send a powerful message to her followers.

Think about learning plans, a concept that many public and private organizations have adopted n recent years. Unfortunately, in many case learning plans are done TO employees instead of WITH them. People thrive when they’re given the chance to empower themselves; when they’re controlled they shrivel up in spirit and performance.

Last, personal mastery is seen as one of the two individual disciplines. The other one is mental models. However, it’s important to remember that the five disciplines are interrelated. In the case of mental models, they’re also intertwined with systems thinking because they deal with how we view the world.


People don’t grow old. When they stop growing, they become old.
(Anonymous)

Next Post: Mental Models

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