No education is ever a waste of time. Whether one is following an academic course of study, a technical track, an internship, a charitable experience of volunteering, or acquiring wisdom from the day-to-day lessons of work or your personal life, knowledge collected and applied is time well spent. The process of learning takes time, and it is a journey of patience and requires a conscious effort for every self-discovery step you take. Whether the directive is through words and books, systems and principles, numbers and facts, or personal development and relationships, we are always growing ourselves and expanding our skills—if that is our desire. Pursuing education is a conscious choice, and we become what we know.
I have long been a student of advancing human potential and promoting personal development through education. When asked the question, “What do you know that is absolutely true at this stage of your life?” My answer is: There is always more to learn, more to discover, and certainly more ways in which to improve ourselves and to give back to others. This course of action can only continue through the process of gathering knowledge. Our careers and jobs, the places where we exchange our time, talents, skills, and mental and physical efforts for payment are where we are able to develop those parts of ourselves that are buried within us just waiting to be called out and expressed.
For us to produce effectively in any work situation, we must continually gather more knowledge and advance our skills. Likewise, to create strong and healthy personal relationships and a life of joy and abundance outside of our work life, we must understand ourselves and others. Both accomplishments are essential for a balanced life, and they require education and the development of skills.
Whether through words and books or personal development and relationships, we will know what we will become by what and who we allow into our lives. Or, as author, seminar leader, and consultant Charlie “Tremendous” Jones stated, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years, except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” Nevertheless, in these times when technical innovation permeates every area of our lives, including health care, transportation, the food industry, communication, and banking, education is not only important, it is required to succeed in any area of our lives.
Advanced education is no longer only found in following an academic course of study, especially after the discovery of the significance of emotional and spiritual intelligence. There is so much more to becoming an evolved and knowledgeable human being. Philip Mountrose, a holistic coach writes in his blog, Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence: Keys for Accessing Your Full Potential: “Emotional intelligence involves understanding one’s emotions and addressing them in a healthy way that honors all concerned. Spiritual intelligence lifts this awareness to a higher level, to a place where we can connect with our divine nature and the truth that unites us all.”
As I have come to believe, what happens for one happens for us all. When one is lifted, others will follow.
This past month, I attended a day-long workshop titled, “The Art and Practice of Increasing Self-Confidence,” presented by Victoria Trafton, the Confidence Coach. Our group of 17 women spent the day sharing and taking in the wisdom that Trafton has spent more than 40 years cultivating, deciphering, and ultimately using to create a powerful and candid one-day seminar.
She was a Silicon Valley executive for more than three decades, where she reached the top 3 percent of women income earners early on in her career. She later became an entrepreneur, and working as a successful franchise owner and master trainer provided her with the experience and vision for teaching women to thrive by refining their confidence.
With her direction and an online assessment tool that the participants took ahead of time, we each acquired a deeper understanding of our character style and the style of others to strengthen our effectiveness in communicating. From a foundation of awareness and understanding ourselves better, we can begin to truly listen to the inner voice that is either directing us forward or holding us back. Identifying our character strengths, behavioral styles, and our uniqueness in approaching any situation provided a way to move forward more effectively.
As Trafton expounded, “Confidence is a belief in your ability to do something. Total self-confidence is belief in yourself.” My personal takeaway for the day was that confidence will come to those who know themselves, and only through education will we discover more of ourselves. Eventually, we become what we know. The more we know, the more we become.
My co-author Mary Beth Stern and I have started the process of writing our third book together, and we are interviewing a large, diverse group of women who own and operate their own businesses. Some have owned their successful enterprises for as long as 30 years, and others have been in existence for a shorter time, but the recurring theme has become obvious. Most of the women did not necessarily follow the lead of their college studies, or even what most thought of becoming in their childhood dreams. They made a shift and took on a completely different path from where they thought they would eventually arrive.
One great example of such a shift is a talented woman who first studied theater and voice and was encouraged by her instructors to consider pursuing opera as a career path. As a child, she loved music, singing, and theater. After graduating from college and experiencing some success in show business, she took a leap of faith. When her father became ill and to keep the family business going, she became a securities and investment adviser specializing in retirement planning.
For almost 30 years, she has been president of her very successful retirement-planning company. She feels that she made a great choice in the move. Alongside her business, she volunteers her time as a lobbyist at the state legislature. Her comment to us about her education as an entertainer was sensible and interesting. She said it prepared her to speak in front of groups, and when speaking to groups, no matter the information being delivered, it’s important to be a bit entertaining. As a knowledgeable and confident woman, it’s obvious that her gathered education has only enhanced her accomplishments. Her story proves once again that no education is ever a waste of time.
Although education can bolster competence and open doors in the workplace, only our inner personal work and self-knowing can build true confidence and help us access to our full potential. Many times, the gap between knowing and accomplishing is not due to a lack of knowledge, but a lack of confidence in ourselves, and, consequently, underestimating the value that we are capable of bringing to those around us.
As I stated above, to create strong and healthy personal relationships and a life of joy and abundance outside of our work life, we must understand ourselves to understand others. The same attributes of strong and healthy relationships can uphold and promote us at work. As author Grace Killelea writes in The Confidence Effect, “Relationships are one of those invisible components that help determine our success. But unlike a pay grade, security clearance, parking space, or job title, you can’t necessarily put a finger on how valuable they are … until you need them or they need you.”
Nothing teaches and grows us more than relationships. At the top of our list of relationships is the one we have with ourselves. After all, we become what we know and what we feel.
Hilda Villaverde, PhD, holds a doctorate in religious studies with a minor in pastoral counseling from Emerson Institute. She is a business owner and author of five books, as well as an ordained minister and a public speaker. She presented at the inaugural Arizona Chapter HFMA HERe event in December 2013.