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Personal growth and self-sufficiency April 4, 2014

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Concept of personal development, Self-Discipline.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

People have a variety of reasons for pursuing a program of personal growth and development. These include acquiring the intellectual and emotional tools to fulfill their aspirations and goals.

And, we each have different approaches to working toward our objectives.

One of the unique published approaches to a self-improvement program was that of Henry David Thoreau which he described in his book Walden, published in 1854.

The book outlines Thoreau’s experiences when he decided to live alone in the woods of Massachusetts, by Walden Pond, for more than two years, starting 1845, in a cabin he built by and for himself.

His concept
One of Thoreau’s main aims in his “experiment” was to increase his self-awareness, or self-knowledge, and above all, to cultivate the personal attribute of self-sufficiency. It also became a journey of spiritual discovery.

Thoreau also wanted to live a life of autonomy and independence. Perhaps one of the most significant manifestations of this was his developing role as an independent thinker.

In addition to building his own house Thoreau also grew his own food, and overall, tried to live off the land. He lived particularly frugally, and it could be said he was a pioneer of what we now recognize as the simplicity and/or minimalist movements.

A non-conformist
The Scholastic Book Services edition of Walden comments, “America’s most famous non-conformist, Thoreau rebelled against the Establishment of his day. He rejected the world’s definition of ‘success’ and demanded a life of personal freedom. In Walden, he describes his famous experiment in living close to nature.”

In Walden, Thoreau says, “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life…Our life is frittered away by detail….simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”

A successful experiment
Thoreau had many roads to explore in his life-long voyage of self-discovery, and he alludes to this in the Conclusion to Walden:

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one…It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route and make a beaten track for

Overall, he regarded his journey into increased self-sufficiency and self-awareness as a success, and his take-away has relevance to our personal journeys of growth and self-improvement:

“I learned this at least from my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected…If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

What can we do?
While few of us can leave our responsibilities for two years and live in introspection; cultivating our own food, and depriving ourselves of goods and services that make life easier, there are other ways we can become more self-sufficient.

One of these is to focus our intellectual efforts on the more abstract and less material-oriented aspects of self-sufficiency.

In our world of constant-flow information and opinion, for example, perhaps we can make the effort to examine this constant chatter, remove the fluff and the superfluous, and sift what remains through our own personal value systems and then come to our own conclusions; rather than relying as often as we seem to on the assessments and interpretations of others.




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