We often take it for granted that people only grow up in their childhood and youth; however, at the same time we also have the notion that there is another kind of growth that is less evident than the first, which is expressed in actions and attitudes of life.
Bearing in mind that the latter element can develop throughout life and that what we take away from it can significantly influence our quality of life and the quality of our relationships, its importance is comparable to that of biological development.
Now, to promote personal development, it is necessary to understand what it is, what its nature is . Let’s ask someone who is specifically dedicated to this area of life.
Interview with Rubén Camacho, psychologist and coach
Rubén Camacho is a psychologist, coach and writer. Currently he is specifically dedicated to working on accompaniment processes for people seeking to promote their personal growth. On this occasion, we will ask you a series of questions about your experience about what it is and how you can facilitate personal development.
Personal development is an area of experience that is difficult to define, partly because it is different for each person. However, if you had to summarize that concept, how would you do it?
Personal development is above all an experience. If we had to define what personal development is in a concrete way, we could say that it is a series of different and conscious experiences and actions that you take in your life, in a concrete period of time and focused on a concrete objective as well, that make you grow as a person and change your life and what happens to you thanks to your own change and to develop personal skills that were a little asleep or that you had not paid attention to, such as your management of emotions, your style of self-esteem, your way of communicating, your self-knowledge or personal relationships.
Our life is full of moments where we seem to get stuck in something, we live as if in a circle and we don’t like that. Personal development is what makes us get out of that circle and learn something very important to us that makes us live better and above all that serves us for our whole life.
The problem is that it is very complicated to do it alone, since people are social beings and in the company we find a reflection that helps us realize what we have to change and how we can achieve it. We psychologists are the ones who have the tools to do it professionally and safely, although it is true that psychology has focused more on pathologies than on personal development.
It is also true that personal development has also become a fashion. This is good on the one hand, because it helps us to be aware that there are aspects we can change in order to grow and live better, but it is also dangerous, because it encourages many people to follow gurus or be accompanied by people who do not have the right training.
Personal development, at the end of the day, is something that will change your life, so it is important to take it seriously and with a lot of enthusiasm and joy. Difficulties exist so that we learn to be grateful for them.
In recent years many courses and workshops on personal development have been designed around the world. Do you think that the theoretical learning that is transmitted in them is necessary to achieve the objectives they propose?
No, it’s not necessary at all. In fact, it seems to me that it’s a distraction. I’ve accompanied people to achieve incredible changes in their lives and they haven’t needed any theory. It’s like learning the formula for H2O and bathing in a river. What’s the experience really like? Will knowing the formula for water change your life? No. But bathing in a river will make you feel the water, the cold, it will be the great experience.
Personal development is something that you do differently, that you live, feel and experience to discover that you have great value and that what happens to you will change if you change.
This is why these courses are not really useful… learning about emotion management is one thing, but learning how to manage them is another. Actually, those courses exist as a business but they don’t involve people making changes. To all the people I have accompanied I always ask: what have you done up to now to get the change you want? Some told me that they have attended courses, workshops, training… but nothing has changed.
What really works is a process of change. Practice, accompaniment, reflection, awareness and many pleasant emotions. Theory is for study or training, not for changing your life. Life is outside the classroom and your dreams have no walls.
We talked about what personal development is and how it can be enhanced through accompaniment.
One of the aspects that draws attention to your career is that at one point you decided to travel through several countries alone, without knowing anyone in the places where you were going, to develop as a professional and as a person. In retrospect, what do you value most about those trips?
First and foremost to have challenged my fears. Traveling alone makes you afraid, as does not knowing anyone and immersing yourself in insecurity. Before those trips I already accompanied people as a psychologist and coach, but I had to set an example. I discovered that what most prevents us from changing and improving is being afraid of insecurity. So I decided to disobey my fear and do what gave me the most insecurity: go into the unknown.
I discovered how important it is to accept life, to assume changes, to know that everything is temporary, and in the process I got to know beautiful places and incredible people. I took with me not only experiences but also built a family. Thanks to go beyond your fears and accept life and receive what it has for you, is how everything changes and you get a thousand gifts that you could not even imagine.
Regarding the above… Do you think it is essential for a coach to preach by example in order to practice? Is it good for them to pose challenges in order to test themselves?
Totally. A coach is a person who knows how to accompany another person, in a professional and ethical way, to achieve very important changes in their life. To do so, he must be able to respect the world of others, see it in perspective and broaden that vision. If you live without changing anything or with a very rigid way of life, it will be difficult for you to help the other person to change. It is like an overweight doctor, a writer with spelling mistakes, an unfriendly teacher or a corrupt politician. If you do not set an example, you will not be able to help the other.
However, it is also important that change is not a constant. There are also limits to what can be achieved by “going outside the comfort zone”. You shouldn’t just go out, but only when necessary. Human beings also need acceptance and stability.
And about the controversy over whether coaches need to be psychologists to work on this, what do you think? How do you see the relationship between these two areas of work?
They are two totally compatible and companionable areas. I don’t understand the dispute, although I do understand that many psychologists are very angry. In my case, as a psychologist and coach, I can only tell psychologists that coaching is not the problem, but the intrusion that the coaching world experiences and the excess of poor quality training.
A psychologist has the foundation, training and tools to help others improve their lives when there are pathological problems. A coach uses a Socratic dialogue, which is the same basic tool of a psychologist, to accompany people to achieve concrete changes in a safe and stable way and in a short time.
If coaching has emerged, it is because there was a gap left by psychology. In my experience I have discovered that coaching is nothing more than a very powerful accompaniment tool (perhaps the most powerful, effective and safe) for people who do not suffer from psychological problems.
Should a coach be a psychologist? In principle no, since I know many coaches who are not psychologists and have a great track record and ethics. However, it is true that these professionals have been trained as much as possible in psychology.
How to solve the problem of intrusion? In my view, the solution lies in psychology… Psychology faculties must conquer coaching as their own human tool, not leave it in the hands of associations and private schools that are nothing more than business. Maybe not now, but I would love that in a not too distant future coaching is totally regulated and that they should be psychologists in a mandatory way. That’s how we’ll put an end to the indoctrination.
What have been the biggest challenges and the biggest victories you’ve had in your professional career so far?
The biggest challenges have been facing me with myself. Accompanying people from other cultures has been a great challenge. Accompanying people when I was also experiencing great personal changes and difficulties has been a great challenge. Accompanying people within large and complex institutions has been a challenge. But the most important has been to overcome myself. Knowing that the most important thing was to help the other person and to be able to overcome those difficulties.
The greatest victories? To feel a part of the victories of the people I’ve accompanied. For me, the greatest achievement is knowing that you have been able to help a person change their life forever. I don’t care about logos, brands or fame, but about the testimonies of the people I’ve accompanied.
These have been my greatest victories: when a person who has completed a process of change sends me their testimony and expresses their happiness, or when I write them an email after 6 months or a year and they express how much they have learned and that everything has changed forever in the way we work. My greatest victory is not to have given up in the face of difficulties.
Another thing to highlight about you is that you have developed a project called Human Empowerment, based on the accompaniment of people. How does it work and why did you decide to design it as you have done?
Human Empowerment is an online school of personal development. In this school you can be in contact with me, choose what you want to change and start 3 month change processes with my company in areas such as self-knowledge, self-esteem and personal relationships, emotion management or professional development.
The operation is the simplest in the world: you enter, you register in the program that interests you most, you start a training, you write me an email … is a school that never closes. The trainings are change processes that last 3 months with my company, and you can do them from home and with freedom of schedules.
It has been the way I imagined and designed to be able to accompany all kinds of people without the usual limitations: space, distance or money (since being online, they are more economical and assumable processes than a coaching process). In this school there is everything I have learned and it is the best way I can accompany someone, since it is free, we are not limited by any factor and the processes are private.
In these years of traveling I realized that people have difficulties to change because personal development is also somewhat elitist or only lectures or courses are offered. Human empowerment gives the possibility to live your real process of change. Besides, I also have freedom of schedule and agenda, so it allows me to be with my son and my family – all advantages!
Finally, what would you say are the aspects of life in which we find the keys to personal development?
Mainly in personal relationships, and I know this especially since I’m married! Living like hermits or seeking solitude or silence in an absolute way is not what works, but what separates us and gives us only a fleeting happiness, which is the same one we have when we consume.
We are mirrors of each other and in personal relationships is the greatest learning of our lives. With the company of the other is when you can learn everything, and if you accept the other you accept yourself. My wife and my son, for example, are my great teachers because they constantly reflect me and help me know what to change or improve.
All religions say it: “Marriage is half the religion”. But in reality any kind of relationship is a challenge and a great learning experience: couple, friendly, social, work or family. Through the other, we learn to accept and get to know each other.
Another of the great keys is personal crises. These are great opportunities for self-knowledge and change. When there is a crisis, it does not mean that we have made a mistake or that something bad has happened, but that there is something in you (in your way of seeing life, of interpreting what happens to you and to others) that must change because it no longer serves you. Change is always within you.
Another main and essential key is to take action. Personal development is not achieved by using magic phrases or attending lectures, but by acting differently. To achieve personal development you have to live, know, accept, dare to do something different, commit yourself, have the company and above all be very eager to achieve it. It seems very difficult when you think about it but when you get through the first stages everyone is surprised at how easy it is.
Everyone asks: why didn’t I do it before if it was so simple? It’s all about taking the plunge. Going to yourself. It’s the greatest gift you’ll ever give yourself.