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ersonal narrative and personal development by
Angus S. McDonald
This is my truth, tell me yours; Aneurin Bevan
Even after writing what must be hundreds of thousands of words, my fear of the blank page still remains! This fear loomed again a few months ago when I was invited by a client to give a presentation to a group of careers professionals as part of a seminar series sharing ideas about how to enhance their work on personal development with graduates. After getting through my ‘writers block’, I took this opportunity to develop an idea I had been mulling over for a while – though certainly not one I claim as my own – the idea that we can view personal development as a way of changing the stories we tell about ourselves. Here is a summary of the thinking behind the presentation. We have told stories for as long as we can remember. Sitting around camp fires our ancestors used stories as a way of communicating their experiences and learning and passing this to the next generation. Stories from childhood and beyond give flight to our imagination and let us explore safely the places we would fear to tread as children or as adults. No matter how old we are, we can still be captivated by a good story well told. For me, a moment of particular insight came when I saw that our personal narrative or biography was an example of story. Even if we don’t tell our whole story or a very detailed version of it, it is, nonetheless, a story. Our stories of our past, present and future are core to defining who we are as individuals, and provide a way of weaving our sometimes disparate experiences into a meaningful whole. Though many aspects of these stories are immediately apparent to us, others we may be unaware of, or consciously or unconsciously distort. As the American psychologist Dan McAdams observes “... if I want to know myself, to gain insight into something of my own life, then I, too, must come to know my own story”. As professionals
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