Professional Development has always been hard for me to define and oftentimes becomes a list of things I should do: watch this webinar, complete this leadership program, do a continued education course. If you are looking for a to-do list, like I would be, you won’t find it here. Instead, I want to share a conversation I had with Candias Jones. Candias Jones is a servant leader, inspirational speaker, believer in radical resilience, and founder of Coaching with Candi,

Our conversation conceptualizes professional development beyond our titles, achievements, and degrees. Candias shared that, “we have this idea that who we are is connected to what we do. No, who we are is connected to how we live and how we show up.” Reflecting on how we live and how we show up pushes me to believe that professional development is about centering our core.

You may be thinking, what do you mean by “our core”? Candias shared that our core is having a sense of self which serves as a foundation to everything we do. She shared that this core is joy because joy is having a solid understanding of who we are despite external factors and changes.

For Candias, centering her core was to make it her business, “to help other people never go through what [she] went through. The goal is to try to ensure another woman doesn’t go through sexual trauma, another man does feel the need to traumatize, [and] another person doesn’t go through the same pain or same experience.”

Centering our core not only shapes how we want to show up in the world, it also allows us to learn and grow from our experiences. An example Candias shares is that, “you land in a job or career that you went to school for and you realize it is not what you thought it was going to be…..getting to know yourself allows you to look at those things that didn’t work out in your professional life not as failures, but as opportunities to keep growing.” She also shared that if you don’t have your core you will, “be stuck on, ‘Well I went to school for this thing’ – [and] you will miss the opportunity to find something that is going to bring you true joy.”

Developing our core and centering that core in our professional development is a long life journey full of new experiences, risk, and being uncomfortable. As I reflected on my journey of developing my core I realized that I felt bad for not being farther along in this journey and that I had spent most of my journey worried about what I thought others expected from me. As I shared this with Candias she shared two pieces of advice that I want to leave you with:

Don’t base how you operate on other people

“I spent way too much time worrying about how other people will perceive me, and in that worry you don’t grow, you don’t thrive, there is no self-awareness. We are operating based on how we think others want us to operate, and we all do it because we have been conditioned to do it… Let’s not confuse goals and aspirations with expectations. Most of us, until we gain self-awareness and find what brings us joy, base our lives on what other people perceive and what other people think. I have been just as guilty for the majority of my life, which is why I want to share with people at this point of my life that what others think is not important”

Embrace the Journey

“Don’t feel bad when you are at a certain point in your life, it doesn’t matter what age, and you just don’t know. Because you are still learning… Creating that sense of self comes with time, experience, and risk. And you have to take risks. To develop that deeper understanding of self, you have to be uncomfortable, you have to challenge yourself, you have to take risks, you have to step outside of yourself and do things you wouldn’t normally do… It is a journey, it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t ever fully happen. You are going to constantly be getting to know yourself and you should be.”