Self-Social Development: 21st Century Critical Skill

Abdikadir Ibraim

Dictionary.com defines “self” as a person’s nature and character or the ego; that, which knows, remembers, desires, and suffers.  It refers to the essential qualities that constitute a person’s uniqueness.

Also, the same dictionary describes the word “social” as living in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation. That is a characteristic of living organisms, especially the interaction of humans with other humans in a collective co-existence.

Furthermore, the dictionary definition of “development” is the act of developing; growing or progressing. It is a continuation of steps that lead to improvement.

Development is a broad term and it is different for the individual, family, community, society, or nation. Each one of these categories needs its own development in a different way. For a nation, development means economic, health, technology, military, education/literacy, politics, religion/spirituality, moral, and ethical well being. The country as a whole accomplishes improvement in each area for all of its citizens.  However, family, community and even national development will not be possible without individual development. Thus, for individuals, self development means to have quality education, steady income, stable family, healthy body and sound mind. It also means being intellectually equipped, acting responsibly, and having good etiquette and character, in all his or her daily life activities. What is the significance of individual self and social development? Is there a difference between the two? Can personal self development or social development be enough for a person?

Theoretically, self development is related to the person’s improvement in the educational, economical, and physical growth of the person.  A Person may have high status in all areas of education, health, and financial security. He or she could be seen as a stable person with high principles. He or she could act responsibly, be goal oriented, and possess high management, leadership, and professional skills. This person could be well educated, have a decent job, and high position, but still lack moral character and basic manners. He or she could display dishonesty, meanness, cruelty, cowardice, anger, haste, revenge, miserliness, arrogance, ingratitude, etc. Thus, having higher education, wealth, or position does not make the person superior in their character and how they treat or interact with others without principled social abilities.

On the other hand, social development related to the person’s application on education and material development (self development) within and a mango others. This is highly desired in today’s society. Positive interactions among human beings and with other creatures lead to better understanding and appreciation for one another. A socially skilled person can display competence, politeness, courtesy, cooperation, tolerance, care, and fairness.

All these good traits will not surface if basic self development is missing. The two are inter-independent and material growth is not enough for the kind of development we need today. The relationship here is similar to that of the body and soul. If the body is not there, the soul will not find a home; and if there is no soul, the body will be of no value. These days, people are materialistic and busy with only self development without giving similar care to social development. Material self development without inner purification creates pride and arrogance. The world has made remarkable progress in technology, science, medicine, economics, politics and education in the last century, at the same time, the world faces violence, mass killings, and destruction.

We have to understand that self or social development will not be enough to stop all the injustice, tyranny, oppression, and hunger that characterize our world today – moral and spiritual development is also needed.

Steps Leading the Individual to Self Development

Know yourself: Evaluate yourself in terms of your strengths and weaknesses; what are you capable of and what you are not capable of? What do you like or dislike?

Set Goals/objectives: Have desired ending points; what do you want? Why do you want it? Where do you want to be? How do you get there? These are really the basics of everything we do. This self examination gives us a sense of ownership, which will lead us to think once more our purpose in this life as well. It is the starting point for one’s long journey. It determines one’s future to the path of brightness or darkness. Many people underestimate this important point, so they end up doing things without purpose. There must be destination or goal for whatever we do.

Time management: Time is the most precious possession an individual can have. One must learn time management skill to get to his or her goals. You have to organize, prioritize, and utilize your time in the best possible manner. You have to know every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year of your time is important.  In fact, your time is your life. It is your existence. The minute you do not have time means you have died.

Effort: This means diligently working hard to the best of your ability to make sure the goals you set out are met. ‘Amr Khaled, one of the renowned Muslim preachers once said, “Goals without efforts are dreams, while efforts without goals are nothing. But goals with efforts lead to success”. It was also reported that Imam Ash-Shafi’i said that, anyone who wants to achieve a higher level of success will stay up long nights.

Opportunity: This is a chance for progress and achievement. You must utilize and use the opportunity as if you will never get it again. Use your youthfulness, chance, health, wealth, and life well. Seek knowledge and study hard; work as best as you can. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Benefit from five before five; Your youth before you become old age; Your health before you fall sick Your wealth before your poverty; Your free time before you become busy; And your life before your death.”

Mentor or teacher (murabbi): This status is obtained through learning. Without having a good educator who guides you through the way, you will not be able to gain the education you want to place you in higher level. This educator is not only a teacher who gives you instructions or lessons but he or she is more than a teacher – act as a friend, role-model, parent-figure – a person with whom you can establish long life friendship.

Education: Training is the gateway to good and enduring life. It is the cornerstone for individual, family, community, or nations’ progress in health, literacy, technology, security and economic security. It is mandatory for everyone to peruse it. It is the light of life. Educate yourself through learning, efforts, relationships, and friendships.

Physical fitness: This pertains to the body’s health and will help you to reach your goals. Eating healthy food and having routine exercise and checkups are prerequisites for healthier body that is the vehicle for the rest of you to move.

Steps Leading the Individuals to Social Development

Etiquette: This is a code of behavior that is acceptable within a society, social class or group. It is the rules of social interactions that allow the individual to interact with others within the norms of the society. Etiquette involves the general life of the individual.

Discipline: This is behavior according to specific rules of conduct. It involves speech and communication, eating and drinking, standing and walking, listening and sleeping, learning and working, etc.

Spirituality: This pertains to soul or mind that reflects ton the body. Peace has several levels – internal and external. By the same token, there is individual peace and communal or collective peace. Without internal peace, external peace will not be possible. Similarly, without individual peace, communal peace will not be possible as well.  When an individual is peaceful to his or herself (internal), he/she will be peaceful to the rest of the society (external). Spiritual development brings internal peace, which leads to external peace. As a result, spiritual development will help one to achieve peaceful life with the external world.

Ethical/moral: This pertains to right and wrong in conduct. It gives you the self-esteem and personal confidence you need to lead a life of high standards.

Friends and Companions: It is good to have a favorite friend – those with whom you share principle and values. You gain and give through the mutual friendship. Having a good friend will help you with both self and social development.

Sacrifice and Service: This is where you learn life experiences by giving back, creating bonds and associations, networks and affiliations for your future life endeavors.  This is where you develop your social skills through listening and acceptance of diversity. Build up you resume, and feel good with your life. You feel great when you give back and help another human being.

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