By Regina Abuyuan


Around mid-2004, I did the unthinkable: I joined a self-enhancement seminar.

Before I actually signed up, though, I went through the usual motions: denial that I needed it; balking at the price; and scoffing at the too-happy, seemingly too-confident people who gave their testimonials. “Interesting,” I thought. “But not for me.”

Curiosity and a good deal on the terms of payment made me register eventually, and in two months, I was sitting with a group of a hundred or so people, eager to discover if this seminar (which promised us “everything we wanted out of life” and “personal breakthroughs”) was really everything its participants said it was.

In a way, they were right.

I learned that most, if not all, of us never live in the present. We live in the past or the future, and the baggage of our past and the anticipation of what’s going to happen in the future affect our choices today.

I learned to consider things, events, people, words just as they are—nothing more, nothing less. They only gain meaning when we color them with our own intent and personal dramas.

I learned that the everyday complaints we have about people and situations are what hinder us from moving forward. I learned that we actually are attached to those complaints and don’t want to give them up, even if we know we can and should, because we get a payoff from feeling and believing in such.

What are these payoffs? We may feel right (or righteous), we may feel powerful, or for those who like it, we may feel victimized. Whatever it is, those payoffs make us blind to what really matters: Would you rather be right, or alone? Powerful, or feared? Strong, or perennially stressed out? Victimized, or always dependent on other people’s perceptions of you?

I learned about choices, how they’re different from decisions, and how you can make your life work by re-making your choices every day—or unmaking them with the same commitment if your life isn’t working.

I learned how to “complete” things and issues with other people; and how to feel complete with incompletions if the other person wasn’t yet in the right space to allow that completion.

I even learned that the simple formula of context-breakdown-breakthrough could be applied to almost anything (in fact, it’s one of the formulas I give to younger writers if they ask for story guidelines).

These may sound simple, and I learned so much more from this basic seminar, that I enrolled in the Advanced Course, and later, the Leadership Course. As I am not a trained Forum Leader and one blog entry can’t encapsulate everything the seminar has to offer, it would be unfair for me to expound more.

There are some who get addicted to seminars like these, though, and when that happens, their self-improvement goals become counter-productive. Self-enhancement programs are meant to enable you to stand on your own; they’re not meant to become a crutch.

I stopped being actively involved in those seminars in 2006. Life continued, but this time I was equipped with tools I needed to deal with certain aspects of it; to transform the way I previously handled problems and issues. I don’t use all of them all at once, and sometimes I forget to use them at all, but they’re there when I choose to pull them out, and so far they’ve served me well. “We already know that,” skeptics will say about seminars like these. “We just need a reminder.”

True, but it takes a bit of humility to be open to those reminders; and a bit more to actually accept them. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t an advertisement for you to go out and sign up for the first self-enhancement class you encounter. Those opportunities for self-improvement can come in different forms, and at the right time.

Meanwhile, be willing to be nudged, to consider another person’s perspective— an external voice, if you will—to make you realize your “blind spots” and help you bloom.

Be willing to do the unthinkable.