Adam Blatner, M.D.

(Revised and re-posted, October 14, 2005)

There are many, many kinds of learning that have to do with self-development, and that aren't taught in most schools or colleges. Imagine you could take a major in a four-year college, one that emphasized the development of the human potential instead of the "liberal arts."  Now modify this idea so that it would be a curriculum you could develop and take over twenty years. Most of this time would be post-graduate, in young and middle-adulthood. Indeed, some "prerequisites" for some of the "upper division" classes in the University of Yourself might include having raised a child or two for at least five or six years; having been married and engaged in making a home for at least five or ten years, etc.

Since first developing these ideas, I have come upon others who have also developed similar visions of comprehensive growth programs, with lots of room for "electives." Ken Wilber's recent book, Integral Psychology, (2000, pp. 112-114) has come to a similar conclusion, brilliantly presented, and others, such as Tony Schwartz' What Really Matters.

The real goal of the University of Yourself is the development of skills of self-awareness, wisdom, character, communications, self-management, problem solving, and living in greater depth. Its implicit assumption is that it is a life-long activity, really. There's no one who can really have the authority to grant you a diploma–at the upper division level, there are too many subjects, and no end-point. Also, there's no one to impress if you did have a diploma. The joy is just in learning the skills and exercising them in order to make life a little more manageable.

One of the implications of this metaphor–life as a kind of university curriculum–is a consideration of the great variety of subjects in the "course catalog." When I first went to the university I was delighted and a little in awe of the sheer variety of possible classes. Just the names of the classes intrigued me–it was like going to a zoo and finding all manner of animals I'd never could imagine existed! The descriptions of the classes extended that sense of awe and excitement–the sense of exotic foods to be tasted on this incredible multi-cultural "menu."

 So consider, then, the following list as a sort of menu or college catalog–that these are some things that it might be great fun and deeply life-enriching to learn:

A Curriculum: (A Sampling of Possible Things to Learn and Do)

Basic "Core" Processes:

  Finding your own individuality--taking stock of temperament,  interests, personal history, preferred tastes in art, food, music, dance, poetry, etc.   (See my paper on this website on individuality)
  Assessing your strengths and weaknesses
  Daring to dream, envisioning a more wonderful future
  Reviewing your beliefs, attitudes, basis of information, with a view to revising what needs revision

Applied Psychology

  Experiential training in communications, interpersonal and group problem-solving, self-awareness, and maintaining vitality
  T-Groups, "Personal Development Laboratories," applied selected "group therapy" procedures for promoting "human potentialities"
  Developing communications among your inner parts
  AA, 12-Step Approaches, self-help groups of various types
  Grief work, conflict resolution
  Expanding understanding through role playing, imagining what it's like to be in unfamiliar roles, even ones that you generally reject--other beliefs, political or religious attitudes, etc.
   Beyond revising your attitudes, balancing, centering, finding ways to express your various parts and interests, and integrating the unresolved conflicts and dualities in your life

Personal Mythology

  Finding your own special symbols, special animals, stories which you find especially meaningful, naming your heroes, spiritual or intellectual ancestors, creating special areas in your home, decorating with meaningful pictures, etc.
  Telling your life story, with the help of facilitators transforming the events of your life into a heroic journey (it is, you know), taking turns in "being seen and heard and known."
  Reviewing your life in turn of present values and directions, finding and co-creating its meaning.
  Celebrating your life, inviting family and friends, making sure you can witness to what you value to those you love.
  Learning to add rituals of appreciation, deepening, imagination, reminding and other themes to your life.
  Deepening your spirituality through cultivating your connection with the "beyond within," through prayer, meditation, contemplation, and activities which carry a measure of this type of "interiority."
   Singing songs which are special to you, or parts of songs, or "mantras," or chants.
   See papers on deepening personal meaningcreative mythmaking  and associated endeavors that promote personal meaning  on this website.

Body Development

  Awareness Through Movement (Feldenkrais), Dance-Movement  approaches, Alexander Technique.
  Martial Arts Forms, e.g. Aikido
  Bioenergetic Analysis, Structural Integration (Rolf)
  Tai Chi, Hatha Yoga,
  Sensory Awakening, Massage, working with "body energy," "touch for health,"...
  Various types of Dancing: folk, line, square, round, clogging, belly, etc.

Soul Development

  Dream Work.
  Improvisational Art or Art Therapy approaches.
  Imagery Work
  Walking the Labyrnith  (numerous websites, books on this subject, written in last decade)
  Use of Projective Devices:
     Astrology, Tarot Cards, the Chinese I-Ching (Book of Changes), etc. --not as divination so  much as as a way to reflect more deeply on  what the symbols and their interactions suggest.  (See webpage article on  Tarot cards on this website.)

Spiritual Development

  If you have a chosen religious path:
    Developing, applying the teachings to your own life, your own predicament, your unique individuality
     Deepening the sense of connection with the Divine
   Learning about other religious paths or traditions, or Searching for a path that really works for you.

Imagination Training

  Creative Dramatics, the Art of Play,
      Improvisational art, dance, creative writing, poetry, haiku (Japanese special brief poetry form)
      Photography and photo-life review (see Personal Mythology)
   Developing an imaginary friendship or relationship with a muse, a guardian angel, a saint, or other beings; cultivating a fairy garden; imagining your own personal entourage, etc.


  Art, music, drumming, dancing, singing, clothes, style, special interests
  Playful role expression, costume parties, parades
  A creative writing journal, poetry, sharing talents

General Learning

   The wonders of science, astronomy, biology, new discoveries
    Linguistics, history, anthropology (about other cultures)
    Social sciences, sociology, psychology, philosophy
    The lore and interesting aspects of math, geometry, art, music, etc.
    Other activities, suggested by Pink (2005) and others.

Curriculum Design

   Developing your own individualized program, using vocational guidance techniques, applied to senior years

This list is of course meant to be suggestive. I won't presume to have covered all possibilities. New sub-fields and methods arise constantly. Indeed, I'd like to hear from you about what items you might want to suggest be added or taken off or revised.


Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind: moving from the information age to the conceptual age. New York: Riverhead Books / Penguin.
Wilber, K. (2000). 
Integral psychology: Consciousness, spirit, psychology, therapy. Boston: Shambhala.


For responses, email me at adam@blatner.com

Return to top