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On December 10, 1948, 56 member countries of the United Nations came together and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

This Declaration contains 30 separate articles or “Rights” that we all have simply by the fact of being born. We do not have to earn them; no one has to give them to us—they are ours.

In my opinion, it is an amazing, well thought out document. Even more amazing to me was that 56 countries came together in response to the atrocities of World War II and agreed on something that is so critical for all human beings to be able to live with dignity in peace and tolerance on this tiny planet.

There is a particular line or theme that was repeated in 3 of the 30 rights that stood out to me in Articles 22, 26 and 29 having to do with the “free and full development of the human personality”. Hmmmm. How do we achieve this? What does it really mean? What makes it so important to be repeated 3 times?

Article 26, Right to Education, specifically states: 2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Unfortunately, most people I’ve come in contact with over the past decade have not even heard of the UDHR and can name only a handful of the 30 human rights. So, even though we have this great document and did the hard work of having many countries agree on something, it is still not being taught or executed broadly enough. Hence, many continued horrific human rights violations.

My question is: what makes the free and full development of the human personality so important and how do we achieve it?

It was important enough to mention in 3 separate articles and yet I don’t see it being actively pursued by many individuals, schools or organizations.

I recently did a survey and one of the questions was did you learn this human right in school? Another was, did anyone ever talk to you about having a Basic Purpose while you were in school? There were very few who responded yes.

Great writers and philosophers have been teaching the concept of Know thyself for millennia.

Know thyself. – Socrates

Do thine own work, and know thyself. – Plato

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. – Aristotle

Man know thyself; then thou shalt know the Universe and God. – Pythagoras

Be yourself; not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be. – Henry David Thoreau

In 1831, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem titled, ‘Know Thyself’, on the theme of ‘God in thee.’ The poem was an anthem to Emerson’s belief that to “know thyself” meant knowing the God that Emerson felt existed within each person.

How much time and attention do any of us really put on knowing ourselves, our basic purpose, and achieving our full potential? What could the world look like if we did something to change that?

Not only would individuals be more alive and happier, the world would be more beautiful and peaceful. We would actually care for each other, our organizations and our environment.

It does make a lot of sense, like this human right states, for Education to be directed to the full development of the human personality. Once we reach adulthood, many of us lead very busy lives with lots of distractions and simply do not take the time to discover who we are or what our purpose may be or even acknowledge that we have greater potential than we probably could ever imagine.

The truth is, it is never too late to find and start living your purpose. The key is to set some time aside in your daily or weekly plan for discovery, find a coach or process that works for you. Then set some goals to consistently work on achieving your basic purpose and full potential.

The Persian poet, Rumi once said, “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” This has certainly been my experience. The secret is to simply start.

It’s time to bring this human right to life!

Post By:  Ellen Firestone

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