The Feng Shui of continuing personal development

In work and in life, do you follow the line of least resistance, pushed to and fro by what other people do? Would you rather take responsibility for your own development, personal as well as professional? In this series of articles, I explore how we can adopt a mindful and constructive approach to our own development. Using modelling techniques from Feng Shui (yes, really) we take a journey through eight aspects of continuing personal and professional development. Enjoy.

As mentioned in other articles, a model is just a way of simplifying a domain to the point that it can be understood and discussed in bite-size chunks.

For those interested, below I have provided an explanation to this eight-phase model from Feng Shui, otherwise skip ahead to the articles, you can always come back later (links will be added as the articles are written):

  • Knowing your values and goals (planning forward from potential)
  • Reaching out for support (enabled by your team, leader, and mentor)
  • Taking the initiative (how to get started, using projects and creativity)
  • Interacting for success (stakeholders and other relationships)
  • Realising potential (professionalism and recognition)
  • Learning from achievements (resources and retrospectives)
  • Building a platform for growth (portfolios and experience)
  • Developing yourself (your knowledge and skills)


Some background to this model

Ancient Feng Shui Master

Ancient Feng Shui Master

Feng Shui is an ancient approach to understanding how we fit in our world — how we can guide our own fate and cope with outside influences that affect us — and is traditionally used to survey homes or workplaces. The approach uses both static and dynamic models, and whatever your views on the divination and prognostication of Feng Shui itself, these models can be used in abstract to look at any situation or domain.

The roots of Feng Shui are Chinese, although there is the parallel Celtic tradition of Geomancy that deals with the same forces (think ley lines instead of dragon veins). It deals with subtle energies around and within us (Qi or Chi) and originally developed alongside acupuncture, qi gong, thai chi, etc. The terms ‘Feng‘ and ‘Shui‘ literally mean wind and water: the water refers to slow-moving energies within the fabric of structures around us, which is used to describe our ‘situation’, using a static model (the ba gua); while the wind refers to faster-moving energy that sweeps into and around these structures, which in turn is used to describe ‘influences’ around us, using a dynamic model (the xuan kong).

The static model (eight rooms or ba gua)

Chinese Courtyard House (Siheyuan)In this mode, structure is represented by a static model based around a 3×3 grid — because ancient Chinese homes were typically constructed with rooms around a central open courtyard (see photo).

Properties are said to be surrounded by four auspicious animals:

  • Black tortoise: associated with water, winter, dormancy, and potential.
  • Green dragon: associated with wood, spring, release, and growth.
  • Red phoenix: associated with fire, summer, blooming, and achievement.
  • White tiger: associated with metal, autumn, storage, and reconciliation.
  • Yellow dragon: sits in the middle and is associated with earth, late summer, fruition, and harvesting.

These animals, their colours, elements, seasons, and other associations stem from the Chinese five phase energy model and represent fluctuations from low energy to high energy states (like a sine wave). So, even in this supposedly static model, you can clearly see an energy at play. The spaces ‘governed’ by these animals have uses that align to the inherent energy of that space — the green dragon represents new beginnings, hence children or projects and creativity. While we won’t be discussing this model as a guide to interior design, it is useful as a model in abstract to consider eight aspects of what we do as practitioners (see list above).

… and why feng shui

So, behind all of this, you might be wondering — “sheesh, David, that sounds like a mighty lot of research just to present eight articles … why did you choose Feng Shui as a model“?

Well, my thirst for knowledge and challenge sometimes takes me down unexpected paths. During the 1980s, I studied Feng Shui to advanced diploma level, became licensed to teach it as well as practice it, and had some success (even getting a write-up in the local newspaper). While I haven’t pursued that actively for years, I still find it fascinating and useful in the abstract, and it’s great for pub quizzes.

Incidentally, if you were wondering, the main picture used is of a Luo Pan or Feng Shui compass.

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