Personal development is a catchy term in recent times. In that space, the majority of us are speaking about “improvements” which may have a positive impact on our lives. But have we ever wondered how to make the most of the actions that we are taking?
In today’s post, I’d like to guide you through the basics of personal development, what is this, and how to make a plan to really see improvement in your existence.
I saw plenty of definitions. All of them I sum up in one-two sentence:
“Personal development (or personal growth) is the series of activities to expand your self-awareness, knowledge and improve personal skills so that you can go through life easier with a feeling of fulfillment.”
Sounds simple, isn’t it? The concept of personal development of course is not limited to self-help only – it might also include activities for developing others in roles like teacher or mentor. In addition to that, it’s really important to mention that this is a process. Lifelong process.
Personal growth is also a field of practice and research. By practice, I mean all personal development techniques, tools, learning programs, and so on. As a field of research, it includes all publications that have been published in scientific journals or books. This area of knowledge is evolving over the years – many things have been already discovered, probably many not yet.
If I’d like to say one thing about all of that I would say – personal development cannot be ignored. It has so much big impact on a daily basis. On the other hand, in my opinion, it’s really easy to understand what is this but it’s really hard to master.
The benefits of personal development
A big impact is on the reason why personal development is so important. Also, there are much more benefits including:
- You will feel the purpose and the satisfaction – working on your personal development is something that will help you to find your main purpose (maybe not at the beginning but with time passed for sure). Also, working on your weaknesses and building new skills will give you a lot of satisfaction.
- You will understand (better) yourself – using various tools and techniques you will be able to build self-awareness which is the best way to understand how you behave and to find your identity.
- You will build your position in the society – if one of your goals is to have a remarkable position in the society where you are living in, personal development allows you to achieve it by developing needed skills like leadership.
- You will build your confidence – confidence is all about how much you trust in your abilities. Personal development allows you to train these abilities which increase your level of confidence naturally.
- You will be more clear on your goals – working on yourself also means that you will be more and more clear on your goals. This is because you will discover what are the main areas that you would like to improve and goals will be associated with them.
- You will get the most from the relationship – all of us are dreaming about having true friends around and through the personal development process you can also find them.
The areas of personal development
There are 5 most common categories of personal development, where the majority of people are looking for improvements:
- Health (Physical) – it’s obvious that without good health we cannot progress in any other area. Personal development in that space is not only the popular term “I should exercise more”. It also includes building healthy habits regarding eating or sleeping, regular health checking or expanding your knowledge in that space.
- Wealth (Career) – in this category fits everything related to your development as an employee or, in other words, this what brings you money on a regular basis and also how you manage your finances. Development here, in my opinion, means all actions that you are taking to have th dream job and to have a feeling of financial stability.
- Social (Relationships) – one of the sources of happiness are close relationships. In this category you may think about development in the topics like communication skill, finding a partner and how to maintain health and strong relationships . Also, active listening is one of the skills that have a big impact on how we socialize with others.
- Mental – this is the broader category, because here is all what you need to grow your mind (for example by reading books). Mental personal development is also the improvement of skills which are universal and usable in multiple life areas.
- Emotional (Spiritual) – emotions play a key role and they cannot be ignored – understanding and dealing with them are the necessary skills in today’s world. Spirituality here means everything that you are doing to feel peace and helps you to connect to your true self.
Personal development plan
Once we know all the above information, it’s time for the most important part – planning. As in everything in this world nothing can work without a proper plan. The same applies to personal development. I’d like to present my approach to personal development planning, based on some academic research and how some companies schedule their employee’s development. That can be divided into 4 stages:
- Establish the direction
In each of the areas (mentioned in the previous chapter) choose or imagine the ideal state. By this I mean what I would like to achieve in the near and much further perspective. This will give you a clear direction. You will stop going around. Instead of that you will be trying to approach the future. It can also be called living with a purpose. Also the destination should have a clear description.
Let me take as an example a career. The direction or ideal state might be that in 5 years you would like to leave corporate career, become a business and life coach with XYZ number of clients per month/year. You wish to earn XYZ money per year. You also would like to connect traveling and exploring new places with that job.
To establish your vision might be helpful to think about the world where there are no limitations and barriers and you actually can do everything that you want and in that environment find yourself.
Once you have that the game begins.
- Identify what you need
The destination is an important starting point. The next step is to be aware that you actually do need to be closer and closer to that. When you are new to any topic, the biggest problem might be that you feel lost in the mass of the information about that subject. Question is – how to recognize what you should learn or, in other words, what skills you need to achieve an established plan?
Currently it’s much easier, thanks to the Internet. Going back to our example – becoming a business and career coach. The most convenient option, in my opinion, is to find a mentor. The person who achieved this is what you would like to achieve and you can ask him or she what those skills are. There is nothing wrong and shamable in writing to strangers, on LinkedIn for example. I promise you that there are a lot of people who would like to be a mentor and they don’t want money for advice.
If you are afraid of it, again, thanks to the Internet you can google “how to become a business coach” and dedicate some time to read as much as you can about this topic. The important notice here is that – check different sources – do not rely your knowledge on one only.
- Asses what you know/don’t know
If you don’t feel comfortable with the list of things that you need to know/learn to achieve your goal – you are not alone and this is totally fine. The good thing about you and the world is that everything is teachable. However, it all starts with the assessment. You need to check what you know and, more importantly, what you don’t know. The hardest part is to realize your weaknesses. Be honest with yourself, don’t cheat.
If you would like to be a business and life coach probably you have to know how to coach people, how to speak to the public, how to acquire clients and how to build this type of business (of course there might be many more).
For those points with the highest lack of knowledge you should dedicate more attention in the later stage of planning.
- Find proper resources and tools
I would say that the hardest part of planning is behind you. Right now you know what is needed and what you already know and what you need to learn. Right now is the time to find the “how” which means the proper resources and tools to actually gain that knowledge and abilities.
The problem is also here that there are so many available resources and tools to learn something. The key skill is to find the right ones which bring you the biggest value. You can choose the option from the point no.2 and find someone who is good at something and ask for advice.
What might be helpful also is to do a deep research. By this I mean to spend huge amount of time on researching and finding the answer for the question “What is the best way to learn that ?” The good information is that there is not only one way to be good at something.
For each of the skills listed earlier choose books, courses, people, tools that you can use in your learning.
- Create an action plan
If you put enough effort on points 1-4 an action plan will be much easier to do. What does that plan mean?
All you can do is to schedule a regular session (in your paper calendar or online one) where you will be mastering those skills. Think about the regular practice that you need to perform to be closer to your destination every single day. Would like to be a better public speaker? Train 5 minutes per day speaking to the camera and send that recordings to someone to obtain feedback. Would you like to be a better listener? Train that with someone from you work. You wish to coach people? Have a regular session with an experienced coach who will teach you how it should be done and then you can practice. And practice.
What I can recommend is to have an action tracker. The simple table with name of the activity and day-to-day view where you can mark “X” everyday when you complete your session. That visualisation is super powerful.
Important: start small, as with everything and build habits which allow you to do things much easier.
- Check and assess progress regularly
There is a sad news at the end but for me, the most exciting one – these steps you need to do many times per week/month/year. It’s an ongoing activity which requires your attention and regular assessment of where you are, what is your progress, what you learned so far, what’s not and how you can improve your development. There is also a chance that by doing that you realize that you would like to change the destination and so on so forth.
Personal development is a process, as I mentioned earlier, a lifelong process, not a single activity.
If your personal development plan in one the categories state for a long term plan (like in our example) remember about setting some milestones for, for example, every year.
What might be helpful for you?
I’d like to also share with you the starting point – the essential and universal knowledge that will be helpful in your personal development. Please watch this video, because I think it’s brilliant.
The truth is that nothing will happen in terms of your personal development if you do nothing. You are the owner of all of the actions. I will repeat myself but start small, really small with your personal development plan. Once you achieve that you can progress to something bigger.
I have a task for you – take a piece of paper and, if you don’t have yet, establish your first personal development goal. Follow mentioned steps before and take the first action today. Personal development is so much deep topic so also I encourage you to start exploring it. Good luck!
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