Discover what you are naturally good at

How To Create Personal Development Plan (PDP) & Examples

Author: Emma Williams
Author: Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Table of Contents
Stop guessing your natural talents. Find out your strengths now.

We all have goals in life that we want to achieve, but sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re on the right path.

If you’ve been working towards personal goals for some time and feel like things are not progressing as quickly as they should be, then it might be time to reevaluate your development plan.

A Personal Development Plan is will help you create a roadmap for success by identifying where your strengths lie and what needs improvement.

It also provides tools and resources so that you can work towards achieving your goals faster than ever before.

Let’s dive deep into all you need to know when it comes to personal development planning.

What is a Personal Development Plan? Definition

Personal development is a never-ending series of steps we must take to improve ourselves.

Personal Development Plans (PDPs) are what keep you on track and motivated to achieve your desired results quickly.

A PDP can consist of things such as Goals, dreams, aspirations, career path, material wealth, etc.

It’s important to have a clear understanding of what your goals in life are so that you can set realistic expectations for yourself and work towards achieving them more efficiently.

What is a Personal Development Plan – Definition

Setting goals also allows us to identify our personal strengths and weaknesses so that we can turn them into positive attributes – this could also form part of the professional goals that one has.

In the end, this will result in higher self – confidence which will encourage you to reach even greater heights of success.

In addition, having a PDP helps you find ways to maintain balance in your life so that you are always focused on improving yourself and growing as an individual.

Personal Development Planning is put into motion by being specific with what your goals are, determining the actions necessary to achieve them, finding out all the resources available to help you succeed, and finally staying motivated so that you can stay on track towards your goal instead of getting off course.

The positive impact that a personal development plan brings to your life can be enormous.

With a clear understanding of who you want to become and how you will become it, the journey becomes more enjoyable and fulfilling.

It empowers us to pursue our dreams instead of making excuses for why we can’t get there yet.

Why is Planning a Personal Development Plan Important?

The benefits that come with creating and developing your personal development goals as part of your development plan are endless.

A PDP gives you the motivation and desire to accomplish anything because you know exactly what’s at stake if you don’t succeed.

You set goals for yourself to achieve something great, which by its very nature is empowering; deciding what direction our personal lives and future will take gives significant meaning to your existence as an individual.

A PDP is necessary for a high quality of life where you achieve your goals more efficiently.

It identifies what you want most out of life, aids in the development of a path towards achieving those desires, and provides resources to help you along that journey; all things which will lead to achieving success faster than if you tried to do it without one.

The purpose of any Personal Development Plan is to provide development opportunities and turn goals into reality.

With a clear understanding of how your goals will impact your life and what actions are necessary to reach them, creating a PDP offers the guidance needed so that no matter where you start from or what roadblocks may get in your way on the way towards pursuing greatness, it doesn’t stop you from moving forward on your personal development journey with confidence.

One of the biggest struggles you may face in life is the nagging feeling that you should be doing something with your life; but what?

Personal Development Plans give meaning to your existence as an individual by helping you realize who you are and how to best utilize yourself.

How to Create a Personal Development Plan

Creating a personal development plan can seem somewhat overwhelming if you’re not quite sure where to start.

The most important thing to remember is that creating and utilizing a detailed plan doesn’t have to be difficult.

Write down all of your goals first so that they’re clean and organized on paper.

Decide whether or not there’s anything else going on in your life right now that might affect these goals, such as new jobs or relationships.

Again, write everything down on paper so that you can analyze it in a way that is easy to understand.

Once you have mapped out your goals on paper by creating a detailed action plan for yourself, keep working until you achieve them or recognize the need to change your plans.

It isn’t uncommon at all for people to feel as though they should be doing more with their lives than what they are currently doing.

Nobody wants to wake up one day and discover that their life has been wasted; which is why we must make the most of our development efforts in every opportunity given to us today.

Deciding what actions need to take place for us to make significant progress toward our goals is often the hardest part of pursuing greatness within ourselves.

As long as we include all of our goals in a PDP, and focus on them consistently, we will achieve more in life than if we didn’t have such a strategic plan.

A Personal Development Plan is meant to define who you are as an individual, where you want to be by a certain point in time, and how you will reach your goals efficiently before that time comes.

It’s the planning that will give meaning to your existence, it’s the ability to learn from the past while also looking toward the future of what could be.

Here are some sub-aspects of a personal development plan to keep in mind.

4 Steps to a Successful Personal Development Plan

Step 1: Clear out Your Vision

Clearing your vision means that you have to ask yourself what you want and why you want it.

Having a clearly stated goal is the cornerstone of any effective plan. If your vision is not clear enough, it will be difficult to take steps toward it.

In reality, it is pretty difficult to avoid distractions and focus on what you want.

Sometimes all of us can get distracted by many different things.

That’s when having a vision becomes useful, especially because it helps you realize that maybe you’re not focusing your time in the right places.

Step 2: Outline your Strengths and Areas For Improvement

Have a look at the things that you’re good at, and what are your strengths, and maybe consider if there are any areas for improvement.

By identifying your strengths, you can then determine the best way in which to apply them towards achieving your goals.

In doing so, looking back on past experiences is going to help as well because by reflecting on past experiences we will be able to learn from our mistakes/other people’s mistakes, etc…

Another thing to do in this step is to create a list of the specific skills that you’d like to develop or improve to reach your goals.

This is where you might want to look at library research, talking with friends and family, mentors, etc…

In doing so, make sure that once you have this list that you pick out one skill from your list that you would like to work on improving specifically during the next period you set up (i.e. semester) he will be your goal for the semester (therefore giving yourself some time frames).

I’m not saying that by doing this step, it will be easy. As I mentioned before it takes hard work but different people learn differently and can find ways of working best for them.

Step 3: Build Your Development Plan

This is where you take all the different things you’ve come up with (i.e. your vision, strengths, and areas for improvement) to create an action plan.

Once you have determined what methods work best for you, now is a good time to create a solid plan.

By using all the information we’ve covered so far, you can create a plan of action that will include specific tasks and goals.

The tasks could be things such as “reading the textbook” or “coming up with a list of possible careers”. This is where career path assessment comes in handy.

These need to be concrete, measurable actions (think SMART goals).

This is the personal development plan that you can refer to if you’re having difficulties on how to carry out your tasks, which is very likely the case.

Step 4: Develop an Action Plan

Knowing which actions to take to achieve your goals can be challenging at times if you don’t have a solid plan.

That’s why it is helpful to break down the actions required to achieve your goal into smaller, more manageable pieces.

This will also help in ensuring that you are making progress.

If you give yourself clear deadlines and make sure that each part of your action plan is achievable within that time limit, you’ll improve your development skills.

It won’t just be an empty promise that you’re going to work hard on it but rather a reality for which you will see results.

If certain tasks require other people’s collaboration or cooperation then consider asking for their encouragement/help.

Tools Needed for Personal Development Planning

Before you begin your plan for individual development planning, it is important to look at yourself and make sure that all of the tools you will need are available.

What’s needed for a PDP differs from individual to individual; keep things simple by sticking with what works best for you.

Are there any other plans in place to aid in the process? Does your job offer anything helpful like bonuses or promotions based on goals achieved within certain time frames?

All of these factors can influence how strong your plan is.

When creating a PDP, planning out exactly what steps need to be taken toward achieving your goals has never been easier.

Using Motivational Tools for Personal Development

One way to introduce a new perspective on life is by creating a vision board.

This is a powerful tool that lets you consider what path you want to take through life while allowing room for new ideas along the way if necessary.

By writing down everything from job titles in your professional life, to hobbies, cars, vacations, etc., you can see everything for yourself without anyone else’s opinion interfering with your vision.

A wide variety of tools exist for self-motivation as part of a lifelong learning concept, so make sure to do your research to uncover the personal development strategies that you know will work for your specific situation.

For instance, to get a kick start in working towards your goals you can use something like an app or website which keeps track of how many hours you have put into each goal and gives it a numerical value.

This way you can see whether or not the amount of time being applied is enough for you to meet the personal growth goals that are important for you.

Worksheet & How Do You Write a Personal Development Plan?

To understand what you are doing, and why you are doing it, create a worksheet for yourself.

This can be the best performance evaluation tool you make use of.

The best way to do this is by finding out where your biggest strengths lie and focusing on those areas.

For example, if you already know how to manage your time well, but struggle with remembering things easily or writing properly; then use the resources available to determine which course of action would be most beneficial to take to improve upon that area.

You’ll set yourself up for success faster than you ever thought possible. It’s easy enough nowadays to find an online source for creating a worksheet for personal development.

The key to using these worksheets and plans wisely is all in consistency; you can’t just fill out one or two of these sheets and then forget about them.

Make sure that you use all the tools at your disposal to make the most out of your PDP to achieve your goals – whether they’re about physical health, a sense of control, or even other things that might just be a one-time activity.

8 Benefits of Having a Personal Development Plan

Gaining a Clearer Focus on Your Learning

Having a clear understanding of where you want to be and what you need to do may seem simple but it is critical in the success of reaching your goals.

Thinking about how much time and energy will be needed can make a huge difference in whether or not you can achieve your objective within the designated time frame.

Figuring out exactly what obstacles might pop up along the way can also save a lot of wasted time later on by giving you control over them before they even happen.

Saving Money & Time

Not only does having a PDP allow for financial savings because with planning comes an accurate prediction for expenses, but it also allows you to save time by cutting down on mistakes that could have been prevented by simply thinking things through.

For example, if you have written down your expectations for a project and then go to follow through with them you will be better able to keep the project on track by avoiding common pitfalls such as: getting sidetracked or confusing due dates and responsibilities.

Your plan will outline these things explicitly so there won’t be any questions about what is expected to get the job done.

Helping to Keep Yourself Motivated

Of course, you know that you will be much more motivated to complete your development plan if you have something to show for it – so why not create a chart or calendar to keep track of how the progress is going?

It’s even better if you can do this with a friend who has similar goals as yourself.

Encourage each other along the way and watch your dreams become a reality one step at a time.

A Better Understanding of How You Learn & How to Improve Your Performance.

It is important to recognize how you learn and understand how your learning can be improved by using different tools or techniques.

If you notice that certain sections of your PDP are more difficult to complete than others it may help to look deeper into why this might be happening.

For example, if reading through a worksheet seems like an excruciatingly boring task then it is likely that any other time you’re expected to read something equally dull (i.e.: textbooks) will cause you some serious frustration.

You’ll want to make sure that when writing out your PDP no detail is left unthought-of.

More Enjoyment and Less Stress From Your Learning as You Become Consciously Skilled

By knowing what works for you, how you learn can be optimized to your advantage.

From becoming more stress-free by doing activities that relieve tension (meditation) to finding a way to work smarter by building a process/template that will help with organization and planning.

Less stress = less resistance from yourself. In fact, by knowing how you want to be, a PDP can help you enjoy your learning experience more by giving you a clear path for the future.

More Awareness of How to Apply Your Learning to new Problems and Contexts

If you have well-defined objectives for learning, it will be easier to fit them into new situations where you can apply the knowledge and skills gained.

Moreover, it will be easier to recognize when you need to find further sources of information or use a different approach.

Better Preparation for Unexpected Challenges

Developing your skills and becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses, on the other hand, can help you react more effectively whenever unexpected situations arise.

You will therefore be able to prepare yourself better to deal with new problems by taking time, in the beginning, to think about possible situations, anticipating what steps are needed to achieve your goals and how best to tackle whatever obstacle comes along.

This way if something unexpected pops up throughout your day you’re well prepared.

Reflective Thinking Skills That Can Strengthen Academic Performance

By taking time to evaluate your performance and thinking about how you learn, doing so can help to empower yourself as a learner.

This can include reflecting on what has worked, and what hasn’t worked, and determining the causes of such improvements/problems.

This also relates to understanding how you learn and appreciating that everyone learns differently.

You may discover that writing everything down seems to work for you but reading over difficult texts doesn’t, or perhaps it is more effective for you to do something hands-on rather than just reading, etc…

5 Examples of a Personal Development Plan

Here’s a real-life example of a personal development plan in action.


Currently, I am a student at the University of Waterloo and am studying in an Honors Systems Design & Management program.

However, in my spare time, I participate in several different activities including:

  • Blogging about education-related topics
  • Volunteer at the Oakridge School for Children
  • Attending salsa dancing lessons (with my partner)
  • Running 5k runs every weekend with friends


My goals are to be a successful blogger, professional dancer, and marathoner.

Professionally, I want to improve my writing skills by researching and learning the best practices for blogging.

I’d like to be a better dancer by taking more salsa lessons (and practicing in between.)

Action Plan

  • Read articles about amateurs who do blogging as a second job and how they achieve success with it.
  • Make notes of key ideas/techniques that will help me when it comes time to write posts for my blog.
  • Ask friends and family members to read some of my posts so that they can give me feedback on what they think would make them even better.
  • Search online for free courses related to academic writing. Apply for them if available at the University of Waterloo.
  • Practice writing more often to get better at it. Ask a friend or family member for help/feedback if necessary.
  • Read about salsa dancing and search online for free courses related to it (if possible).

Resources Available

  • Various websites that I can use to learn more about blogging and dancing
  • Helpful friends and family.
  • University of Waterloo’s resources (i.e. online courses, etc.)


1 month from now, I want to have read three articles on writing professionally as well as tried out two new free online lessons related to writing.

1 year from now, I’d like to see improvement in my blog’s readership and participation level by taking a free course related to writing from the University of Waterloo.

2 years from now, I want my salsa dancing skills to be at an intermediate level so that I’ll be able to participate in some classes without feeling nervous.

Personal Development Plan FAQ

When Should you use a Personal Development Plan?

It’s good to have a personal development plan in place at all times, but there is no one time that is more important than another.

It’s just helpful to be aware of what you want and when the best time for it will be so that you don’t waste your chance when an opportunity comes knocking and stay stuck in the same place.

Overall Conclusion For Personal Development Plan

In just about an achievement or goal you can think of, having a personal development plan is a helpful way to make sure that action is taken and progress is made.

Most importantly remember not to set too many goals when trying to achieve your desired result.

Make sure that each one takes time and effort but isn’t too crazy impossible or you won’t feel like it’s worth it. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

You’re not going at this alone – there are others that you can call on for support.

Your friends and family will love being a part of your accomplishments so share the goals with them as soon as possible.

Case Studies, Academic, and Research-Based Sources:

  1. Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). “Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview.” Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 64-70.
  2. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). “Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation.” American Psychologist, 57(9), 705.
  3. Bandura, A. (1986). “Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory.” Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  4. Kolb, D. A. (1984). “Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development.” Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  5. Senge, P. M. (1990). “The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization.” New York: Doubleday.
  6. Goleman, D. (1995). “Emotional Intelligence.” New York: Bantam Books.
  7. Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1978). “Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective.” Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  8. Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. (1991). “A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment.” Human Resource Management Review, 1(1), 61-89.
  9. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” New York: Harper & Row.
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Emma is a certified strengths and career coach with more than 25 years of international experience in helping individuals and organizations achieve success by nailing and maximizing their unique value propositions. She is an entrepreneur, proud mother and a C-level executive at HIGH5TEST, where she leads its coaching and research programs.

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