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What Is Personal Development? How To Create Your Goals & Plan

Personal Development

Have you reached the stage of ultimate self-satisfaction? Have you ever felt that you must invest in your personal development to unlock your potential? Perhaps you feel that there is something more you could achieve but simply don’t know where to start.

If you are like most people, you still feel stuck between what you have achieved so far and what you could do.  Furthermore, even if you are halfway to the place you want to be, you might be feeling already exhausted and burnt out.

Yet, that’s even better than not knowing where you are headed. And, there are some lucky few who have reached their ultimate life goals. In one type or another, investing in personal development is a never-ending process.

The more you grow, the more you realize that you could go a bit further and expand your potential. This is what personal development is all about, i.e., how to maximize your potential and live a fulfilling life.

What Is Personal Development? Definition & Importance

Personal development, in its broadest term, is a process that appeals to an individual to assess and reconsider his/her skills, preferences and abilities, and to raise them to a higher level.

The process ultimately leads to defining or redefining life goals, self-empowerment, and personal satisfaction. No matter in which stadium of life you are or what aspect is your weakest side, you’ll see transformation in your choices and decision-making processes.

Maslow and Self-Actualization

While the core idea of personal development is to help individuals live a more fulfilling life, there are multiple concepts that surround the process.

Yet, the most dominant is the one depicted by Maslow (1970) in his well-known pyramid or hierarchy of needs. In his self-actualization theory, Maslow claims that six hierarchical levels lead to achieving the state of ultimate self-actualization.

To reach the highest level of self-actualization, Maslov claims that a person needs to be fully aware of his/her feelings and in touch with oneself to live a meaningful life.

Anyone able to reach the highest level of self-actualization means becoming everything that a person has ever had the potential of becoming. In line with this, he explains his so-called Hierarchy (Pyramid) of Needs.

Only when one level of needs is adequately met, the person can aspire to achieve a higher level. 

The base level of the pyramid includes all the necessary physiological needs that every human being has. These include the needs for food and drinks, sleep, protection, sex, i.e., a satisfaction of basic human drives for survival.

The second level includes the needs that ensure feeling safe and secure in every aspect. The most dominant within this level is the need to be healthy and financially stable.

When those needs are met, a person can strive to reach the needs of the third level. These involve fulfilling the need of being loved and having a family, belonging to a group, interchange of affection, acceptance, and respect.

The fourth level includes meeting the need for social recognition, self-respect, competency, and respect for others.

These four levels are called deficiency needs or D-needs. The more people feel deprived of them, the higher the motivation to obtain them. Once the needs of the first four levels have been satisfied, a person can move on to the higher levels of the pyramid. The levels above the fourth one are called growth or being needs (B-needs), and those lead to complete self-actualization.

Therefore the fifth level includes the so-called cognitive needs, i.e., the thirst for knowledge, understanding, and meaning. These help people anticipate and predict upcoming events and lead to better organization.

The next level includes the aesthetic needs for beauty, order, design, creativity, and art. On the top of the pyramid lies the most sophisticated need, the need for self-actualization, i.e., reaching the potential of becoming everything the person has been capable of becoming.

How to create and manage your personal development plan (PDP)?

It takes comprehension, persistence, and motivation for a person to aspire to satisfy higher-level needs. Surely, it takes time as well, as no permanent change happens overnight. If you have a vision of your perspective and a strong will to see yourself getting there, then creating a personal development plan can help you go through the process.

 Developing a Personal Goal and Vision

As we implied above, you need to envision where you want to be after some time. Depending on your capabilities, knowledge, and persistence, it might take a shorter or longer period of time, but when you know where you’re headed, you’ll eventually get there.

So, when creating your goal and vision, be realistic about your starting point as well. If you aim to become an entrepreneur, but you don’t have even the basic knowledge of economics, it takes longer than someone who has done some studying on the topic.

Planning Your Personal Development

Since every journey starts with the first step, your first step is to plan how you will become the best version of yourself. It would be very useful if you create a strategy on how to get to your success.

The starting point is to create a list of your strengths and weaknesses and determine the areas where you need the most improvement.

In case you are not sure what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can try some of the most popular personality assessment tests. These can help you better understand yourself and see where you can use your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

Personality tests are also excellent, even if you don’t have a clear vision of what your self-actualization would look like. Personality tests in such cases can serve as steering guides and get you on the right track.

After you have made sure what you want, what makes you feel happy, and what you’d like to achieve, the next step is deciding what you need to do to achieve success.

Starting the Self-Improvement Process

Self-improvement processes usually revolve around strengthening your qualities and at the same time improving your weaknesses.

When you are fully aware of what you need to do to achieve your goals, you’ll more or less know which personality aspect needs an upgrade.

It could involve developing soft skills, but it also might imply that you’ll need to dedicate some quality time to learn new skills and acquire more knowledge.

Learning new skills can range from formal and informal courses to doing practical jobs and even volunteering. Being directly involved in the learning process is more likely to speed up the process, but it might not be ideal if you’re doing a job that is not related to developing your new skill.

Which of them you’ll choose will depend on multiple factors such as time, finances, the prospects of learning, and its duration. Remember, whatever you choose, it shouldn’t cause frustration and annoyance.

Recording and Tracking Your Personal Development

Ok, we said it, it won’t be easy, and it might take some time. But, you’ll be proud of yourself when you get there. Therefore, not to lose track and not feel disheartened when obstacles start popping up (and they will), keep a log of your achievements.

Keep a journal and update it regularly. That way, you’ll be able to see how far you have reached. That should keep you going.

Reviewing and Revising Your Plans

You can easily get distracted if the learning process takes a long time. This is why it is important to review your learning cycle and ensure that you are still on the right path.

Revise everything you have learned in each stage and find a practical implementation of everything you have acquired. This will maintain your motivation and will get you closer to your goal.

20 Examples of Personal Development Goals

  1. Embrace Empathy – In our self-focused and individual society, empathy is not a common topic of discussion. However, it might be the key to your success. The reason? Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to understand others can help you become more insightful. Plus, a wide range of perspectives offers a wide range of solutions in case of a problem.
  2. Confidence – Numerous studies have shown that a person’s confidence plays an even more important role than his/her intelligence when it comes to achieving success. Of course, there are many factors that determine it, such as persistence, goal orientation, and flexibility. Boosting your confidence will increase your chances of success, so don’t neglect it.
  3. Accept and Deal with Your Fear – We all have fears. Period. But how we face and deal with them is what makes a difference. Stage one is “Face your fear.” If you don’t get exposed to your fear, you won’t be able to eliminate it. So, step by step, approach everything you have never dared doing and reveal a hidden part of your personality.
  4. Listen Actively – A large portion of what bothers us can be revealed in other people’s conversations, queries, explanations. You just need to listen, ask questions that trigger discussion, and remove all distractors.
  5. Get Along With Your Friends and Yourself – Making friends is always better than making enemies. Instead of confronting others, try allying with them. Humans are social beings, and we are meant to live and relate with others. Treat yourself nicely, too.
  6. Stop Procrastinating – You must have heard the saying: Whatever you can do now, just do it!”. Now is always a better option than later, so don’t postpone and let things pile up.
  7. Improve Your Body Language – On a subconscious level, your body speaks a lot, so try to synchronize it with your thoughts. When you are more expressive and open, people perceive you as an approachable and open-minded person.
  8. Wake up Early – Numerous research has shown that early risers have more fulfilling lives. Waking up early can help you organize your daily schedule better, reduce stress, and help you stay productive during the day. Mind you, though, go to bed early too!
  9. Let Go Off the Past – The past belongs to the days long gone, and except for lessons learned, nothing else should be dragged into your life. Past regrets and mistakes can prevent you from achieving success, so use them wisely to create a better future.
  10. Conflict Resolution – Conflicts are unavoidable, but the way you behave during a conflict can impact your well-being and interaction with other people. One of the most crucial aspects of personal development is staying calm and reserved when conflicts pop up.  Instead of getting angry, try to think out of the box and find a new opportunity where everyone else sees a problem.
  11. Read More and Frequently– “ A book is a bridge from misery to hope,” and there’s much truth there. The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become, and that will make you more competitive, discerning, and productive. Plus, it’s been scientifically proven that people who read are happier.
  12. Improve Your Communication – Sharing and exchanging ideas with other people can trigger a positive change, so don’t push aside your social life. It doesn’t have to be many people. A friend or two can be just enough for introverts as well. That can help you express yourself better, listen more, and observe how other people cope in different situations.
  13. Be More Adaptive – Having attitudes is fine, but it is a thin line between rigidity and self-assurance. While nurturing your standpoints, it won’t hurt your dignity to show a bit of flexibility and adaptability to those who matter to you the most.
  14. Be Better at Leading – On the list of personal skills, try to include the one that portrays you as a good leader. You don’t have to become a CEO to claim to be a leader. You can start with yourself first and then spread on to people of your surroundings. Remember, leaders, take the initiative and show examples, not bossing around.
  15. Integrity – Within the process of personal development, you’ll start to define your preferences based on the insights you’ll be getting. Your attitudes will reflect your personality and define who you are.
  16. Problem-Solving –  Positive psychology offers a very indulging way to boost your problem-solving skills. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses and the problem, it entices individuals to focus on their strengths and use them to solve problems. It offers a new perspective that helps people think proactively.
  17. Become Resilient – Resilience is the ability to bounce back from an adverse situation and recover quickly. This usually happens when the individual is mature and brave enough to face the problems and look for a solution instead of desperation.
  18. Increase Your Willpower – A strong will has the power to impact your friendships, relationships, career success, and health.
  19. Work on Growth Mindset – Some of the preconditions for success and progress include having a mindset that is focused on growth and development. It enables you to receive and process information in a more constructive manner and leads you to think of where you’d use it.
  20. Deal with Stress More Efficiently – A little stress can have an inspiring effect. However, too much stress can inhibit your health and well-being. This can hinder your progress chances, so it is of utmost importance to find a way to filter out stressful impacts on your personality.

Three Aspects of Personal Development

Personal development encompasses your life, and it is not just your career or just your well-being. It is what you become as you grow. To say that you have become a better version of yourself, you need to explore, learn, practice, repeat, revise, all that wrapped up in the package called discipline and motivation for a change. So, three key areas are affected by personal development:

  • Spiritual

Most individuals who have reached the stage of self-actualization are likely to agree that spirituality plays a crucial part in staying loyal to your goal. It is the part of human nature that makes everyone unique, but at the same time morally unified and considerate.

It is the factor that will help you discern superfluous to meaningful life dilemmas. So, the more you become open to experience spiritual awakening, the more in touch with your senses you’ll be.

  • Physical

If you strive to transform yourself, don’t ignore your body, as it is the source of your energy and well-being. In Christianity, for instance, it is referred to as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

We have all heard the saying ‘Healthy body means healthy mind”, and we are all aware that we need to feel healthy to create intellectually.

So, while you’re on your journey of unraveling your potentials, pay proper attention to your body and well-being. If you are overweight or passive, now is the perfect time to start moving.

Do what makes you feel energized, change your diet, get in touch with nature, and start pampering yourself. Your body should reflect the same care you’ve been giving to your mind, so when you go out there among people, make them see it.

  • Mental

We talked about your soul and your body, so it is your mind that needs equal treatment as well. Your driving force pushed you to make changes, so it is your responsibility to expand it even further.

Numerous mind-stretching exercises enhance the thinking process and prevent memory loss. For instance, if you abandon your comfort zone and start learning something new that you thought it was impossible to learn, you mind-stretch your brain.

When proving a point, try to see the other side of the story and show understanding where you couldn’t even think it was possible.

How to Improve Your Personal Development Skills

Developing your skills is a matter of a consistent effort to get a maximum of what you are exposed to. It could be learning through someone else’s example, reading books, taking up a new hobby or profession. Whatever creates or polishes your skills can contribute to your personal development.

The following advices can help you in the process:

  1. Face your fears to overcome them – One of the greatest life challenges is to look at your fear as a challenge to overcome. This means to go against and try to do what scares you. If that is driving, take driving classes. Be prepared to go through a difficult experience that has the potential to open new doors.
  2. Read and learn– It is never too late to learn a new skill, new language, or a new hobby. If you have always wanted to do something but have never had the chance, now is the time to start it. Read books that inspire, motivate, and encourage.
  3. Connect with other people – Connecting with others can offer new perspectives, new ideas, and alternative solutions. When you join a network of people with mutual interests, you can expand your knowledge on the topic, attend events and conferences, and increase the chances of getting a better job.
  4. Observe others – You don’t have to imitate other people, but if you are at the initial stage of your transformational process, try to find out how others cope with problems and thrive in difficult situations. If you have a role model, analyze the situations he/she has been through and see what has brought them success.
  5. Write your ideas down -We mentioned above that keeping a journal can help you track your progress. The same refers to your ideas. Creative thoughts come and go, sometimes without even paying attention. However, if you keep track of everything worthy that comes to your mind, you can analyze them later and create a solid base for starting something new.

Ten Best Books on Personal Development

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss

If you are just starting to explore the personal development field, Tim Ferriss’s book ‘The 4-hour Week’ is a good starting point. In essence, he gives precious ideas on how to earn more while working less and how to get out of the corporate rat race.

The book is segmented into four parts, forming the acronym DEAL which instructs you how to make the most important lifestyle changes. The letters stand for:

  • D – Define how your ideal life would look like
  • E – Eliminate everything that doesn’t fit in the idea of a perfect life
  • A– Automate the repetitive processes
  • L – Liberate yourself from obstacles and create new life

How to Be Power Connector, Judy Robinett

The concept of personal development strongly emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining relationships with other people.

So if you find it hard to create new friendships, keep the existing ones and introduce new friends to your old ones, then How to Be Power Connector is the right book for you.

The author Judy Robinett explains how to create a network of meaningful relationships and add value to them. She introduces a 5+50+100 formula that elaborates on how to create a list of your top 155 people.

It is a strategy that increases your empathy, generosity, and altruism that will reward you with increased confidence, finding your life purpose and self-respect.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

If you seek encouragement to go through tough times, this fiction book can help you relate to the character’s hardships, persistence, and success.

Unlike the previous two books, this is not a guidebook with step-by-step instructions on how to move on, but the story itself, the real-life circumstances are thoughtful enough and offer valuable life lessons.

Failing Forward, by John C. Maxwell

If you have tried and failed over and over again, you might have reached a stage that is hard to move on to. Even worse if you think of yourself as a hopeless case.

Well, regardless of whether you find yourself in that scenario or not, Falling Forward is one of the best personal development books that tackle the issue of failure.

The author encourages readers to move on even if they have failed multiple times. He explains that the difference between those who fail and those who succeed lies between ‘a few more attempts’ and that giving up is not an option.

Plus, you’ll find motivational anecdotes from successful people who failed before as an impetus to move on.

How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

The title of the book is self-revealing, and promising too. So, if you struggle to make friends or you can’t voice over the sound of your self-doubt, this book can help you tackle those issues.

This is a self-help book to increase your communication skills, self-confidence, and persuasive skills. The style is simple and easy to read, intended to lay down the foundations of how you interact with people.

Principles, by Ray Dalio

A prominent investor pours out his insights into a set of valuable lessons on how to succeed in whatever you do.  It is a book that contains everything he encountered while creating the system that made him reach the top.

The book contains useful ideas on how to survive in an organization and learn from others. It instructs you whose advice is worth listening to and whose is not, how businesses succeed, how to thrive in troublesome times, and so on.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

When a person has a vague idea and poorly manifests their integrity, the limits of the acceptable and unacceptable are often blurred. Set in an architectural environment, this fiction book will help you address why you do certain things, how you do them and what’s behind them.

The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason

If managing finances is your weakest link, then this book should be your first pick. It is a fiction book set in Babylon with the core idea of investing and earning money.

Through the characters, the author implies that reckless spending and lack of discipline can make you poor regardless of how much you earn.

The book gives a valuable lesson on how and where to invest a portion of your income and multiply it. The book is entertaining and very engaging too.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen

How many of you started one thing to realize soon that it wasn’t the right one and quickly abandoned it? Perhaps most of us have been there. So, if you are still struggling to get things done, David Allen has a very straightforward way to tell you how to do them.

His instructions are clear, precise, and exemplified and creates a system that can serve as a base for everything you might start doing in the future.

Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

The book is a product of the author’s insights he gained after interviewing some of the most influential and successful people globally, such as Thomas Edison, Harison Ford, Andrew Carnegie…

It discusses how to think and what to do to gain more wealth than you could ever think was possible. The writer meticulously summarizes the tips and the instructions to create a guidebook on tackling money issues.

It will definitely change how you think about money, what you wish for, and what you pursue.

Personal Development FAQ

What are examples of the 5 areas of personal development?

  1. Physical – Taking care of your body, eating healthily, exercising, and getting your body regularly checked by a doctor.
  2. Emotional – Working on your feelings, trying to become more empathetic, sharing your own emotions, and understanding how others feel.
  3. Mental – Growing your mind, trying to gain more and more knowledge, and improving your thinking, decision-making, and analytical skills.
  4. Spiritual – Exploring things that help you feel peace and connect with your inner self.
  5. Social – Improving communication skills, and practicing public speaking and listening abilities.

What are the 3 aspects of personal development?

Personal development can be divided into the following three parts:

  1. Spiritual – It’s all about finding your inner self and reconnecting with who you really are. Spiritual development is a way to learn more about your beliefs and values.
  2. Mental – This type of development means improving your cognitive abilities, working on your mind, and learning new things to advance your mental skills.
  3. Physical – On the physical side, you can develop based on the way you treat your body. Physical exercises, healthy meals, and a regular walking routine are some examples of physical development.
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