In life, it’s not always the best idea to let good things come to you. Sometimes, you have to make them happen yourself. Personal development is a journey of investing in yourself, learning how to react, adapt, and meet life’s challenges head-on for a more rewarding experience on this Earth. Here, we go over just why personal development is vital to your physical, emotional, and psychological well being.
What Defines Personal Development?
Personal development is different for each of us because no two people share the exact same values, life experience, or personal and professional goals. We all need to assess what growth means for us as individuals.
For some people, development involves honing their skills and climbing the corporate ladder to become the best in their field. For others, it consists of broadening their horizons to become a more cultured, more compassionate individual. In general, personal development is an effort to build your talents, raise your confidence, improve your prospects, and lead a more fulfilling life.
Individual growth is a deeply personal responsibility, and it’s up to each of us to take the first step in our journey toward self-improvement. Very few people experience personal development without the motivation, dedication, and effort it takes to acknowledge their shortcomings and change their life path.
Personal development isn’t simply a matter of growing to become the person that you want to be, however. It’s a lifelong process marked with trials and tribulations that may take years to overcome. You must constantly reassess yourself and your goals, allowing yourself to adapt as your mind, your body, and the world around you continue to shift.
Over the years, many philosophers and psychologists have struggled to define the nature of personal development.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In the early 1940s, American psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined universal human motivations using what he called a “Hierarchy of Needs.” This pyramid describes how our life situation can dictate which needs we fulfill, from the physical to the psychological.
According to Maslow’s pyramid, when you satisfy a base need, you free up the energy and effort needed to focus on a loftier goal. For example, it’s difficult to think about improving job skills when hungry, as your body is dedicating most of its resources to finding food. When satiated, however, you’re more likely to perform well in other areas of life. Maslow’s Hierarchy includes:
- Physiological Needs: The most base of our needs include food, water, shelter, and clothing.
- Safety Needs: Once our basic needs are met, we need security, whether that means enough resources available, a fertile property, or gainful employment.
- Love and Belonging: People are social creatures by nature, and generally need a social support network of some kind to survive comfortably.
- Esteem Needs: With all of our physiological and emotional needs taken care of, we can begin to concentrate on our psyche, including feelings of competency, self-esteem, and self-respect.
- Cognitive Needs: As intelligent creatures, we crave novel experiences when we have the time and energy. We have a desire for knowledge that can be satisfied through reading, studying, listening to lectures, and more.
- Aesthetic Needs: Understanding and knowledge are only a small part of the human experience. We also yearn for beauty, which we can achieve by spending the time to harness our own creativity.
- Self-Actualization: With all other needs taken care of, we’re free to reach our full potential. The journey toward self-actualization is an effort to become all that you can possibly be.
Maslow suggests that all of us have an innate drive toward personal development, from intelligence to creativity, to pursuits beyond our current capabilities. According to Maslow, if all of our base needs are met, we’ll eventually have the mental and physical resources needed to reach the point of self-actualization.
Once we reach self-actualization, the journey isn’t necessarily over. Humans are ever-changing by nature, and so what we see as our full potential in our youth may not be the same in our later years. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, there is always more to be discovered about ourselves.
“Tabula Rasa” is a Latin phrase that can be translated to “blank slate.” It refers to the mind at birth, implying that people are born without preconceived notions or knowledge that may affect their personal development. According to the Tabula Rasa theory, all of our knowledge comes from experience and perception, not coming from some innate source.
The concept of Tabula Rasa was first widely distributed by philosopher John Locke in the late 1600s in his paper, Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It had also appeared in earlier works, however, including those of ancient Greek scholar Aristotle, Persian philosopher Avicenna, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Tabula Rasa theory lends credence to the importance of personal development. If we don’t strive to grow as individuals, our minds will remain blank slates. We need to take the initiative to think critically, learn, and build up our view of the world in a positive way.
The Benefits of Personal Development
Developing yourself as an individual can be a lucrative investment. Although you may not see improvement from day one, after a while, you’re bound to notice that you’re building a better version of you. We’re going to go over some of the top benefits of putting in the time and effort that it takes to succeed in developing yourself.
You can’t grow as a person without being aware of who you are now. The first step toward self-actualization is to realize what your goals, abilities, and limitations are. By acknowledging your own hopes and dreams, you create a scenario that’s optimal for growth.
Too many people on the road to self-improvement choose to chase the goals of a loved one or an idol. Lasting happiness means designing your life around who you are and what you stand for. If you adhere to another’s philosophy, you’ll never find true satisfaction in life.
The key to self-awareness is self-reflection. You need to reassess your life regularly, pinpointing the places where you’re going wrong. It’s only once you understand that you can begin to improve yourself.
Setting goals can help you to reach your full potential without stressing yourself out along the way. However, an unrealistic objective can end up setting you further back in your journey toward self-improvement than you were before. One of the best ways to come up with health goals is to use the SMART system:
- Specific: Target one particular area for improvement at a time.
- Measurable: Create a way to track your progress, whether that means weighing yourself regularly, recording daily steps, studying a certain amount of time, or more.
- Assignable: Guarantee that anyone involved in your goal is capable of pulling their weight.
- Realism: Acknowledge whether your expectations are realistic within a given time frame.
- Time-bound: Create a schedule specifying when you plan on reaching different milestones.
Finding a Sense of Direction
Knowing yourself is only a small part of the equation when it comes to self-creation. You also need to set clear goals that define when, how, and why you want to manifest your goals. For many people, goals simply mean confronting areas that need improvement.
Sometimes, building a new self means forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. Each of us has areas in which we can improve and areas with which we are familiar. When confronted with a new reality, we must orient ourselves.
A sense of direction, whether moral, physical, or psychological, is one of the keys to developing yourself as a person. Setting goals is the key to personal development, regardless of your end goal. You can’t improve yourself as a person if you don’t have a sound reason to do so.
The first thing to do when setting goals is to consider what you want in life. Are you professionally motivated? Are you interested in personal growth? Whatever the answer, you should incorporate your primary motivations into a concrete plan.
Though it isn’t easy to define your own goals, it’s a crucial step toward discovering your passion. A large part of personal development is cultivating a sense of curiosity about the world around you. Once you define your passion, you can create a concrete path in life that will lead you down the road to success.
Improving Skills and Focus
It’s never easy to learn a new skill, but doing so doesn’t have to be an impossible challenge. Honing a new talent not only helps you to grow as an individual but to improve your prospects in both your professional and your personal life.
Distraction is one of the most significant obstacles in life for many of us. We find it difficult to learn, adapt, and shape ourselves because we get caught up in superficial concerns. With billboards around every corner, media blasting left and right and mobile phones in the palm of our hands, it’s no wonder that many of us get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the modern lifestyle.
A large part of self-improvement is shutting out the unnecessary and focusing on your goals. While it’s not always easy to buckle down and hone your skills, doing so can vastly improve your quality of life. By learning a new skill set, you may be able to make your day-to-day life a little bit easier, set yourself up for a promotion, or even excel in a new field of your choosing.
When you feel stagnant in life, it can be easy to fall into a cycle of inactivity. Often, people who don’t feel as if they’re living up to their full potential have trouble convincing themselves to do their best on a daily basis. A lack of physical and mental activity can take a toll over time, leading to health issues such as:
- High blood pressure
- An increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues
- Type II diabetes
- Certain cancers
Complications from inactivity aren’t necessarily just due to lifestyle. People who are older, women, and certain minorities are at a greater risk of suffering from issues related to a sedentary lifestyle than other groups.
Regardless of your personal development goals, you must stay active if you want to enjoy a long, healthy life. Experts recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic if possible. You should also aim to work out your muscles at least twice per week using strength training exercises
Building Up Relationships
Each time that you open yourself up to new ideas, you open yourself up to new people. Growing as an individual means expanding your circle of loved ones, becoming close to people that you’ll know and love for years.
When we remain in a stagnant state either emotionally or psychologically, we tend to hang around those that we know and trust. New people can be intimidating, especially when we don’t understand their background, lifestyle, or point of view.
By opening ourselves up to new ideas and experiences, we may be able to better connect with those who we once excluded from our most intimate circle. We can expand upon our social network and learn more about the people and cultures around us. Not only will you come to have more empathy for others, but you may find that you have a better understanding of the people around you as well.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
None of us are perfect, and many of us find it challenging to grow as a person. Confronting areas in which you need improvement can help you to overcome weaknesses, but it can also cause you stress.
A large part of personal growth is learning to cope with novel situations. When faced with an unexpected obstacle, it’s crucial that we have the necessary critical thinking skills, confidence, and know-how to adapt and overcome.
Resilience is a part of human nature, but it’s not always innate. Adaptation is a skill, and like any other skill, it requires practice. When working on personal development, it’s a good idea to train yourself to become comfortable in a wide variety of settings.
Try to force yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while, whether that means speaking in public, socializing with strangers, or even simply flaunting a new outfit. The more that you learn to embrace being uncomfortable, the better you’ll become at embracing life.
Making positive changes in your life can not only help to motivate you but also to inspire confidence. Achieving a personal goal, no matter how small, can make any of us feel good about ourselves. It shows us that we’re a capable and confident human being and that we’re able to do anything to which we set our minds.
If you feel that you’re competent in your own abilities, others are also more likely to follow your lead. Bosses, employees, and clients alike are more likely to listen to and take heed of your ideas if it sounds like you believe in them. Some of the best and most straightforward ways to show confidence both in and out of the workplace include:
- Keep calm and don’t raise your voice, even in high-stress situations
- Be consistent when making decisions
- Respect punctuality
- Listen as much as you speak, regardless of where you stand
- Take a few seconds to think before you speak, particularly during emotional discussions
If you own your own business, working on personal growth can serve as an inspiration to employees. You’re more likely to be able to reach your staff on a personal level, unifying them and convincing them to do their very best. Such an environment can also help to reduce staff turnover, which costs employers an average of 16 percent of the annual salary of a given worker.
How to Reach Your Full Potential
Personal development is never an easy endeavor. It requires time, effort, and sacrifice for many people. Each time that you grow, you’re forced to leave behind the reality that you knew before. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to make your transition into the next phase of your life go more smoothly.
Plan Your Personal Vision
As with any self-improvement endeavor, it’s best to come up with a concrete plan for personal development. You need to consider your interests, values, and desires as you outline your goals. Some of the most important questions to ask yourself include:
- Are you happy with your current life situation?
- If your job in your dream field, and are you on the path to your ideal title?
- Do you think that you’re a likable person?
- Do you have enough resources to enjoy your personal life?
- Are your relationships going the way that you would like?
You should clearly define what you want out of life and come up with ways to achieve your objective. It’s crucial that you ensure any goal you set is simple, straightforward, and realistic. Any goals that are too complex or ambitious may end up doing more harm than good and demotivating you in your journey toward growth.
Not only should you set goals for yourself, but also design a timeline. This gives you a way to monitor your success as you conquer your objectives and set future targets. You must prioritize each goal depending on relevance, urgency, and personal importance to you.
If you’re having trouble meeting your goals in a timely manner, you can come up with an action plan. This is a highly detailed outline of your personal vision that often includes a daily or weekly schedule. If you’re looking to gain muscle, for example, you might have daily calorie intake goals along with weekly cardio and weightlifting goals.
Keep Track of Your Progress
It’s vital that you not only set goals for yourself but also follow through on your plans for self-improvement. You should monitor your progress closely over time, whether you plan to lose weight, gain a promotion, start a new hobby, or any other long-term goal.
There are a number of different ways that you can keep track of your progress, the simplest of which is to keep a written log. If you’re more of a tech enthusiast, you can find programs and apps that are specifically designed to help people track and monitor their goals. Some wearable devices can even track physiological metrics such as breath, heart rate, temperature, and more.
Logging data into a computer, smartphone, or mobile device is perhaps one of the most efficient ways to track your progress as you work your way toward a personal goal, especially if it has to do with fitness. You can easily create graphs and charts or even compare yourself to other fitness enthusiasts.
Build a Support Network
It can be a challenge to work toward any goal on your own, let alone one as lofty as a personal development objective. For too many of us, it can be easy to lose the motivation that drove us when we first started on our journey toward self-improvement.
Building a support network is a vital step in growing as an individual. Not only is social structure an integral part of humanity, but it can also help us to improve our standing in life. Knowing the right people can make the difference between landing your dream job, meeting the right person, or even finding a group of friends with common interests.
Revise Your Plan
No self-improvement plan is static. For each of us, our goals, values, and lifestyle change on a near-daily basis. The person that we want to be in our teens is hardly the one that most of us want to be in our adulthood.
After creating a self-improvement plan, you can’t simply follow it blindly. You need to reevaluate, change, and adapt constantly. For example, the life plan of an aspiring computer scientist should change according to the rapidly shifting world of technology, while someone who is seeking to work on their personality may have to change their plan with age.
As long as you continue to reevaluate yourself and your life goals, you’ll continue to grow and develop as a person. While it may not be an easy task, aspiring to improve yourself can help you to take the first step toward achieving the life that you’ve always wanted.
Small Steps Toward Growth
Personal development doesn’t necessarily come out of stark lifestyle changes and grand gestures. No matter what your end goal, there are plenty of small steps that you can take to enhance your personal and professional life.
Being nice to others is one of the best ways for us to feel good about ourselves. Acts of benevolence promote psychological wellbeing and enhance positive emotions for all parties involved. Even an act as simple as smiling at another can help to lift your spirits as well as theirs. You can also try to open more doors for others, say “please” and “thank you,” offer your seat on public transit to others, and many more small acts of compassion.
Get Out and About
Though it may not seem like much, getting out of the house can make all the difference when it comes to mental health. Not only is important that we stay active to support a healthy lifestyle but that we also spend time in nature. Exposure to greenery can even reduce the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress, and high blood pressure.
Keeping yourself organized can help you to succeed in both your professional and personal life. Not only can it save you time from having to sort through messes, but it can also lead to better eating and sleeping habits, boost your energy, and improve mood. You should aim to keep high-traffic spaces such as your desk, kitchen, and bedside well organized.
The Bottom Line on Personal Development
The best investment that you’ll ever make is in yourself. Personal development is often highly underrated, but it can help to change your life for the better. Growing as a person allows you to enhance your self-awareness, improving your skills and your prospects in life. It can also help to motivate you and help you to find a sense of direction, meeting all of life’s challenges head-on.
Personal development doesn’t happen on its own, however. You need to teach yourself to learn, adapt, and grow instead of waiting for life to come to you. With time, patience, and practice, you can become the very best version of yourself and enjoy a healthier, more fulfilling life.
When it comes to self-improvement, there’s no true end goal. Whether you’re looking to improve your educational career, your personal life, or your professional life, personal development is an ongoing process. As you continue to grow and your values, environment, and lifestyle continue to change, you’ll face a variety of new challenges that will push you to continue improving yourself as an individual.