Whether you’re trying to improve your career, enhance your skills or simply become the best version of yourself, you need a personal development plan. It will bring awareness to your strengths and direction to your life. Personal development involves enhancing your gifts instead of just repairing your flaws.
What Is a Personal Development Plan?
Personal development involves striving to reach your full potential. It isn’t a list of what you want to achieve in life, though. Instead, a personal development plan is recognition of your current state of being and a plan to make it even better.
A personal development plan helps you stay motivated. It allows you to assess your strengths, recognize what needs work and take action toward your goals. It gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s a source of intrinsic motivation that you can maintain no matter what is going on in the outside world.
Sometimes, employers ask their workers to establish personal development plans so that the company knows that the employee is keen on progress. Even when it’s not a project that you have to complete for work, creating a personal development plan can help you get the most out of life.
Why Do You Want to Grow?
We are often bogged down with the “what’s” and the “how’s” of life. In other words, you may think about what you want to accomplish and how you can advance. But do you ever stop to think about why you want to improve?
One of the first steps in creating a personal development plan is to establish a personal vision. Without vision, you won’t know where you’re going to end up.
Success looks different for everyone. For one person, it may include making millions by building a business. For others, it may be purchasing 100 acres of land off the grid.
Sit down and imagine that you’re at the pinnacle of your life. You’re living your dream. What does that look like?
It may not come to you right away. Articulating your personal vision is a process. You might want to try meditating on it for a few days or weeks to solidify it.
Once you have a picture of your ideal life, you can start to consider why you want it to look like that. Ask yourself the following question to elucidate the reason that you want to realize this dream: “How will I feel when I achieve XYZ?”
Now, sit in stillness with your personal vision in your mind. Imagine that you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing. Really picture yourself there. Allow yourself to let go and feel all of the emotions that come with making this vision come to life.
Those emotions are the “why” behind your personal development plan. Perhaps you want to grow to feel:
Once you recognize the emotions that you’re aiming for, you can explore the behaviors and action steps that can take you there. Knowing your “why” might even change the “what.”
For example, let’s say that you’ve always wanted to run a corporation. When you dig into your “why,” you realize that you want to feel in control, and you want to experience connection with others. You may find that you’re happy as a freelance writer who is part of a mastermind group with other creative people. Those activities elicit the emotions that you want to feel.
Your personal development plan hinges on these emotions and your inner growth. Creating a strategy of this kind is different than setting goals because it often doesn’t matter what you achieve as long as you feel as though you’ve grown.
What Are the Benefits of a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan lets you create an outlook that helps you take constructive action in everything that you do. It can certainly help you reach your goals. However, it involves more than that.
Have you ever met a high-achiever? Perhaps this even describes you. Some people work so hard to attain their external goals that their attention becomes consumed by working more, enhancing their productivity and earning more money. Many of those types of people wonder why they’re not truly happy even though they’re hitting all of their marks.
Just because you’ve set goals and reached them doesn’t mean that you’re growing in a profound, personal way. These types of people may not have stopped to think about the emotions that they want to feel as a result of their behavior.
A personal development plan helps you stay on track with your goals as well as your values and purpose. It brings more meaning to your life because you know that you’re taking action based on your desires and not an idea of who you believe that you should be.
When you have a personal development plan, you tend to take more meaningful action instead of numbing yourself by staying busy. Being occupied with lots of tasks—even if they’re geared toward your goals—is glorified in our culture.
But Dr. Reggie Ray says that busy-ness is an excuse to avoid looking within. It’s a way to live a rigid, artificial life that’s stagnant and unresponsive. Being overrun with to-dos is a great way to avoid who you really are. If you want to explore your inner workings and get to the heart of your human experience, maybe it’s time to create a personal development plan.
Doing so can help you access the parts of yourself that you thought were off-limits. You create boundaries surrounding what you think you can accomplish. Many people never push past those boundaries.
When you create a personal development plan, you objectively evaluate yourself, including your fears and boundaries, without judgment. You allow yourself to expand so that you harness all of your gifts. You really are limitless.
What Does a Personal Development Plan Typically Include?
The two most essential steps for creating a personal development plan include:
- Knowing where you are now
- Deciding where you want to be
You need to notice where you’re currently placing your attention. It also helps to recognize the factors that are taking your attention away from what’s really important. Once you do that, you can decide where you want to focus your awareness.
Think about what you want to concentrate on. Remember to ask yourself why you want to do that. If the answer involves pleasing someone else or acquiescing to society’s idea of who you should be, maybe you should scrap that idea and start again. Personal development should be significant to you even if it isn’t someone else’s idea of an ideal life.
A personal development plan isn’t a self-help guide for providing you with a quick fix. It doesn’t imply that there is something wrong with you. It is merely a way to enhance who you are. Think of a personal development plan as a way to open yourself up to your fullest expression.
A personal development plan also implies lasting change. You can take on a new habit and follow it consistently for a month. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve grown from the experience. A practice that alters you as time goes on enables you to develop.
Just because you read all of the self-help books, you’re not necessarily growing. You develop by doing the work. Therefore, your personal development plan must include a strategy for action. When you practice and repeat what you’ve learned, you grow.
Creating Your Map for Personal Development
Scott Jeffrey explains that before you have a plan, you need a map. That map should include an understanding of the areas in which humans can develop. You can focus your development on the following categories.
Lines of Intelligence
Howard Gardner posits that there are different lines of intelligence. They include:
- Logical-mathematical intelligence – Sometimes called cognitive intelligence, this involves critical thinking and IQ
- Linguistic intelligence – Aptitude with language, words, and story-telling
- Intrapersonal intelligence – Self-reflection that allows you to recognize your emotional triggers and responses
- Kinesthetic intelligence – The mind-body connection that enables you to control the way that you use your body
- Musical intelligence – The ability to differentiate sounds, notes, pitches, and melodies
- Visual-spatial intelligence – The capacity to use your imagination to evaluate spatial judgment
- Interpersonal intelligence – Empathy, cooperation, and awareness of others’ moods and feelings
- Naturalistic intelligence – Relating to the natural environment
- Existential intelligence – Understanding yourself in connection to the greater universe
Because society values logical-mathematical intelligence over the other types, most people stop nurturing the other kinds in childhood. You’re conditioned to ignore your full potential. A personal development plan lets you embrace and expand on your abilities and talents in each of these areas.
Nurturing the different lines of intelligence makes you more sensitive to the world around you. You can process experiences in a greater variety of ways. You’re more integrated, moving across the boundaries of your conscious and unconscious mind, allowing yourself to expand or expel your limitations.
Skills are the learnable elements that allow you to perform specific tasks. You can build up your skills in any area. Skills are linked to the lines of intelligence that we described above.
Before you create a personal development plan, take some time to go through those lines of intelligence and jot down the skills that you have in each category. Next, consider some skills that you would like to learn or improve within each group.
Doing this will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses. It will also help guide your plan.
Many coaches, therapists, and personal development consultants use the wheel of life to give their clients a visual representation of the balance that they have in their lives. When you feel like you’re too busy with work to exercise or devote time to your hobbies, you’re not living up to your full potential.
This happens far too often. We fill our days with the things that we’re supposed to do and neglect the factors that really fill us up or help us grow. We fall into “the grind,” and we have a hard time crawling out of it.
The wheel of life lets you assess your satisfaction within various lifestyle categories, including:
- Physical health
- Relationships and social life
- Professional life
- Fun and adventure
It allows you to envision what needs improvement at a glance. Once you know the areas in which you’re excelling and those that need work, you can set appropriate goals and prioritize your personal growth. The wheel of life is a great tool to return to frequently to make sure that you’re developing in a balanced way.
You can have all the intentions and inspiration in the world, but if you don’t take action, you may never make your dreams happen. Most people also have negative behavioral patterns that impede their personal growth.
Growth takes place when your actions match your intentions. It’s important to adopt habits that support your development.
However, behavioral change isn’t always as easy as just telling yourself to eat more healthfully or hit the gym for 30 minutes a day. Unconscious emotions are often responsible for the reasons that you do what you do. The fact that you don’t even think about them is what makes negative patterns so hard to break and good habits so difficult to embrace.
Bringing awareness to your actions is vital for creating an effective personal development plan. Once you know how your behaviors help and hurt you, you can create a strategy for solidifying or shifting them.
You know that everyone is unique. Then why do you expect someone else’s personal development system to work for you?
Because there is a wide range of psychological types, you must customize your approaches to growth to your personality. One framework for understanding personality types is the Enneagram. According to this model, there are nine personality types:
- The reformer – rational, purposeful, self-disciplined, idealistic
- The helper – compassionate, big-hearted, people-pleasing
- The achiever – accomplishment-oriented, driven, no-nonsense
- The individualist – expressive, sensitive, unpredictable, reserved
- The investigator – insightful, guarded, innovative, intense
- The loyalist – committed, responsible, appealing, anxious
- The enthusiast – adaptable, spontaneous, busy, animated
- The challenger – domineering, decisive, confrontational, determined
- The peacemaker – laid-back, agreeable, amenable, approachable
If you’re working on becoming your best self, you don’t need to adopt attributes from the other personality types. The Enneagram also helps you create a personal growth plan because it explains your biggest motivator and greatest fear.
People who have trouble getting in touch with their true desires or prioritizing their development might find it helpful to address their growth in light of their personality type. For example, if you’re type 6, a loyalist, you fear anything that takes away your security. Therefore, it might be harder for you to try new things or to meet new people.
Your personal growth plan might include strategies for behavioral change related to those activities. For example, you might make a point to take a new route to work every day or stop at a different coffee shop than usual once a week.
Take the Enneagram test for free here.
It’s Time to Create Your Personal Development Plan
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’ve probably taken some time to consider your personal vision. You’ve allowed it to fill you up with emotion. You’ve learned a little more about what you’re capable of based on the theories of intelligence, personality, and behavior. Now, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned and develop your strategy for personal growth.
Keep in mind that this process will always change. As you grow your lines of intelligence, you’ll perceive the world differently. Everything, including your goals and personal vision, may shift. Nothing in your personal development plan is set in stone. It’s important to review it regularly and adjust it as necessary.
1. Decide What You Want to Focus On
No matter how excited you are to change and grow, you have to approach your personal growth methodically. There are many areas to work on, and you’re a human with a limited amount of time.
Don’t complicate your life by establishing an elaborate, overwhelming personal development plan. Instead, niche down and decide where you want to cast your attention.
Use the wheel of life and the awareness of your current situation to direct your focus. If the wheel of life is exceptionally unbalanced, you probably want to improve the areas that fell short. Make sure that putting your attention there is interesting to you, though. If you aren’t passionate about improving in certain categories, you’ll have a hard time sticking to your plan.
Go back to your “why,” which will help you recognize your values. Understanding your personality type will also clue you into your most important principles and standards.
Don’t overthink this step. Choose three areas to work on. Remember, everything is temporary. You can always change your mind.
2. Pick Some Practices
According to Daniel Coyle, the author of “The Talent Code,” talent isn’t innate. It can be nurtured through intentional, regular practice.
Once you’ve decided the three categories to include in your personal development plan, explore the practices that can help you grow in those areas. If you want to improve your relationships with your children, you might want to:
- Read a book on positive parenting
- Learn about non-violent communication
- Spend quality time with your kids every day
Your practices might be:
- Reading one chapter before you go to bed every night
- Spending one hour a day working on a communication course
- Devoting 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to each child
If you want to expand your creativity, your practices could include:
- Drawing for 30 minutes a day
- Exploring a new artistic medium every week
- Looking at other people’s art once a day
3. Set Some Goals
A personal development plan isn’t complete without setting some goals. However, just because you have a goal-setting practice doesn’t mean that you’re working on personal development. Many people set professional or financial goals without taking into account their “why,” creating a personal vision or understanding the possibilities of their potential.
Another mistake that people make is setting goals that are too lofty. You might never reach your goal of mastering the guitar this year. In fact, mastery goes against the concept of personal development.
You’ll always be able to grow. You may reach different levels of proficiency. You might even become an expert in certain skills or categories. But you will always have the potential to develop more.
Your personal development goals should be inspiring and achievable. They can revolve around your habits, such as creating a goal to practice an instrument for 15 minutes a day, 30 days in a row. They can also relate to your achievements, such as being able to play through an entire piece of music without stopping.
Think about setting daily, weekly and monthly goals to create momentum within your personal development plan. If you come back to your plan frequently, you can continue to set new goals to propel your growth.
4. Schedule Your Practice
If you don’t make time for your practices, they will be difficult to maintain. Adopting new habits is not easy, especially when you’re already so busy that your life is off-balance in the first place.
Add your practices into your schedule. You might want to sit down with a calendar at the beginning of every month when you revisit your goals. Decide what you want to do every day, week or month. Schedule it in.
One of the reasons that many people struggle to make a change is because they don’t estimate their time accurately. You assume that you’ll be able to practice your instrument for 15 minutes a day without issue. But if you don’t schedule the time, you may find that you’re so occupied with other tasks that you forget.
Or perhaps you wait until the end of the day. By that point, you’re just too tired.
It’s a good idea to plan out your to-dos, whether they have to do with your personal development or just involve doing laundry. You’ll gain a keen awareness of how much time you have in the day and how efficiently you spend that time.
Speaking of time, you should also set deadlines for your goals. A goal without a closing date can be pushed further along. A deadline creates a sense of urgency and impels you to take action.
5. Reflect on Your Progress
Feedback helps you learn. As you move through your personal development plan, take time to look at:
- What is working
- What is not working
- How you are excelling
- What you can improve
Many of us don’t take the time to do this because we feel guilty or shameful about any mistake or failure. However, even failure is progress. It lets you filter out what doesn’t work so that you can see what does.
Most people also devote more attention to their mistakes than to their accomplishments. If you’re always focusing on how you failed, you might get discouraged and stop trying. Make sure that you concentrate on your achievements.
Some practices that you can use to celebrate your wins are:
- Write down what went well at the end of every day.
- Make a note of the ways that you met your goals.
- Track your progress by making note of your before-and-after.
If you’re working toward your personal development, there will always be movement. It’s easy to get flustered and feel as though you’re not moving quickly enough or you’re making a lot of mistakes. Of course, you’ll make errors—that’s how you learn new skills.
Monitoring your positive progress will keep you motivated and help you stick to your plan.
Tips for Sticking With Your Personal Development Plan
Personal development involves taking some action—no matter how small—to make yourself better every day. Here are some daily practices that can enhance your personal growth.
- Read about personal development
- Take action every day
- Practice the 5-second rule for taking action
- Work with a mentor, coach or accountability partner
- Create a reward system
- Be honest with yourself
- Move your body in a way that feels good every day
- Measure your progress
- Be consistent
Personal development isn’t always easy. In fact, change is usually challenging. Therefore, it’s important, to be honest with yourself as you’re moving through the process. If you’re trying to be more mindful, carrying a self-help book around in your backpack isn’t going to do much good if you’re not taking action. You have to commit to making a valuable change.
Don’t give up when the going gets tough. It’s easy to tell yourself that you shouldn’t exercise because it hurts and therefore probably isn’t good for you. You will experience lots of highs and lows throughout your journey. If you can push past your comfort zone, however, you can harness your full potential.