Personal development has been one of the trendiest tropics in the twenty-first century. Thousands of articles, books, and videos were made to create awareness about that topic. Speakers brought to the table ideas like self-motivation, determination, self-awareness, the power of time and similar ones. With that amount of information, it’s hard to find a way through the clutter. Also, whenever there’s a trending topic, false information circulates around it. Many even question the basis of such teachings and the leaders of that discipline. In addition, personal development is mainly a general word that can have different meanings in different contexts. Let’s dive through the details of personal development and find out all about it.

What Is Personal Development?

According to Wikipedia, “personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.”

Personal development is a lifelong process that aims to maximize the potential of every individual. The maximum potential of individuals comes from utilizing their resources, understanding themselves, and working on making a progress to achieve a higher quality of life.

Improving the quality of life requires continuously making the right life choices.

With that being said, everyone knows that making daily life choices and decisions isn’t easy. One often needs guidance and looks for advice before taking a step towards or away from anything. Although personal development doesn’t clearly tell you what to do, it provides you with insight into yourself. Consequently, this facilitates your personal progress.

personal development

Where Did Personal Development Start?

There was a time when the focus was less about the power of the individual and more on the collective progress. Society was a whole unit and progress was only considered if it’s public.

Today, individual progress matters as much as societal one. That’s why self-help books and seminars attract so many people. Self-actualisation is a core need for most people nowadays.

The Basis of Personal Development

Self-Esteem and Identity

Identity and self-esteem are closely related; and developing self-esteem and a strong sense of identity are very important to balanced personal development. Your sense of identity has to do with who you think you are and how you perceive yourself. It’s about how you define yourself.

Self-esteem is how you value yourself. It has to do with your sense of self-worth. Both affect your mental health, your behavior and how you relate to other people.

Both self-esteem and identity contribute to a good mental health which plays a major role in your personal development. Life coaches and experts suggest that without a stable mental health, it’s hard to go anywhere with personal development. They both walk hand in hand. 

Talents and Potential

After establishing a solid perspective within when it comes to self-esteem and identity. The second pillar of personal development is about digging through the self and discovering what one’s good at, and what one’s not.

Talents, strengths, weaknesses, past experience, intelligence are the resources one must discover and be willing to invest in to achieve self-actualisation. While talent is the natural ability to do and perform, potential refers to the possibility of doing and performing an even greater job function – but the abilities are not quite there. Potential requires training, coaching, and development. Potential refers to the future. Talent is in the present – it’s what you already bring to the table.

This purpose of this part of self-development is discovering yourself. The more you know about yourself, the better you would be able to identify your objectives and work on what you lack. See also: Personal Branding.

Objectives and Goals

Objectives and goals are crucial in the personal development process as they act as the destination to the journey. If the destination is wrong, or too far-fetched, the journey would never be stable or easy. Maintaining goals can be a little more involved than that, but this is the basic process.

The vast majority of people who try to set personal growth goals tend to abandon them because they set their goals too high or choose the wrong goals for their lifestyle. Some try to make too big of a change in too short of a time, or don’t congratulate themselves for making progress on their goals and give up if they have a slip.

Do You Really Need Personal Development?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that there are universal needs for all humans. These needs are the drivers for every human action, whatever it may be. Moreover, every individual aims to fulfill those needs in order to feel accomplished and successful. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is depicted as a pyramid with self-actualisation falls at the very top. Maslow defines self-actualisation as reaching full potential; becoming everything one is capable of becoming.

Physiological needs and safety needs are the two at the bottom. Between those two and self-actualisation, one finds: love and belonging, esteem needs, cognitive needs, and aesthetic needs.

Since personal development works on all those aspects, therefore, you need a personal development process to fulfill your needs.

Benefits of Personal Development

Discovering Yourself

The journey of self-development starts within. This is the most interesting thing about adopting personal development as a perspective. Every day of your life you gain new knowledge, you’re exposed to new experience, and therefore, you don’t have one permanent version of yourself. On the contrary, you develop new interests, abandon old habits, and become interested in new ones. Humans are naturally progressive and evolutionary.

For that reason, personal development programs urge people to look into themselves and discover their own wonders. Knowing what you prefer, what you dislike, or what your priorities are give you confidence. It helps you love and accept your strengths and rough edges as one package. In addition, self-discovery is a fun process. It’s like meeting multiple versions of yourself at different stages of life. You keep coming back to your core identity in order to adapt to changes or mould new objectives.

Figuring Out Your Purpose

You often hear people saying that they’re feeling lost; not knowing what their next step should be. Younger people usually find it hard to know what they are meant to do. They feel puzzled with the amount of choices and different paths. This is particularly common among fresh graduates. It’s very common to have these thoughts and feelings, that’s why personal development is important. Self-Development helps you define your objectives and goals; short-term and long-term ones.

So, naturally, that gives your guidance and purpose. When you have a destination, it’s much easier to make decisions. Even if you decide to change your path, having the basics of personal development in the back of your mind helps you make the right shift at the right time.


Self-motivation is often associated with personal development. However, most people misunderstand what self-motivation really means. This misunderstanding occurs because we all have high, unrealistic expectations of ourselves sometimes. You must always remember that self-motivation is never flawless. There will always be slips and times when you feel like giving up.

Your personal development plan should make room for your ups and downs. If you read any of the trustworthy books, you would find that they all teach that failure is also a part of the personal development process.

Self-motivation is not about always being excited or inspired; it’s about finding hope, reassurance, and confidence in yourself despite failures. It’s the ability to do what needs to be done, without influence from other people or situations. People with self-motivation can find a reason and strength to complete a task, even when challenging, without giving up or needing another to encourage them. Once again, personal development supports individualism by insisting that motivation comes from within. This is another benefit of personal development: independence and optimism.

Life Balance

As personal development encourages you to define talents, objectives, and most importantly, priorities, that helps you achieve a life balance. The rhythm of our lives is becoming too upbeat to keep track of what truly matters. Many people put their work and career before their families, others put their families first and tend to ignore their health. Many overlook the importance of social life. That causes many to become unhappy, pressured, and overworked.

A personal development process gives the same priority to all those aspects of life. That helps you realize the importance of every aspect and give it the proper share of your time and thinking. All experts suggest that one needs balance in every aspect in order to achieve balance and happiness.

For that reason, there are hundreds of personal development books that deal with time management. With everything moving at the speed of light, you need to find the way to balance all those life-aspects, without having one override the other. There’s nothing selfish about dedicating time to yourself, your hobbies, your own development, or your loved ones. On the contrary, fulfilling those needs will enrich the quality of life you have, generally. That’s an important lesson that you learn once you read about personal development.

Career Development

In fact, most people are introduced to personal development for career development purposes. Now, healthy business organisations care about the performance and productivity of their employees.

Most businesses and human resources personnel understand that the employee’s mental and physical wellness affects his/her performance. Therefore, most businesses offer a personal development process tailored for their employees.

These programs encourage the employees to set career objectives for themselves, to explore different areas and projects, and to determine their strengths and weaknesses. These are almost the same steps in a personal development program, however, this one focuses on moving forward with your career.

Career development is a major part of the whole personal development topic, once you have established a career; you feel financially stable, determined, and you understand your purposes.

Healthy Relationships

Social life, or what most people call relationships, has a huge influence on the quality of our lives. When an individual feels appreciated, loved, connected, and most importantly, safe in an environment, it reflects on their whole life positively.

Therefore, all personal development experts and life coaches pay great attention to improving one’s relationships. Through explaining the requirements of healthy relationships, the boundaries, and the expectations, personal development specialists help you grow relationships that fit you and get rid of those abusive ones.

The more genuine you are in any relationship, the more comfortable you will feel.

In addition, whether it’s a friend, a colleague, a family member or someone you’re romantically involved with, every relationship has a sort of potential as well. Humans share the urge to expand, extend, become autonomous, develop, grow, and mature.

We all long for self-actualization, to enhance the self, and reach the ultimate state in which we can express and activate all the inner capacities we possess. We want to become as integrated and effective as possible, and we all wonder who we really are.

The right kind of relationships helps us become who we are and nourish our growth to reach the maximum potential.

Personal Development Aspects

Physical Development

Physical development should always be your starting point. You will live your whole life in your body, you have to take care of it. Society has promoted many harmful habits such as smoking, eating junk, long hours of sitting down, and eating too much sugar.

Find out your state of health and start moving from there. If your current state includes bad habits, or if you’re in a bad situation, then start immediately by visiting your doctor, get a nutrition plan and start exercising regularly.

If you’re generally healthy, explore better eating habits so that you can improve your health. You can also start practicing a sport that you’ve always wanted to try but have been postponing it. Other things you should explore is using sunscreen, developing a good skincare routine, getting to a healthy weight if necessary and making sure that you are getting plenty of sleep and relaxation to ensure health.

Emotional Development

Being an emotionally intelligent person requires empathy, understanding, and cleverness. Many CEOs and genius minds did not possess emotional intelligence, which made it difficult for everyone around them, even though they were truly innovative leaders. To work on your emotional development, you need to practice those five abilities:

Identify What You’re Feeling

It all begins by acknowledging your feelings. Many people can’t come to terms with negative feelings such as anger, jealousy, or hatred. They deny them, bury them, or push them away.

Buried emotions usually show up later more violently. That’s why you must identify what you’re feeling and do not run away from it. So, begin by accepting that experiencing negative feelings and emotions are all part of being human. Do not feel shame by any kind of emotion you have.

Know How to Interpret Your Emotions

Interpreting your emotions is different from acknowledging them. Some people may have no problem admitting they have a specific emotion, yet they communicate these emotions in harmful ways. If anger is translated into self-harm, or if jealousy is translated into low self-esteem, that’s a problem. The right way to express feelings is to talk about them, either to a specialist or to someone you trust. You can even consider writing them down to yourself. That way you can let out that burden without affecting your emotional well-being.

Understand How Your Emotions Can Impact Others

Although emotions are internal, they still reflect on all your actions. Those actions affect everyone dealing with you. Your colleagues, family members, friends, and loved ones.

An emotionally intelligent person understands that, and watches his/her actions in order not to take out those feelings on the wrong people. If your emotions are too powerful at one moment, you can let the ones you’re dealing with know that you’re not in your best state and would rather take things easy till you feel better.

If this isn’t possible, you must do your best to think about your actions and control them from having a negative impact on other people.

Regulate Your Own Emotions

Sometimes, what you need is not to control your actions but to control your emotions themselves. Our brains sometimes make things more overwhelming than they really are. Anxiety and pressure can make a situation worse than it is in reality. Keeping that in mind is important when things are too stressful and a train of worries is running in your head. You shouldn’t deny your feelings, as mentioned earlier, however, you shouldn’t completely let them take you to darker places.

Manage Other People’s Emotions

Also known as empathy. Empathy is the most important quality of emotionally intelligent people. Empathy helps you understand where other people are coming from. You understand their pain, their struggles, their fears and weaknesses. This makes you kinder and more considerate towards other people, especially if you’re in a position of power. If you’re a team leader, a manager, or even a parent, empathy is the basis of your relationship with those surrounding you.

How to Develop Empathy?

  • According to Virtual Speech, here are some steps that you can practice to work on becoming more empathetic:
  • Imagine yourself in someone else’s position.
  • Practice listening without interrupting.
  • Observe people and try to gauge how they’re feeling.
  • Try to understand first rather than form a judgement.
  • To communicate your empathy keep your body language open and regulate your voice to show your sincerity.

Of course, acquiring these five abilities is a tough task. It requires patience and it may take years till one overcomes the ego we all have and develop yourself emotionally. However, the impact that emotional development will have on your life will be worth it.

See also: Workplace Bullying

Intellectual Development

Intellect is also a part of our human nature. Humans love knowledge; we want to learn more, to have a deeper understanding of everything around us. Knowledge provides us with pleasure and insight. It also makes us more confident and can have a positive impact on our decisions. For that reason, your personal development plan must involve educating yourself.

You best part is that you have the freedom to choose any discipline or any subject you wish to learn more about. Whether it’s art, business, science, literature, there are too many different options and you can always switch. Stimulating your mind is a great way to apply personal development.

Occupational Development

Your occupational development isn’t just about your career. Of course, your career should be aligned with it, but it has more than that. Your occupation is partly similar to your life purpose. What is it that you care about the most? What kind of place do you want to occupy in life? Which lifestyle do you want to adopt? You may want to be a business manager for a multi-million company, but have you asked yourself, why?

Why this particular occupation? Many times, one encounters a person who has been working in a huge company, and have been very successful at it. Then, one day, he/she quits and they pursue an entirely different path. Why does that happen? He/she has found something else that they have some different purpose. They can’t find themselves in what they have been doing. Meanwhile, other people fit that role perfectly. We’re not all the same.

Now, if you have a specific goal in your career, you must have a specific position or title to reach. You should have an idea about how you’re going to reach that spot. What do you lack? What do you need to improve? And, what should be your ultimate concern? And most importantly, can you imagine yourself happy to be doing that job for years? These are basic questions that you should ask yourself before you plan your occupational development.

Financial Development

Financials are major when it comes to your general well-being. The saying goes as “money can’t buy happiness”, but you know that it’s important to sustain financial stability. The first step to financial development is tracking your spending. What takes the biggest lump of your money? What are the necessities? And, what are trivialities that you can give up for saving?

Next comes the part where you set saving goals. Saving for the sake of saving doesn’t really work. You must have a goal for a particular amount of money. That way, you can always be motivated and know where you stand. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car, a house, a trip, or even a fancy lunch.

Longer term saving is about where you see yourself ten or twenty years from now. Those bigger plans require investment, besides saving. Another important step is to plan for emergencies. Those are natural, however, they come out of the blue. Therefore, you should always plan for those in advance. A great tip is to pay down “toxic” high-interest debt, such as credit card balances, payday loans, title loans and rent-to-own payments. Interest rates on some of these may be so high that you end up repaying two or three times what you borrowed. Get rid of those before anything else. Finally, you should think of a protection plan like health insurance, life insurance, and estate planning.

Environmental Development

Environmental development is usually the last thing people think about. However, humans are a part of nature, connecting with the environment is more or less connecting with ourselves. The environment most people live in right now is disconnected from nature, especially for those who live in big cities. People deal with pollution, noise, and consumerism. 

Our lives are fragmented and isolated from. It’s always a good idea to include environmental development in your personal development plan. You can do that by planning regular trips, camps, or an outdoor meditation session. If that’s not possible, a daily walk in the park is also progress. Some people try adopting a more minimalistic lifestyle. They do so by avoiding buying things that they don’t need or minimizing their plastic waste and using green products.

Spiritual Development

Spirituality is not following a religion. Your spiritual development is about being connected with deeper things in life. It’s about understanding yourself, believing in a purpose and in the goodness of humanity. In general, spirituality includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.

It’s also about having some ethics or a moral code that you follow. It doesn’t have to be religious, however, it must contribute to your own well-being and to those surrounding you, and to the bigger society if possible. Patience, tolerance, forgiveness, empathy, helping others, and appreciating what you have are all spiritual qualities that you should seek to possess in your personal development journey.

Personal Development in Business

When personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations. One of the most important factors that contribute to employee retention is feeling appreciated and career growth. Career growth is exactly another word for personal development in the business context. Here are some of the common activities that you can do to develop your career:

  • Identify and cultivate a relationship with a mentor/role model.
  • Read relevant material.
  • Engage in training and education.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Attend appropriate seminars.
  • Take on special job assignments or job rotation.
  • Receive coaching from a skilled co-worker.
  • Increase customer contact.
  • Incorporate activities into ongoing work assignments.
  • Keep yourself updated with the qualification required for your dream position.
  • Connect with influencers and experts in your field.

See also: Dealing with Stress at Work

Where Do You Start?

So, let’s say you want to set a personal development plan for yourself. Where should you begin?

Discover Your Talents

First things first, you have to point out what you’re good at, or what you aspire to be good at. Your passions, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses. If you don’t know yet what your talents are, you should give yourself the space to explore.

There are endless opportunities and fields to explore, it could be anything; from cooking to astrophysics. A good idea is to ask those who know you well; friends and family. Ask them what they think you’re good at. They’ll always have answers for that.

Write Down Your Goals

After finding out all your talents and dreams are, you must narrow down your goals to specific ones that you’re capable of at this point. For example, if you want to travel the world, you can’t have that as one goal on your list. You should narrow it down to a list of five countries which are budget friendly. Then, you would choose one or two of them as your first destination.

Next, you would weigh your options and go for the best one and start making a move.

This same sequence applies to different goals and possibilities. Make sure your goals are realistic and research all the opportunities and risks to reach that goal.

Put an Action Plan

Execution is also an important part of the deal. Your action plan, of course, includes an investment. Whether an investment of time, money, or physical effort, you need to make sure that you have enough resources to fulfill that plan.

An action plan should also include a timeline of when those goals would be crossed off your list. Remember to make your schedule is generally flexible and allows for times when you can’t commit. Prepare a reward and punishment rule for yourself. The word “punishment” isn’t quite the best choice, however, a sort of “discipline” is good for keeping yourself motivated.

Book Recommendations

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This popular, best-selling book was written by Stephen Covey. Covey wrote his book in 1986, yet it continues to be relevant and inspiring to millions of people to this day. The secret ingredient in this book is that the author ignores trends and pop psychology and focuses on timeless principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity.

The seven habits he tackles in the book are: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw. Covey elaborates on these habits and explains how you can use them to turn your life around. Find the book here.  

Who Moved My Cheese?

Spencer Johnson wrote this book in 1998 and the storytelling in the book is truly compelling to the reader. Johnson introduces the reader to his fable on how to cope positively with change. Since life is continuously in motion, developing such a skill is beneficial in every aspect of life. The story involves four characters who live in a maze: the mice Scurry and Sniff, and two ‘littlepeople’, Hem and Haw. All is going well because they have found a huge source of their favourite food, cheese. 

Hem and Haw have even moved their houses to be near it and it has become the center of their lives. But they don’t notice that it is getting smaller, and are devastated when they arrive at the site one morning and find the cheese is gone. The fable refers to a situation almost everyone faces in his/her life, at least once. Therefore, the book is relevant to many; especially those who have just lost their job, a loved one, or anything dear to them. 

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle wrote The Power of Now in the 1990’s. The author himself suffered from anxiety and suicidal depression before his life transformed when he was 29. In his book, he makes a point that humans are often blinded by false identifications of themselves.

Enslaved by your ego and the illusion of time, you lose the most important thing you possess; the present moment.

He elaborates that your ego is not yourself; you’re neither defined by the past nor by any social status, beliefs, education, or family history. He also states that the past and future create pain in the present, therefore, one becomes absent in the Now. Tolle encourages the reader to focus on the power of now and gives tips on how to control your mind and nurture it to become fruitful, not destructive.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Although an old one, it remains relevant to this day. Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, gives his tips to become a communication guru. Good communication skills are on top of the qualifications list in any job. Besides, it helps you build long lasting relationships and connections whether with friends or colleagues. It has a lot to contribute to improving your social life and emotional intelligence. For those reasons, the book remains a great read especially for those who wish to improve their emotional aspect.

Who to Follow?

Nick Vujicic

Image hosting is a form of internet hosting. An image hosting service enables people to transfer pictures to an Internet site. The picture host will then store the picture on its server, and demonstrate the individual distinctive kinds of code to enable others to see that picture.

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner is the autobiographer of the well-known book, later made into the critically acclaimed movie starring Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness. Gardner turned his life around from a homeless salesman to a millionaire and an entrepreneur. Gardner suffered an extremely tough childhood and developed destructive habits that continued on with him as an adult. However, he made a choice to break every cycle he was born into.

Gardner is a great speaker that knows how to engage with his audience and his goal is to help create the next “Chris Gardner”. He believes that if he can do this, then anyone else can.

Personal Development Quotes

  • “Before you find your soulmate, you must first discover your soul.” ― Charles F. Glassman. This quote cheers for self-awareness. There’s a huge pressure that society imposes on people to find their fairytale; to find the love that will make them happily ever after.Because of that pressure, some people grow to think that they’re incomplete without a partner. They make it their lifelong quest to find the right person to love. This quote shifts the focus on exploring yourself and fulfilling your own life first, before looking for the perfect match.
  • “People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.” ― Timothy Ferriss. People truly fear what they don’t know. That sort of hesitance is what keeps us locked inside our comfort zone for too long. We waste too much time worrying about the unknown; that makes us lose many opportunities.
  • “What the society thinks of me is of no interest to me at all. All that’s important is how I see myself. I know who I am. I know the value of my work.” ―Robin P. Pharma. Greater resilience is your armour when things get rough. During such times, people often lose their self-esteem and their ability to believe that they’re worthy of love, success, and ultimately happiness. Resilience should be your best friend during these times, especially if your surrounding environment isn’t supportive. Your self-value isn’t a reflection of what other people think of you. Oppositely, your self-esteem will affect how people see you.
  • “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” ―Henry David Thoreau. This one’s for the dreamy ones; those who think that one can achieve personal development by dreaming our way to it. Before you start your personal development journey, you should know it’s hard work. Unfortunately, some people, and even coaches, tend to believe that “positive thinking” will get you where you want. It’s true that positive thinking has its power, yet only through hard work, persistence, and discipline one achieves success.
  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ―Ernest Hemingway Last but not least, watch out for your ego. Be careful that your goal shouldn’t be to feed your ego. “Becoming a better person” doesn’t mean that you should feel morally superior to those around you. As Hemingway elaborates, the real goal is to become better than your former self, not to be competing with people, nor to reach a state of superiority to those who haven’t taken that  step yet.

Your personal development journey should make you more humble and understanding. You should also check out this article on how to make a decision for further inspiration and personal development.

Personal Development Checklist to get started

  1. Read about what you want to improve
  2. Find a mentor
  3. Reflect at the end of each day
  4. Create a strong practice regime
  5. Find people who will motivate you or someone you could train with
  6. Create a reward/punishment system
  7. Stay honest with yourself
  8. Find role models you can look up to
  9. Measure your progress
  10. Consider slip-ups to be part of the process

For more personal development blogs, check out Personal Development in the Workplace | Causes of Stage Fright.

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