Personal development is a lifelong process. It is a way for people to assess their skills and qualities, consider their aims in life and set goals in order to realise and maximise their potential.
This article helps you to identify the skills you need to set life goals which can enhance your employability prospects, raise your confidence, and lead to a more fulfilling, higher quality life. Plan to make relevant, positive and effective life choices and decisions for your future to enable personal empowerment.
Although early life development and early formative experiences within the family, at school, etc. can help to shape us as adults, personal development should not stop later in life.This writing contains information and advice that is designed to help you to think about your personal development and ways in which you can work towards goals and your full potential.
Why is Personal Development Important?
There are many ideas surrounding personal development, one of which is Abraham Maslow’s process of self-actualisation.Maslow (1970) suggests that all individuals have an in-built need for personal development which occurs through a process called self-actualisation.
The extent to which people are able to develop depends on certain needs being met and these needs form a hierarchy. Only when one level of need is satisfied can a higher one be developed. As change occurs throughout life, however, the level of need motivating someone’s behaviour at any one time will also change.
n At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic physiological needs for food, drink, sex and sleep, i.e., the basics for survival.
n Second are the needs for safety and security in both the physical and economic sense.
n Thirdly, progression can be made to satisfying the need for love and belonging.
n The fourth level refers to meeting the need for self-esteem and self-worth. This is the level most closely related to ‘self-empowerment’.
n The fifth level relates to the need to understand. This level includes more abstract ideas such as curiosity and the search for meaning or purpose and a deeper understanding.
n The sixth relates to aesthetic needs of beauty, symmetry and order.
n Finally, at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-actualisation.
Maslow (1970, p.383) says that all individuals have the need to see themselves as competent and autonomous, also that every person has limitless room for growth.
Self-actualisation refers to the desire that everybody has ‘to become everything that they are capable of becoming’. In other words, it refers to self-fulfilment and the need to reach full potential as a unique human being.For Maslow, the path to self-actualisation involves being in touch with your feelings, experiencing life fully and with total concentration.
Managing Your Personal Development
There are a number of steps to take in managing your personal development.
1. Developing a Personal Vision
Personal development can simply be for fun. Most of us, however, find it easier to motivate ourselves to learn and improve if we have a purpose in doing so. Developing your personal vision – a clear idea of where you want to be in a few months or years, and why – is a crucial part of developing this purpose.
2. Planning Your Personal Development
Once you are clear about where you want to be, you can start planning how to get there. Drawing up a personal development plan is not essential, but it does make the planning process more realistic.If you are struggling to identify which areas to target for development and improvement, you may find it helpful by Personal SWOT Analysis and Identifying Areas for Improvement.
3. Starting the Improvement Process
There are a number of different ways in which you can learn and develop.Some Specific Techniques explains some ways of learning, including a technique called expertise transfer.
4. Recording Your Personal Development
It is often a good idea to keep a record of your personal development. By writing down key developments in your learning and development as and when they occur, you will be able to reflect on your successes at a later date.This reflection may well help to motivate you to learn more skills in the future. Try keeping a learning log or journal as you develop your skills and knowledge.
5. Reviewing and Revising Personal Development Plans
Regularreview of your personal development plans, and your development activities, will ensure that you learn from what you have done. It will also ensure that your activities continue to move you towards your goals, and that your goals or vision remain relevant to you.
Practical Steps to Personal Development
There are a number of things that are vital in supporting your personal development, including developing a vision of where you want to be, and planning how you are going to get there.But alongside these, it is also helpful to take some simple but practical steps to change how you organise your life.Practical steps can be taken to enhance personal development, including:
n Organising your time.
n Producing a personal CV or résumé.
n Overcoming barriers to learning a new skill.
1. Organising Your Time
If you are considering making changes in your life, finding additional time often poses a problem.It could be that the changes you are thinking of making are to ensure you have extra time to:
n Spend with your family.
n Spend on things you enjoy doing.
n Devote to your work.
n Devote to your education.
Whatever the reason, looking at how you spend your time will encourage you to think of ways your time could be managed more effectively.These include:
n Learning to say ‘no’ to jobs or requests that you feel are not your responsibility
n Learning to delegate – sharing jobs can be fun and will leave you with more time.
n Making a ’to do’ list of tasks you need to do each day/week, ticking off tasks that you complete.
n Giving up things you do not really want or need to do.
n Identifying your high and low times of the day. Everyone has a time when he/she feels more or less energetic. Try to do the most demanding tasks when you have the greatest energy as you will do them more quickly, thereby releasing more time to spend on other things.
For many people their personal development will involve setting goals. These might be to change behavior — such as looking at time management — learning new skills or advancing their career.
Many employers are looking for the same sorts of skills. These include good communication skills, the ability to work as part of a team and the ability to learn – these are often termed ‘Soft Skills’. Beyond that the skills required will depend on the particular job.
2. Personal Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resumé
Drawing up a CV or résumé is not only necessary when applying for jobs; it can also be very useful for your own benefit and will help you appraise the skills you have gained through education, training, employment, voluntary work, leisure and other activities.In turn, a personal CV will help to highlight skills that you should work on developing.
There are numerous different ways of setting out and presenting a CV or résumé for the purpose of applying for a job – you should be very careful to include all relevant information and make sure your document is well written and well presented. However, for the purpose of a personal CV or resume, for your own reference and as a way to access your skills, a simple format is all that is needed.
Quick guide to preparing your personal CV or resumé:
n Split your document with headings and include Education, Training, Past Experience, Skills etc.
n Use dates to establish when each item on your personal résumé was achieved, i.e. when did you graduate, when did you learn a particular skill.
n Keep your personal CV or résumé concise: the aim is to list your skills and abilities, not write an essay about them.
Many skills that you have learnt and developed either through work, education or your personal life can be successfully applied to other areas of your life. For example, good listening skills are important in many aspects of life. Such skills are known as ‘Transferable Skills’, a term which is usually associated with a skill set that can be easily transferred from one job to another.
Analysing your existing skills will help you to identify both skills and personal qualities that could be used in another field. Further examples of transferable skills are IT skills, interpersonal skills, communication (verbal and written), organisational skills, literacy and numeracy, problem-solving and understanding the needs of others or emotional intelligence.
3. Overcoming Barriers to Learning a New Skill
Learning a new skill will broaden the opportunities open to you, at the same time as empowering you as an individual.There are many things that prevent people from learning new skills, but these barriers may be overcome with some thought. These might include:
n Lack of Confidence or Self-Esteem : This is one of the greatest obstacles facing many individuals. However, if this is a problem, ask yourself if there is anyone who would support and help you to take the first steps towards learning a new skill. Often, once the first move is made then the greatest hurdle is overcome. Confidence increases as you develop new skills.
n Economic Situation : You may see your financial situation as a barrier to developing new skills, but this need not be the case.
The internet has lots of free pages and tools and resources that can help you develop specific skills, browse our pages for a comprehensive guide.
There may be courses offered in local schools, colleges or universities which are free or offered at a reduced rate for people on a low income. Distance-learning courses allow you to study at home, which can help to reduce the cost of learning. There may also be trust funds or charities that offer grants for people developing new skills in your area. It is even possible to learn a new skill with the aid of books from the local library.
Voluntary work can also provide an excellent opportunity for learning and developing new skills, as can being a member of a local group or society.
n Family Commitments : If you have family commitments that prevent you from having the time to learn a new skill, it may be possible for you to enlist the help of a friend or family member to give you a few free hours each week. Colleges and universities offering vocational training courses may also have free or subsidised crèche places.
Lack of Time:Follow Time Management and Minimising Distractions and consider how you could reorganise your time to fit in the development of a new skill.
Barriers or Excuses?
Many of these barriers may be more excuses than fundamental blockages. If you are using any of these as reasons for avoiding development, it may be worth looking deeper to see if there are reasons for your thinking, perhaps deeply-held values that may be in conflict with personal development.
The first step is often the hardest. Barriers to personal development are often more in the mind than anywhere else.The first step — whether it is signing up for a course, getting some books from the library, or finding a website that can help — is often the hardest. As you take that first step, remember that the process is described as ‘lifelong’ for a reason: you are always learning, it is only the level of formality that changes.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start with personal development. Should you try to eliminate your weaknesses? Focus on your strengths and build them up even further? Do something completely new?You may by now be in a state of ‘analysis paralysis’ and not at all sure what do to next.Following tips on personal development help you to get started, and then keep going, by focusing on what matters.
n 1. Why are You Trying to Develop?
It is important to understand why you are trying to develop.The answers to all the questions about ‘what’ and ‘where’ (what should I do? Should I address my weaknesses, or build my strengths? Where should I begin?) all become clearer once you identify why you want to change.
Learning in and of itself can be interesting and fun, but many of us want to develop and improve for a specific purpose. It is important to be clear about this purpose, so that you can assess whether your learning and development activities are moving you closer to your goals. It is also easier to get motivated when you have a clear picture of where you want to be at the end of the process.
n 2. Planning Your Development
Planning your personal development (and documenting your plan) will help to make it more realistic.There is something about writing things down that makes the hyperbolic (exaggeration) look ridiculous, and the unrealistic stand out like a sore thumb. Making a plan for your personal development, which includes time limits and stages of development, will force you to be realistic about what you can achieve by when.
Of course writing it down does not bind you irrevocably. Everyone’s lives change and your priorities may well alter after you have developed your plan. A written plan, however, gives you something to look back on and a way of keeping tabs on your goals, even formally altering them if necessary.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams
n 3. Documenting Your Plans
Writing down your plans and activities enables you to review your progress. Keeping detailed records may sound like something that you would prefer to avoid. But your personal development plans and activities, if documented carefully, not only enable you to review progress, but also provide a record of your thinking over time.
It is incredibly easy to forget how you felt about things at different stages, and even why you thought a particular goal was important. Carefully documenting your thinking will help to show you what works best, what you have enjoyed and disliked, and quite probably point you towards more suitable activities or areas for development.
n 4. What Works for You?
It is important to find out what personal development methods work best for you.There are an enormous range of development activities available, from formal training sessions, through online training to experiential learning, reading and discussing ideas with others. As with anything, it is important to find out what works best for you—as in, what you enjoy most and also what helps you to learn and develop quickly and effectively.
By documenting your experience, including feedback from other people about your progress, you can also assess the relative effectiveness of different types of learning.
n 5. Focus
What is really important in your personal development?Personal development is a lifelong process—which is why it is sometimes described as ‘lifelong learning’. In practice, although it can be hard to remember this, this means you do not have to do everything at once.
Use your personal vision to identify what really matters now — what you have to do first to achieve your vision — and concentrate on that. Only once you have achieved that, or at least made reasonable progress, should you move on. ‘Butterfly-style’ personal development, flitting from subject to subject, may keep you interested, but will probably be less satisfying or effective in the longer term.
n 6. Grasp New Opportunities
Do not be afraid to take opportunities that you had not considered before.Not everything in life, or personal development, is predictable.Sometimes you may be offered an amazing opportunity to do something that does not fit with your immediate priorities, but which sounds too good to miss.
It is worth considering whether taking this opportunity will slow down your progress towards your ultimate goal and, if so, whether that matters.It is not worth turning something down simply because you have never thought of doing it, and therefore it does not feature in your ‘life plans’.
Ultimately, being offered this kind of opportunity probably helps you to define your goals better: if it sounds very exciting and you really want to do it, then do. If it changes your goal and vision, so be it.
“Our biggest regrets are not for the things we have done but for the things we haven’t done.”Chad Michael Murray
n 7. Let Personal Development Evolve
Your priorities will change — and that’s OK. Few, if any, of us would say that we were exactly the same person at 35 that we were at 15, or even 25. As you grow and change, taking on new responsibilities in work or at home, so your priorities and goals will change.
The key is to recognise that this is fine. What matters is to ensure that your personal development activities continue to take you where you want to go. Regular review and revision of your personal development activities and plans will ensure that they change with your priorities, and remain relevant.
This article published with the courtesy of www.skillsyouneed.com website.