No matter how much life experience we have or how hard we’ve worked to get to know ourselves, we all have room for personal development and growth. However, even if you’re interested in self-improvement, you might wonder where to start or how to proceed in an organized way.
These six tips for designing a personal development plan will help you get a clearer sense of what you want to achieve, as well as how to achieve it.
There might be a few things that immediately come to mind when you think about self-improvement. However, a good brainstorming session will help you come up with other ideas. And it can assist you in seeing previously unnoticed connections between different aspects of your personality. Using a mind map can be helpful here…
For example, you might put several key themes close to the center of a piece of paper (such as “physical”, “intellectual”, “creative”, and “emotional”), and then create branches coming from each of these themes.
So, you might identify that there’s room for emotional growth in areas of positive thinking and confidence. Whilst you might write “take up a new instrument” and “make time for reading” in the corner devoted to creativity.
This mind-mapping process can give you a much clearer sense of what’s important. It can also provide some extra perspective on your overall way of being.
Working out a personal development plan isn’t just about focusing on your difficulties, things you’ve been ignoring, or what you perceive to be your weaknesses. Perform an inventory of your skills, then pick out some things you’d say you’re at least “quite good” at.
These are all talents that can be honed and improved, increasing your self-esteem and helping you to achieve greater levels of fulfillment.
If you’ve been working with the Law of Attraction, you’re probably already familiar with how important specificity can be.
When you’re setting any goals, whether as part of a personal development plan or something else, it’s smart to experiment with the wording until you find a maximally accurate version of your aim.
So, if one area of your proposed self-improvement involves becoming more confident, try to quantify this.
For example, you might decide you want to give two presentations within the next six months. Or, reduce your levels of social anxiety in larger groups, and work to appreciate your physical appearance.
(Need help reducing the stress and confusion? This can be a lot to take in… I've compiled some of my best visualization exercises into a free tool kit to help!
Personal development is a lifelong project, so don’t feel that you immediately need to tackle every single area you’ve identified.
Instead, take a look at the potential aims you’ve uncovered, and choose some to focus on for the next few months or years. You can do this, depending on the scope of your self-improvement goals.
Imagine what might happen if you choose to commit to learning a new language, becoming more outgoing, developing a more positive mindset, treating your body more kindly, and nurturing your old talent for the trombone—it’s likely that one or more of these goals will fall by the wayside, or that you’ll pursue all of your aims at a very superficial level.
Isolate the most important areas for growth—the ones that will help you develop the kind of life you really want—and hone in on those.
For every item on your personal development agenda, you’ll be far more likely to see real results if you develop a clear plan for achieving your aims.
Try to write out several steps you’ll need to take (think of them as “mini-goals” on the road to your greater goal), and pursue them in a systemic way.
To return to the confidence example again, you might start out by interacting with a new person every few days. You can then work up to voicing your opinion in big groups. Then, eventually, move on to trying public speaking (or some other sort of public performance).
However, some personal growth goals don’t have this naturally linear structure. For those types of self-development (such as cultivating a more positive mindset), you might find it more useful to itemize 5-10 activities you can regularly undertake in the service of your goal.
No matter what your personal development plan turns out to be, it’s important to keep track of your progress. It's also important to think about how you feel about your goal. Writing in a personal development journal will help you identify and overcome blocks and limiting beliefs that might be holding you back.
If you encounter serious difficulties or overwhelming feelings as you work to grow as a person, engaging in therapy can be a valuable way to learn more about yourself and work towards being the person you want to become.