Life is filled with challenges. We try to keep our heads above water as we battle it out in a competitive work environment. When we get home, we try and juggle our social life, relationships and health.

Is there a way that we could possibly rise above the pressures of daily life? How do we win at this thing called life?

Self-development is a broad topic with a wide range of considerations and influences.  Today’s self-help culture has given rise to thousands of self help books giving advice on how you can reach your goals, learn new skills and create a more wholesome life. Whether you are trying to strike a work-life balance, seek career development, or just want to develop your interpersonal skills, you probably need to consider creating a personal development plan.

Nelson Mandela rose out of the ashes to become one of the most iconic leaders of our time, but he started with building a strong sense of himself and his purpose.

Reaching your full human potential starts with the relationship you have with yourself.

The Origins of Personal Development

Psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung researched personality and created their views and theories around human development.

If you delve further into classic psychology you will learn about people like Erikson, who developed 8 psychological conflicts we have to overcome during our phases of personal development, and Hippocrates who coined the famous four personality types.

Leadership Development
People become leaders because they don't settle for the ordinary - Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash


These historical academic and psychology legends laid the foundation of what we see today as self-help or the field of personal development. They inspired the development of more current tools and techniques that include personality testing, like the popular Enneagram.

Daily, our athletes become faster, kids smarter and technology pushes us to continuously gain new skills. Psychotherapy, skill-development and self awareness expands daily as our species evolves.

This culture of continuous personal growth might place a lot of pressure on us to stay ahead, but luckily all this change also brings better access to information. You can now find out how other people did it, read their self-improvement tips, find a life coach online and access thousands of tools as you try and improve your life.

Giving personal development a very specific definition is quite challenging. It includes all the aspects that make us human. It is important however, to notice that you will be the core driver in your personal growth. It’s about your decisions, needs, desires and personal goals. You will be the one who needs to put in the effort to gain the benefits and ultimately improve your life to be what you desire.

Personal development should thus be what YOU want it to be.

But what aspects of ourselves will we be working on when we’re developing ourselves and what’s the best way to approach it?

Will you start with personality skills, practical skills like language, or interpersonal skills?  The answer is simple – it’s your plan, your life and you determine where you start.

We would however, recommend that you first do an evaluation to identify the area in your life needs development the most.

The field of personal development is massive and covers all aspects of human existence. Fortunately, you live in a time where you have access to thousands of self-help tools, tests, books and theories to discover exactly where and how you can improve yourself.

Books for Self help
There are thousands of books to help you along the way - Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

One System With Many Personal Development Areas

Hopefully this journey of self discovery will make you realise just how beautifully interesting and complex you are. We all operate as one system, made up by various different parts. We can try and isolate our bodies and minds, but usually when one aspect of our lives take strain it impacts other areas of our lives as well.

It is the same when we delve into personal development; we can isolate certain aspects of our lives for the purpose of self knowledge and learning, but have to remain conscious of the fact that every aspect in our lives will influence other areas.

As you uncover and develop one part of yourself, it will unearth other new unknown areas you need to focus on.

Self-actualisation and personal growth are part of a continuous journey  

Having said that, if you consult with an expert personal development coach, life coach or psychologist, they will start the process by assessing the current state of these various aspects around your life.

Using different techniques and tools, like verbal assessments and questionnaires, they will use information you give them to do an analysis around the current state of your life.

Their assessment is usually guided by breaking it down into ‘personal development areas’ as defined by modern psychology. These will usually include areas like your fitness, financial health, relationships and social state etc.

Aspects of our life
To balance ourselves we have to consider all aspects on our path - Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

These general areas of personal development vary from one industry expert to the next, and psychologists will use a slightly different approach to corporate industrial psychologists, or personal development and life coaches. Here are the generic areas that will usually be covered in them:

Career (Professional Skills, Job Skills, Leadership Skills)

Vocational skills are skills that will make you better at your job or advance your chances of a promotion. This could be an actual course or skillset that you can study and a lot of times it’s a CV builder.

Assess where you are, define your career aspirations and which skills you lack. Communicate your development goals with your manager or HR manager during annual assessment discussions and ensure the business will benefit to ensure they go for it.

Maybe you realised that you need to focus a bit more on how you communicate in the workplace? Interpersonal skills, social skills and people skills are referred to as soft skills in the corporate world. It’s closely linked to emotional intelligence and usually imperative for managers and leaders.

Professional skills
Do you need additional skills for a specific job - Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Personal (Fitness, Mental Health)

Don’t forget that your physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Review your physical health and don’t be afraid to challenge your mindset around your own mental health. It’s ok to admit if you are going through a challenging time and to recognise mental issues in your life is a massive leap towards fixing it. Remember, there’s always someone willing to help with these sometimes-challenging goals, especially if you are unsure of how to develop in those complex areas.

Fitness trainers and online training programs can help you to set some fitness goals.  Creating a balanced diet and fitness regime can be a science, but completely possible and there are plenty of tools online to guide you in starting out. Get a coach to help you develop a fitness plan or to provide steps on how you can achieve your personal goals to the physical shape you desire.

Fitness goals
How do you plan to improve your health and fitness? - Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

Knowledge (Reading and Writing Skills, Study Skills)

Developing the ability to continuously learn has been proven to be linked to longevity.

Keeping your mind challenged and engaged will stop it from becoming old and there’s no time like the present to establish good learning habits. Studying might be part of your career goals, but it will also ensure you work on increasing your knowledge and develop your grey matter.

Remember to keep the balance between pushing yourself for continuous self development and relaxing and celebrating success.

Develop SMART and Solid Goals

One of the biggest reasons people fail at development plans, according to experts, is the fact that they don’t set good and achievable goals.

The S-M-A-R-T model is often used in the business environment for setting goals. It will help you to assess whether the goals you set are (S)pecific enough, (M)easurable, (A)ttainable, (R)elevant and (T)ime-bound.

Ensure your long term goals are broken into smaller actionable development goals, as achieving the smaller steps will keep you motivated. And if it’s possible to plot out a timeline you will clearly see if you are being realistic in chasing after your dreams and aspirations.

Self-Improvement Tools and Techniques Abound

Your assessment around the areas in your life and setting SMART goals for each will kick-start your personal process of self-development. Your next questions might be how you can approach it or, how to find tools to help you work on specific skills?

Self-help books are some of the most effective self development tools.

Today we have modern bestsellers like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Power of Now, BIG Magic and Think and Grow Rich.

These titles and thousands of others address some of the modern challenges we have to address in our personal lives today; we require interpersonal skills, functional skills and loads of emotional intelligence.

Pondering life
Are you willing to face the difficult questions about life? - Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash

Being human and going deeper into our purpose also means asking difficult personal questions that is usually linked to spirituality. Ancient texts document what some people believe makes a good person. What is ethical and moral and how we determine that is a discussion for a different time, but it’s important to note how spiritual views and beliefs inform our personal development and goals.

Finding purpose and meaning in life is one of the complex issues we might explore in our personal development. 

Here are some other tools and techniques you can use as you start exploring and understanding yourself in your quest to create a meaningful life, some less conventional than others:

  • Online personality assessments
  • Brain profiling
  • Astrology and horoscopes
  • Numerology
  • Online coaching sessions
  • Motivational speakers and summits
  • Online development summits
  • Online blogs.

Starting With Your Mindset

Your mindset and how you manage your thinking are the biggest things you can master if you want a more positive life experience.

Here are a couple of self-improvement tips on how you manage your attitude to get you started as you work towards achieving your personal goals:

  • Manage your inner critic. Observe your thinking and make an active effort to change all negative thoughts and criticism to be positive thinking from a place of gratefulness
  • Self acceptance is your departure. Recognise how your thoughts shape your perceptions of the world and actively change them through techniques like affirmations or visualisations
  • Practise self love as you get to know yourself. You are doing this because you want a better life for yourself. Always include a good dose of self compassion on your path of self awareness
  • You will require self discipline. Making to do lists, arriving for lessons, actively getting rid of procrastination and bad habits take a lot of discipline. Use your motivation to keep you working at it
  • Eliminate the bad habits that drag your good work down. There’s no point in eating healthily if you end each meal with a slab of chocolate. Identify the bad habits that can neutralise all the great work your good habits bring in
  • Start a morning practice. You can trust the gurus; to meditate each morning will calm you, reduce stress and boost your immune system.

"Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life." – Steve Jobs

Speak to a professional development expert today if you need help with creating a development plan. Compare the available profiles and select someone that suits your needs.

Remember, it's about YOU, YOUR life and YOUR happiness. Your best life is waiting for you, go and get it.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.