Are you ready to set-up your life up for success?

Congratulations, your commitment to achieve your personal goals is the first step towards success. The process of self-development can be a lot of fun, but it can also be tricky to navigate your way through so many great New York best sellers' titles, online tools and opinions.

"The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude." – Oprah Winfrey

So, where do you start?  The answer is simple - with yourself and your personal goals!

Maybe you want to upskill technically in order to land a new job, or you want to become better at managing corporate politics? You can ask a life coach or professional development coach to create a personal development plan for you, but at the end of the day your life is your own responsibility.

You have access to a wealth of resources and tools to help with your development.

Are you ready to give yourself the best gift ever – a commitment to achieving your goals? Before we give you a list of the best self improvement books let’s cover what self development is and the various areas in your life it’ll include.

What is Self-Development?

Self-help has redefined itself in the last centuries. It’s not about classical psychology theories for older people anymore. Young celebrities all contest on social media how self-development is a key ingredient in wholesome living. This big realisation around vitality and mindfulness is something we all seek nowadays, whether young or old.

Self-development is also referred to as self-improvement, self-care or personal development. The world of psychology, industrial psychology, spirituality and self-help, all generated varied approaches, theories and understanding to create the self-growth industry as we know it today.

Self-development refers to any skills that you can develop or learn that will ultimately improve your life.

Historical psychologists, neurologists and behaviourists have all had their hand at trying to explain human behaviour though their own psychology and development theories. Abraham Maslow was one of these and released a paper in 1943 around human motivation.

Everyone has to have their basic needs fulfilled before considering self-actualization - Photo by Frank Mckenna on Unsplash

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is formed on the premise that every human needs to fulfil their needs in the progression of their development.  He created a pyramid to illustrate how people’s motivation are first driven by meeting basic needs (physiological, safety). Once they are sure of survival, they will look at psychological needs (belonging, love) and lastly, they’ll tap into self-fulfilment needs (self-actualisation).

It’s thus important to be aware that people are at different levels or stages of their lives when it comes to personal development.

With a lot of poverty in developing countries we need to employ more empathy around understanding the battles of the majority around basic needs. If you have access to a computer you are probably one of the fortunate ones.

What is your purpose on earth? Use your own self-actualisation process to leave a unique and positive mark.

Human Development is Beautifully Complex

By definition, self-help appears to be something that’s quite simple, but it is as complex as the human race. Each one of us has various aspects that surround our existence, layered and intertwined in a beautifully complex way.

Just when you thought you had a major interpersonal skill covered; life gives you another challenge at work.  Your relationships, as an example, can have an effect on your work and none of these parts operate in isolation. This intricate system of being human can be difficult to navigate as we grow and balance everything and together with the variety of definitions, models, techniques and approaches it might leave you confused.

Fear not, as information is now more accessible than ever.

You can read blogs and listen to podcasts about people sharing their learnings through daily personal development quotes and online channels. Hopefully this blog will also provide you with practical tips and motivation to jump into it today.

Development is personal
You are a complex person and need to consider and develop all parts of your unique identity - Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Will Your Skills Be Part of a Personal or Professional Plan?

A skill is the ability to do something well. You can imagine that we require skills at work, home or even in a social environment. To develop goals we have to consider those skills and also their impact on health, relationships and spirituality. This may sound quite daunting ...

So, let's simplify the process by putting your focus on three broad categories you can use for setting your personal development goals.

Professional Skills Development

Most companies function in a highly competitive environment. Upskilling and developing their people are imperative tasks if they want to stay ahead of competition. This creates a win-win situation and acquiring transferrable skills will make your resumé more appealing.

Professional development plans for employees usually cover development around their technical skills and soft skills. Softer skills like leadership, verbal- and non-verbal communication, negotiation skills and other human aspects are usually necessary to create better teamwork, mental health and improve organisational morale.

Technical skills refer to those skills you require to perform your daily job tasks.  These would include skills like presentation skills, your competency on the SAP system, proficiency in Microsoft or that course you completed in business writing.

skills development
Where will do you need additional professional skills? - Photo by trent erwin unsplash

Developing Your Personal Goals

Without a healthy and balanced personal life your career will take strain.

Generally, we all focus on our physical and mental health, but there is a lot more that contributes to and impacts on our overall personal well-being.

Here are the general areas, as proven by research, you have to evaluate to assess and set goals for your life:

  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Familial
  • Social Circle/Friends
  • Physical
  • Mental

To truly be fulfilled you have to try and balance them all while creating healthy growth in each area of your life. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and start to write down some goals you have for each of these areas in your life. The clarity this process will give you will be priceless as you approach your own development.

Spiritual development
Spirituality can also be developed and should be to be balanced - Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Developing your self-knowledge

Our minds play a very important part in our development. Not all activities or skills come in the form of something physical and to build a wholesome person we need to acknowledge the importance of mental development.

You can build and develop knowledge around the following areas:

  • Financial
  • Cultural
  • Academic

Whether you look at webinars, books or online courses, gaining knowledge in any area would not only work on creating a healthy mind, but could change your perspective and indirectly upskill your life.

Scientists have also discovered that learning new things increases your brain’s neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and be moulded. 

That indirectly helps your brain to remain ‘young’ and functional.

Personal knowledge building
Knowledge is power - Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Make Your Goals SMART

Thanks to those smart scientists and theorists we also know that most people fail at achieving their personal goals because of weak goal setting. Using the SMART criteria will help you to set strong and specific goals.

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time-Bound

It can be challenging to apply these principles to all types of goals, especially those like interpersonal skills or goals relating to emotional intelligence. Just use them as a guideline to make your goals as solid and specific as possible. Here are some good examples of SMART goals:

  • Going to gym for an hour, three times a week to reduce stress and work on cardiovascular health
  • Join a yoga class before the end of the month so that you can either do yoga or meditation every morning for better mindfulness, improved focus and to reduce anxiety
  • Having at least one dinner a week with your parents to ensure you spend time with them
  • Complete a basic course in Microsoft Excel before the end of the year.

To improve your goal setting you should differentiate between long-term goals and short-term goals. Get rid of procrastination by breaking down your bigger goals into several short-term goals. This will increase the chances of achievement. Then, lay out daily actions to actualise those short-term goals as a practical and realistic way to achieve what might’ve seemed like a lofty goal.

Personal goals
Start by setting the right goals - Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Find Resources to Match Your Goals

By now you should have a clear idea of the skills you’d like to develop further.

You could make use of the services of professional development consultants.  Many of them have online life-coaching courses or webinars you can attend. Or you could opt for some of the private tutors and mentors on Superprof, who can help you with Maths, computer skills, dancing or any other skills you would like to gain.

Your growth remains your responsibility, but we hope that this list of the best self-help books and audiobooks will help you in the self-development area of your choice:

Setting goals

Setting great goals is a lot more efficient if you know where you are heading.

Beginning with the end in mind is one of the ideas that Stephen R. Covey covers in his bestseller, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  This is must read if you are starting out your professional career as it would also address aspects around time management, personal management and creating synergy.

Financial, Career Aspirations and Skills

Very few CEOs have not read or listened to the audiobook Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill) or Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert T. Kiyosaki).  If you are dreaming about financial freedom or just simply about getting rich, these are compulsory reads on your way to unlocking your wealth.

Family and Relationships

Are you struggling with love and relationships?  Relationships are tricky and vulnerable, and The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman) will help you understand your partner better. Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More will help you create healthier relationships and How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie) is one of those great books that will help you develop negotiation skills that will also benefit your personal life.

Develop creativity and conceptual skills

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is all about unlocking the gift of creativity within us. Regardless of your perception of your own creativity, this book will inspire you to create and help with those blockages we create in our minds. Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) will teach you how to use the two different thinking systems of the brain, and in doing so maximising creativity and efficiency.

Fitness, Mental Health and Self-Confidence

To cultivate the ability to manage our thoughts and emotions is almost a superpower, but The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale)  will show you it’s possible.

If you are looking for something to develop more self-love, improve your self-esteem, or simply be happier, Heal Your Life by Louise Hay has exercises, affirmations and meditations in abundance.


Spiritual enlightenment might not be something you are looking for at the moment, but through inspirational books like The Secret(Rhonda Byrne) and other authors like Deepak Chopra, you can tap into the law of attraction. A New Earth (Eckart Tolle) will give you new perspective on spirituality and if you are more ‘practical’ you can read Man’s Search for Meaning to hear how Victor Frankl survived the holocaust and how you can use your search for meaning as driving force to overcome difficulty.

Self-help books
There's a book to develop each and every aspect of your life - Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Self-Development in Your Hands

Hopefully you’ll be holding one of these books in your hands pretty soon. Take ownership of your growth and soon you will be winning at life.

Once you fall in love with the process of developing yourself, you will not only manage to enjoy the experience more, but you will also realise just how intricate, interesting and beautiful you are.

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