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How to Create a Personal Development Plan

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Table of Contents

Personal Development Is An Investment In Your Future

Your Personal Development Plan

What To Include

Tracking Your Progress

What To Consider

The Benefits Of A Personal Development Plan

The Truth About Personal Development

Why should you sit down and create a personal development plan?

Why You Don’t Need A Personal Development Plan

The Elements Of A Personal Development Plan

The Benefits Of Personal Development

Final Thoughts

Personal Development Is An Investment In Your Future

“If you are moving forward in your life, If you are progressing personally, professionally emotionally, spiritually – you will be happy.”

Tony Robbins

When you are chasing your dreams and pursuing your passion it can be difficult to maintain your motivation. You have always thought of yourself as an ambitious person, but you have noticed just how difficult it is to keep your motivation and energy levels at the same level as it was when you started the journey. If you want to invest in yourself and turn your future goals into a reality, then you need a personal development plan.

A personal development plan will provide you with structure. It will help you remain proactive. It will push you to take consistent steps forward to achieve your goals.

A personal development plan is an investment in your future.

“Learn to work harder on yourself than on your job.”

Jim Rohn

It’s always time for a personal development plan. You can create one whenever you like, at any time in your life. It’s all about making goals that are specific to you and your situation.

There’s a good chance you have created something of the sort at work and your manager likely led the process. They hold your reviews and identify your weaknesses, trying to pull a plan together for you to improve on those weaknesses. It’s all about identifying key areas to focus on and having a clear plan on how you can do that.

You don’t need your boss on hand to create your own PDP, whether it’s related to work or not. If your PDP is work-related and you have a great boss, then you may want to enlist their help or ask for their advice. There’s nothing wrong with that.

5 Actions in Support of Yourself Infographic
5 Actions in Support of Yourself Infographic

Before you can even think about what a personal development plan looks like, let’s talk about what it is.

Your Personal Development Plan

“We are all self-made, but only the successful will admit it.”

Earl Nightingale

Also referred to as a PDP, the personal development plan is essentially a written record or account of improvement and self-reflection. It doubles as an action plan that is used to fulfill goals, whether they be career-based, academic, or personal.

It is generally created in a working environment, your employer may be involved in the process. The purpose of creating a PDP is to establish aims, highlight weaknesses, recognize strengths, as well as identify areas for improvement.

Objectives are then put in place depending on where you want to improve. It is made up of your personalized actions that will ensure you meet those objectives.

What To Include

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.”

James Allen

You must accurately outline all of your personal goals, that doesn’t just include what they are, it should also include how you plan to achieve them and why you want to achieve them. Every PDP looks different because they are unique to the person who creates them.

However, they all generally serve the same purpose, which is to detail your ideal future using short-term goals and long-term ambitions to shape how you spend your time and focus your energy. The areas of development you focus on will depend on your wants, needs, and desires. For you, it could be a focus on self-improvement, with a touch of focus on work or education.

A personal development plan also needs to recognize any potential obstacles or challenges that you may run into. You can’t just make a note of them, though, you have to take the next step which is to determine how you can best overcome them.

Or, if an obstacle cannot be overcome you need a contingency plan to manage it as effectively as possible so it doesn’t derail your efforts entirely.

Tracking Your Progress

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.”

Jim Rohn

There is no point putting all that work into creating a personal development plan if you don’t also have a plan in place to track your progress. Like any action or development plan, there should always be a timeframe or time limit.

Having time attached to every goal helps you maintain your motivation to achieve it on time. It also ensures you don’t ignore certain things that aren’t as enjoyable as others.

A PDP is an efficient way to track your progress and measure your success.

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”

W. Clement Stone

You can use it to demonstrate your skills and knowledge and as a motivational tool to keep pushing. You can review it and update it as regularly as you need.

Just ensure you set realistic goals with clear (and achievable) timelines. If there’s a goal you keep writing down even though you know it is so farfetched it’s impossible for you to make it happen no matter how hard you plan, you will need to find a compromise or let it go. A good example of a farfetched plan would be I will be a billionaire before I retire. It’s unlikely.

What To Consider

You can use a PDP for just about anything. If you want to progress your career, then a personal development plan is a useful tool. You’re interested in making a career change? Then a PDP is a must.

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”

Helen Keller

You might be thinking about moving back into education and you will need a personal development plan to help you manage the change. Perhaps, you’re interested in a PDP simply because you want to improve yourself and gain a new skill. A PDP is useful for most situations where growth, improvement, or development is the aim. Think of it as a plan to organize action!

If you want to achieve your long-term goals, then you need to create short-term goals to serve as milestones or stepping stones to progress. You can’t decide to run a marathon and sign up, hoping for the best.

There are a lot of steps between the decision and the reality. A lot of hard work. The same is true of all goals. Your short-term goals should essentially be the long-term goal broken down into easy steps with constant improvement in mind.

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by them.”

Robert Heinlein

If your goal is to change careers, then you need milestones that revolve around learning and development. You need to take courses, enroll in relevant classes if you need qualifications. You might need to study independently, attend workshops, network, study, join a club, or learn a new skill. All of these are opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills that you will need on the journey to achieving your target.

The Benefits Of A Personal Development Plan

So, now you have a better idea of what a PDP is, what it involves, and how it functions, what’s the point?

There are plenty of benefits to creating and sticking to your own personal development plan.

  • A PDP can help you build on your existing skills.
  • A PDP can help you build new skills.
  • A PDP can help you plan changes in your career.
  • A PDP can help you manage a career progression.
  • A PDP can push you to learn.
  • A PDP can help you measure and track your progress.
  • A PDP can assist you in achieving different objectives.
  • A PDP can help define a particular path, whether it’s an area of study or your career.
  • A PDP can give you a realistic goal to aim for.
  • A PDP can help you stay motivated.
  • A PDP demonstrates enthusiasm, dedication, and a desire to improve.
  • It can serve as a written record of all of your efforts.

Personal development is an investment in your future.

The Truth About Personal Development

“Treat yourself as you are, and you will remain as you are. Treat yourself as you could be, and you will become what you should be.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Personal development, self-improvement, growth. Whatever you call it, it’s important that you understand it isn’t something that just happens. It requires guidance and effort. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen automatically.

Sometimes, it’s all about being in the right place, at the right time, and in the right mindset to take the opportunity in front of you. It goes further than that, of course. Consistent personal development requires focused deliberate effort.

Why should you sit down and create a personal development plan?

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

Bernice Johnson Reagon

At certain points in your life, you will have opportunities for development. You may be faced with a personal hero who has an opportunity for you.

Or it might be an opportunity to change things up and tackle something completely new and unexpected. You can’t rely on opportunities to just come your way, though. While some of it is down to luck, you are more than capable of engineering some luck for yourself. The harder you are prepared to work, the more open you are to opportunity, the luckier you are going to get.

“The swiftest way to triple your success is to double your investment in personal development.”

Robin Sharma

What does that mean?

If you want certain opportunities, then you need to know what skills are required, where yours lie, and how you can improve them in order to meet the necessary requirements for said opportunity. Work on that. As you do you will start to improve and by improving you create a situation more likely to go your way.

For example, you love writing but you don’t share that work with anyone. You watch writers “get lucky” and make millions self-publishing. Or get signed by a publishing house. You could “get lucky” too if you were courageous enough to self-publish.

A PDP can help guide you from where you are now to where you want to be. Once you start self-publishing, you can review your PDP and change things up for your next goal – a writing contract. So, you’re putting the work in and creating your own luck and it’s all due to the guiding light of a PDP.

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”

Abraham Maslow

If you have no idea where you need to improve or what it takes to improve, then you will never be able to work on that. If you don’t bother to plan ahead to work on those skills or outline your path, then you’re going to be adrift forever.

Why should you plan personal development and create a written document? Only you can decide what to achieve, what you’d like to achieve, and figure out how best to do that. The power and control are in your hands. They always have been.

But there’s a good chance you haven’t used them effectively up until this point and a personal development plan is the best way for you to do so moving forward. Before you chase your goals, you have to know what you need to achieve them. That’s an incredibly important part of the process.

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.”

Eric Butterworth

As important as it is to plan your career or study, a personal development plan may also be useful in your personal life.

Why You Don’t Need A Personal Development Plan

There may be situations where you feel like you need a PDP, but you don’t. For example, you may reach a point where you make the conscious decision that you don’t want to make deliberate personal development progress. In these cases, it isn’t a case of being done learning. You will still continue to learn from the experiences that you go through. Those are the lessons life has to teach you.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

J.K. Rowling

You may simply decide that you’re in a period where you don’t need to document the process as you have done thus far and likely will again. Whether you have achieved something big and you don’t have any pressing goals to work on or there’s something at play. There will be points in your life where you don’t need a PDP.

But, when you do want to improve skills, gain new ones, or change things up, a PDP is a necessary part of the process. Planning helps you take the right action to achieve your goals.

The Elements Of A Personal Development Plan

We already touched on what should be in a personal development plan, but it’s worth discussing in-depth.

Clarity

Where do you want to be? Why do you want to be there? What does it look like? This is the type of clarity you need to be able to describe in your personal development plan. It’s useful to think in terms of time. For example, thinking about the next month, the next six months, the next year, the next five years, and so on.

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”

Henry Ward Beecher

You should always include as much detail as possible when describing your vision, whether it’s your career, hobbies, relationships, or where you plan to live. The more detail you include, down to your emotions, the easier it will be for you to keep a tight grip on that vision when motivation is waning.

Understanding

Before you can figure out how best to develop your plan to achieve the vision you described you need an understanding of the skills necessary to get there. What skills will you need to gain in order to achieve your vision? Which skills will you need to strengthen? Are there weaknesses that you can work on to ensure they don’t trip you up?

  • For example, are there certain skills necessary for a certain role you want to ascend to?
  • Do you want to move abroad for a period of time and therefore need to learn a new language?
  • Do you struggle with situation management and there are skills you can develop to help?

Have you heard that you’re lacking in a particular skill set and know that developing them will make you more effective or efficient, whether on your own or in a team?

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

Hillary Clinton

When you focus on developing new or existing skills, it must be because it’s linked to a purpose related to your vision. If you don’t have this level of clarity and understanding, then you will struggle to achieve your personal development plans. If your focus is on the wrong skills or actions you will never achieve what you want. If you don’t have a clear timescale, you may fall behind.

Standards

What is your current standard? How does that measure up to your desired standard? The difference between your current situation and your desired future situation is the gap where all the work must take place. Where you are now versus where you want to be will determine how much work goes into the situation and how long it will take.

“You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.”

Shonda Rhimes

For example, your plan is to move abroad exactly one year from today. You need to work on your language skills. However, if you have visited that country previously or already started learning the language, then you might not have as much work to do as someone who has never once spoken the language or attempted to learn it.

The gap for a total novice is far greater than someone with some skills. You have the same timeline, but the level of work necessary varies depending on the existing skill level.

Priorities

As much as you might like to, you can’t handle everything all at once. You might have a dozen long-term goals you are chasing, but you can’t focus on achieving all of them at the same time.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

Steve Maraboli

It’s too much and it will only result in you achieving nothing. It’s easy to be derailed when you overdo it. Therefore, you have to learn to prioritize.

  • How important is this goal?
  • How essential is this goal?
  • How soon do I need to achieve this goal?

This should help you identify which goals to focus on first. The others can be slotted in after that, in order of priority.

Details

You know where you’re at (Point A), you even know where you want to be (Point B), but how are you going to move from Point A to Point B? That’s where the details count. You need a detailed plan or idea about how you move yourself steadily from Point A to Point B.

“Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.”

Les Brown

It’s similar to your vision, you can use timelines to break it all down to make it clearer, thus easier to create detail. When you have a detailed vision and plan to follow it is much easier to measure progress and stay on track.

The Benefits Of Personal Development

We already addressed some of the benefits of creating a personal development plan. If that wasn’t enough to sell you on the idea, let’s look at the benefits of personal development in general. You’re here right now because you’re interested in self-improvement and to improve you have to invest in yourself and personal development is the investment.

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”

Stephen Covey

If you are familiar with self-actualization, then you will likely know of Abraham Maslow. Maslow, a psychologist, proposed that all humans have an inherent need for personal development. Self-actualization is the process by which we do so. This is the realization of our talents and potential. This drive is present in all of us. Maslow’s theory recognized that how each person develops and grows is dependent on needs. You can only progress to the next need once the preceding level of needs has been addressed.

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Confucius

Thus, the hierarchy of needs was born. At the base of the hierarchy, you will find your basic physiological needs – clothing, food, shelter, oxygen, etc. The next level is safety needs – employment, property, resources, etc. The level above that is love and belonging – family, friends, intimacy, etc. Above that, you will find esteem – recognition, respect, freedom, etc. Finally, at the top, you reach self-actualization – the desire to become everything you possibly can be.

The path you take to get there is your own. Likewise, what some of the details in each level of needs look like will be dependent on your expectations and standards. Your love and belonging needs may look wildly different to your friend because you have different values and priorities. Personal development is a profoundly individual process. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation and it never will be.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

Carl Bard
  • Personal development, as well as a plan, can help you develop your ideas. It’s an opportunity to sit down to create ideas, sort, and sift through everything that flutters through your brain.
  • Clarity is another benefit that comes from personal development, whether you have created a plan yet or not. No one wants to feel as though they are merely drifting through life without any direction or destination in mind. But that’s precisely what so many of us do. We drift through life, complying with societal expectations, and do so with our eyes closed because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do. But what do you want? When you start paying attention to your development, you start to gain clarity about your true wants and desires. Your plan will evolve over time and if it does, that means you’re doing it right.
  • Personal development is empowering! We all need to feel empowered to make decisions and take action. Personal development empowers you by helping you recognize talents, weaknesses, and strengths, as well as highlighting how you can appropriately channel them!
  • If there’s one thing you can expect from life it’s that it’s going to knock you down from time to time. And personal development is what helps you build the resilience it takes to get back up and try again. It truly doesn’t matter how many times you fail, what matters is that you’re willing to keep trying. That’s what resilience is.

The ability to take the hit, but not let it keep you down. Personal development, and the plan to match, will help you manage swerves, obstacles, and knocks much more efficiently. It makes the threats seem less threatening and more manageable.

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

Paulo Coelho

An obstacle shouldn’t be a game stopper. If you work on personal development, you have a plan, and you build resilience, then an obstacle is a mere game-changer and you can handle that.

  • No one can be truly confident every second of every day, it just isn’t a natural state of being for humans. That might be because we are chided for being too cocky, that your confidence was stamped out of you and called arrogance, or that someone told you that you were too full of yourself.

If you have a good idea of where you’re going and you know how you’re going to get there, you have cause to feel pretty confident. You won’t feel that way all of the time, but with growth and awareness of your skills, confidence will become a much more natural state for you to slip into.

“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

Benjamin Mays

There’s another benefit that comes with the confidence that comes with personal development. Others respond well to confidence and it can be inspiring for them. If you come across as a confident person, it will impact the people around you.

  • You don’t need me to tell you that you should set goals. You already know it’s important. Most of us just don’t bother doing it. Or we do. We set a goal in our minds and think about it every once in a while, but we don’t take any steps to make it happen.

Personal development, and working on a plan, will help you become a much better goal-setter. You will become confident in your ability to structure realistic goals that you can achieve.

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway.”

Earl Nightingale

You will learn how to measure, track, and monitor your progress. And you’ll pick up skills on how to evaluate, review, and reset goals when circumstances change. As a result, you’ll become a master at goal-achieving too.

  • How you feel about yourself depends on your level of self-esteem. That isn’t something that matters only now, it matters for the duration of your life. It will influence your progress too. Life naturally dips down and climbs high.

You will always experience a variety of peaks and troughs, in all manner of ways, but particularly in the way you feel about yourself. When you put yourself behind the wheel and become the master of your destiny you will notice more highs in self-esteem than lows.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin

We always feel better about ourselves when we are in control. There is no greater way to take control of your life than with your personal development.

The very act of personal development helps you get to know more about yourself. You learn more about what makes you tick, who you are, what you are, and how you can move forward. Your self-esteem can only grow from here.

  • Humans are social creatures and when we build strong relationships, we tend to be happier people. In an ideal world, you would have fantastic friendships, familial connections, and working relationships with your colleagues.

But how often do you find yourself donning a mask to cover up your emotions? You feel the flicker of feelings coming through and you immediately take a breath and steady yourself.

“People often make a mistake in their personal development when they focus too much on their weaknesses. As a result, they spend all their time trying to shore up those weaknesses instead of maximizing the strengths they possess.”

John C. Maxwell

While emotional management is an important skill to learn, it’s just as important that you take the next step after getting those emotions in check. Which is to open your mouth and constructively express those feelings.

Yes, that is easier said than done, but it must be done. And, personal development, and putting it into a plan, is one of the things that makes that a far simpler prospect. You don’t have to push your emotions down and pretend everything is copacetic.

As you invest in yourself through personal development you will start to learn more about yourself, your emotions, and your relationships too. This may result in you letting go of certain relationships, but it’s a good thing. Not every person you meet is meant to be in your life forever.

  • With personal development, and a plan to boot, you will be teeming with motivation. Having a plan in place that outlines not only where you want to go, but how you will get there, can be a highly motivational tool. It gives you the framework that you need to get to where you want to be. And, if you falter or when you fall, you can review your plan and refocus.

Striking a healthy work-life balance has become an incredibly popular idea in the last decade or so. Once upon a time, our lives were set out in terms of school, work and family, retirement, and death. We now have families later, work longer hours and for more years, and a lot of people will never fully retire.

“Income seldom exceeds personal development.”

Jim Rohn

That has changed how we view the importance of enjoying life. A personal development plan can help you ensure that you have plenty of time for living.

  • With personal development, comes knowledge. When you plan your future, set your direction, and take off, you will pick up a wide variety of skills, as well as a deeper knowledge of yourself and the world in which you exist.
  • With personal development, comes happiness. Why wouldn’t you feel happy when you have set your course and have a plan in place to steer on?

Final Thoughts

“An investment in self-development pays the highest dividends.”

Debasish Mridha

It can be overwhelming as you start on your journey of self-investment. While it can feel just as overwhelming to sit down and create a personal development plan, it’s certainly a tool that will help you on your journey of growth.

There may be times where you feel as though you have no valuable skills or that you know nothing. That isn’t the case. Of course, you have skills. You have been developing skills your entire life. You have been learning since the day you were born.

 While you may feel as though some of your skills are rooted in the job you do now, you would be surprised at just how many transferable skills you possess.

Remember, you don’t have to improve every single thing about yourself all at once. This is a journey, a long one, and today is only the first day. Focus on one or two things at a time and you will not only see improvement as it comes, but you also won’t feel as overwhelmed as you expected to. There isn’t a time limit on this, it’s lifelong learning. It’s what life is all about.

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