What Is Personal Development? 3 Simple Steps to Self Improvement

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Personal development sounds like a major reveal in every self-help book, the “chicken soup” for lost souls. Personal development is in fact a long and lonely quest. The “unquantifiable” nature of it can be frustrating, for it’s hard to measure, and many tend to give up. But my friends, personal growth is never a walk in the park, it takes great endeavor and the repetition of seemingly mundane tasks to accumulate over time. 

In this article, we’ll look at self-growth from several perspectives. Why does it matter? What self-improvement tips can add value to you and help you set personal development goals? Last but not least, the practical steps to build your personal development goals.

But remember, self-development goals are not one-size-fits-all, you shouldn’t adhere to this formula or try to fit in others’ expectations or modules. Everyone’s life journey is unique, so should the development goals.

What’s included in this article are just some references you can look to and eventually, you have to build your own unique path.

What is personal development and why is it important? 

Self-growth is everything but comfort, if any. It’s daunting.

Why? You can think of it this way, personal development goals are metrics used to evaluate anything you yet to build. The goal is to help you become an improved version of you.

A eureka moment here. One important prerequisite for self-development is not to undermine who you are right now. The bud is not less than the blossom, it simply is a different stage of development. Don’t disempower yourself by self-negating because harboring this belief will only get you derailed from what matters. As you plod along, don’t remember this light of truth.  

During the self-development process, you have to assess yourself carefully, realize your strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats.

Yes, a SWOT analysis helps to unbosom yourself! It pinpoints where you stand now and where you aspire to be, enabling you to leverage what you have at hand and go on the track to self-fulfillment. Needless to say, the process is fluctuating and dynamic. 

swot analysis for personal growth

But, it’s not all doom and gloom.  

With personal development comes clarity. Every step you trudge over the journey is goal-oriented and tailored to your needs, and you’re more aware of your values and beliefs. Without them, one could be easily lost in this media-downpouring era.

The last thing we need is being constantly bombarded by people who announce yet another achievement. Them being all positive and savoir-faire as if it’s the panacea to everything and the route to fulfillment, can be very annoying. Constantly viewing this content is like a death knell, it will only result in self-negating and highlight the imperfections you hold against yourself. But the truth is, even self-help gurus’ lives aren’t a bed of roses. No ones’ is. Emulating the way these “successful people” live can’t necessarily help you become a better self.  

Not that you shouldn’t learn from others’ experiences, but if it’s all you do, at the end of the day, you might be more lost than ever. Self-development goals help you stick with your values and priorities, and you’re crystal clear that every step you take is to refine yourself.

Get rid of the toxic habit of comparing yourself to others, it’s not serving you.

What are some personal development goals?

Concrete Examples of Self Development Skills 

You know that personal development skills are qualities you want to embrace, which will further lead to a self-growth goal. But precisely speaking, what do personal development skills entail? Here’s the top-down approach to help you put things into perspective.

Basically, your life can be separated into a few aspects: career, self-fulfillment, people, or you can also decipher it as inter- and intra-personal relationships. With these categories, it’s easier for you to list down things that matter to you and help you sort your priorities. Sky’s the limit, anything from physical to mental, or spiritual, as long as you deem appropriate can be jotted down. 

You can also adopt the bottom-up approach, a more general type. You don’t have anything particular in mind, you simply write down values, qualities, skills you hold dear to your heart. The next step is to categorize them into different groups. The secret to organizing is to extract what truly matters to you.

Following are a few good self-development goals examples. 

1. Career, Soft or Technical Skills

Given two years(any time limit really),

What soft skills do you want to acquire that can help with your professional development?
A guiding leader, an active listener, a problem-solver, or a team player?

Soft skills are the savoir-faire that helps to network and attracts talents akin to you. Coping mechanisms such as resilience and adaptability toward judgments and difficulties is also important. These are key to foster a healthy relationship with coworkers.

As for technical skills, let’s say you’re a mouse potato, you might need to be savvy in various tools such as Eclipse, Dreamweaver or SVN, just to name a few. Expertise in natural language processing and programming languages are also crucial parts of professional development goals.

💡  Tips: If you have difficulties finding training courses in your current role, there are tons of off-the-job training online courses. 

2. Self-fulfillment

🧠  Mind

Mind-stretch can broaden the breadth of your thinking; embrace empathy; enhance self-confidence; manage stress; run past your limitations etc. Continuous reading and absorbing knowledge from diverse themes prevent you from stalling. The flow of knowledge is critical to sharpen your thoughts. Immersion in movies, documentaries, or any quality media can also be very eye-opening .

Journaling is a highly-recommended way to record moments in your life, bitter or sweet. It brings forth the importance of staying engaged. We live everything as it comes, without warning. The first rehearsal for life is life itself, and this philosophical rhetoric reminds me of staying engaged, not wasting the good days to rehearse the bad ones.

Temporal social media cleansing can also leave your mind at peace. It’s distracting at times, especially when we finish a day, all we need is to contemplate the passing day and call it a day.  

💪  Physical

Physical well-being is of utmost importance. It includes proper and healthy meals, 3 bottles of water a day, regular exercise, yoga, yearly checkup, sufficient sleep, etc. Your body is like an altar, the foundation of everything; therefore, don’t forget to treat your body nicely and integrate some pieces of advice into your self-growth goal.

📸  Hobbies

Hobbies keep you busy and happy, that’s all I can say. If you have a patch of land, why not try becoming a green thumb! Gardening is no doubt a stress-releaser. If you’re an introvert like me, try knitting, creating artsy works, making ceramics, cooking, or journaling. Other hobbies include voluntary work, joining in community events, practicing meditation, just to name a few. Explore your taste and find two to three things and stick with them for a while!

3. People

Have you heard of the “Average of 5” rule? Namely, you’re the average of five people you spend the most quality time with. That’s why you might want to surround yourself with inspiring people who can brighten up your life.

You can start with asking yourself how you would like to connect with people around you; or the other way around, how would you like to be treated?

Answers might vary when you’re around with your family, friends, or your partner, and these answers are all inspirations for your self-growth plan. Here are a few examples, spend more quality time with people that matter; listen actively and compassionately; become a considerate person; manage conflicts wisely and effectively, etc.

How to create a personal development plan?

3 Steps to Build a Self-Development Plan

1. Observation

As was mentioned, it’s helpful to think about your current position and where you aspire to be in a specific timeframe, two or five years, etc, or broadly speaking, short-term and long-term goals. Before you put together your goal, it’s always nice to look for some references as long as you know others solutions aren’t necessarily yours. Observation might precipitate new ideas or values you want to include in your goal.

💡  Tips: Talking to mentors helps too. S/he might shed light on your current plan and provide some constructive feedback.

You should also keep the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle in mind. According to everyone’s encyclopedia Wikipedia, this rule states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the cause. Let’s put it this way, the 20% of choices and planning is determinant to 80% of one’s development. To avoid distractions, you need to play to your strengths and take time focusing on two to three things only over a certain period. Therefore, it’s critical to identify the “vital few” and invest in those to avoid the conundrum of “jack of all trades, master of none.” With an explicit direction, the following decision-making is less mind-consuming and resulting in more self-determination.  

It also helps in the workplace. The personal development goal is an umbrella term that covers one’s professional development goals. Career is one important pillar in life, naturally, one needs to carefully ponder over what needs to be achieved in terms of professional growth. 

2. Goal Setting

When setting your goals, it’s important to include values you want to uphold or skills you hope to acquire across all spheres of life: career and relationships with others and yourself. 

Let’s focus on careers in this section.

Think about the gap between where you are now and where you visualize in, say, 1 year, and think about what skills are needed; what resources you have at hand; time at your disposal; your priorities….See, now you have the roadmap. 

“ Remember to chop your goals into various tiny teeny steps, compared to aggrandized goals, tiny steps are more approachable and they can keep you motivated. ”


If there are three urgent skills you want to acquire in a year, then focus on these three and dedicate your spare time to them. There are tons of online and offline resources at your grasp, such as online courses provided by Coursera, Master Class, Skillshare; or term-based courses provided by community colleges. Once you’ve acquired the skills, think about sub-skills that can supplement your original skillset.

🗒  A small reminder here.

Learning can sometimes be monotonous, often time, it takes endless practice to acquire a skill. Learning is a life-long process and there’s no shortcut, that’s why you have to find where your passion lies so that learning could be less daunting.

3. Self-Introspection & Revision

Lo and behold, don’t ever dare to think you can lay back once the goal is set. While you approach these goals, you might realize there needs to be adjustments to actions you make. Here’s a quick example of what self-introspection looks like.

Say, you’re stranded in a dilemma, instead of blaming the circumstances or others, you take the initiative and ask yourself,  

  1. How, given the resources you have,  to change the status quo and build something you’re satisfied with? 

If it’s not your place to make the call, ask the following question,

  1. What resources are needed to change the status quo, and whether you have the right “ammunition” to untangle the dilemma? 

If the answer is still a no, then it goes to the third question, 

  1. How do you acquire the resources needed? Skillswise, human-capital wise, time-wise, etc. Make a list, and whoop, you’ve figured the roadmap to solutions! 

This example shows how important self-introspection is. You have to be constantly aware of the status quo and detect any needed changes. No one can be on the right route without going through trial and error first. The process of taking a closer look to your internal perceptions and states allow you to alter the actions as you move forward. 

Self-introspection allows you to revise approaches to reach personal development goals.  Remember, self-growth is a lifelong process, you need deliberate practice and focused efforts to metamorphose, and each step along the way needs the same dedication and focus.


Finally! There are various aspects self-growth covers.

No matter in which particular aspect you want to develop personal growth. I’d like to emphasize this one more time, setting self-development goals doesn’t undermine your value as who you are. “We’re not less whole when we feel unfulfilled in a certain area,” said Suzanne Eder. We’re just at a stage of development that’s calling us to greater fulfillment.

Please don’t harbor the belief of “I’m not good enough” and initiate an improvement process from that point. It’ll only lead to a whole colony of self-negating experiences. The essence of self-improvement or professional development is to empower ourselves. That’s the starting point. It might not be that easy while you tailor your own development goals, but these self-growth goals will surely unveil your true self, and help you become a better self.

Last but not least, may the odds be ever in your favor!


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