Whether you’re looking to enhance your professional development, increase your self-awareness, or simply need some help mastering time management – there is an enormous range of different development plans you can follow.

The good news is, you don’t need a life coach to choose which one is right for you. From practicing mindfulness to mastering professional skills, here is a guide on what resources can help you start your journey.

self-help is a great career resource
Self-improvement can help you achieve your long term goals

What Are Personal Development Plans and Skills?

Over the last decade, the conversation about personal growth and skills development has changed drastically. Growing up, skills training and development skills materials were often linked to older folks and – while they tried to cater to youths – were somewhat geared for the older crowd too. While it may seem like young people just simply aren’t as interested in developing their personal skills or technical skills, the main reason why self-help has become so popular today is due, in large part, because of various ways it has redefined itself.

In order to understand how self-improvement can influence everything from enhancing your job interview skills to improving your skills in conflict resolution, it may be helpful to start by understanding how the field has changed over the years.

You may recognize self-development through its various names:. While self-development may be found under various aliases - self-improvement, self-care, personal development – the field is describes the action of skills training and learning in order to improve your life. This act spans the course of human history, which is why it’s difficult to pinpoint one single definition.

Several psychologists, however, have been extremely helpful in laying out the scientific foundation from which many different self-development theories stem from. One classic example comes from psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. While this hierarchy has gone through several iterations over the years, when talking about it in the current day people generally refer to the version including five segments or “steps.”

While the intricacies of what each step defines and what this means to the field of self-development necessitates a longer explanation, the basics are easy to lay out briefly. At the top of the pyramid, you will find what can be considered as the final step in any personal development plan, which is “self-actualization.” This self-actualization refers to the act of improving oneself in order to have better leadership skills, verbal communication and advance in their career development.

In contrast, at the bottom of the pyramid one can find basic needs such as love, safety, food, sleep and more – all combined into steps named “psychological needs,” “safety needs,” and “love and belongingness needs.” What Maslow does is illustrate the theory that in order to achieve the goals people set out, people need to have their basic needs met by themselves, their parents, society and the government.

In other words, goal setting isn’t as effective when people have to worry about not having enough food to feed their children. This theory is definitely not meant to deter people in difficult socio-economic situations from developing their skills. On the contrary, it highlights the important fact that the combination of social solidarity and economic security form the vital basis for strong, talented communities. In fact, anyone who is a fan of behavioural economics will recognize the series of studies which established how financial stress can severely limit people’s cognitive abilities.

While many people have dived into the self-help craze looking for clear-cut solutions to their employability or interpersonal skills problems, the research done on self-improvement suggests that personal development is much more complex than may appear. There is no doubt that self-care has reached its most accessible levels; gone are the days in which you’d have to shell out hundreds for exclusive access to self-improvement materials and courses.

That being said, the process of self-development involves much more than following inspirational posts on social media about self-care. While being a great starting point, the truth is that personal development is more a lifestyle than a single-use tool. The good news is that once you get started, you’ll never want to stop.

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self-improvement can lead to personal advancement
Whether you're a dreamer or a realist, self-help techniques can help you grow personally and professionally

How to Achieve Your Goals

Looking through the vast quantity of self-development materials can be a daunting task made easier by the fact that self-help typically falls under three categories. Before you start your journey, make sure to make a self-assessment of which of these categories you’d like to start working under.

Professional Skills Development

Within all of the jargon that comes with entering your professional career is one underlying concept: self-improvement will always help you develop your career. This can be explained by examining the general backbone of any development plan, which involves setting a goal, drafting a plan, and executing that plan.

Taking development courses to improve hard skills like programming or business analytics can have obvious effects on your career such as improving the rapport between you and your manager or helping add to your list of transferable skills. However, trying to accomplish goals simply to add pleasure to your life – such as training for a marathon or reading a novel every month – can have benefits that leak into your professional life. Here are some examples in areas of personal development in the professional world:

  • Presentation skills
  • Effective communication
  • Non-verbal skills

Development in Personal Goals

Personal development often gets limited to two distinct categories, which are fitness and mental health. While the two often go hand-in-hand, there are a plethora of activities you can start practicing in order to improve your skills in either.

Setting hard, concrete goals is the key to any practice in personal development. Here are some examples of activities that reflect this notion:

  • Taking yoga courses every week to work on stress-relief
  • Talking to a therapist once a month to develop anxiety-reducing skills and tactics
  • Joining a community running program in order to make friends
  • Take up gardening as a method for making a little time every day for yourself

Self-Knowledge Development

While learning new skills, whether that be professional or life skills, can be an integral part of self-development, development goals don’t necessarily have to involve physical activity. In fact, many people set personal development goals in order to gain new knowledge. This knowledge often takes on these three forms:

  • Financial
  • Cultural
  • Academic

Borrowing or buying a book on investing, taking up language courses, and participating in a webinar on nutrition are all examples of how you can practice developing your knowledge. While many people often take on a mentor in order to learn skills such as painting or mathematics, others often prefer to teach themselves to improve their development experience.

podcast about developing ourselves
Developing yourself can be helped by listening to a self-improvement podcast

Learn How to Use Your Human Potential

Regardless of which of the three categories you fall under, procrastination can be a major pitfall in starting your development journey. While many of us can easily draw up a list on the bad habits that keep us from achieving our goals, what many people can’t do is actually think of the appropriate habits to set in order to accomplish them.

While having assertiveness and a positive attitude can certainly be helpful in any of the various development programs or plans you can take part in or make for yourself, learning the art of goal-setting can be more important. So important, in fact, that it can actually be the determining factor between those who do and don’t accomplish what they set out to do.

That being said, here are some of the resources you can check out if you’re interested in personal growth and development and want to put your goal-setting skills into practice.

How to Set Goals

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: if you’re looking to develop a more positive work ethic or simply trying to reach the height of your human potential, this book by Stephen R. Covey has got you covered

Employability Skills and Job Skills

  • Beyond the to do list: a perfect podcast to enhance your development plans, teaching you everything from creating an achievable new habit to improving your soft skills, Erik Fisher’s lessons and conversations last from 30-60 minutes.
  • The EntreLeadership Podcast: hosted by Ken Coleman, this podcast not only offers great career planning or career exploration lessons for those interested in entrepreneurship but is also a great addition to any personality development goals.

Fitness, Mental Health and Self confidence

  • The Alchemist: while this classic novel may not call up images of stress management, adaptability in tough situations, and emotional intelligence, author Paulo Coelho’s story is a testament to how someone’s writing skills can help improve your psychological skills set.
  • What To Say When You Talk To Yourself: Shad Helmstetter’s book delves into why our inner monologue tends to be so negative and what you can do to change it – a skill that can help you whether you’re looking to improve your fitness or boost your self-confidence
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