Benefits of Personal Development
Self-development comes in many forms – it is a process that will happen throughout your life as your circumstances, desires and requirements continue to evolve.
Such development can be educational, professional, personal, or a combination of all three.
This article specifically looks at personal development – what it means, how it crosses over into a professional context and the benefits it can bring to your career.
Personal development is also referred to as personal growth. When you embark on a journey of personal development, you look to focus on acknowledging your strengths, improving on your weaknesses, assessing your aims and core values and identifying growth opportunities.
This requires self-awareness.
It can relate to any aspect of your life. Some people look to improve their financial or family situation, their health, mental well-being or sense of self. Others look to acquire new knowledge or enhance their social skills.
Whatever your particular focus, the ultimate goal of personal development is to reach your full potential and achieve a more fulfilled existence. More often than not, this occurs through making improvements to various areas of your life.
Personal development differs from professional development because it pertains to an individual’s wants, needs and aspirations. By contrast, professional development, also known as career development, refers to the skills and knowledge acquired to advance in your career.
This in turn leads to career growth – moving up the corporate ladder.
Although separate from professional development, personal development can also impact your career and forms a central part of professional advancement.
One cannot truly be achieved without the other.
For example, if your short-term career goals revolve around improving your network, this is professional development. However, you may first need to focus on developing your interpersonal skills.
If you are someone who gets nervous in large crowds or is uncomfortable approaching strangers, it is your personal development that will enable you to overcome these barriers and expand your network.
Personal development skills are what you need to become the best version of yourself. They are essentially soft skills – non-technical skills used throughout your life in both personal and professional contexts.
The areas you identify as most important will depend on your goals, and you may be more confident in some areas than others. Here are some of the most beneficial skills you can focus on to achieve personal development goals for work:
Self-belief – This covers a host of personal traits like confidence, assertiveness and determination. If you believe in your abilities and are comfortable with who you are, you can achieve much in life.
Positive attitude – This is both a personal development skill and outcome. The happier you are with your life, the more positive you become. This, along with increased self-belief, enables you to take bigger strides towards your ambitions.
Communication – Basic level communication skills cover the written and spoken word. When you focus on them in personal development, you learn to use appropriate language and tone for different circumstances, enhance your ability to express yourself and grow in confidence.
Adaptability – Being open to change, particularly in a professional setting, is a valuable quality. In developing this skill, you open yourself up to new experiences and broaden your horizons. You also improve your ability to stay calm in the face of challenging situations.
Personal integrity – Honesty, fairness and strong moral values all fall under this skill. If you live your life with these in mind, you earn respect and trust from those around you, which is hugely beneficial for career progression.
Leadership – Good leaders are those with the ability to inspire and motivate others to reach their full potential. So, in developing your own leadership skills, you can assist with the personal development of others. Plus, leading people requires you to use many of the other skills mentioned (for example, assertiveness and communication skills), making it a cyclical process where, by raising others, you improve yourself.
One of the most beneficial aspects of personal development is increased self-awareness.
With this comes an understanding of your motivations and what could potentially hold you back. It also helps you identify what is lacking in your life, and how you can work to resolve that.
You can use this understanding to help plot your career plan, focusing on what you need to do to achieve your ambitions and overcome any challenges that may stand in your way.
Through personal development, you achieve a clear vision of your future.
Not only does this give you a sense of direction, but it also brings purpose to every stage of the journey.
You will be able to focus your attention on only the tasks that will help you achieve your long-term career goals and set aside those that will not.
To advance in your career you need to prove that not only do you have the relevant skills, but also the will and determination to progress. Personal development accounts for a big part of this.
When employers see your commitment to self-improvement, they will know you are someone willing to go the extra mile and work hard for what you want.
Of course, you will also develop those skills that are so crucial to career growth, like communication and leadership abilities.
A commonly asked question at an interview is 'What are your weaknesses?'
It can be a difficult one to answer, particularly if you have paid no mind to personal development or avoided things that you are bad at. While it is not the easiest thing in the world to address your flaws, you must if you want to manage them.
It is not necessarily about eliminating your weak points, as this is often impossible to do. It is more about awareness of them, improvement where you can and damage control where you cannot.
When you know what your weaknesses are, you can seek the support and guidance needed to prevent them from becoming a major issue. Asking for help is a strength – it means you are working proactively to prevent issues from arising.
Personal development does not just focus on improving your weak spots, it also focuses on enhancing your strengths.
There is always room for improvement, and this is the underlying purpose of personal development – to not stand still, but continually work towards growth.
When your strengths become even greater assets, your career prospects improve and your working relationships thrive as you share your skill set with those around you.
Developing self-belief rooted in what you know you are good at means others will turn to you for assistance or your skills – enhanced strengths mean more people offering you opportunities.
Since personal development involves knowing your ambitions, it will give you the drive to keep going, no matter how challenging things becoming.
When you have a clear goal in mind it is much easier to work towards it with sustained enthusiasm.
Additionally, when you can share your career motivations with your employer, they can ensure you get the support you need.
As discussed above, adaptability, self-belief and a positive attitude are all personal development skills beneficial to your career.
Together, these attributes help you deal with tough and challenging situations and bounce back quickly when things do not quite go to plan. They make you more resilient, like a flexible willow able to survive a storm rather than a rigid oak that snaps.
Knowing what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take helps you prioritize your time and energy, bringing an increased focus to your working day.
You will likely find that these effective organizational skills extend to all areas of your professional life.
When your actions are more focused, you take greater enjoyment out of completing tasks and staying on top of your workload – things that used to seem like a chore will be far more satisfying.
All the career progression in the world means nothing if you are unfulfilled in other areas of life.
Since personal development focuses on multiple aspects of being, it can help you identify what you need to be happy as a whole and enable you to strike the right balance between your personal and professional commitments.
A healthy work-life balance is important for self-fulfillment and wellbeing.
If you are very career-driven, it can be easy to neglect your needs outside of work and perhaps become burned out. Personal development can help you avoid this.
Without something to work towards, life becomes repetitious, and it is all too easy to fall into a rut.
Having identified your long-term objectives through introspective personal development, you can now set definitive short-term goals with real meaning and purpose.
The bonus here is the sense of achievement that comes as you accomplish each one, further adding to your motivation for continuing towards your ultimate aims.
You may not consider fulfilling relationships an important part of your career, but since you likely spend more time with work colleagues than you do with family and friends, it is well worth investing in them.
There is no definitive blueprint for personal development since everyone’s wants, needs and goals vary. There are, however, some general tips you can follow to create an effective personal development plan.
Start by assessing who you are – Consider everything: your personality type, your life goals, your skills and experience, your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. In essence, you want to create a detailed profile based on honest self-reflection so you can determine the next course of action for your development plan.
Create a development map – Having an improved sense of self-awareness, you can now develop a map, complete with things that you need to achieve for maximum fulfillment and the skills you need to accomplish them.
Take action – Now it is time to work on your personal development skills. Depending on your goals, you might choose to attend classes, find a mentor, read self-help books, challenge yourself to face your fears – there are countless ways to achieve personal growth and what you need to do will be determined by your objectives.
Keep a record – Personal development is a continual process of exploration, learning and reflection, so it is useful to keep a journal of your journey. This will help put your achievements into context and identify opportunities for further growth. Also, when you are feeling frustrated in your progress, you can look back on all areas you have improved in so far.
Periodically revise your plan – There is no end to personal development; it continues for your whole life, so as you grow, revise your plan accordingly. What you needed from life at one point may no longer be relevant a few years down the line. To keep yourself on track, you need to continually update your goals and relevant actions.
Alongside your personal development plan, it is also useful to create a career development plan and use the two in conjunction, like light and water to grow the crop of success.
A career development plan typically follows a five-stage process: self-reflection, career exploration, setting career goals, developing relevant skills and knowledge, and managing your career effectively.
Personal development is essentially a lifelong commitment to self-improvement. Rather than being specific to your career, it is the process through which you grow as a person. As a byproduct, you will see rewards in both a personal and professional context.
Through an increased sense of self-awareness, you can better yourself as an individual, find a deeper sense of fulfillment and achieve career ambitions that bring real job satisfaction.