Personal Development – Step by Step Guide to Change Your Life
Personal Development is one of those topics in which almost all of us would like to improve, but that most of us leave for later.
I will do it when everything comes in flow, when I have more time, when I have a better job, after a happy relationship when my children grow up…. And so no….
Do these excuses sound familiar to you?
If you are looking to know what personal development is and how you can apply it in your life, you are at the right place. In this article, I will tell you my personal vision of what Personal Development is, how you can and should apply it to all areas of your life, and most importantly, I will show you an Action Plan of how you can start this process of Personal Development in the next upcoming days, without excuses like the ones I mentioned.
What exactly is Personal Development?
Personal Development and Improvement – Definition
One of the first to speak of personal development and growth was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), who made a hierarchical representation of human needs in the form of a pyramid and placed them in relation to his priorities in his personal life. Thus, Maslow placed at the top the needs for self-fulfillment, defined as desire and aspiration.
As you can see, personal development includes all kinds of activities that help you improve as a person, either by developing your personal skills and/or helping you improve your quality of life.
It really is a very broad concept and can include several very different topics such as personal productivity, personal development of a social nature, personal professional and leadership development, and so on.
But searching the Internet you can find varied information, courses and even masters on several of these personal development topics, so what I want to show you today is how you can take the first steps on this journey and start changing your life from today.
Concept of Personal Development – My point of view
I am firmly convinced that personal development is actually a transformation process that begins but never ends. And it is based on a restlessness of dissatisfaction within you that something is not right, and you want to change it. Once you start advancement in it you move forward and it starts improving at every single step.
It is human nature that most of us are not happy with some aspects of our lives, and we would like to change them. But many times, that remains an intention, and we never take action. It might be the result of some internal and some external factors. Zig Ziglar says:
“Your attitude, not Your aptitude, will determine Your altitude”
This means that attitude has importance over aptitude and you can get what you dream of if you have a higher level of attitude. The good news is that if you have the passion to improve and make a change in your life that is already a good start.
But, the bad news is that to achieve this, you need to get out of your comfort zone. It’s indeed a bit challenging to step out of your comfort zone.
But that shouldn’t scare you.
Stepping out of your comfort zone simply means doing things that you don’t regularly do. Like when you first went out with your partner or like when you learned to drive; because all those things were for the better.
If the most comfortable thing is to lie on the sofa to see the silly box and do nothing, but as Albert Einstein said:
“If you keep doing the same thing, don’t expect different results”
Many times we go through life to pass, routinely, without trying to do new things that fully fulfill us, which prevents us from being successful and feeling fulfilled.
It is what I call “Passing Life”, and not “Living Life”.
And your personal development depends on you, not on third parties.
Most of the results you get in your life are the product of your mind and thoughts. Sure you have to act, but if you don’t have the prime mover (your thoughts) to push the vehicle, you won’t get very far in the long run.
Why is Personal Development so important?
Importance of Personal Development and Goals:
A study has shown that Personal Development helps you improve and change your life in all its aspects. It is a lifelong process that has core importance in your journey to success and fulfillment of your life goals.
All of us want to be better at something because that will give us a greater sense of success and personal self-actualization. From wanting to be a better father or mother, to be a better partner, to perform better in your work, to be a rich person, to be more productive and have more time, to be better in a sport or a hobby. And if you think you need a better job or earn more money, which at first glance are things that do not totally depend on you, I assure you that personal development will also help you get better opportunities in life.
Think about it for a few seconds now. If you improved in various aspects of your life like the ones I just mentioned, do you think you would feel better and more fulfilled? I’m sure if.
That is why the objectives of personal development are to know yourself better, with your defects and virtues, with your limitations and assets and first of all accept yourself as you are. And from there ask yourself what things you can change or improve in the different aspects of your life.
It is a process of constant change because as you grow personally, there will always be new challenges, risks, things, and situations that can be changed to improve your life. And as you progress through the changes, you will feel more fulfilled, and you will free yourself from that feeling of dissatisfaction or emotional pain that comes from not being what you want to be, or knowing that you have not even tried.
But the starting point to advance in your personal development and growth as a person is that you recognize that you want and need to change. That you should improve your abilities, skills, and personal relationships, and that you are capable of doing it if you put your mind to it.
It is the first step, but the most important. Then you have a wide range of tools, training, and more that can help you achieve your dreams and goals.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” Lao-tse
Although it has no point of view of comparison with drug or alcohol dependencies, something similar happens. In these cases, all the medication in the world will not help you if you do not start by accepting that you have a problem and seeking help to change.
And the second step is to start to know and analyze yourself, with all the good and bad that you have now, that is to accept yourself. And from there, objectively plan in which aspects you can improve. Flaws or weaknesses can be minimized or improved, and your strengths or advantages can be used better or further developed. And for this, you must create an action plan or strategy with the objectives you want to achieve and in a specified period of time.
Personal Improvement Plan:
I think this is the most important part of the article that you will like the most.
In the following paragraphs, I will tell you how you can start to change your life and to get what you propose to feel fulfilled.
I will tell you how you should approach the different fields of your life in which you can develop and improve. That is the initial assessment that you must make to prioritize in which areas of your life need improvement.
But after you achieve the objectives, you must return to consider new objectives to achieve in the following weeks, from Step 3. If all this sounds a bit like Chinese, you will understand it better later with an example.
But before continuing I want to tell you something important.
I have been researching and trying to develop myself personally in all aspects of my life for some time now, and I believe that I am still in the initial stages and I have a long way to go. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article that personal development is a never-ending process and you can always strive to be a better version of yourself.
In fact, if you like personal development topics and how to change your life, you will be familiar with the things that I will tell you in the following paragraphs on how to divide and focus on improving the different areas of your life. I am not a personal development guru and most of what you will find below is the fruit of what I have researched, adapted, and personally, I am applying in my life.
So without further delay, let’s get to it.
Personal Development and Improvement Guide in 5 Steps
Step 1: Self-Awareness:
This is perhaps the most important step. You must know who you are, what you want, and where you want to go.
People are all different. Each has a different personality, different ways of having fun, and different concepts of what it means to be successful, happy, or fulfilled.
That’s why you can’t copy the goals of other successful people. Although perhaps what you can do is copy the habits of successful people, and that is something that I am trying to focus on recently. A very good book on this is Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.
However, on the other hand; Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam says; “Don’t read success stories you will get the only message. Read failure stories. You will get some ideas to get success”.
For me an important reflection is that it is not always good to try to idealize a successful person, because many times these people are successful in some aspect of their life that you are interested in improving, but perhaps they are a “disaster” in other aspects of their lives.
I would like to give you an example of Steve Jobs, an extremely successful and revolutionary person in terms of entrepreneurship. Despite being adopted and not graduating from college, against all odds he did what he liked and was successful. But in my opinion, he did very reprehensible things in his personal life, such as denying his paternity.
As I said earlier, each one has its own values. Everyone has their own definition of success. And from my point of view, personal relationships, especially with your family, are the most important thing you have and have a core value that nothing can take its place.
In a mega survey many years ago, a group of people who were terminally ill or knew they were soon to die was asked what they most regretted not doing in their lives. And the vast majority reported the fact that they had not told their loved ones what they loved or felt for them. This is the regret that never lets a person neither live with joy nor die.
In one of the 25 most famous TED talks of all time, seen more than 15 million times, they said that according to a study, people who had better personal relationships had much longer life expectancies.
If you start to analyze with a cool head, even many times the motivation to have a better job, earn more money, and be successful, has the objective of improving our interpersonal relationships behind it.
What do you want to have more money or success for?
To go on vacation? Alone or with your family or partner? Personal relationships:
To buy you a car or a better house, and for what? To show them off and maybe have recognition from other people, or invite your friends to enjoy them with you? Personal relationships:
To work fewer hours? And for what? To spend more time with your family and friends? Personal relationships:
What do you want to be a successful person for? To feed your ego or for people to recognize you on the street or have better contacts? Personal relationships:
By now you will have realized that I believe that personal development in the area of your relationships with other people is one of the most important and probably the one that will give you the most satisfaction on a day-to-day basis.
But let’s move on and see what other areas of your life you can focus your personal growth on.
Step 2: Division of Important Areas in Life:
If you plan to change your life for the better and you are someone like me – with many bad habits and things that you can improve – you should not try to improve everything in a few weeks.
We are creatures of habit, and in order to improve your life, you must create the right habits that you want to achieve or stop the bad habits that harm you.
But the truth is that it takes time. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in the blink of an eye.
If you research it, you will find on many sites that an average of 21 days is estimated to establish a new habit. Actually, this time period was taken from the audiobook “Psycho-Cybernetics” published by the plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in 1960. There he recounted that his patients took an average of 21 days to get used to their new appearance after surgery. Based on this and other experiences, he published that it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit. And as this message was transmitted by word of mouth, the “minimum” prefix was removed and it remained that “it takes only 21 days to establish a new habit.
But a later 2009 study from the European Journal of Social Psychology was specifically designed to find out how long it took to form a new habit. And on average it took more than 2 months, 66 days to be exact. But it varied from person to person and environment as well, somehow from 18 days to 254 days in some people.
That is why you should be clear that 3 weeks to establish a new habit is an average (and on the low side) because for most people it takes a little longer.
For all of this, you should focus on changing one habit at a time.
And since there are many areas of life that we could improve on, it is more practical.
Recognize which ones they are, which ones we need to improve on now, and then set priorities to address them one by one.
Personal development areas:
In my opinion, there are 6 areas in which almost everyone’s lives can be grouped are:
i. Physical Health
Physical health includes everything that has to do with a healthy diet, exercise and generally prevent diseases.
ii. Mental Health / Spiritual Life
Mental Health and Spiritual Life includes everything that can influence it, such as thoughts, beliefs, mentality, joy, stress, and so on.
iii. Personal life
In this part, I like to include everything that you like or want to do and that does not fit into any of the previous or following areas, such as your hobbies, things you want to do alone or with others and things that you would like to learn or in which you need training.
iv. Personal relationships
This is a very important area and it encompasses the relationships you have with your family, friends, and co-workers and most important your relation with yourself.
v. Work / Business
Here I mean everything that has to do with your current job, and also your business if they are different from your job.
In this area, I include everything that is a personal finance, banks, debt and financing of personal projects.
It is best if you draw these areas on a piece of paper in the form of a divided circle or pie, and start work on them step by step.
Did you draw it already?
Excellent, let’s go to the next step.
Step 3: Establish Priorities:
As I mentioned before, to change your life you must change your habits, but one at a time.
Therefore, the first thing you should do is establish what your Personal Development priorities are. That is:
What are the areas of your life that most urgently need improvement?
However, sorting out the first is quite challenging. So for that, sit quietly in a comfortable place in silence. Reflect for a few minutes on each of these areas of your life, and immediately rate from 1 to 10 how well you are doing in each of these areas.
For example, let’s talk about your physical health area. If you think that you eat well, few processed foods and you usually do physical activity daily, you could give it a 7 or 8. If you dedicate yourself to sports and maintain a very rigorous balanced diet, it could be a 9 or 10.
Or if, on the other hand, you usually eat a lot of processed food, a few fruits and vegetables, you smoke and your main sport is to press the button on the TV remote, maybe you should put a 1 or 2 on it.
Regarding the aspect of your mental health and spiritual life, assess your degree of daily stress, if you are usually emotionally calm and if what predominates in your mind are positive thoughts or you are a pessimistic (negative) person. According to that put a number from 1 to 10.
In the area of personal relationships, also rate from 1 to 10 according to how you see your relationship with your partner, family and/or friends. If you are dedicating yourself too much to your work or business and you have something “forgotten” about your family, maybe that would be a 2 or 3. As in my case, the area of friendship needs an improvement and I will put it on number 1.
In the same way, continue evaluating the rest of the areas in which you could improve your personal development.
The number you put is something subjective, there are no exact criteria. You are the better judge of yourself. Just think with total honesty – because no one has to see what you put and decide what number you will put.
In your drawing, simply write that number next to the name of each area. And then shade each area of the cake based on your score.
Step 4: Create a New Habits Plan:
Now it’s your turn to take action.
Based on your graph, focus on one or two areas of your personal development where you score the lowest. Don’t try to tackle more than 2 areas at a time.
As I told you earlier, it is better to implement one habit at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself and to be able to stick with it. But if you choose two different areas in which to focus your personal growth, it is very likely that the plan or strategy that you must implement for each of them is different and can even complement each other.
Here I would like to give you an example so that you understand it better.
If you have a “Number 2” in the area of your personal relationships because you do not spend time with your family, consider what habit you can start today to improve it.
Maybe if you spend the whole day out and come home and have dinner watching TV, make it a point to turn it off and have a chat over dinner. Or maybe meet for lunch/dinner with your wife away from home one day every 1-2 weeks, like a date. Or call an old friend every week to get back in touch. Depending on why you put a low number, establish what habit you can start from tomorrow to start improving your score.
And if, on the other hand, you also have a low score in terms of your physical health, you can establish easy habits to comply with, such as eating at least 2 servings of vegetables a day (if you don’t already), or if you don’t do any physical activity; start walking at least 30 minutes a day.
Design an action plan with 1 or 2 habits from different areas that are relatively easy to stick to, so you will have no excuse for failing.
Step 5: Reflect and Readjust:
After a reasonable time of 3 to 8 weeks, when you feel that you have established that habit that you proposed in the previous step, you should review your chart again.
And if you feel that it no longer costs you almost any effort to carry out the things that you had considered as habits a few weeks ago, it is time to look for new habits with which to continue improving in the different areas of your personal development.
That is, go back to Step 3 in which you put a number next to each area of your life. And think of another habit that you can start to establish to improve your life.
If you follow this process over and over again, after several months it is very likely that you will need to re-evaluate the scores that you give to each area of your life because you will surely have improved a lot.
Other Resources for Personal Development:
Besides these 5 steps, there are also Other Resources for Personal Development. So, if you are like me and passionate about personal development and would like to change your life, here are some famous books and phrases about personal development and improvement.
Although I have not read all these books: Though I have some on my waiting list, they are among the highly recommended by the most recognized people in the field of Success, Life Improvement, and Personal Development.
Personal Development Books:
The 7 habits of highly effective people: Stephen R. Covey
The key to success: Malcolm Gladwell
Awaken the Giant Within: Anthony Robbins
Think and Grow Rich: Napoleon Hill
Live Without Fears: Sergio Fernandez
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Dale Carnegie
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind: Dr. Joseph Murphy
Handbook of Personality Development: Dan McAdams
Coach Yourself to Success: Talane Miedaner
Your Erroneous Zones: Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
I hope you liked this article. So,
What do you think are the main areas in which you should focus your Personal Development to improve and change your life?