Ask people what the term “personal development” means to them and most will answer in relation to their career or employment development. Only when you ask for further examples might they start to talk about developing personal relationships.

In truth the term applies to anything that will enrich your life, financially or otherwise; bring you happiness and fulfilment; or a sense of peace; can be considered part of your personal development.

Most people will have some form or work related development plan, possibly guided by their employer or their career path, but everyone really should consider drawing up a plan to develop their personal, non business life in meaningful ways. Here are some suggestions about how you should go about this.

Make a List

Start off by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths could be things like your communication skills, a good work ethic or caring about your local community in some way. Weaknesses are often thing such as finding too little time for family or friends, taking out the stresses of your day on those close to you, thinking of yourself more than on others, or not staying fit and healthy. Ask others outside of work what they think are your personal strengths and weaknesses and tell them why you are asking. Your list should be comprehensive and brutally honest. You need to identify the areas that need improvement and only by being brutally honest with yourself, and asking others to do the same, will you succeed.

Set Priorities

Using your list of strengths and weaknesses as a guide think about what you can do to identify goals that will benefit your life and that of others around you. Maybe you could find more time to help in your community, perhaps by helping at a local sports club, or as a hospital volunteer. Find time to do nice things as a family even if it is only sitting down and chatting with the kids without complaining that they haven’t cleaned their rooms or they play their so-called music to loud. Just try being pleasant – even or especially if you don’t feel like it.

Make Things Happen

Once you have some ideas and goals in place set aside time, and make things happen. For example, if you have a dog or cat why not take it to visit people in residential care, many love animals and miss having one around. If you haven’t got a dog how about volunteering to walk some dogs for elderly or ill owners? Helping others will give you a real sense of meaning and self-worth.

By all means join in with existing group or organised activities but don’t just “make up the numbers”. Come up with new ideas and get others to help you make it happen. A friend of mine got so annoyed at the lack of maintenance on the grass verges on the roads around his house and knowing that he alone couldn’t do all the work he went around house to house and found some other people who were willing to help him pick up litter, pull up weeds and cut the grass. Then they moved on to planting wild flowers, then planting and tending more formal flower beds. Businesses and residents in other areas of the town liked what they saw and asked him for advice on doing the same and he was asked to stand for election to the town council to coordinate an entry into the Britain in Bloom and Best Kept Village competitions – winning commendations and awards. Eventually he was elected Mayor and he admits that he has really enjoyed doing all this volunteer work which has helped make him a better person and enhanced the lives of so many others.

Keep Developing

Your development plan will, and should develop with you. My friend only wanted to improve his immediate area but as you can see one thing led to another. He is also involved in other community activities and having been, by his own admission, “a miserable bloody sod that people would cross the road to avoid” he is now one of the most popular guys around.

By the way, not only is my friend much more happy and popular in his personal life, the general improvement in his attitude and demeanour has had a knock-on effect onto his employment and he has had two early and unexpected promotions which he truly believes wouldn’t have happened if he had not taken action to have a more positive and fulfilled private life.

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