Do You Need a Personal Development Plan?

In my last post I looked at the importance of understanding our own core values and beliefs in order to focus on areas for development.  I now want to start to take a look at how we formalise our own development. Do you really need a Personal Development Plan? If we consider that Personal Development is a process that you will work on for your entire life then, to me at least, it makes sense to have a plan for how you are going to approach it!

What is the Purpose of a Personal Development Plan?

It will help you assess your skills, qualities, and will help you build the lifestyle and life that you envision that you desire for happiness and a high quality of life. The personal development plan can help you with all aspects of your life and help you become more self-aware at home and at work.

Perform a SWOT on Your Life

A well-designed personal development plan will address your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and roadblocks or threats in all areas of your life that you develop. Your plan will identify your strengths so that you can improve them, your weaknesses are so that you can make up for them, and new opportunities, so you know when a door (or window) is open, as well as noting any roadblocks or threats along the way.

Recognise Development Areas

When you perform your SWOT in each area of your life, you will discover internal and external things that are blocking your success. For example, you may hold the belief you’ll never have enough money to save for the future. Because of that, when you do get “extra” money, you tend to blow it right away on all the things you feel you missed out on before. This is a limiting belief about money that a lot of people have because most people think money is a finite resource when it’s not. It’s manmade. Therefore, we can make more.

Identify Your Resources

You may do some work that helps you look at the resource you have available to do a specific task. For example, if you decide you want to start a coaching business, what resources do you have to start it. What things do you need, what things can you live without, what can you do yourself, what does someone else need to do. This works in every single aspect of your life. You may realize you already have all the skills inside to do exactly what you wanted to do. However, you may realize that you need to pay for additional brainpower (resources).

Build Better Relationships

One of the most shocking aspects of creating a self-development plan is how much it can help relationships. When you realize that you only control your own behavior and actions, it starts to get easier to manage relationships. Treating them how you want to be treated is an excellent start but becoming self-aware enough to go farther and realize that not everyone likes what you like so you may need to treat someone the way they like to be treated instead.

Whatever you want to work on can be done via the personal development plan. Whether you want to lose weight, start a business, change jobs, or go back to school – the goal doesn’t matter as much as developing the plan that you need to get where you want to go. Your plan will not be the same as anyone else’s because you are different. That’s why it’s so consequential and unique because it’s just for you.

In Search Of Optimism

It’s been a beautiful afternoon here in Cheshire which gave me the chance to sit outside reading and writing. I don’t know about you but I always find that the sun and a little warmth makes me feel more positive/optimistic. That set me thinking about other ways to make ourselves feel more optimistic and there’s some thoughts from my pondering sat outside!

Ask Yourself Three Key Questions

A big difference between pessimists and optimists is that optimists tend to think that:

  • Problems are temporary and can be resolved
  • Problems are particular to a certain event/person/experience and are not related to everything
  • Problems are external and not a reflection of who you are

On the other hand, pessimists often think that problems are permanent, related to everything, and internal (caused by their own qualities).

To help stop yourself from negative, pessimistic thinking, ask these three questions:

  • Is this problem really permanent, or is it just temporary?
  • Is this thing really a universal truth, or is it a problem particular to one moment/event?
  • Am I blaming myself for everything, or is there more than one facet to the situation?

Practice Gratitude

Studies show that actively practising gratitude can boost optimism and happiness. Resolve to spend two minutes a day jotting down one or two things that you are grateful for.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Emotions are contagious. Surround yourself with negative people, and it’s easy to sink into a bad mood. Surround yourself with optimistic people, and you just might see yourself looking on the sunny side of the street.

Search for the Positive

When adversity strikes, try to see a positive side of the event. The idea is not to deny the reality of bad situations, but to help you cope with them more productively. For instance, if you get laid off, you could be angry at yourself and the bad job you did, or you could focus on practical steps to land a new, better job.

Practice Mindfulness

A 2014 study showed that people who practiced mindfulness had fewer negative thoughts than before they started practicing, but the same number of positive thoughts. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as sitting quietly for two minutes a day and paying attention to your breath.

Changing The Way We Look At Things

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This quote is from the famous motivational speaker and self-help author Dr. Wayne Dyer. Think about what he said for a moment.

It is along the same line as the half-empty/half-full concept. In both theories, it points out the power of having a positive mindset. There are positives in everything; sometimes you just must look harder to find them over the more apparent negatives.

We all make choices in life; some of us choose to be negative about everything, while other people experiencing the same situation see nothing but the positives. How can that be? Two people experiencing the same thing but emotionally feeling what they experience at opposite ends of the spectrum. It is almost as if each is wearing a set of glasses that filter the experience differently. Remember Dr. Dyer’s quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Why change the way you look at things?

Before we get into the “how” of changing your mindset, let’s first look at why it is beneficial to see the positives in everything. The mind is a powerful thing in that it controls all parts of your body. Researchers have found in multiple studies that having a positive outlook produces some very beneficial health benefits. For one, they found it increases the immune system. It is a proven fact that positive people are generally healthier both mentally and physically.

And positive people have a lower stress level because they are able to effectively deal with stress better. As a result, they have less cortisol caressing through their body, a known hormone responsible for weight gain, so they are able to control their weight better.

Beside having an improved immune system and better weight control, having a positive mindset also:

  • lowers the risk of a cardiovascular event
  • lower rates of depression
  • and surprisingly live a longer life

How to change your mindset to one more positive

While there are several things one can do to improve their mindset, here are some that provide the most benefits:

  • Start your day with a positive affirmation – how you start the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Many people like to write down their affirmation in a notebook or journal. Writing it down has more effect than just verbalizing it to yourself.
  • Look for the good in things – We all face situations during our day that can be viewed as either good or bad. For example, if stuck in traffic, view it as an opportunity to listen to your favorite podcast or to your favorite music instead of a waste of time going nowhere.
  • Change negative self-talk into positive – Instead of saying “I’m so bad at doing this” say  “I’ll get better at doing this after I get more practice.”
  • Focus on the present – The past is yesterday, there is nothing we can do about it; the future is tomorrow and not here yet, so there is little we can do about it; but today is now and we can either choose to experience it either positively or negatively; the choice is yours!
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Positive people have positive outlook on life, quote positive affirmations and generally say positive things. Over time, these positives rub off on you, sink into your brain and you become a more positive person because of them. However, the opposite is true if you surround yourself with negative people. Again, it is your choice; choose wisely!

The way you view things, could help you see them in a positive way instead of negative. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Now go be positive!

Aligning Your Purpose and Career – Questions To Ask Yourself

In terms of your career have you considered how it aligns with your purpose in life? Do you know how to find your purpose? If you posed that question to people around you, I suspect that the majority would likely answer no. It’s because there is a world of possibilities. People are often afraid to try something new out of fear of the unknown or because it is all too easy to settle for the here and now. They often don’t know how to go about looking for what they should be doing.

If you want to find your “Purpose” then you need first to ask yourself if what you are doing now is satisfying. Put aside the bills and your salary slip for a moment. Do you get a buzz out of getting up every morning to go to work? How do you feel on Sunday evenings, assuming you start up work on Mondays? Do you dread having to get up in the morning on Monday, or does it excite you?

Another problem is you may feel stuck doing something in which you don’t believe. Suppose you work for a company that isn’t living out its values or pays lip service to them. It pays well, or it is safe and comfortable and that is why you stick with it. You even like many of the people who work there. You need to ask yourself if you can continue to work in an environment which doesn’t fit well with you.

You will also need to ask yourself what will it take to make changes to get out of your current situation and into something you enjoy. It may require going back to college or perhaps undertaking some online training. Luckily, nowadays with the explosion of learning opportunities online there are many options available, and many of them are cheap or free.

If you find that the path is well laid out, ask yourself are you’re willing to put in the time and make an effort? If not, you haven’t truly found your purpose. You either need to continue what you are doing or find another path. Keep reflecting, challenging yourself until you reach a point where you are willing to put in the effort.

Your Career and Purpose Don’t Necessarily Mean The Same Thing!

You should keep in mind that your career is not necessarily your purpose in life. It may be a part of it, but for many people, there is a need to look a lot deeper. For instance, you may love helping others out and feel that is your purpose. If your current career doesn’t focus on helping people, this can help you determine where to look to make changes. Try to find organizations where you can make a difference.

If you go this route, you will align what you want to do for your career with what you feel is your purpose. That will make your new career choice fulfilling. It can give you a reason to want to get up to go to work, which is fantastic.

When you focus on aligning your career and your purpose together, the decisions needed to establish your new path becomes much more natural.  Yes, you could of course randomly pick a way forward. However, it’s more likely you will succeed when you fit your career with who you are or who you want to become.

You Can’t Climb a Mountain until You Can Climb a Ladder

There’s no doubt that we live in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) and that brings with it all sorts of challenges. Whether it’s for managers who are trying to deal with the demands for certainty from staff or us as individuals faced with risks and challenges that may present us with opportunities if we are prepared to take the risk and leap into the unknown.

A lot of people get stuck in a rut and are content to do the same things over and over again, day in and day out. They have carved a groove for themselves and making any sort of change requires a great deal of mental and physical effort to grasp why change might even be needed.

The saddest thing about this common scenario is that those who are the most stuck are often the most in need of change. They are often miserable, with a job they aren’t enjoying, lower wages than they feel they need, and perhaps difficult relationships at work and/or at home. They feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. And yet if you ask them to take a risk that can make things better, they refuse. The familiar, however bad it is, is less scary than something new.

Fear of Failure in Our VUCA World

A lot of people hold back from risk-taking for fear of failure. They don’t want to lose time, money or effort, or change their job or place they live and then realize they can’t return to the way things were. They don’t think the rewards are worth trying for, or they label themselves a “loser.” And this is often what happens; their negative thinking leads to a negative result.

Fear of Success in our VUCA World

They might also be terrified of becoming successful. This may sound strange, until we stop to consider just how many expectations are placed upon people who are in the top of their field. Tiger Woods the golfer was at the top of his sport for many years; now all most sports commentators can do is comment on how good he used to be, even though most of them could never play as well as he is doing at present.

Not everyone wants to be an Olympic athlete or a top CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They can see the rewards, but everything is a balancing act.

Growth through Risk

However, you will never be able to move forward and grow unless you are prepared to take some risk in your life. Learning how to walk, ride a bike or swim all had risks involved, but they certainly were fun.

They also usually involved observation and even instruction, from your parent or coach, for example. Your parents might have stood on opposite sides of the room and encouraged you to totter towards them. One of your parents put the training wheels on your bike and took you out to the park or up and down the drive. You might have had swimming lessons before trying to swim on your own.

Educated Risk-Taking

If you are still struggling with taking risks, have fun with them. Go left, not right, try a new restaurant, order a dish you’ve never tried before. Getting used to taking these smaller risks, with no huge issue about failure or success, can help broaden your horizons and open your mind to a range of possibilities. As you start to have fun and picture what a better life looks like, you can move on to greater challenges and better rewards.

One thing is for sure: you will never know until you try. And if you get hung up on the idea of failure, just remember – each setback can be a teaching moment that will enable you to learn valuable lessons and do better next time. In this VUCA World we need to climb the ladder of success one rung at a time, and you can soon climb a mountain.