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personal development

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

When faced with challenges or unrealized goals in life, you have two choices: You could become bitter, calloused, miserable and angry.

Or you use the challenges in life to achieve personal growth.  How can you ensure the latter happens? It all starts with a personal development plan.

First, a Personal Story

As a young adult, I walked through life miserably. I felt like a victim of my past, present, future, and the world around me. I had no idea what I wanted from life, and at the time, I didn’t feel it was worth even considering.

As my life continued to spiral out of control, I found myself more and more depressed. Without direction or a plan, my life had begun to grow stagnant. I regress. My life had become one that I no longer wanted to live.

Then I hit rock bottom.

Long story short, I found myself living in a domestic violence shelter, homeless and a single mother of three children.

I had no idea how my life had managed to fall so far from the life I’d dreamed about as a teenager, but I knew I had to do something different.

While at the shelter, I learned about a lot of things. Mostly, I learned about myself. But I also learned about positive thinking and goal setting.

Most importantly, I learned that personal development doesn’t happen by accident; it is something that you must do with intention.

My life is much different now. I have my own business, and I’m doing something I love. I’m married to a man that respects and loves me. My children are safe, happy and secure.

Best of all, when feelings of hopelessness, depression and overall dissatisfaction start to creep in, I know what to do.

What Is a Personal Development Plan

One of the most easiest and successful methods for achieving personal growth is the GROW method.

Well-known for its structured methodology, it is often used in business arenas to set and create goals. It’s also used to address and solve problems.

No one person can really be attributed as the developer of this simple, straightforward, thorough and easy to implement methodology.

However, Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitemore are said to have made significant contributions.

The acronym, GROW, stands for:

  • GOAL: This is the place you want to go. Whether its home ownership, better health, or spending more time with family or friends, your goal needs to be as specific as possible so that you know when you’ve achieved it.
  • REALITY: The reality is where you are now. Here, you’ll consider challenges, as well as how far you need to go to reach your goal.
  • OBSTACLES: No challenge is without obstacles. These are the things standing in your way, or things that may come up as you move towards your goal.
  • OPTIONS:  This is where you decide how you’ll come up with ideas for dealing with the obstacles. These will be your first step to making progress despite life’s challenges.  
  • WAY FORWARD: These are your options converted into actionable steps; you will make both small and big steps.

Soon, you will learn how to tailor it to your specific goal, and how you can make your personal development plan a success.

Why Personal Development Plans Work

You can make changes in your life and achieve personal development without a plan; I’ve done so in the past.

However, when you have a plan in place, you’re more likely to succeed. There are a few reasons why this happens.

  1. You have a much better understanding of what it is you want out of life.
  2. You have a list of specific, actionable steps that can help you stay motivated and moving forward.
  3. A personal development plan helps you consider the potential obstacles that my pop up along the way, and you’ll have a plan in how to effectively deal with them.
  4. You’ll be able to measure your success, which leads to motivation.

When to Use a Personal Development Plan

A personal development plan can be used to achieve almost any type of growth or change in your life, but you need to actually want to make a change in your life.

Don’t worry. It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want; you just need to know that you want a change. You also need to be dissatisfied with the results you’ve received thus far.

If you meet both criteria, then it’s time to start making your very own personal development plan.

Creating a Personal Development Plan

Now that you know the potential and importance of a personal development plan, it’s time to start creating your own. You’ll need a pen and paper, as well as the following actionable steps:


The first step to creating your personal development plan is deciding what it is you want to achieve. Of course, you may not know exactly what you want, or you may feel like there are just too many things.

You may even be focusing on the wrong goal. Here’s how to address these issues:

  1. Start by making a list of the main, important areas of your life – the things that you spend the most amount of time on, or the things that you want to spend time on.
    You can include things like health, career, relationships, education, etc. Write each area of life down.
  2. Start considering each area of your life. How satisfied are you with each one? Remember, this isn’t about success or how good you are at something; this is about how happy you are with the current situation.
  3. Rate each area of your life using a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most satisfied.
  4. Take a look at your life areas. Anything that has scored a 9 or a 10, you’re doing fine in. If there’s anything at a 7 or below, this is an area with personal development possibilities.
  5. Of those that scored a 7 or below, consider which one you’d like to work on first. It’s important to focus on just one area at a time because you can end up overdoing it, which leads to crash and burn. You can always come back to the others later, and you may even find that by improving one area, you automatically improve some of the others.
  6. With your goal now in mind, start thinking about how things will look once you’ve achieved your goal. What is your ideal situation?  How will life look then? What will it feel like? Feel free to daydream without limits or worry. Spend time just enjoying this moment.
  7. Now that you have an idea of what things will look like in the long-term, it’s time to move your personal development plan forward. Not all goals will happen in a short time span. Some may even take years to accomplish, so let’s move you closer to reality. Where do you want to be when you’re a year into your goal, or six months, even three? Set that time and decide what life should look like at that point.
  8. Now that you’re focusing on a time closer to the present, start imagining what your day to day life will be like. What will it be like when you wake up in the morning? What will you do throughout your day? What kind of people will you talk to? What will you say to them? What will you say to yourself? Remove all vagueness out of your daydream, but avoid the temptation to consider the how portion of your goals.


Challenges wouldn’t be challenges if there weren’t obstacles standing in your way. You can allow these to defeat you, or you can learn how to effectively deal with them.

Of course, you may not know what they are, or how to overcome them. The following actionable steps can help:

  1. Consider your overall goal. Determine how you’ll know when you’ve achieved that goal.
  2. Make a list of the things that you spend time on during a typical week – television, commuting to and from work, socializing with friends, cooking, sleeping, etc. Determine how much time you spend on each task.
  3. Consider how happy you are with how you spend your time.
  4. Evaluate where you are now and what areas of your current daily lifestyle stand in the way of you achieving your goals. Think about what you need to do to advance closer to your goal. Is there something in your daily life that you can (or need to) let go of that will help you focus on your goal?
  5. Look at your current resources. Who and what do you know that can help you achieve your goal? What are you missing? Consider skills, knowledge and resources that are needed to move closer to your goal. If you only have a vague idea of what it means to eat healthy, you may need to learn more about preservatives, food additives, fats and nutrients.
  6. Consider some worst case scenario situations. If you want to own your own home, a worst case scenario situation could include losing your job because of company downsizing, or an illness that requires you to take time off of work.


By now, you should have a pretty clear understanding of your goal, as well as what it is you need to do to change your current situation.

You should also have an understanding of what you already know and what you need to learn.

All of these are potential obstacles.  Now it’s time to consider some options, which are actionable steps that can help you move towards your goal.

It’s essential that you avoid censoring yourself in this portion of your personal development plan.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and ignore any possible boundaries or hurdles that may pop into your head.

  1. With your area of improvement in mind, consider actions that will bring you closer to your goal. Consider some of the following points:
    • Who can you ask for more information?
    • In your own personal life, who do you know that knows a lot about the area you want to improve in?
    • What would you do if you weren’t afraid of anything, including failure?
    • If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?
    • Think of someone you admire. What would they do?
    • What kind of words or phrases could you use to search online and come up with more ideas?
    • Are there books you can read that would help you know more about your chosen area of life?
  2. Write down each action. It’s important to understand what an actionable step is.
    For example, when I wanted to become a self-sufficient single mom, I didn’t use the step “get a job.” Instead, I used “put in three applications per day” and “call and follow up on at least one application each business day.” The difference is that the first step is vague; the others are more specific, and things I would need to do to get a job.


Now that you have a list of ideas, you can effectively use those steps to determine which actionable steps will best help you achieve personal development. Looking at your current list of actionable steps:

  1. Cross off any that seem unreasonable.
  2. Mark ones that you can complete within 24 hours with a checkmark.
  3. Mark any that you can accomplish in 48 hours with an X.
  4. Mark any that you can accomplish within the next week with an O.
  5. Choose one actionable checkmark, one X and one O action step.
  6. Set a deadline (to the minute) for each of your steps. (None should be any longer than a week from now.)


Even with all of these wonderful steps, there are going to be times when it doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward. Or you may encounter an obstacle that you hadn’t thought of.

No matter what the case, these bonus tips can help you along the way.

  1. Do you know someone else that would like to improve a specific area of their life? Why not work together? Having someone to share in the struggles, the advances and to be accountable to is a powerful thing. It helps improve your chances of success, but it also helps improve relationships.
  2. Pin your goals up somewhere you’re going see them each and every day. Put them in your bathroom, in your car, on your refrigerator. Use post-it notes, scraps of paper. Whatever it takes! The more times and places you see your goals and your steps, the more your brain will focus on them.
  3. Start immediately! There’s nothing more motivating than accomplishing a step towards your goal right away. That instant satisfaction will help make your next action step feel more achievable.
  4. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate. Sometimes the actionable steps we choose end up not being the ones we needed most. Or our goals change. Or we need or learn more steps to reach our overall goal. Whatever the case, feel free to reevaluate your personal development plan every six months or so. This will help you stay on track.

Needless to say, personal development is a practice more than a one-time act. You have to be at it daily, deliberately.

How do you achieve personal development in your day-to-day life? Share with us in the comments!

Image by NJ..

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