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Personal Development Plan Examples & Templates for Success

Did you know you can make your dreams and aspirations a reality by focusing on your own individual personal development plan ?

Your potential is limitless, and investing in personal development is a way to harness your many talents.

Establishing goals for what you want to achieve — where you would like to go in the short term or long term — can improve your personal development.

In this guide, I’ll help you understand what personal development means and its importance, what a personal development plan is and why you should make one, and how to write a personal development plan. 

I’ll also share with you my personal development plan template to get you started on your path to reach your personal development goals, complete with helpful examples and resources to support you.

Table of Contents

  • What is a Personal Development Plan (PDP)

The 7 Categories of Personal Development

  • Why Make a Personal Development Plan

How to Set Personal Development Goals

Personal development plan template, personal development courses and programs, what is a personal development plan (pdp).

A personal development plan is a guideline for your life and your future success.

Personal development is the process of improving oneself through conscious habits and activities. It is the pursuit of personal growth to enhance your quality of life and to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

When you create a personal development plan, you start to define the kind of person you want to be, skills you want to have, and accomplishments you want to achieve. And then you map out your long-term and short-term goals to realize these aspirations and set timelines for when you want to reach them.

Many people underachieve in their careers because they do not realize the areas of personal development that can help achieve mastery in any field.

Effective leaders focus on continual self-improvement and know there is no substitute for hard work.

When you practice self-discipline by setting a goal, making a plan, and working on it every day, you will see personal development and progress within your career.

The Importance of Personal Development

Most of the time, what you think about is what you become. From the moment you wake until the moment you close your eyes at the end of the day, everything you experience plays a factor in your development.

When you take greater control over your experiences, you are able to guide your personal development and accelerate toward what you want to become instead of leaving it to chance.

Setting, striving for, and meeting personal development goals opens up a world of new possibilities for you to increase your quality of life.

For example, as a result of creating and following your personal development plan, you may gain more responsibility for work and open up opportunities for higher pay. This growth could qualify you for a better career trajectory to increase your overall happiness, job satisfaction, and ability to provide for the life you want for you and your family.

Focusing on your personal development also gives you better decision-making abilities so you can avoid problems that may have plagued you in the past or are holding you back now.

At the end of the day, personal development helps you create more positivity and harness the power of positive thoughts , which can transform your life. 

When you give time to yourself by focusing on your professional and personal growth, you are better able to achieve your version of success because of personal development.

Personal Development vs Self-Improvement

Recognizing the difference between self-improvement and personal development can be a little tricky.

While they are similar in that they are both very instrumental in achieving your goals and improving yourself, there are key differences between a self-improvement plan and a personal development plan.

Personal development is the work you are putting in to transform yourself on a daily basis. It’s the efforts you’re making to advance in your work, lifestyle, attitude, physique, and sociability.

Setting personal development goals and creating a plan helps you take full advantage of any opportunity that may come your way and make the most of your potential.

Self-improvement is an inner transformation. It is a self-motivated study to improve one’s character, status, or knowledge by their own efforts. 

Self-improvement is a lifelong process of constantly searching for ways to change your habits so you can reach your fullest potential.

The specific efforts you put into personal development lead to self-improvement.

Start Achieving All of Your Goals Today! Download my FREE Personal Development Plan Template

Focusing on personal development categories such as personal skills, personal growth, and personal power can create habits for personal improvement.

Personal growth is founded on education and skill. Through education and experience, you increase your skill level and your ability to succeed in your field.

There are seven main categories of personal development.

Personal Skills

Personal skills can be ones you were born with as well as skills gained through deliberate practice. They’re often referred to as soft skills. 

Examples of personal skills are decision-making, teamwork, organization, and communication.

If you’re interested in growing your skills at work, try working on your personal skills. The highest-paid, top individuals in their field are the ones that focus on growing their personal skills. 

Knowing what areas you excel in and which need development is very useful in your personal and professional life.

Personal Growth

Having a personal growth plan is one of the first steps toward bettering yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Humans and the human mind are constantly evolving. Think about it: you are not the same person you were a year ago. You’ve learned more, grown in many different ways, and have experienced more life events to further shape your personality, beliefs, and world outlook.

In order to experience personal development and growth, strive to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday.

Personal Power

Personal power is the authority others believe you to have in certain situations and is fueled by your contacts, knowledge, and financial status.

Developing an ever-widening circle of contacts, seeking to learn more, and growing financially increases the number of doors that others will leave open for you to step into.

Expanding your network, knowledge base and financial status will also allow you to help others do the same, further increasing your personal power and opportunities for personal development and growth.

Personal Improvement

Personal improvement stems from good work habits and having a positive mental attitude. 

Thinking before you act is critical to developing a strong amount of personal improvement. To help you think first, try to set priorities on a list and consider the likely consequences before beginning. 

Working on personal improvement and generating a positive mental attitude will also reduce the amount of time that it takes you to achieve your goals.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is similar to Personal Power, except empowerment is the power you see within yourself, instead of how others view you.

Promoting a positive image and adopting creativity within your daily life can speed up the time it takes to achieve personal empowerment and your goals.

To help you increase your personal empowerment, consider looking for new, creative ways to finish a project in a faster, easier or cheaper way without compromising the end result.

Personal Analysis

It is very important to be conscious of areas in which you are naturally gifted as well as analyze areas in which you need improvement. This is called personal analysis.

Being truthful about where you currently stand is the first step to moving forward. You should be constantly evaluating where you are in relation to achieving your goals and ambitions.

Personal Objectives

Ambition goes to waste when there are no clear goals in sight. Developing short-term and long-term goals is a pivotal step in actually accomplishing them and growing as a person.

Having a set plan will help you have a clear understanding of which strategies are necessary in order to reach your desired destination.

Why Make a Personal Development Plan?

The reason you need a personal development plan is that making a plan will help guide you to better decision-making and remind yourself of where you want to go.

In other words, good preparation increases the probability of success and decreases the risk of things going wrong along the way.

Creating a plan for personal development helps you get a better sense of control over your life and will make you better prepared for whatever comes your way.

Consider these benefits to having a personal development plan:

  • It brings your vision to reality. 
  • It ensures you take appropriate and logically planned action.
  • It helps you improve your time management skills so you can achieve your goals. 
  • It’s a plan to keep track of progress, which serves to motivate you when you want to give up.
  • It’s been proven to reduce stress, improve balance in life, and increase self-confidence.

Developing personal development goals for work can make the difference between success and failure. Creating a self-growth plan for your personal life can mean the difference between life-long happiness and regret.

Skills & Objectives

The objectives of personal development are continuous personal growth, increased potential for success, and capitalizing on potential opportunities.

You can practice your personal development skills by setting aside time for the important people in your life, performing action exercises that force you to perform at the highest level, and studying growth performances to help ensure you continue to climb the ladder of success.

An action plan has to include measurable objectives so you know the exact steps it will take to reach your goals. Objectives break your larger personal developments goals into bite-sized pieces so you are able to know where you are headed and check off your progress along the way.

There are no limits except for the limits you place on yourself with your thinking.

Commit yourself to a life of constant learning. Even if you are at the top of your field, there is always something to learn. 

Once you have mastered a new skill, move on to learning another one. Constantly learning new skills keeps your mind fresh and active and opens doors that would otherwise be closed to you.

You will become unstoppable and you will see your entire future open up in front of you if you live a goal and growth-oriented life.

Before you can set up a plan, you need to do some self-reflecting and answer personal goal questions.

A few questions you should develop before laying out a specific plan of action are:

  • What do I want to make out of my life?
  • What are my goals and ambitions?
  • What is currently standing in my way of achieving these goals?

After answering those questions, you can create a personal plan that contains a few key components.

The key components you should focus on are having a specific outcome that you are constantly working towards, planning and paving a path towards achieving it, being mindful of the obstacles, and understanding the bigger motivation behind your actions.

When developing a personal development plan for work, you should focus on SMART goals. SMART stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Achievable”, “Relevant”, and “Time-Bound.”

By following this easy-to-remember acronym when goal setting , you can improve both your personal and professional life:

  • Specific: Write goals that are detailed and clear instead of broad and general.
  • Measurable: Set milestones that will let you know you are achieving your goal.
  • Achievable: Make goals that are challenging yet can realistically be achieved.
  • Relevant: Align your goals with your personal self-improvement plan.
  • Time-Bound: Pick an end date by which you want to achieve your goal.

Set Goals for Professional Life

In order to make progress that you can see and track in your professional life, you need to document a detailed plan of action for your personal development.

Some personal development plan examples for work include answering the following questions:

  • What do I want to learn?
  • What do I have to do?
  • What support and resources will I need?
  • How will I measure success?

Be as specific with your answers as possible. The more precise, the easier it is to track your progress.

Seeing how far you have come and how your hard work is paying off will give you a boost of confidence and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Some examples of personal development goals for work include the Golden Hour and the 21-Day Mental Diet.

The Golden Hour Rule

The Golden Hour Rule steers the trajectory of your day.

Beginning your day early and investing your first hour in yourself will make a tremendous difference in the way you feel, and you will begin to see positive results in your day.

You will begin to see yourself in a more positive light and improve on your personal development.

The 21-Day Mental Diet

The 21-Day Mental Diet personal leadership plan example means waking up early and investing at least the first two hours of your day in yourself.

With this extra time, set clear goals you can work to achieve in the workplace. This can be improving your productivity and efficiency to help you get that promotion or earn a raise.

Your goals may also include education. You need to learn more to earn more.

Try setting a goal to read something educational, motivational, or inspirational every day before you go to work.

Set Goals in Your Daily Life

Outside of the workspace, it is important to be focusing on some personal goals as well. Similar to the work plan, the personal plan requires you to focus on key points in order to achieve your goals.

Here is a personal development plan example:

  • What are the important goals that you want to achieve?
  • When is your set deadline?
  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • Who or what are your biggest threats?

There are several aspects of personal development disciplines that will make achieving success possible if developed correctly.

A few of these disciplines include goal setting, planning and organizing, and concentrating on your high-value activities.

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be done in the early morning and take only a few minutes of your day.

It can be as simple as purchasing a spiral notebook and writing out your ten goals at the beginning of each day. This will program them deep into your subconscious mind and help you actually follow through on accomplishing them.

Planning Your Day

Planning and organizing at the end of the day can help you better prepare for the coming day.

When you plan out your day, putting it down on paper, you can begin to visualize your important tasks and make sure you are working to complete them throughout the day.

Concentrating On Your High-Value Activities

High-value activities are the things you choose to do throughout the day that will give you the biggest return on your efforts to get you closer to your goals.

Concentrating on your high-value activities will help keep you focused and contribute to your success as much as any other discipline you can develop.

Promoting the highest value activities will make a powerful difference in how quickly you achieve them and the goals they relate to.

Creating a plan for personal development will help you get a better sense of control over your life and your goals…and it doesn’t have to be a daunting task!

Follow this template for writing a personal development plan to get started in achieving your goals.

There are six core steps in this template that will help you take action and measure your progress.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

Write a list of the top 10 most important goals you would like to achieve. I encourage you to really write them down somewhere — on paper or on your computer — instead of just keeping them in your head. 

People who write their goals and have a clear plan are 30% more likely to achieve their goals.

Search deep within yourself and identify the things you really want out of life. Do not be hindered by thoughts of roadblocks that may get in your way. Open yourself up to all the possibilities that would make you truly happy in life.

These are life goals. Life goals are meant to be challenging, so they may seem huge, overwhelming, or even scary. But that’s why they will be broken down into digestible and manageable smaller goals. 

For example, providing for your family is an important long-term goal, but figuring out the steps to get there is the challenge. Your smaller personal development plan objectives will help you identify those steps so you have a clear road map to follow.

With each of the 10 goals you identify, also define your “why:” Why do you want to achieve this goal? What will it mean for your personal life, your career, your health, your loved ones?

Knowing your why will help set you up for success. It will keep you motivated to continue progressing forward until you have achieved what you want to.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals

Once you have identified your top 10 goals, write which of those 10 is the most important to you and why.

Starting with your highest priority goal, identify the short-term goals and steps that are needed to achieve your long-term goals.

What needs to happen today so you can move on to tomorrow?

This may require some research on your part, depending on your goal.

For example, say your goal is to become a leader in your field. Some of the short-term goals you will prioritize to reach this personal leadership plan example may include the following:

  • Choose a topic or niche in your industry that you want to specialize in. 
  • Learn everything you can about the issue by talking to people in your industry, reading about your topic, attending seminars and webinars, and so on.
  • Educate others by writing regular blog posts.
  • Start a podcast and offer valuable information.
  • Give interviews on podcasts, local radio and TV stations, and news outlets.
  • Write a book and get it published.
  • Become a public speaker at industry conferences or hold your own conference.

Step 3: Create a Timeline for Achieving Your Goals

Setting deadlines in your personal development plan template is crucial. Without them, your goals can get lost in the everyday chaos of life or forgotten completely.

Write down a specific timeline for achieving each of your goals, but be realistic in your timing and know the likelihood ahead of time of achieving your goal within a certain timeline to avoid discouragement.

While you may want to become debt-free by next year, you will first need to do what is necessary to earn more income or reduce your expenses. This could involve getting more education, finding a better job, or making major life changes, which could take more than 365 days.

Once you assign a due date to each of your short-term goals, tackle the hardest goal first . This will help you realize you can actually achieve your goals faster and give you the motivation you need to propel yourself forward.

If you’re unsure of the timeline you should set for accomplishing your goals, speaking to other people who have achieved the goal you are striving for will help you set a realistic deadline. 

Conducting online research could also help in defining a timeline to accomplish your goals. 

Knowing that it takes four to five years to earn a Ph.D. in business lets you know how long it will likely take you. If you can only attend school part-time, you know it will take longer, perhaps twice as long.

Step 4: Analyze Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Write down your strengths and weakness. Remember that skills like perseverance, positive attitude, and creativity are strengths and weaknesses as much as educational level, experience, and having a strong network of professional contacts.  

Focus on the attributes that are needed to achieve your goal. Then, write how your strengths can help you achieve this goal and how you plan to overcome those weaknesses.

Use a SWOT analysis to organize your thoughts and develop a strong strategy for achieving your goal. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

Ask yourself questions similar to these to help you develop each part of a SWOT analysis:

  • What sets you apart from your peers?
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • What do others regularly praise you for?
  • What do people ask you to help them with?
  • What parts of yourself are you confident about?
  • What values are important to you?
  • What do you usually avoid doing because you don’t think you can?
  • What kind of tasks do you procrastinate?
  • Where are you lacking in skills, experience, or education?
  • What resources do you lack?
  • What areas do you feel you need improvement?
  • What gets in the way of your work performance or relationships with others?


  • What technology can help you achieve your goal?
  • What promotions or financial incentives are available at work?
  • Who can help you reach your goal?
  • What changes are happening or are projected to happen in your industry or personal life?
  • What conferences, classes, or networking events are available to you?
  • What are your competitors failing at that you can learn from and improve on?
  • What obstacles do you face that may hinder your progress?
  • Which of your weaknesses could lead to threats?
  • Who is trying to achieve the same goal that may get in your way?

Step 5: Write an Action Plan

Write actions that you need to take in order to achieve your goal. These can be things you need to add to your daily routine as well as things you need to eliminate from it in order to achieve the success in life that you are looking for.

Doing this will help you to achieve each goal faster.

Whether you use a notebook or your computer, just make sure you’re also physically writing down your plan so you can see it every day and hold yourself accountable.

Step 6: Measure Your Progress

The final step in your personal development plan template is to mark your progress.

Write down what has been working well, what you have accomplished, what you still need to improve, and what skills or knowledge you have gained along the way.

People who set up a system to report on their goals weekly achieve 40% more than people who do not. 

To help you in this final step, consider using a tracker to take notes, measure progress, and be analytical about what works and what does not.

Sometimes it is necessary to change courses midstream or add a step that you were not initially aware of. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your goal out of discouragement. It just means you need to adapt, and this is where a tracker can help you determine if it’s time to pivot.

Remember it’s okay to be flexible. Doing so will allow you to make changes when needed that will propel you toward your goal more efficiently.

This could be a good opportunity to use another piece of data about how people who write things down/journal are much more likely to be successful. 

Personal development courses, coaches, and programs can also help you hit your goals.

A personal development program accompanied by a personal development coach helps to keep you disciplined and moving forward.

If you are looking to transform your life, check out these courses and programs that include all of my knowledge, distilled into powerful lessons to help you achieve immediate success in your own life. They will teach you how to stop worrying and stressing out and how to take control of your life, forever.

Power of Personal Achievement

Learn the right way to visualize your ideal future. This course will teach you how to set your goals and methodically achieve them with more efficiency than ever before.

This program will teach you how to ditch the negative emotions that have been hindering your success as well as how to redirect your energy and resources towards your personal mission. 

The Science of Self Confidence

In this course, you’ll learn just about everything I’ve learned about self-confidence during the past four decades.

I reveal the secret of the four Cs that teach you how to escape the endless loop of failure. You will find your true self and, as a result, finally feel truly confident.

Maximum Productivity

This course will equip you with the skills to discover your special calling. You will learn everything you need in order to know how to take the shortest, fastest route possible to your destination.

Ultimate success is achievable when you know how to dramatically improve your productivity.

Create Your Personal Development Plan Today

Don’t wait to start improving your life.

Follow a personal development plan for work and your personal life or use a template to start accomplishing your goals and improving your life.

For the easiest way to get started, download my free Personal Development Plan Template to organize your goals over the next few months and years and optimize your success.

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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter , Facebook , Pinterest , Linkedin and Youtube .

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Personal Development: 9 Skills, Tips, and Examples

Why personal development is so important and how to improve yourself..

Posted June 7, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch


I am obsessed with personal development because it's helped me completely change my life. Only 10 years ago, I had no connections, no money, and worked a minimum wage retail job. Now, I have a Ph.D. from Berkeley, am the author of a book on how to generate happiness in the technology age , and have created a variety of well-being-boosting programs . And it's all because I worked on developing myself. So how do you make personal development work for you?

Personal development can include any skill that you build to improve yourself—your emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. It doesn't really matter which skills you want to improve; the key to personal development is taking the right steps—steps that help ensure that you reach whatever goal you are pursuing.

Learn more from the video below:

What are the most important personal development skills? It really depends on what you're trying to achieve. But here are 9 that I have found to be important to successful personal development.

1. Start by figuring out which personal development skills you need to build. The first step in any personal development strategy is to figure out how to best use your time. It makes little sense to learn how to code if you don't plan to be a coder or to bench press 400 pounds if you don't plan to be a weight lifter. These can be hobbies, but personal development is more about building skills to reach your personal goals . So it's good to take some time to self-reflect. (If well-being is a goal of yours, take this well-being quiz to see which skills you need to build.)

2. Develop entrepreneurial thinking. Everyone can benefit from learning how to think like an entrepreneur, regardless of whether or not you are one. Why? Because entrepreneurs are innovative, good at planning for all possible outcomes, and skilled at getting others to buy into their vision or dream. And perhaps more importantly for personal development, they tend to be adaptable to all sorts of situations.

By developing entrepreneurial thinking, you better adapt to whatever your circumstances are so you can more easily achieve your goals, whether those goals are to start a business that makes a positive impact in the world , to set yourself up for an early retirement , or climb Mount Everest.

3. Develop a growth mindset . If we have a “fixed mindset,” we may shy away from challenges that could help us grow. But this can be problematic because our fear of making mistakes can lead us to avoid challenges and new experiences—experiences which would help us grow, improve ourselves in important ways, and create the life we desire.

If we have a “ growth mindset ” we seek out challenges because we value learning and growth more than we value feeling smart or knowing what we’re doing. That's why those with a growth mindset often build new skills more easily: They believe they can and so they really work at it.

4. Develop your self-soothing mechanism. High levels of stress are not only bad for our health and well-being, they can prevent us from effectively pursuing and achieving our self-development goals. By learning effective, long-lasting relaxation techniques , your body and mind will be more equipped to handle the inevitable challenges that arise when you're trying to develop yourself.

5. Develop resilience . Resilience is that super-important skill that helps you bounce back quickly after being knocked down. This is one of the most important skills for success because none of us will achieve anything if we don't keep trying when we fail. We can build resilience by improving skills like emotion-regulation , mindfulness , and positivity.

6. Develop your value compass. It's not always easy to live by our core values . But when we go through life without following our personal values, we can easily get lost. We may suddenly "wake up" and realize that we are not who we want to be or where we want to be. This is why it's so important to stay in alignment with our personal values.

What are your values? Perhaps: kindness, curiosity, creativity , hard work, or personal relationships. Define your personal values so you know which actions are in alignment with those values.

7. Create a personal development plan. A good personal development plan takes all these factors into consideration—the WHAT, the HOW, the WHY, and the WHEN. And it focuses on long-term goals . So ask yourself:

how to write my personal development plan

  • What skills will you build?
  • How will you build them?
  • Why will you build them?
  • And when will you build them?

It can be helpful to create a 10-year plan to map out how you'll reach these goals.

8. Record your progress towards personal development. Keeping track of our progress as we move toward our personal development goals is key to making sure we're on the right track. Then we can pause and take a different direction if we've gone off course. By maintaining self-awareness and frequently checking in with ourselves, we can identify things that we need to devote more attention to. As a result, we can make better progress toward our personal development.

9. Keep developing yourself in new ways. The science is clear: The more ways we develop ourselves, the broader our skillset, and the more success we tend to have. So try learning some new emotional skills or do some activities to build new skills. You just might learn something that changes your life.

Facebook/LinkedIn images: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. , is a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology.

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How to create a personal development plan [example]

how to write my personal development plan

Creating a personal development plan can help you grow at work and beyond.

A personal development plan can help you gain control of your life. Whether you have big goals (publish a best seller) or small ones (read one book a month), the best way to hold yourself accountable is to write your goals down, set deadlines, and revisit the document often.

This post contains information and resources to help you create a personal development plan :

  • 4 best practices

To start, I’d like to share my own personal development plan as an example.

This is my personal development plan.

Before I explain how to create a personal development plan, I’m going to let myself be vulnerable. I’m going to share my own real-life personal development plan. Here’s why:

  • Leaders should be transparent : As a manager, how can I expect my employees to open up and be honest with me if I’m too afraid to open up and be honest with them? 
  • Personal growth should be celebrated : Let’s shed the stigma attached to the term “self-improvement.” Whether you’re trying to learn a fifth language or quit smoking cigarettes, setting goals and working to reach them is admirable. 
  • Writing a personal development plan can be overwhelming : Maybe you went through a brainstorming exercise and came out with a mountain of goals. It can be hard to know which goals to prioritize—and how to format the document. Examples help.

Who should create a personal development plan? Everyone in the company, from the CEO down to the individual contributors. No matter who you are, you can always develop skills and knowledge; you can always become a better version of yourself. 

For years, I struggled to find a personal development format I liked. Then a co-worker shared hers with me, and I’ve been using her template ever since. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.

Without further ado, here’s my   personal development plan :

how to write my personal development plan

I love this format because of its simplicity. As an added bonus, the fun rainbow colors make me smile every time I look at it. And that positive feeling fuels my growth mindset—it pushes me to stretch beyond my comfort level to become better. 

How to create a personal development plan

Here are four best practices for creating a personal development plan—and ensuring its efficacy:

1. Think categorically.

This personal development plan template works because it takes the guesswork out of goal setting. It pushes you to think categorically about which short-term and long-term goals you’d like to focus on. Many employees think their boss wants them to prioritize professional growth, but that’s just one piece of the personal growth puzzle. 

This template spotlights six personal development categories that span Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs . You can modify these to fit your own unique needs. For example, you might add spirituality, volunteering, or mental health. 

It can be helpful to run through a brainstorming session using a comprehensive personal development template . Then, with lots of great ideas in front of you, use the simpler template to organize a few goals you want to prioritize.

how to write my personal development plan

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2. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

If you think S.M.A.R.T. , you’ll be better positioned to achieve your goals. The acronym stands for simple, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Instead of “Make more money,” shift the focus to how you’ll get there—with concrete deadlines: 

  • Earn my x certification (by August)
  • Lead a cross-functional project (by December)
  • Mentor a junior employee (1x per month through the end of the year)

Setting small, attainable goals—and achieving them—actually helps build confidence .

business leader focused on personal development

3. Schedule regular personal development meetings.

At many companies, personal development is something employees and managers do once a year then soon forget about.

Managers should schedule regular personal development meetings—quarterly at a minimum. I meet with my direct reports monthly to go over their personal development plans and see what progress they’ve made. This shows them I’m invested in their growth, which builds trust and engagement. 

I also share my goals with my team so they can hold me accountable. It’s a subtle way of teaching them to manage up, and it builds their leadership skills. (Check out this leadership rubric if you have a minute.)

4. Set a calendar reminder to hold yourself accountable.

Personal development plans only work if you use them. I’m in the habit of referring to my plan at least once a week. But until you develop the habit yourself, set calendar reminders to prompt you to visit the doc regularly.

Eventually, you might not need the reminder. Ideally, you’ll be driven by the feel-good endorphins that get released every time you cross another goal off your list. 

Lead by example.

Leaders should model the behavior they want to see. When you keep focused on growing and learning , your employees will be more likely to develop the same mindset and follow suit. You could also give your employees access to tools like the PI Inspire solution , which will help them grow and develop self-awareness. Here’s a sneak peek of my personal development chart within the software (the self-coaching tips are really helpful):

personal development chart

Erin heads up content marketing at PI. Her claim to fame? She's the only Erin Balsa on LinkedIn.

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A Personal Development Plan (PDP) Guide & Template

What is a personal development plan.

Personal development is an ongoing process that drives you to improve your knowledge, skills and experience, so that you can achieve your goals. A personal development plan (or PDP) is a method of focussing your goals into achievable steps, which helps you keep track of your personal development.

Download Free PDP Example/Template

Why Should I Create a Personal Development Plan?

Your plan may be aimed at your education, career or personal goal, or a mixture of all three – that is up to you to determine. Whatever the case may be, a good plan will provide you with a clear sense of focus. It helps you map out a path towards your goals, strategise a plan to achieve them, record the actionable steps you will take, and set a timeframe for completing them. Focussing your goals into a PDP helps you maintain your vision, keep on track to achieve your targets, and reflect on your progress.

Simply put, a PDP can help you build a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.

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A clear plan can also support your positive mental wellbeing and improve your level of satisfaction. It can provide a sense of direction, purposefulness and a feeling of success as you start to fulfil your potential. All of these can have very positive impacts on your mental health. 

Therefore, discovering what your goals are, getting organised and giving yourself a sense of direction can be incredibly beneficial. This article will give you an understanding of how to write a personal development plan, as well as provide you with a handy template to support your development journey.

How to Write a Personal Development Plan

There are seven steps to writing a PDP:

  • Set yourself goals.
  • Prioritise those goals.
  • Set yourself deadlines for when you want to achieve them.
  • Recognise threats and opportunities.
  • Develop your skills or increase your knowledge.
  • Use your support network.
  • Measure your progress.

person filling in PDP diary progress

1. Set Yourself Goals

The first step is to set yourself goals . Think about what you want to achieve, whether that’s within a few weeks, within a year, or over your lifetime.

Deciding what you want is not only the first step in planning, it’s also the hardest. Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, that goal will provide clear direction and a structure for your resulting plan.

At this stage, your goals will feel big. You might be wondering how you are ever going to achieve them. Don’t worry – the next step is to prioritise and turn those goals into smaller, actionable steps that will support you on your way to achieving them.

2. Prioritising Your Goals

Now that you have your goals, the next stage is to break them down into smaller steps. When doing this, it’s important that your goals are SMART:

  • Specific. Avoid large, ambiguous steps. These won’t support you on your way to achieving your goals. Insted, make sure that your goals are specific and clearly highlight the skill, knowledge or experience you want to develop.
  • Measureable. You need to be able to monitor and reflect on your progress. Therefore, your goals need to be measurable, such as by setting a goal to develop your SEO knowledge with a measurable target of growing your website traffic by a set, defined percentage.
  • Attainable. Your goals need to be achievable and realistic. You need to think about if it is something you can realistically achieve with the time and resources you have. If not, you will likely be setting yourself up for failure. 
  • Relevant. It’s important to keep your overall goal in mind and make sure that every step you take is supporting you to achieve it. You don’t want to be spending time doing things that don’t get you where you want to go.
  • Time-bound. Set yourself key targets to achieve and deadlines in which to achieve them. This will help you stay focussed on achieving your goals. However, it’s important to make sure you are realistic in what you can achieve in any given period. Don’t try to achieve everything all at once. It’s unrealistic and you won’t be setting yourself up well to achieve them. Remember that personal development is a journey – your PD plan can continue to grow and develop as you take those steps towards your goals.

Once you have your goals, you’ll need to prioritise them. 

In your PDP, you should be setting yourself mini goals to make the big ones happen.

For example, if you wish to pursue a career in academia as a senior lecturer and then a professor, a necessary step to succeeding in this goal is to achieve a PhD. So that would be one of your long-term goals. You then need to break it down into steps, such as:

  • Learn about the PhD application process.
  • Find a suitable university and supervisor for a PhD.
  • Look at routes for funding.
  • Find studentships to apply for or apply to your university of choice.
  • Write and submit your PhD application.

3. Set Yourself Deadlines

Knowing when you want to achieve a goal is crucial, and picturing your future is an important source of motivation and inspiration.

Having goals and a set deadline will drive your motivation to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to buy a home, knowing when you want to achieve it will help you calculate exactly how much money you need to save each year in order to get your deposit. The same is true for your skills, knowledge and experience development. As mentioned above, setting realistic and time-bound goals are essential to achieving them. 

One good way to understand more about achieving your goals is to speak to those who have previously trodden a similar path. Learning about  their experiences can help you understand key barriers to, or methods of, success that may also be applicable to your PDP.

typing up a personal development plan

4. Recognise Threats and Opportunities

When considering your goals, you should identify your own strengths, consider areas of weakness you can develop, look at the opportunities available to support you in achieving your goals, and any threats that may hinder you in your progress. This is called a SWOT analysis. Note that these threats may be external or they may be core skills that you can develop as part of your PDP.

For example, a lack of motivation could hinder your plans to apply for a PhD. However, once you’ve identified your tendency to procrastinate or lose focus, you can put in place methods that will keep you motivated.

There are also going to be things that you could do, and connections with people or resources you could take advantage of, that will help you on your way. These are your opportunities that you should commit to doing.

For example, if there’s a conference coming up, take advantage of that. Go along and network, stay up to date on the latest knowledge, or even present a paper. These are all opportunities that could help you achieve your goals.

5. Develop Yourself

Once you have an idea of what could help or hinder you, this is when you can capitalise on those opportunities you recognised. Make an action plan about how you’ll make that progress.

Whatever it is that hinders you, there’s a way to stop it. Your plan is the first step to making sure you stay on track. 

So, why not take a look at how to upskill yourself , develop transferable skills in today’s rapidly changing jobs market, or even discover an online learning opportunity .

6. Use Your Support Network

The next thing you need to realise is that:

You don’t have to do everything by yourself.

And you shouldn’t. The support network around you is a valuable asset, so use it and don’t underestimate it.

In your PDP, list the people who can help you. This could be a financial advisor, a friend, or a colleague. People are often so happy to help you, more than you might realise.

friends supporting PDP

7. Measure Progress

After you’ve achieved some progress, whether it’s big or small, take time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

Recognising what has gone well is an effective way to bolster your motivation and remain dedicated.

And after a setback, this is another time to take stock.

Wallowing – briefly – is a good way to feel what you need to without holding on to it. Holding onto sadness, anger or frustration, however, will only deter you. These emotions will take you nowhere and will only hinder you.

You should also spend a little time figuring out why it went wrong. Can you identify a skills or knowledge gap? 

 If you can, then you can get yourself back on track by focussing on your next step. This will reignite your sense of purpose and help you regain control, which is integral to making progress.

Continue to reflect on your progress. You can gain significant insight from your reflections and this can help you grow. Remember that you should update your plan where necessary. Don’t overload it at any one time but, once you have achieved your small steps, reflect and then update your plan to focus on your next move.

Free Personal Development Plan Example & Template

In this article, we have discussed how you can create your own personal development plan, so you should now feel ready to start considering your goals and developing your own plan. To help you produce an effective personal development plan, we have created an editable template that you can use. Take a look at our example PDP, and download your free template below:

Further Resources:

  • How to Upskill Yourself
  • What are Personal Development Goals for Work?
  • Using Key Phrases in Performance Reviews & Appraisals
  • Resilience Quiz
  • How to Stand Out in a Virtual Interview: Preparation Tips
  • Business Essentials Courses

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Her favourite article is Five Top Learning and Development Trends for 2020

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How to Create a Personal Growth and Professional Development Plan

A woman reviewing her personal growth and professional development plan on sticky notes

What sets you apart from your peers?

Can you speak a second language? In a room full of professionals in your field, how many are great at public speaking or understand how to work across word processing platforms? Are you naturally great at reading people, but your ability to build workplace relationships needs improvement?

Personal and professional development are distinct avenues of self-improvement, but the two go hand in hand. For example, suppose you’re interested in creating a personal or professional development plan or working toward personal growth. In that case, you're likely to experience a pleasant side-effect of learning new skills or strengthening abilities you already have, that is, achieving your personal goals for work.

How to Create a Personal Development Plan

Dr. Shanita Williams , associate vice president of people experience at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), also an author and a TEDx speaker , said she uses a specific approach to guide her thinking when creating a personal development plan. She recommends these 5 steps to help you make your own personal development plan:

Step 1: Define Results and Motivation

Considered by Williams to be the first and most crucial step, a vision for your personal development plan starts at the finish. “Start with the end in mind,” Williams said. Ask yourself what goals you wish to achieve and consider where you want to start.

In setting your personal growth goals, Williams said, knowing why you want to improve yourself is essential for your motivation to maintain your success. “Take some time to think about what you want to achieve, and you’ll truly set yourself up for success,” she said.

Step 2: Determine Required Skills

The next question you need to ask yourself once you understand your goal is: “what skills do you need to achieve this outcome?”

“You may have several skills that are needed to achieve the results you desire. Do not become overwhelmed,” Williams said. “List them all so you can explore all possible avenues for development.”

Ask supervisors, peers or a personal development coach for help identifying the skills you’ll need to work on or add to your toolbox.

Step 3: Perform a Skills Self-assessment

Some skills come naturally, and others take a lot of work to become proficient. Williams suggests you self-assess the skills needed to achieve your personal growth goals. Which skills do you already possess, and which ones will take some time to learn?

Don't be afraid to ask for an outside perspective from supervisors or friends when considering which of your skills could use some development. Consider the skills you already have and how you perform under stressful conditions.

For example, you know you can give a presentation to peers and supervisors in a meeting room, but do you know how you would perform giving that same presentation to a crowded auditorium? You can build upon skills you already have to be even more capable.

Step 4: Isolate One Skill

Pick one relevant skill to help you discover the area you will focus on first. This one skill should be something you can work on that will help you get closer to your goal.

“This (skill) might be obvious,” Williams said, “and in some cases, it might be challenging (to identify).” However, identifying and working on these skills one by one can make the personal development process less overwhelming and help you reach objectives faster.

Step 5: Develop an Action Plan

For your personal development plan, Williams said it’s “important to determine what success looks like and put a plan in place.” Williams uses an objective-setting method referred to as “ SMART goals .”

This method helps you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound . Know what you want to achieve. Don’t try to do too much too fast. Celebrate your successes. Make deadlines you can meet and stick to them.

Examples of Professional Development

Dr. Shanita Williams with the text Dr. Shanita Williams

You know you want to make yourself an asset, but where do you begin? Consider these options for professional development.

1. Formal Development

Participating in workshops led by instructors knowledgeable in your field can advance your understanding of new concepts and adds to your skills. In addition, you can take advantage of online media, like Khan Academy’s Hour of Code , to sharpen your professional skills or advance your knowledge of areas in which you have limited experience.

2. Social Development

You can join an industry association, such as the Small Business Association ( SBA ) or the American Nurses Association ( ANA ), to connect with others in your field and gain support. Additionally, being a member of professional associations and attending conferences focused on your field can help you network.

Another way you can add to your social development is by finding a mentor  who does what you want to do and is willing to help guide you on your path toward professional development. Learning from those whose success you want to emulate can make you better at what you want to do.

3. Experiential Development

Challenge yourself with skills-based practice. Link up with project teams that allow you to test your skills and push yourself further. Putting your skills to the test in real-world scenarios will help you understand what works and doesn’t — and what you still need to improve.

Which avenue of professional development is right for you? “I have found that your learning style will influence how you select your professional development,” Williams said.

So, pursue professional development opportunities that match your learning style or use a mix of all three. Using a combination of methods works for Williams, who said doing so “helps to engage my head, heart and hands in my development.”

Can Personal Growth Be Professional Development?

Different career fields suggest different approaches to using personal growth for professional development. “Some industries require a specific number of hours demonstrating the skills in the field, while others may only require a certain number of education credits for professional development,” Williams said. “These requirements vary by industry and position, so it’s important you speak with your supervisor or other professionals in the field, so you have a plan that will set you up for success.”

Williams said she had witnessed personal growth leading to professional development many times in her career. She’s seen personal growth goals, such as becoming a better communicator  and mastering conflict management , lead to professional development.

“I have also seen professional development goals  that have led to personal development as well,” Williams said. “If you are truly developing, you notice things like (your) confidence improve in various areas of your life.”

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU degree program  that can best help you meet your goals.

Ashley Wallis '16 is an Army veteran and writer with a BA in English Language and Literature from SNHU. Find her on Twitter @AshDWallis .

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About southern new hampshire university.

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs . Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU  page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.

How To Write A Personal Development Plan In 4 Easy Steps

Table of Contents

In this blog, we’ll show you how to write a personal development plan.

Not just for your career but for your personal life, too. Why?  Why is personal development important?  Because without one it’s too easy to forget about making progress. Without a plan, you fall into the helpless habit of being inactive.

Inactivity isn’t necessarily laziness – it’s very possible to feel fulfilled and busy in your life even without a plan. But having one helps you stay focused on improving yourself and spending more time on constructive activities that are important to you.

Here’s what  Bill Gates said  about planning:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction”

Gates is a guy who knows a thing or two about planning and success. So take notice!

A plan helps you organise your goals into achievable steps so that you can vanquish inactivity from your life. In this blog, we’ll find out how to write a personal development plan in four easy steps.

Why make a personal development plan in the first place?

If you want to run a half marathon, how would you go about it? To train, you could start by running the full distance on your first day. Unfortunately, that might get you injured and defeated right from the start.

A better way to approach that goal is to set up a program for achieving your fitness dreams. How far do you have to run today? What about tomorrow? What days should you rest to let your body recuperate?

Breaking your larger dream into actionable items helps you make incremental steps – that’s what a personal development plan is all about. It’s also important to consider whether it’s a  personal or professional development  plan you need. Still not convinced? Check out ‘ why do I need a personal development plan ?’.

How to write a  personal development plan in 4 steps

Without further ado, let’s look at 4 simple steps for how to write a personal development plan. It’s possible to do it in an afternoon or even to make some notes while you read!

Step 1.  Identify your “why”

The first step of how to write a personal development plan is to look inward. You need to answer some personal questions before you can do analysis or set up goals. Start by asking yourself “ why ?”

Your “why” happens to be your mission statement. It’s something that defines you and describes the way you want to fit in with the world around you.

For the half-marathon example, your mission is a lot loftier than simply “I want to run 24 km.” It would instead look like “I want to exercise more often in order to feel better about myself.”

Has a nicer ring to it, doesn’t it?

Or, if you were chasing a new job, your mission statement could be “to get a promotion and take on more responsibility, challenge myself and better support my family.”

Both mission statements don’t just describe  what  you want to do – they have an element of  why  which will be the main motivator during your personal development.

Step 2. Do a SWOT analysis

Armed with a mission statement and an understanding of what you want to accomplish (and why), you’re ready to move on to some analysis.

A  SWOT analysis  is a way that you can chart out your personal development in a visual way. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard.

Start by dividing a paper (or a computer spreadsheet) into four sections: strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.

To use the half-marathon example:

  • In the  strengths  column, write down areas that you excel in. You may currently be an avid hiker or have competed in track and field back in secondary school.
  • In the  weaknesses  column, make an honest assessment of some of the things that might hold you back. These are things like your TV binge-watching habit or your lack of confidence to sign-up for the race in the first place.
  • In the  opportunities  column, write down things that might make it easier to achieve your goal. You might be comforted by the fact that the half marathon isn’t a competitive race – you’re only interested in finishing for your own personal goals, not to compare yourself to other runners.
  • In the  threats  column, note down the things that might prevent you from achieving your goal. Will an insufficient support system (including your friends, personal trainer or a workout buddy) stop you from running your first half-marathon?

The best thing about the SWOT analysis is that it denotes, in a clear and visual way, the entire ecosystem of your personal development situation.

For instance, by comparing your weakness (poor motivation) with one of your threats (lack of support system), it might become clear that you should convince a friend to train and run the race with you. Together, you’ll stay accountable and rely on each other for motivation.

You can further compare the other quadrants with each other to come up with similar and concrete action items to help you start formulating a plan.

Step 3. Make sure your goals are SMART

So far, you’re off to a good start with your personal development plan. Now you need to add some goals. Your SWOT analysis can inform you of the types of goals that support your personal development mission, but can’t describe them in an efficient way. That’s where the SMART system of goal-setting comes in.

A goal should be:

  • Specific : don’t be vague about your intent.
  • Measurable : how can you track progress?
  • Achievable : it should be realistic.
  • Relevant : focus on the main purpose of your objective.
  • Time-bound:  it needs to be anchored in time (with a start and finish).

To illustrate, let’s look at an example of a goal: “Spend less time watching TV and more time exercising.”

This might seem like a good statement at first. In reality, it has good intentions but it will be difficult to accomplish. It’s vague because it doesn’t really specify your purpose, which is to train for a half-marathon.

There’s also too much going on with the statement. Is your goal to spend less time on the couch or to run more? The two may be related, but they should probably be separate goals instead. It’s simpler to focus on one objective per goal.

Lastly, there’s no set time period for you to track your progress. It could last forever and you won’t really know if you made an impact!

Now let’s look at a SMART statement: “For the first month of training, run two times a week for at least 5 km.”

See how it’s cleaner, easier to measure and highly specific? It has every element of the SMART principle.

Step 4. Future-proof your plan

You’ve learned how to write a personal development plan. It has an overall mission statement and goals that are supported by thorough analysis. Now what?

It’s time to future-proof it. You need to know that, despite your best efforts, you can’t possibly guess how your life will change over time. Therefore, you can’t include absolutely everything into your plan.

That’s why it’s perfectly natural for your plan to change and evolve over time. Be sure to review it every now and then to update it. Doing so will improve it and will ensure your plan reflects your shifting personal priorities.

Another great way to future-proof your plan is to separate it into different periods. To do so, denote what goals you want to accomplish in milestone-worthy timeframes: six months, one year, two years and so on.

And that’s it! To learn more about self-development check out our blog  why is personal development important .

How to write a personal development plan, and take charge of 2023

Advice on planning the next chapter in your personal story

how to write my personal development plan

Written by Dan Parry • 9 March 2022

how to write a personal development plan

Personal development plans are exclusively, shout-it-from-the-rooftops, all about you. While there’s more than one way of putting a plan together, whichever way you choose there’s a fundamental thing worth remembering about personal development. There’s also a simple mistake to avoid. Ultimately, it’s your own plan, the next chapter in your story. Here’s how to start writing it.  

Putting a personal development plan together

Appraisal season is approaching, bringing with it the traditional ‘List’. Sometimes, even the slenderest whisper of personal development can create a kneejerk need to start listing things – future goals, past failings and so on.

A list might feel like progress, kind of, but personal development is more than that. It’s a definition of who you are and who you want to be. It’s shaped by meaningful objectives. If you’re not sure about yours, it can be a mistake to rush into a list. Behavioural statistician Joseph Folkman believes that development plans are more likely to fail when they are “not driven by the individual”.

Skip lists for now and instead start by thinking about you, in honest self-evaluation. Focus on your future. What are your development goals over the next 12 months, or maybe the next five years? This might involve emotional fulfilment at work, staying open to new ideas, mental and physical health, and perceptions of yourself and the world around you.

These thoughts will shape your personal development plan (PDP), the next chapter in your story. It starts with where you are now and moves towards whatever you want next. You have to think about the end first, which is always the way when writing a story. Where do you want to get to?

SMART objectives

Personal goals can include more than just professional development at work. What are you looking to focus on overall, whether in your career or in your personal life?  For example, you might want a change in your personal circumstances (such as finding a new home), or you might feel that your job isn’t delivering the values you believe in.

These thoughts might help you see that you’re looking for additional income, or more recognition at work, or more responsibility. By focusing on broad objectives, you can begin to think about the necessary steps to achieve them. A SMART strategy brings structure to your objectives, making them easier to reach. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: stay focused about what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: Keeping track of your progress will help boost your motivation.
  • Attainable: Set realistic goals within your control.
  • Relevant: Does your goal fit into your overarching objectives?
  • Timely: Set yourself a deadline, this too will help with focus and motivation.

Writing your personal development plan – with SWOT analysis

Ultimately, your PDP is an action plan. Think of it as a narrative. It begins with where you are right now, then nails down the necessary steps that will help get you to where you want to be.

After you’ve worked out your objectives, maybe try a strategy such as SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, it’s a planning technique widely used to help manage decision-making processes. Think about:

1. Strengths 

The skills and attributes you already possess, including your current position at work, your contacts, and your aptitude for bigger and better things. Together, they serve as your springboard towards achieving your objectives. Ask yourself:

  • What do you know you’re good at?
  • What skills and attributes give you an advantage over others?
  • What resources or contacts do you have that are unique to you?
  • What do people acknowledge you to be good at?
  • What achievements – whether in or out of work – are you proud of?

2. Weaknesses

The areas you need to improve and develop to meet your objectives. Weakness here doesn’t mean ‘permanent failing’, think of it a temporary gap to be bridged. Weaknesses become weaker once they are identified and managed. Ask yourself:

  • Which skills make you feel queasy when you think about them?
  • Which skills do you know you should be better at than you actually are?
  • What are the barriers in your head that obstruct development?
  • Do you have any habits that get in your way?
  • Do you sometimes feel undermined by a lack of confidence? If so, when?

 3.  Opportunities

What do you need to achieve your goals? More often than not, you’ll need to create your own opportunities. These can range from looking for a new role, a new company, a new contact, or even a new way of life. Once you know what your objectives are, you can identify the opportunities you need to achieve them. Ask yourself:

  • Is your role/company/industry on the up? Is there a sense of momentum?
  • If you’re looking for something new, is there an undeveloped niche to explore?
  • Do you know the right contacts who can assist you?
  • Can you hunt down the perfect role, even before it’s advertised?
  • Is there something new at work you can do that will stretch your skills?

Change isn’t easy. Progress can be obstructed by lack of motivation, lack of obvious opportunities and a lack of support from others. In all these things, where there’s a will there’s a way – which is why you started with your ‘will’ (desire/objectives) first. Pursue your objectives. If they matter, you will find a way to achieve them. Ask yourself:

  •  What do you need to keep an eye on? Eg, competition, software developments.
  • How far are you able to control your weaknesses, and perhaps soften them?
  • What’s on the horizon, externally? For example, is your company about to be sold?
  •  Are you making any false assumptions? If so, think about your earlier self-reflection.
  • Are you overly relying on hope? If so, look again at creating opportunities.

Lifelong process

A personal development plan is not a box to tick at an appraisal, or a list to make yourself feel better. It’s a process. It’s driven by thought, it’s shaped by objectives and it’s delivered by action. It can fulfil personal and professional ambitions, via new skills that can benefit both.

It’s the roadmap to your continuing professional development, which – according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that help you manage your learning and growth. In particular, skills in self-management and wellbeing will help you develop a mindset that’s ready for change. According to the NHS, learning new skills is one of five key areas that can support your mental wellbeing.

Once you’ve written your PDP, it doesn’t end there. Follow your plan and track whether you are achieving your outcomes or not. Personal development is a lifelong process. It’s never too late to start being who you know yourself to be.

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How to Create a Personal Development Plan

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What is a personal development plan?

What to include in a personal development plan, how to create a personal development plan, personal development plan template.

If you have a vision for what you’d like your career to look like in the future, you should consider creating a personal development plan. Making a specific plan can help you to ensure that your goals become a reality. Learn more about what a personal development plan is and how you can create one to help you succeed in your career goals.

A personal development plan is a set of goals and objectives you create to help you achieve the life you want. Creating a personal development plan involves setting goals, analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, creating objectives and reviewing your progress. You can use a personal development plan to help you work on achieving your desired career goals or your vision for any area of your life. 

A personal development plan typically includes the following:

  • Statement of purpose or goals
  • List of strengths
  • List of areas to develop
  • Analysis of threats to development
  • List of development options or opportunities
  • Clear objectives
  • ‘Start doing’ and ‘Stop doing’ lists
  • List of people who can help
  • Benchmarks for reviewing success

Since personal development plans are based on your individual needs, you can include or delete any sections that you pref. Including these standard sections, however, helps guarantee that your plan is clear and complete.

Consider using these steps to make your personal development plan:

1. Firstly, determine your goals

The first step in creating a personal development plan is determining your long-term or end goals. You can do this by envisioning what success or happiness looks like to you, or asking yourself where you’d like to be in two, five or 10 years. Make a list of these goals as you think of them.

In writing down your vision for the future, you might end up with multiple goals for multiple areas of your life. It can help to create a mind map to categorize your personal development goals, such as dividing career goals, health goals and goals for other aspects of your personal life into different plans or sections of your overall plan. If you have many large goals listed after this step, you may need to prioritize what is most important and save some goals to work on at a later date. 

2. Secondly, identify your strengths and weaknesses

After deciding what your long-term goals are, perform a self-assessment to evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses. A thorough and honest assessment will help you create objectives to achieve your goals. You can use these lists to plan how to use your strengths as much as possible to achieve your goals and what areas you need to develop in order to be successful.

3. Thirdly, look for development opportunities

Once you know what your weaknesses are and what your areas of development are, you can begin to find ways to improve. If you need to learn a new skill, for instance, you could look for online classes, find a mentor, ask your supervisor for an opportunity to practice that skill or set aside time each day to spend learning it.

It is good to find as many learning or development opportunities as you can, and then you can determine which ones are best for you and set clear objectives for taking advantage of those opportunities. If any of them turn out not to be possible for you, you may still have other viable options left from your research.

4. Next, identify any threats

Just as important as identifying ways you can improve is being aware of anything that might hinder your improvement. Understanding any threats to your development can help you to include them in your plan and solve those problems before they occur to promote your best chance of success. Common threats to consider are time management, costs and the ability to maintain a work-life balance.

5. Fifthly, set clear objectives

After your analysis of your goals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can determine specific objectives that will help you reach your goals. It is helpful to use SMART goal criteria for this step. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. These criteria help to ensure that you can and will achieve your objectives.

Many personal development plans include a ‘start doing’ and ‘stop doing’ list of actions during this step. As a result of your previous analysis, you can create a clear list of things you need to start doing and things you need to stop doing in order to achieve your goals. These lists should be in addition to your specific objectives.

An important part of creating objectives is determining a clear timeline or deadline for each one. Required or expected completion dates help motivate you to work and provide clear benchmarks to assess your progress. It can also help to plan small rewards for yourself as you achieve your objectives to give yourself motivation.

6. Then, consider seeking help

Personal development plans often include a list of people who might be able to help you with your development. Consider any friends, family members, colleagues, teachers and supervisors who might be able to mentor you, connect you with learning opportunities or check on your progress. Letting others know of your development goals and objectives can increase your motivation as well as provide you with opportunities, support and guidance.

7. Finally, review and refocus

In addition to setting deadlines for your objectives, you should set regular checkpoints in your personal development plan for you to assess your progress. Use these benchmarks to determine if your plan seems successful. If you are moving toward your goals faster or more slowly than you expected, you can then adjust and refocus the plan as necessary.

You can use this template as a starting point for creating your personal development plan:

Long-term goals

[Use bullet points or small paragraphs to clearly define what your end goals are.]

[If necessary, include this section to show which goal(s) you are focusing on first.]

[Use bullet points to create a list of your strengths.]

[Use bullet points to create a list of your weaknesses.]

Possible learning opportunities

[Use this section to record your research into opportunities for developing your goals or improving your weaknesses.]

[Make a list of anything that might prevent you from achieving your goals.]

[In this section, write down clear objectives, or actions that you will take to achieve your goal. Include deadlines or timelines for each one. You should have a variety of objectives, such as how you will use your strengths, how you will improve your weaknesses and how you will circumvent any obstacles.]

Start doing

[Make a list of things you need to start doing to achieve your goals and objectives.]

[Make a list of things you need to stop doing to achieve your goals and objectives.]

People who can help me

[Include a list of people who can be resources of development or support for your plan.]

[Leave room in your plan to assess and record your progress. You could make a list of what is working well and what might need to be changed.]


What is a personal development plan?

Last updated on 18th May 2023

What Is A Personal Development Plan

In this article

To achieve success and happiness in your education, career and personal life, you should continuously improve your knowledge, skills and experience. This is known as personal development, which is a continuous lifelong process.

Personal development is beneficial for you as an individual and also for businesses and society as a whole. If you are making the most of your abilities and skills, this will positively impact your life and others around you. According to the NHS , learning new skills can improve your mental wellbeing, as it gives you a sense of purpose and boosts your confidence.

A simple and effective way of keeping track of your personal development is by completing a personal development plan. If you don’t have a plan, it will make it difficult for you to focus, and you are unlikely to meet your goals – whatever these may be. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you find yourself now. It is never too late to start your personal development plan. Most people have completed one at some point during their education or careers. If you haven’t, there is nothing to worry about, and there is no time like the present to start planning.

This article will help you learn what a personal development plan is and how a SWOT analysis can help you identify things that could help or hinder your progress. It will also give you tips on how to write a personal development plan and what to do after you have completed it.

SWOT Analysis Group Meeting

A personal development plan, which is also known as a PDP, is an action plan that you can use to identify:

  • Your individual goals and what you want to achieve.
  • Your strengths and weaknesses.
  • The areas you need to improve and develop to meet your goals.
  • What you need to do to achieve your goals.
  • Anything that could hinder your progress.

A PDP is a form of self-evaluation and self-reflection that is typically used in higher education and the workplace. However, it can also be a beneficial exercise in your personal life. For example, you may want to learn a new language before travelling overseas, and a PDP can help you achieve this goal.

In the workplace, a PDP is completed as part of an employee’s Continuing Professional Development ( CPD ), which is defined by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) as:

“A combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help you manage your own learning and growth”.

Employers will sometimes use PDPs as part of their appraisal process, which is known as a Performance Development Review (PDR).

Benefits of a PDP

The benefits of a PDP are:

  • It provides you with clear goals.
  • It helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  • It improves your employability.
  • It improves your performance.
  • It increases your motivation.
  • It helps track your progress.
  • It improves your sense of purpose.
  • It enhances your mental wellbeing and reduces stress.

Overall, a PDP gives you the best possible chance for success and maximises your potential.

Using a SWOT analysis

You can use a SWOT analysis as a starting point to help you create your PDP.  SWOT  stands for  S trengths,  W eaknesses,  O pportunities and  T hreats. You can use these four areas as a framework to identify what could help or hinder your personal development. If you don’t analyse your SWOT, it is unlikely you will succeed in achieving your goals.

When you are conducting your SWOT analysis, you should look at your current situation and ask yourself various questions relating to these four areas.

Some example questions are:

  • What are you good at?
  • What advantages do you have over others?
  • Do you have any resources available to you that others do not?
  • What do others say about your strengths?
  • Do you have any achievements you are proud of?
  • What skills do you struggle with?
  • What areas do you need to improve upon?
  • What holds you back?
  • Do you have any bad habits?
  • Do you avoid certain tasks due to a lack of confidence?
  • What do others say about your weaknesses?


  • Is the industry you are in/looking at in a promising position?
  • Is there an undeveloped niche in certain markets that you can tap into?
  • Do you have contacts in your network who could assist you?
  • Can you take advantage of the mistakes others are making?
  • Is there an opening for a position not advertised externally yet?
  • Is there a project you can assist with that will help you develop different skills?
  • What could derail your success? E.g. competition, finances, changes in technology and any other obstacles.
  • Is there a risk of your weaknesses becoming threats?
  • Are there any external changes beyond your control that could be a threat?

It is important to be as honest as possible when answering these questions, particularly when looking at your strengths and weaknesses.

How to carry out a SWOT analysis

The above is just an example, and you are likely to have far more detail in your own SWOT analysis.

  A SWOT analysis aims to:

  • Promote your strengths.
  • Reduce your weaknesses.
  • Exploit the opportunities available to you.
  • Minimise threats to your success.

You can learn more about SWOT analysis on the CIPD’s factsheet .

Someone Writing Out and Planning Their Personal Development Plan

How do I write a personal development plan?

All PDPs are different. How you write yours will depend on whether you are completing one for personal, education or work reasons. A PDP is also specific to you and based on your individual goals. Therefore, your PDP and what you include will be different from anyone else’s.

In education and work, PDPs are likely to be in a specified format. Employers may also have their own procedures and processes for conducting PDPs as part of an annual appraisal (PDR). In these instances, you should follow your employer’s procedures when completing your PDP.

Regardless of the reason why you are completing a PDP, here are some general steps you can follow to help you write yours:

Step 1 – Complete a SWOT analysis

You should complete a SWOT analysis as the first step of your PDP and as a self-assessment.

That way, you can:

  • Identify what could help or hinder you in achieving your goals.
  • Evaluate your existing skills, knowledge and interests.
  • Identify if you have any transferable skills that could help you achieve your goals.
  • Use the results when setting your goals.

You can use our free SWOT analysis template to help you. Please hyperlink here if you want to use the template and/or delete this sentence.

Step 2 – Set your goals

Think about the things you really want to achieve in your education, career or personal life. To meet your overall aims, you should set goals so that you can fulfil your objectives.

Make a list of your goals and ensure they are SMART, which means they should be:

  • Specific – Your goals should be specific and precise rather than generic. – You should state exactly what you want to achieve or change. – An example of a generic and weak goal would be – I want to be a better public speaker. – An example of a SMART goal would be – I will attend a training course on presenting to help me improve my public speaking skills, as I lack confidence in this area, and it’s holding me back.
  • Measurable – Having a quantifiable goal will make it easier to track and achieve. – For example, I will compare three different courses for content and price. I will enrol on my chosen course within one month.
  • Achievable – Your goals must be realistic and attainable. – Ask yourself whether you can achieve them in a certain timeframe. – For example, I have got the funds available to pay for the course. I also currently work part time, so I have enough time to study.
  • Relevant – Your goals should relate to your overall aims and longer-term ambitions. – For example, a lack of confidence in public speaking is one of my weaknesses, and I feel it is holding me back in my career and personal life.
  • Time-bound – Set realistic timescales to achieve your outcomes. – Ask yourself when you want to achieve your goals by. – Split your goals into short term, medium term and long term. – For example, I will complete my course within the next three months. I will also evaluate whether it has improved my public speaking skills.

Having SMART goals makes it easier for you to achieve them and updating your PDP when you have completed them.

Step 3 – Create your action plan

Once you have your clear SMART goals, you should break them down into action points, which will make them more manageable. You can put these points into an action plan with your priority goals at the top.

There is no requirement for your PDP action plan to be in any particular format. It can be handwritten or typed and tabulated or free-flowing text. Whatever format you choose, you should ensure that it is easy for you to produce, follow and update.

Step 4 – Detail the strategies and resources for achieving your goals

You now have your list of goals in your action plan, but how will you go about achieving them? Now you should write down your strategies and resources you need to achieve your goals.

It can include:

  • Further training, e.g. enrolling on a course.
  • Research, e.g. websites, journals and books.
  • Hands-on experience, e.g. volunteering.
  • Taking on new projects or responsibilities.
  • Professional advice, e.g. from a mentor.
  • Guidance and shadowing during supervision.
  • Speaking to people in different roles.
  • Time needed for the strategy to be effective.

Step 5 – Assessing your progress

Finally, you should note in your PDP how you will monitor and assess the progress of your goals. For example, you may be continually assessed throughout a course, and you would use the assessment results as milestones for achieving your goals.

Checkout our free PDP and SWOT templates below!

Download our free PDP template

Download our free SWOT Analysis template

What happens once I have completed my personal development plan?

Once you have completed your PDP, it doesn’t end there. You need to follow your plan and track whether you are achieving your outcomes or not. If you are not achieving your goals in your specified timeframe, you should identify the reasons why, rectify and update your plan. If you are successful in achieving your goals, you can tick them off and add new ones to your list. Remember, personal development is a lifelong process.

You may find that things do not go according to plan, but you should not worry or let this put you off. Your PDP is not set in stone. It is a flexible guide that you can adapt as and when the need arises. Ask yourself whether you are making the correct choices to get to where you want to be.

It is important to remember that a PDP is not a one-off exercise. It is a continuous process of development, and it should be a working document. You should regularly review and update your PDP to make the most of your personal development.

Personal development (whether it is for education, career or personal reasons) is important, as it helps you achieve your desires and fulfil your potential. If you are achieving what you want in life, it will improve your mental wellbeing and overall happiness, which will have a far-reaching positive impact.

Some, particularly in workplaces, will look at PDPs as an unnecessary exercise that cannot help them achieve what they want. In these cases, it is usually due to PDPs being used as a tick in the box when annual appraisals come around. To prevent this, employers must look at PDPs as an investment, as employee personal development will benefit their business. Employees should also use it as a good opportunity to improve their knowledge, skills and experience.

If you complete your PDP properly and use it in planning and achieving your goals, you are more likely to succeed in your career and life in general. If you don’t have a plan, you are likely to procrastinate and flounder. Remember what Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Why not use our free PDP action plan template to help you. Please hyperlink here if you want to use the template and/or delete this sentence.

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About the author

Michelle Putter

Michelle Putter

Michelle graduated with an MSc in wildlife biology and conservation in 2012, but her career has taken quite a different turn to the one expected. She started in health and safety in 2009 and has worked in several industries such as electrical engineering, aviation and manufacturing. She has been working with CPD Online College since 2018 and became NEBOSH Diploma qualified in 2020. In her spare time, Michelle's passions are wildlife and her garden. She has volunteered for many conservation organisations and particularly enjoys biological recording. Michelle also likes hiking, jogging and cycling.

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How to Write a Personal Development Plan

I want you to think back on the past year in your life. Do you feel like you made significant progress in life? Can you say without the shadow of a doubt that you grew as a person during the last year? Or, did you catch yourself wasting important time on mindless activities that lead you nowhere? Do you feel like you have no control over your life, spending your days in a rush? If you finally want to kick gears in your development, then writing a personal growth plan is the #1 thing you can do. The power of having a precise plan lies in the fact that you are able to focalize all your activities in the right direction. This does not only give you more control over your life but will also help you to stop drifting along doing whatever comes to your attention.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Think of your personal development plan as an attack plan for your life. This plan is necessary for the battleground called life where you develop strategies, implement the tactics and arrange the necessary logistics for a prosperous future.

The importance of writing a personal development plan

Do you know exactly where you want to be in the future? Can you answer in great detail where you see yourself in one year— or even in five years ?

Most people have no idea where they are going. They allow coincidence and luck to decide their fate. They all go somewhere, but more often than not this is a place where their own development is absolutely neglected. Don’t be one of them! Don’t let others decide over your life.

The importance of planning ahead is multifold. One benefit is that you will be confronted with the (sometimes daunting) question where you want to go. It’s an important question that should not be overlooked. If you have no destination, then it doesn’t matter where you go. If it doesn’t matter where you go, then you will eventually stop walking as lying around is more comfortable.

But once you start writing down what you want to achieve, you will drastically increase your chances of becoming the person you want to be. I can tell you from my own personal experience that whenever I committed myself to the thorough planning of realistic goals, I always managed to achieve what I wanted to accomplish. In one way or the other.

The importance of planning is further highlighted by scientific research , which has shown that writing down goals increases your chances of success.

Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals. Dr. Gail Matthews , Strategies for Achieving Goals

Let’s move on to the next question.

Why should you write a personal development plan?

The big advantages of having a personal growth plan include:

  • Having a destination – Precise knowledge where you want to go
  • Planning the path – You’ll develop strategies to reach the destination
  • Knowing the obstacles – You’ll discover what obstacles could lead to failure
  • Understanding the greater plan – You’ll know exactly why you are doing what needs to be done – even if the going gets tough

How to write a personal development plan?

The contents of a personal growth plan.

The process of personal development planning revolves around the creation of an action plan that is based on your ambitions for development in areas such as career and education but also self-improvement. In general, the plan contains a statement of a future reality and the way you intend to realize it.

Most people are facing difficulties when it comes to the question what they should include in their personal development plan. Very broadly, your plan should contain the following five criteria:

  • What you want (or where you want to be)
  • Why you want it
  • How you plan to accomplish this vision
  • The potential obstacles, risks, and dangers
  • How you plan to overcome the difficulties

You can also include alternative plans that you can quickly execute in the case of failure .

It can be beneficial to thoroughly answer the following questions, before developing the plan:

  • What do I really want to make out of my life?
  • What kind of a person do I really want to be?
  • Do I have a vision that I want to see implemented in this world?
  • What are my goals and ambitions?

What are my dreams?

  • Are my current decisions leading me exactly where I want to be?

As a side note, I recommend formulating goals using the SMART criteria :

  • Specific – target a specific area in your life that you want to improve
  • Measurable – specify how you want to measure progress
  • Assignable – decide who will have to do it
  • Realistic – sets goals that can realistically be achieved
  • Time-related – specify when you want to accomplish the goal

Elements of the personal development plan

Planning isn’t difficult. What is difficult, though, is creating a plan that will actually get you where you want to be. This also means that you will have to identify everything that won’t get you closer to your goals.

This is what you need to do in order to specify your individual development plan :

1. Taking an inventory

Stocktaking might be the most difficult part of creating your PDP. It requires you, to be honest with yourself and the situation you find yourself in. The analysis of your current situation helps you to identify the areas that you can work on in the future.

This stage also requires you to reevaluate your goals and ambitions. More on this subject later in the section Personal Development Plan Examples.

2. Writing a mission statement

Having a personal mission statement can be helpful to people who want to be able to evaluate the purpose of their actions and activities. Such a statement helps you to ask yourself if whatever you are doing contributes to your mission, or not.

3. Short and long-term planning

When developing a personal development plan it is crucial to separate your plans into short, medium and long-term sections. If you are only planning in the long run, you will most likely neglect the importance of planning of short-term actions.

4. Reassessing your plan

The continuous reassessment of your plan allows you to develop responses to recent developments. It will further help you to meet better decisions at the present moment.

5. Committing and taking action

What is the purpose of having a plan if you do not execute it? Make sure that you won’t forget your plan. Be committed to it and take the action that is necessary to implement it.

The details of the plan

Your personal development plan should also detail how you plan to improve in what kind of areas. You can consider the following learning opportunities:

  • Reading/Literature
  • Training on the job
  • Joining groups

There are much more ways to gain exciting skills in new knowledge. Let’s continue with some examples.

Personal development plan examples

A personal growth plan can be broken down into the following areas:

1. What do I want to accomplish in life?

What’s the true purpose of my life?

The importance of knowing what you were born to do should not be underestimated. It gives you the necessary foundation on which you can build your plans for the future. However, discovering your life’s purpose is a complex process which takes time. For further reference consult: How to Discover Your Purpose in Life .

Example : It is my vision to help create a better world by making the world’s knowledge easily accessible for every human being.

We all grew up with the most ambitious dreams, only to lose sight of them once we grew older. Don’t make the mistake of rationalizing the very dreams away that inspire and motivate you.

2. What kind of a person do I really want to be?

What are my beliefs and values?

Ask yourself what it is that you stand for—the beliefs you hold and the values you appreciate.

Who am I now and who do I want to be in the future?

The analysis of who you are at this present moment and the person you want to be in the future helps you identify areas to work on.

3. What are my goals?

Don’t underestimate the importance of having realistic but inspiring goals. These goals should, preferably, be separated into short, medium and long-term goals. A short-term goal has at times been of approximately half a year. Medium-term goals approximately 1 to 3 years and long-term goals 5 years or more.

4. What are the necessary milestones?

Many people only focus on the setting of ambitious goals, without realizing the importance of also specifying the necessary milestones they need to accomplish. Having milestones allows you to break a goal down into several sub-goals. Doing so will allow you to maintain the necessary motivation, even when you are working on a long-term goal.

Personal development plan template

A personal development plan allows you to get an excellent impression of the direction your life is heading. I have prepared for you a free template that you can use to write down your goals.

You can download the personal development plan template here .

Tracking your progress

After you have finalized your personal development plan it is important to regularly track your own progress. After all, having a plan is important, but it is useless if you do not check whether or not you are following your plan.

For this purpose, make sure to write down records of your own accomplishments and the problematic areas that need more attention.

Celebrating your successes

I do not only recommend that you should celebrate each and every success on your journey but also would like to highlight the importance of rewarding yourself. Having an excellent reward in mind that you will only get once you have accomplished an important milestone will further increase your motivation to go the extra mile.

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker

What are your experiences with writing personal development plans? We’re excited to hear from you in the comment section below.

Further reading:

  • Tips for creating your IDP
  • Using IDPs to leverage strengths

About Author

Steve is the founder of Planet of Success , the #1 choice when it comes to motivation, self-growth and empowerment. This world does not need followers. What it needs is people who stand in their own sovereignty. Join us in the quest to live life to the fullest!

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This is one great article. Developing your personality would really help you to be successful in all aspects of life. you can also join us at success permission as this will really be your guide.

Thanks a lot.

People of all kinds of plans for the professional life. But I never thought about writing down a personal plan for my own development. Thanks for pointing this out.

You’re very welcome.

Is it beneficial to write a personal development plan?

Yes indeed it is! Having a plan will allow you to better focus all your actions in the right direction. It’s like having a goal, it’s what keeps you going and will motivate you to seek improvements in all areas of your life. But on the other hand, if you don’t have a goal their actions are not focused enough, which will more often than not result in problems.

I’m too lazy to write a plan, but after reading this I think it could be important.

It absolutely is, and you will benefit greatly from it.

Writing a personal growth plan is a waste of time.

I don’t think so. Without having a plan a person’s actions might become unfocused. But if you do have a plan, you know what you have to do and why you have to do it.

hi can you help me in my pdp

Yup a waste of time for people that are not commited to their PDP.

This made me realize that I should probably develop such a personal development plan as well.

Such great advise….so important to have the direction of a plan 😉

Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

Great ideas, never knew a personal development plan exists.

It’s very interested article. my problem is when I make a plan I forget after days.

I always recommend to write the plan down and to read it at least twice a day. This way you won’t forget it.

for most folks, I suspect they are preoccupied with work activities before and after designated work hours and really dont have the ‘spare’ time to allocate to spending on personal development…

the reality of life and employment these days is that employers expect employees to be available via phone or email practically 24hrs a day – whilst absurd, it is real. Employers provide smart phones for convenience and connectivity – and stupidly, most employees see this as a good thing.

When work starts in the office and ends in the office, then yes – people will have the time to review personal development, but until organisational culture changes or social expectations of work/life balance are adjusted into balance then for most, personal development is just a pipe dream.

you can combine your personal plans with your career/work goals, that way it wont be work and instead a personal development that will benefit all aspects of your life. How might you enlighten your organization and bring this to the foreground? Be the creative leader that you would want to see.

I could not agree more with you on this. I work with an organization that emphasizes work life balance and active PDP yet I am reminded that my industry is a 24 hour business that never sleeps, so I have phone, email, and laptop with 24 hours internet connectivity to ensure I can help customers, do my reports, plan my work and still have time for family and personal development. It’s like, do these employers actually think we are robots, still I like my company. So at the end of the day, the expectations from work, family and life is so great that you can’t help but just strut along…

I thank you so much for y our guidance through personal development plan. but will like you to help me plan with a short summary.

Pls give me a personal development plan statement

Thank you so much for your article, im really starting to evolve now after 5 years of heavy depresion. I have known the problem for a while but this could really help me execute the plan by simply making 1. Thanks again!

You’re very welcome. I wish you all the best.

Great article, Steve. The most enlightening part of the process of creating your plan is in seeing all of the various options we have able. There are so many dimensions to our development. But without a clear plan, the whirlwind of distraction makes it difficult to build momentum.

I thought this would be a big waste of time. But as I read your article I think how was I getting thought life with out a plan.A plan is something that I am afraid of I have a good job, with good insurance I would think that is OK but it is not. When I want more out of life then just a job I want a career.

Fab article, thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to reading your article on finding your purpose in life next but before I do, I just wanted to say…

I’ve been using Personal Development Plans for the last 5 years and the process has contributed greatly to my successes. I say the ‘process’ because I’ve always found the journey to be far more valuable than the final product. Of course, plans are useful but the insight you get from thinking about what you want and how to get it is immense!

As Eisenhower once said “I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

This article is quite useful, I find it difficult to make plans, but I just realised that it would be of great help in my future dream position. please help me with a template to develop my.

Thanks so much for the great and healthier sharings about setting out a PDP… strongly I stand with and second you. Also, its one of the key lessons under my recent book entitled: DEVELOPING A MASTER-SERVANT-HEART, which addresses a number of key selling points that each person needs to embrace for a quality livelihood at all disciplines. My brother, STEVE MUELLER, I strongly agree with you. Life without a goal (PDP) is not worth living and NOTE/ REMEMBER: it is not important to the beholder and the society at large.

A personal development chart is like willing to do all kinds of work step by step. Thanks for this beautiful article.

Reading this article made me feel like I can do what I am achieving. I know that at times I feel like giving up but if I better manage my time, I know that I can’t achieve my goals.

Sincerely appreciated. I’m grateful for this wonderful article. Keep sharing!

My plan is writing now a need to let go of fear and move forward.

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How to Start a Personal Development Plan

Last Updated: July 10, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Amy Wong . Amy Eliza Wong is a Leadership and Transformational Coach and the Founder of Always on Purpose, a private practice for individuals and executives looking for help in increasing personal well-being and success and in transforming work cultures, developing leaders, and improving retention. With over 20 years of experience, Amy coaches one-on-one and conducts workshops and keynotes for businesses, medical practices, non-profits, and universities. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Amy is a regular instructor at Stanford Continuing Studies, holds an MA in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University, a certification in Transformational Life Coaching from Sofia University, and a certification in Conversational Intelligence from CreatingWE Institute. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 132,596 times.

At some point, everyone wants to improve or change things in their lives. A personal development plan can help you reach the goals you have been dreaming about. Whether you want to take on new challenges, enhance your work performance or change unhealthy habits, creating a personal development plan is a great way to ensure success.

Becoming Goal Oriented

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 1

  • Health and fitness
  • Relationships
  • Habits and lifestyle choices

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 2

  • Make sure your goals are stated in the positive. For example, "I will.." not "I might" or "I hope..." The more confident your statements are, the more motivating they will be for you.
  • Be specific when you write down your goals. For example, instead of "I will lose weight" try "I will lose 5 pounds by increasing my activity level and decreasing my caloric intake."
  • At the bottom of the page make a section called "Action Steps" and write down all the steps you will take to help push you towards your goals. For example, "I will walk one mile per day" or "I will eat a fresh salad every day."

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 3

Believe in Yourself

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 5

  • Ask yourself if you are giving it your best effort.
  • Check to make sure you are following through with each goal.
  • If you stumble, make sure you are willing to recommit and move forward.
  • Choose to learn from your experiences, win or lose. [6] X Research source

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 7

  • Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Don't let your vague fears hold you back from doing what you want to do.
  • Find the optimistic viewpoint in a negative situation.
  • Cultivate and live in a positive environment as best as you can.
  • Add value and positivity to someone else's life.

Getting Organized

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 10

  • Check your local paper for community educational classes.
  • Go to your local library and source out books and read them.
  • Learn from other people's experiences and knowledge and commit to an online course or seminar that will inspire you.
  • Ask friends that are successful in the area you want to improve in what resources they use.

Image titled Start a Personal Development Plan Step 11

  • Check to see if you are on track with your deadline. Perhaps you need to kick it up a notch and take more small steps to achieve your goal.
  • Make sure you are challenging yourself enough. If the goal is becoming too easy to attain, perhaps you need to make the goal more challenging by adding a new component. For example, "I run two miles a day" instead of "I run a half mile a day."
  • Check to see if you are still inspired by your goals. If not, reorganize them until you feel more enthusiastic.

Expert Q&A

Amy Wong

  • Start with something that you can achieve in a short amount of time so you don't get discouraged by how long it's taking to finish. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Do not rush. Take one step at a time in order to get positive results. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Celebrate your successes when you complete a goal. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write my personal development plan

  • Remember that these changes will take time. Consistent pursuit will result in solid success. Thanks Helpful 20 Not Helpful 3

You Might Also Like

Be a Better Person

  • ↑ http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2014/04/08/why-you-should-be-writing-down-your-goals/
  • ↑ http://ideas.ted.com/the-science-of-setting-goals/
  • ↑ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-sykes/5-entrepreneurs-share-the_b_7717262.html
  • ↑ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bradley-foster/how-to-set-goals_b_3226083.html
  • ↑ Amy Wong. Leadership & Transformational Coach. Expert Interview. 30 April 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization
  • ↑ http://www.inc.com/jason-zook/why-you-should-find-an-accountability-partner.html
  • ↑ http://zenhabits.net/review-your-goals-weekly/

About This Article

Amy Wong

To start a personal development plan, start by writing down the things you'd like to change about yourself, such as a smoking habit or your general fitness. Then, use those things to come up with specific, attainable goals, like, "I will lose 5 pounds in 2 months." Once you have some goals, consider how long each will take and give them an appropriate timeline, such as one month, six months, one year, five years, and so on. Then, at a set time each week, review your progress for the last week and set new action steps for the upcoming week. For more tips from our co-author, including how to stay committed to your goals, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to write my personal development plan

The Ultimate Personal Development Plan Template That Will Get You Noticed

  • What is a personal development plan?
  • How to use a personal development plan
  • How to make a good personal development plan
  • Personal Development Plan Template
  • What are personal development goals?
  • Best practices for setting personal development goals
  • Examples of most common personal development goals
  • Personal development goals for work examples
  • Common mistakes to watch out

Employees look for training and personal development opportunities at their respective companies. The lack of these opportunities is one of the main reasons they decide to quit. HR professionals and team leaders can avoid this using a personal development plan template to help employees reach their personal development goals. In such a case, it would be a win-win situation for both the company and the people working there. 

A proper template ensures you help individual employees work on their weaknesses and build up their strengths. This is a direct way to set personal development goals and find the shortest way to reach them.

According to a survey , 94% of respondents said they would stay at the company longer if it invested in their careers. In addition, professional and personal growth leads to higher retention. Besides, 58% of employees claim that professional development contributes to their job satisfaction. Moreover, employees who feel respected, empowered, and as if they are making a difference are much more likely to stay in a company—those who don’t have less than a 35% chance of staying. 

A proper template ensures you help individual employees work on their weaknesses and build up their strengths. This is a direct way to set personal development goals and find the shortest way to reach them. It enriches their experience at work and has a positive impact on their career. 

On top of that, it also attracts new hires to your company. Almost 60% of millennials list development opportunities as key factors in applying for a job. As this is the case, it’s high time you work on your employees’ personal development.

Let’s take a closer look at a personal development plan and see how it correlates with personal development goals to tap into each employee’s power. Keeping that in mind, we should start with a personal development plan and later proceed to personal development goals for everything to make perfect sense. 

A personal development plan (PDP) is an agreement between an employer and employee that outlines that team member’s objectives. It wants to empower employees to analyze their professional life and work on self-improvement.

Employees can easily achieve goals when they have a clear picture of their performance. They understand what it takes to reach a specific milestone because of their personal development plan.

HR professionals and managers usually help employees create a personal growth plan. However, team members don’t need to wait for their next performance review to learn new skills and identify areas that require improvement.

They can make a personal development plan themselves. Employees can establish short-term or long-term goals and set realistic deadlines to fulfill them.

Having a personal development plan template helps all parties. You can just fill in the required fields and create a clear plan for an individual’s development. Add an HR management tool to that equation, and you’re set to take your workplace to the next level.

  Related: Top 12 Performance Review Software in 2023 ‍

Remember that a PDP must be tailored-made for a specific employee. You can’t take someone else’s plan and expect it to work for them. Each person has different skills and experiences. The plan reflects that.

Why is it important?

 Personal development is all about a process of self-improvement. The plan helps employees:

  • Outline specific goals and what they should do to achieve them
  • Identify the strengths that ensure they grow in their personal and professional life
  • Recognize what skills they need to overcome their existing weaknesses

It is essentially a roadmap that guides them through the process of achieving goals.

What kind of benefits can you expect from a personal development plan? Here are the improvements you will see with a good PDP in place:

  • Boosts employee motivation – a personal development plan makes employees aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They can use their strengths to work more productively and learn how to minimize their weaknesses. This boosts their motivation and encourages them to do more. 
  • Minimize staff turnover – it can cost more to find a new hire than it does to retain an existing employee. You should give your employees a personal development plan template to show them you’re committed to their improvement. They are more likely to stay at the company if they have a plan.
  • Advances existing skills – employees create a career plan focusing on their development. They identify performance development areas so that they can grow in the workplace. While improving existing skills, they also acquire new ones to achieve career goals.
  • Improves goal-setting – a PDP outlines both long-term and short-term goals. Managers can teach employees how to break down those goals to make them more achievable.

Related: Performance Development That Fuels Team Efficiency ‍

A PDP benefits both the company and the employee. Introducing personal development plan templates makes the process easier for managers and HR professionals.

Let’s see how you can use a PDP.

Unlock employees true potential

According to research , 74% of surveyed employees think they don’t progress at work due to a lack of development opportunities. You can help them reach their full potential with a personal development plan.

A PDP is an effective way to learn a new skill or master a particular one. Employees can also use it to boost their careers. They just need help from their managers or HR team members.

If you’re a team lead or an HR professional, you can use a personal development plan to:

  • Conduct a skill-gap analysis – a PDP helps you understand which skills your employees lack. The company’s subsequent training efforts should strive to fill the gap.
  • Identify employees who want to grow – this plan also identifies team members who want a promotion. For example, let’s say your company is looking for a Project Manager. Instead of hiring someone outside the company, you can promote one of your employees.
  • Align employee goals with business goals – one-on-one meetings reveal individual goals. When you know a team member’s career growth plans, you can align them with business goals and help them grow.

Related: 5 Meeting Agenda Templates to Use Right Away ‍

Remember, most employees crave professional development opportunities. If you disregard their development needs, you’ll have a team of dissatisfied members. How can a company grow when the employees aren’t happy?

How to make a good personal development plan

You should go through several steps to create an effective personal development plan. We’ll list those steps below.

  • Ask employees to perform a self-assessment

It all starts with us. We can’t grow or improve if we don’t reflect on ourselves. That’s why your employees must do a self-evaluation first. After all, they know their interests, professional life goals, skills, and knowledge best.

You can ask them the following questions to fuel their path to self-improvement:

  • How satisfied are you with your work progress?
  • Is there something you can do to reach your full potential?
  • What are your career goals? Do you have the skills to achieve them?

Employees can reflect on their performance and determine what they can do to develop personally and professionally.

  • Set clear goals

personal development plan

Every employee should know what they want to achieve in their career. If they don’t, you can help them set and achieve goals. These objectives should reflect their strengths and personal development plans.

When creating a PDP for your company, we suggest you focus on SMART goals. They are:

  • Specific – the goal should be precise and to the point. There’s no room for ambiguity. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to write an article this week,” your employee should say, “I’m going to write a 2,000-word B2B article.”
  • Measurable – there should be criteria that measure progress. You can agree on how you will assess whether they’ve achieved the goal.
  • Achievable – ensure your employees don’t set unattainable objectives. They should know if their skills and resources make it possible to achieve a goal.
  • Realistic – your employee should be willing to work towards achieving an objective. This depends on their skills, so they should evaluate them before agreeing to something.
  • Time-bound – encourage them to set a realistic deadline to meet their duties.

Setting these goals helps employees split their objectives into smaller, more manageable milestones. They complete a goal one step at a time which derives great pleasure and satisfaction.

Related: The Best Performance Improvement Plan (+Template)

  • Determine which strategies to implement

After setting the goals, it’s time to consider how employees will achieve them. The strategies vary depending on the objective.

For example, if an employee wants to work their way up the career ladder, they might want to attend an online course that helps them expand their knowledge. They should consider the skill set they need and the best way to build those skills.

  • Explore resources

Employees cannot achieve professional and personal growth without any further resources. It’s impossible to learn something new if you don’t have some help along the way. You can help employees determine which resources they need.

Those resources include online courses, learning platforms, interactive flipbooks , conferences, niche-specific articles, webinars, and even training. Look at their personal development plan to figure out what can benefit them.

If you follow the above steps, you can make a good personal development plan for your employees. One thing that can help you—having a personal development plan template.

As your company grows, you’ll have to focus on more and more employees. Each of those employees requires their own plan. Not to mention, you must follow their career development and growth after the goal-setting process.

What can you do to make the process more manageable? You can use a personal development plan template.

Using a template for personal development needs is quicker and more efficient. Imagine if you need to create personal development plans for every employee. This would be time-consuming.

Don’t make this mistake—use personal development plan templates. These templates help you create a clear picture of your employee’s goals and the steps they should take to reach them.

You won’t need to worry about missing important information that can affect your employees' personal development.

We have prepared a personal development plan template to jumpstart your team members’ success! The template is concise and identifies areas your employees need to answer to achieve success. 

You can use the following personal development plan template to help your company grow with talented individuals.

Personal development plan template ‍

Employee name: _________________

Position and title: _________________

Date: _________________

Development area: _________________

Personal development goals: _________________

Top strengths: _________________

Areas to improve: _________________

Development opportunities: _________________

Action plan: _________________

Skills and knowledge needed for personal growth: _________________

Necessary resources: _________________

Evaluation period (how often will you check the progress): _________________

Deadline: _________________

Review (How am I doing): _________________

Personal development plans are the way best to get to know your employees and see how your company can influence their success and growth.

Here is an example of a completed personal development plan template:

Employee name: John Doe

Position and title: Social Media Manager

Date: July 30 2022

Development area: Time management

Personal development goals: Organize my time better to help my team members and learn how to prioritize tasks

Top strengths: Social media planning and delivery, communication skills, writing engaging content

Areas to improve: Time management and organizational skills

Development opportunities: Become a team leader of the company’s social media department

Action plan: Use to-do lists to better organize my day, track each task’s progress, report my progress to a supervisor

Skills and knowledge needed for personal growth: Time management and leadership skills

Necessary resources: Online courses about social media marketing, tools to better track the performance of social media posts and analyze our audience

Evaluation period (how often will you check the progress): Every month

Deadline: Three months from today

Review (How am I doing): N/A (to be completed every month)

Use personal development templates like this to make the process simpler and more time-efficient!

How to get started with a template

Achieving personal growth is easier with personal development plan templates. But the journey doesn’t end there. You must also take certain steps to ensure your employees are improving and meeting their goals.

Here are some strategies you can take after an employee submits their personal development plan: 

  • Review the plan immediately – make sure to go over an employee’s plan. You must check if their goals are attainable and clear.
  • Remind employees to check the plan periodically – a team member might forget what areas they need to improve. You can remind them to read their plan to see if they are working on the right skills.
  • Assess their improvement so far – you can plan a one-on-one meeting with an employee. Ask them to be honest and tell you how they are doing, if they need additional help and which changes they see.
  • Determine their success – personal development plans are about creating specific goals. The plan would be futile if you don’t check if an employee has made progress towards their goals.
  • Decide what to do next – if you find any issues, you must devise a solution. Don’t abandon your employee—show them you're committed to their success!

When you know all about the personal development plan, it is time to proceed to the next crucial step, setting personal development goals. These two aspects come toe-to-toe and are vital for making goals and planning a reality.

‍ What are personal development goals?

Personal development goals, or self-improvement goals, are the objectives people set to improve themselves in many ways, including habits, mindset, skills or even work ethics. 

Although personal development goals are not necessarily connected to the job setting, they can 

help people improve their professional and personal lives.

Some of the most common areas for personal development goals include:

  • change of mindset
  • improving hard skills
  • working on social skills
  • character building

How can they help people?

Working on personal development goals has many benefits, but here are five areas where it can help employees the most:

Better focus  

One of the biggest benefits of setting personal development goals is a better focus and a clear sense of direction. Clear goals inspire people to act and easily decide on their next steps. This pushes them to be proactive and get more things done in their personal and professional lives.

Free time endlessly scrolling on the phone without a clear purpose or spreading work throughout the day is easy. Specific goals will motivate people to become more proactive and efficient.

Increased productivity

Goal setting teaches individuals prioritization techniques. This way, it is much easier to decipher what matters the most and take care of it instantly.

Another major advantage has concrete, measurable goals to work towards. This makes it possible to evaluate people’s success precisely and encourages them to keep improving. The more goals they tick off, the more satisfied they will be. Over time, this will also increase general productivity. 

Better professional relationships

Self-improvement goals can improve the quality of people’s relationships with their colleagues and business partners. By becoming a better version of themselves, they're inspiring everyone who gets in touch with them to do the same. Their growth mindset is reflected in others as well.

As a consequence, positive relationships in your team could dramatically improve. People in self-development tend to be better listeners and more compassionate toward others.

Improved work-life balance

Employees that don’t have a healthy work-life balance are prone to burnout more than others. That’s why this aspect shouldn’t be neglected. Employees should be encouraged to pursue their passions and learn new skills that don’t have to be work-related.

Personal development goals can help people find time for themselves and remember who they are outside of their job. Consequently, they will become more motivated, and their productivity at work will improve.

Career advancement  

Finally, working on personal development goals can positively affect professional life and bring professional success to everyone. Many skills are transferable, meaning one can use them in other areas.

Communication skills, soft skills, and creativity — are all crucial for success at work. New skills can help employees better serve customers and even get promotions. Sometimes working on personal development goals can bring insights and ideas that can revolutionize how you work.

personal development plan template best practices

As an HR or business mentor, your job is to share some resources on goal-setting with your team. Of course, each person’s goal will be different, but here are some universal strategies that everyone can benefit from, regardless of their goal.

Here are some points you can ask your employees to do:

  • Identify what you want

 This is a fun exercise you can do as a team. According to one statistic, employees engaged in meaningful activities are 87% less likely to leave the company.

You can ask them the following questions:

  • What goal would make the biggest difference in your life? 
  • Is that goal in alignment with your vision for the future?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to learn but never seemed to have enough time for?

This exercise helps them connect with their personal development goals deeper, which will help them commit. When it becomes hard, and it feels like quitting, it's important to connect with your why and remember why you started.

  • Set milestones for your goal

Big goals are not only frightening, but they can also be too vague. The next step is to break your personal goals into achievable milestones.

There are three good reasons to do so:

  • The goals become more doable.
  • You feel more motivated to work towards your goals.
  • It's easier to measure your progress.

For example, someone's personal development goal could be to learn French. That's too vague. That person would be much more motivated if they created smaller goals for each month or week. 

  • Set a day and time to work on your goal

As Michael Hyatt once said: What doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. Set yourself up for success by turning your goals into plans. It means that you should allocate time and space where you will be dedicated to working on your goal.

It will be much easier if your goal becomes part of your routine. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, especially in the beginning. The most important thing is to make it a habit.

How to Build the Best Employee Development Plan

The 90-Day Review Template to Keep Your Business on Track

personal development plan template

Here are the most common personal development goals related examples: 

  • Improving your communication skills . This goal can improve professional relationships, the atmosphere of the whole team, as well as the results you get with clients.
  • Mastering time management - Time management is one of the most important skills for your own success. Today it's even more challenging due to the distractions around us. One can learn different time management strategies from books, but it's important to try them and choose those that work in your life.
  • Mindfulness - Mindfulness is one of the most effective stress management techniques, and everyone in the corporate world needs it. Your mindfulness practice could consist of meditation, visualization, breath work, or sitting silently for a few minutes every morning.
  • Developing a growth mindset - A growth mindset is essential for success. Maybe you need to work on your mindset if you've been stuck lately. Some of the ideas include journaling, affirmations, or reading self-improvement books.
  • Networking - One of the common goals is to grow your network and meet more people. This can be done through organizing networking events or joining clubs and communities on the topics that interest you.
  • Learning a new skill - The best way to keep your brain sharp is to challenge yourself to learn a new skill! Choose something that interests you, whether crochet or graphic design and be patient with yourself because every new skill takes time.
  • Creative thinking - Many people don't know it, but creativity can be learned! You need to give yourself space to let your mind wander, and ideas will come. There are also different exercises to boost your creativity, from design thinking to creative writing.
  • Reading habit - One of the most common New Year's goals is: I'd love to read more books this year! Reading has many benefits, and it can be a life-changing habit. It's important to set realistic goals for yourself. Your first goal shouldn't be to read one book a week. Instead, your goal should be to get into the habit of regularly reading.

We'll now go into more detail and show you how to set personal development goals properly.

Improving leadership skills

Leadership is one of the most valuable assets that can benefit your employees in many ways. According to Forbes , it helps employees boost productivity, engagement, and independence. 

Here is how your organization could help employees improve this skill:

  • Organize internal workshops - You don’t need famous motivational speakers and leaders to organize a successful workshop. You can also organize internal workshops where managers and executives share their practical experiences with younger employees.
  • Organize leadership challenges - It’s important to understand that one doesn’t need a title to be a leader. It’s about behavior and the way you treat others and tackle problems. To make it more fun, you could organize leadership challenges where each employee has to do one small task that shows leadership capabilities.

Become a better networker

If one of your team member’s goals is to become a better networker and create stronger relationships, you should first ask them to define what it means for them and why it's important. Next, they should list actions that will get them there. The steps should be concise and easy to follow.

The list may look like this:

  • Read a book about communication
  • Talk to people that are great networkers
  • Practice being an active listener
  • Commit to going to networking events every month
  • Reach out to your new connections

They should also set some milestones, for example, I want to meet 10 new people by the end of this month. And then, you can create a plan of how they will do it.

If you know that someone in your team lacks accountability, you can encourage them to share their goals with your other colleagues so you can support each other. 

As an HR, you could also introduce your team to the concept of an accountability buddy. It means that each person gets another person that keeps them accountable. They’re here to support each other and track their progress together.

Common mistakes to watch out for when setting development goals

common mistakes in personal development plan template

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when they set personal development goals:

The goal is not measurable

One of the first rules of goal setting is that personal goals should be clear and measurable. If people can't measure your progress, how can you know they're going in the right direction?

Some might say that certain goals are simply not measurable, and that's true. However, in that case, you can help people track their activities. They can measure how much time they dedicate to the goal weekly to ensure they're on the right track.

The goal is not something people want

The worst thing is to choose a personal development goal just because it's something that's "good for people" and "should be done". Achieving personal development goals requires time and dedication. That's why it's essential to help your employees choose a goal that's meaningful to them.

People don't have the right mindset

A positive mindset is crucial for continuous self-development. Even if some goals are out of people’s comfort zones, they can still work on those. Many people have limiting beliefs that prevent them from achieving their highest potential.

The rule is - if you want to succeed, it's essential that you believe that you can do it. If you lack self-confidence, you won't be motivated enough, leading to procrastination.

Now that people have set their personal development goals, it's time to do an honest assessment and see where they currently are. The best way to do it is during one on ones with employees.

Take some time to think about the following topics and encourage people to be honest with themselves. Here are some questions to ask employees should ask themselves:

  • Did I allocate enough time to my personal goals?
  • Did I have all the resources I needed for achieving this goal?
  • What were the biggest obstacles?
  • What can I do differently next time?
  • Where can I get the support when I need it?

Even if they haven't achieved their goal, they should be patient with themselves. They can start again, but this time with a better strategy and more support. 

On the other hand, what if people achieve all personal development goals with success?

First, take time to celebrate and congratulate your employees. Too many people take their success for granted and always look for a new challenge. Right now, they should be proud of how far they've come!

Here are some things you can ask your employees:

- ‘’If you enjoyed working on this skill, you may want to take it to the next level. You can challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone once again and become even better at it. At this point, you may even consider getting a certification or something similar.’’

 - ‘’Or, you can choose a completely different area to work on. If you worked on your physical health, you could now switch to emotional intelligence or the other way round.’’

Conclusion: Personal Development Plan and Goals

Helping your employees work on their personal development plan creates a positive workplace. Employees are satisfied to see their company cares about them and doesn’t see them just as “seat-fillers.”

With an effective personal development plan template, you can easily discover each person’s skills and weaknesses. You get to grow the talent you already have and nurture an impressive company culture.

As you can see, self-growth is a never-ending process. There's always room for improvement. Adopting a growth mindset and entering the field of personal development could be one of the most positive things you've done for yourself.

If you're a manager or business owner, you should encourage your people to set personal development goals. They will not only make your employees happier and more productive, but they will influence everyone around them in a positive way.

Sign up to Effy to monitor employee performance and automate HR processes!

FAQ: How to Set Personal development goals

A personal development plan (PDP) is the practice of consistently adding new skills , knowledge and competencies to yourself in areas of your choice. It is a clear and documented outline that shows what you aim to achieve to attain better fulfillment and growth. A personal development plan does not have to be restricted to your career alone, as it also concerns your finances, education, relationships and other interests.

What is a personal development plan example?

A personal development plan could simply be 'Get a promotion at work next January'. To achieve this, you need a detailed plan to guide (documented) and steps to get the promotion. Such steps will include: taking a management training course, requesting a performance appraisal with HR, networking better with the line manager, etc.

What are the key elements of a personal development plan?

A personal development plan should include the following elements:

1. A clear reason showing why you want to achieve your plans.

2. A defined vision of where you want to be.

3. A defined timeframe to help you prioritize the different areas of your PDP.

4. The skills and resources you need to meet up with your plans.

5. Your expected milestones to keep you on track.

What are individual development goals examples?

Some of the most common personal development goals include learning a new skill, developing a positive attitude, breaking bad habits, effectively managing your time, etc.

What are the 5 areas of personal development?

These are the 5 main areas of personal growth:

  • Mental (working on your mindset, learning new skills)
  • Social (working on your communication and networking)
  • Spiritual (inner peace, meditating)
  • Emotional (emotional intelligence, personal boundaries)
  • Physical (physical health, proper self-care, fitness)

What are 3 goals for your career development?

The following 3 goals can influence your ongoing professional development: becoming a better communicator, enhancing your networking skills and learning leadership skills.


Develop Good Habits

36 Examples of Personal Development Goals for Your Career & Life

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If you’re like many other people, you probably make a resolution or two at the beginning of each year to try to improve yourself in some way– get a promotion , start a family, get in shape–things of that nature. And if you’re like many other people, that resolution probably becomes history by January 15th.

However, this common focus on self-improvement derives from our desire to be in the driver’s seat of our own lives and be successful in all of our endeavors. And it’s true that focusing on continuous personal development will greatly improve your chances of being successful in every area of your life, however, simply having any type of goal will not do you any favors unless you follow through by acting on it.

Having clearly defined personal development goals ( as opposed to only having resolutions ) is a great way to start improving your performance in any area of your life, yet the benefit that you derive from it depends on the effort you put forth in achieving it.

I know that once I stopped making vague intentions (lose weight, save money, spend more time with the family), and started to make specific and actionable personal goals, not only did I start achieving my goals and noticing improvements in my life, I also realized the importance of tracking my progress and measuring my success to keep myself motivated to consistently better my life.

In this post, I am going to give you 36 examples of personal development goals both for your career and personal life that will help you cultivate widespread success.

If you'd like a few resources that can teach you all the skills on this page, then I recommend checking out these platforms to learn any skill.

  • Masterclass (You can read the review of it here .)
  • Skillshare (You can read the review of it here .)
  • Udemy (You can read the review of it here .)
  • Coursera (You can read the review of it here .)

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What are Personal Development Goals?

Personal development goals are those that are made in an effort to improve your outcomes and overall experience in life.  A personal goal can be any milestone related to improving yourself through skill acquisition , character building experiences, interacting with other people, improving your perception of yourself and your abilities, or how you envision the possibilities for your future. The purpose of having personal development goals is to continuously create a better life for yourself.

These life goals impact you in both tangible and intangible ways. While some personal development goals may relate to improving your ability to be patient with other people, others may have to do with advancing your education in some way.

Some of your personal development goals may clearly fall into a “personal” or “professional” category, however, many can easily overlap into both categories because ultimately, who you innately are as a person remains the same whether you’re at work or at home. Your “soft” skills –such as your ability to motivate yourself and your capacity to feel empathy toward others–will help improve all areas of your life.

RELATED: 21 Examples of SMART Goals

Want to set goals you can actually achieve? Then watch this video that provides a quick overview of SMART goals with 21 examples.

Now that we've defined personal goals, let's talk about the specific ones you can work on developing to improve your life.

Personal Development Goals Related to Your Career

1. build and improve professional relationships.

You spend a lot of time with your colleagues, so it is important to build good relationships with them. After all, team cohesion relies on mature working relationships, as people typically work better together if there’s a personal element to their relationship .

Having positive professional relationships can lay the foundation for your ultimate success. Because each person’s role in your organization either directly or indirectly affects your performance, it’s important for you to nourish these working relationships so you can work in harmony with others.

To improve your professional relationships, help other members of the team whenever you can, and engage in open and honest communication with your colleagues. (And if you're not an effective communicator, these 11 strategies can help improve your communication skills .)

Doing so will help you build trust and strengthen your relationship with the people at work, which will make your professional life much more enjoyable. While it is also important to develop positive relationships with people in your field who work with different organizations (which we will address later), don’t neglect those who are on your own turf.

How to Achieve This Goal

To build and improve your professional relationships, you will need to practice good workplace habits . Not only will this help you develop better relationships with your colleagues, it will also help increase your level of work satisfaction. Be sure to welcome diversity , both in cultures and ideas, by listening to what others have to say in your workplace.

Factor various insights into your decision-making processes and recognize that you can learn something from everyone . If the people you work with can see that you value them and what they bring to the table, you will be more likely to have a good relationship with them.

2. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Throughout your professional career, you’ll face deadlines and competing tasks that fight for your attention every day. As your workload increases, it may seem impossible to be able to get everything accomplished.

In these instances, your ability to manage your time will be tested. Having effective time management skills will help increase your productivity and efficiency, decrease your stress , and  allow you to have more time to dedicate to other endeavors .

Make sure that you’re keeping track of how you spend your time if you feel like time management is an issue for you ( this app can help you do this). Schedule a specific amount of time for every item on your to-do list and don’t allow interruptions during these times. This will help you be more efficient, and once you get the hang of working this way, it will become second nature.

Now, if you'd like to discover additional resources related to time management and productivity, then I recommend checking out the other articles we've published on this site:

  • The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Use 4 Quadrants to Make Important vs. Urgent Decisions in Your Life
  • The 80/20 Rule: How to Apply This Principle to All Areas of Your Life
  • The Pomodoro Technique: How to Manage Your Time in 25-Minute Blocks
  • 27 Best Books on Productivity and Time Management
  • The Rock, Pebbles, and Sand Story About Time Management

We’ve provided you with the tools you need to improve your time management, but having these tools without having the skills to properly use them doesn’t quite cut it. Think of it like this: you could have the highest quality set of knives and most innovative oven on the market, but if you don’t know how to cook, those tools won’t automatically make you a master chef.

So what underlying skills do you need in order to effectively manage your time? Research shows that there are three skills in particular that will make your time management efforts successful, including:

  • Being aware that time is a limited resource and being realistic with how long it takes to accomplish a task
  • Having the ability to organize your daily tasks, schedule, and goals in a sensical way
  • Being able to monitor the use of your time on an ongoing basis and adapt to changing priorities as needed

With this in mind, take these steps to improve upon these three skills:

  • Time yourself at work for every task you do for about a week. Keeping track of how you spend your time can be a huge eye-opener.
  • Put your most important tasks at the beginning of your daily schedule and fill in the rest like Tetris. If you have a really short break somewhere, throw that 5 minute task right there into your schedule.
  • Have a backup plan in case your day gets a little jumbled… which it often will.

3. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

When emotional intelligence (EQ) first hit people’s radars, it was the answer to a puzzling question: How do people with mid-range IQs outperform those with the highest IQs almost three-quarters of the time?

People originally thought that one’s IQ was a direct indicator of their success. However, decades of research uncovered that a high EQ is an element that brings star performers to the top.

This means that your EQ has a huge impact on your professional success. When you have a high EQ, you are better equipped to understand your own feelings and the feelings of others, which helps you relate to people. Not only does this improve your communication skills, but it also gives you the social competence that’s needed to understand other people’s emotions, behaviors, and motives so you can respond appropriately and successfully manage your personal interactions.

One interesting thing about people with a high EQ is that they have a large emotional vocabulary. While everyone experiences emotions, very few can accurately identify them as they happen, which becomes a problem because unidentified emotions are easily misinterpreted, leading to irrational decisions and ineffective actions.

However, those who have high EQs can understand their emotions, and they have a large vocabulary of “feeling words” to do this. So, while others may say they feel bad, a person with a high EQ would be able to identify if they’re frustrated, hurt, overwhelmed, etc. The more clearly you can define your emotion, the more insight you have into what caused your feelings and how you can address them.

To learn more about this topic, here is a seven-step process on how to improve your emotional intelligence.

Additionally, having a good sense of self-awareness is the most important component to being able to develop a high EQ. With a high level of self-awareness, it will be easier for you to recognize how other people perceive you and adapt to social situations as needed. One effective way to increase your self-awareness is to keep a mindfulness journal , which will help get you in the habit of living in the moment and being aware of yourself and your surroundings.

4. Define Your Own Success

You don’t have to abide by everyone else’s definition of success . You can define what being successful and happy mean to you , which will help you clarify what you need to do to achieve it.

Once you dig deep to uncover your values and purpose and career aspirations , you will recognize that if you try to chase everyone else's idea of what success is, you won’t achieve it. ( Discover your core values with the help of these core value quizzes. ) In doing this, you have to make it a point to not compare yourself to other people . The things that you see other people have don’t define or impact your success. You’re the only one who can decide if you have achieved your goals thus far.

And if you want to be more successful, here are 12 rules to live by.

There isn’t one universal definition of being successful. To define your own success, you need to observe and recognize the characteristics that make you unique from everyone else in the world and celebrate them. The Huffington Post offers three steps to defining your success:

  • Figure out what makes you, YOU. What makes you unique? One way to reflect on this is to write your personal mission statement .
  • Remove your limiting beliefs and open yourself up to taking risks and reaping the rewards.
  • Keep doing whatever you have to do to help you be your best self. This involves practicing self-care , increasing your love for yourself (and here are some more tips for loving yourself more ), and living an authentic life to your true self .

5. Find New Challenges

Finding new challenges in your current position will help keep your job interesting and fulfilling. This personal development goal shows your ambition and can be especially helpful for your organization if they’re frequently coming up with new ideas that are never acted on or no one supervises to ensure any type of follow-through.

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Finding new challenges could be as easy as revising that employee handbook that hasn’t been touched since 2005, or as complex as proposing and creating a prototype for a new product. Finding new challenges for yourself will also help you show your leadership abilities and could lead to further progress within your organization.

If you need a jumpstart, here are 129 30-day challenges you can use to improve your personal and professional life.

The first thing you need to do to find new challenges is to take the initiative to talk to your boss about your current responsibilities. Inquire about other projects you can get involved with and try to provide a fresh perspective on issues as they arise. Doing so could lead to job advancement in the future, which will certainly offer new challenges.

Secondly, find new challenges by focusing on yourself rather than constantly trying to impress your employer . If you are always in the mindset that you’re working for someone else, you may become bored and lazy with your work. Remember that your work reflects on you , not just your employer, and when you think of your work as being for yourself , you’re more likely to challenge yourself to continuously improve .

6. Don’t Be Passive

Passive behavior occurs when you put other people’s preferences or needs ahead of your own. While sometimes this is necessary to build relationships, it can become a problem if you are consistently passive in a way that allows it to become a barrier to your success.

If you like to avoid conflict, you probably tend to be passive. If you simply allow things to happen without standing up for yourself or offering a logical argument in return, others will see this and start taking advantage of your willingness to please. In doing so, you may accept an offer that would be unacceptable by other people’s standards, which could negatively impact your performance and even your organization.

While being passive in the short-term may make you feel good because you are getting other people’s approval, it is damaging in the long-run because it will require you to make larger sacrifices to maintain these relationships.

If you want to take a more active approach in your career, start by writing your career goal statement . This will give you a clearer vision of the professional life you want and how to achieve it.

Also, you can avoid being passive by communicating directly with people ( don’t be shy! ) and being genuine when you’re talking about how you feel about things. You can certainly be assertive without being aggressive by being clear and straightforward with people.

7. Develop a Growth Mindset

People who have a growth mindset believe that they can continue to develop their talents throughout life. These people are often able to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, who believe that they were born with their abilities already set into place and therefore don’t invest time or energy into learning new skills. People with a growth mindset are continuously aiming to better themselves, and are therefore able to break away from complacency and achieve their goals.

In a professional environment, people who have a growth mindset often share information, collaborate well with others, look for feedback, strive for innovation, and are able to admit their mistakes. On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset are less likely to take risks for fear of failure or embarrassment. They don’t look forward to the potential learning opportunities from trying new things because they think they were born with the maximum amount of talent they will ever have.

Those with a fixed mindset can develop a growth mindset by embracing imperfection and altering their viewpoint on challenges. This is advantageous in the workplace because it offers a greater opportunity to become successful.

If you'd like to develop this quality, there are many resources out there that can help you. First, here are 7 exercises that can help you develop a growth mindset , and h ere are 27 habits you can adopt to support you on this journey as well . By cultivating self-awareness, seeking out learning opportunities and challenges, and being mindful about valuing the process of everything that you do rather than just the end result, you can stop your limiting beliefs that your talent and abilities are finite.

Additionally, h ere are 20 growth mindset examples that will help you fully understand the importance of having this trait, which can help motivate you to make a genuine effort toward adopting it. You can also check out these growth mindset journal prompts if you're already journaling.

Finally, check out these growth and fixed mindset quotes to encourage you to continue to learn throughout your life. And–if you have children–you can get them started on the right track by teaching them how to develop a growth mindset .

8. Grow Your Network

People do business with others whom they know and trust. And the truth is, “companies” don’t make business decisions, people do. Having a strong professional network can help you advance in your career in ways that you would not be able to do alone.

Not only can networking lead to connections with people who can help you enhance your expertise and knowledge, it can also help you stay on top of potential opportunities for advancement in your career.

In order to grow your network, you need to be willing to put yourself out there in new situations, which may feel uncomfortable at first. However, once you do it a few times, not only will you get used to it, but you will start running into the same people multiple times at networking events, which will help you strengthen your network as it grows. Actively look up networking events in your area and GO. Even if you have to bring a co-worker so there is someone there you know, GO.

You can also grow your network through social media , however, having that personal face-to-face time is invaluable when you’re trying to learn about someone and really attempting to make a valuable connection.

Read this post to learn how to create SMART goals that focus on networking.

9. Tweak Your Work Life Balance

Having a healthy work-life balance is an important part of living a happy life . Not only will taking sufficient breaks from work have a positive effect on your wellbeing, but it will also influence your productivity by improving your performance while you’re working.

Create boundaries between your professional and your personal lives that are strong, yet realistic. To you, this may mean sticking to an 8-hour work-day, or it could mean leaving work at work and leaving home at home (i.e. not checking your work email while having dinner with your family). Having a healthy work-life balance will help you maintain your professional motivation and allow you to work smarter , not harder .

One of the first steps to achieving this goal is to work efficiently while you’re at work so it doesn’t have to spill over into your personal life. Here are 26 smart hacks to help increase your work productivity.

It’s also smart to go into each week with a plan so you don’t end up wasting time wondering what you should do next–or feeling so overwhelmed that you just sit there and do nothing. Here are 7 steps to help you plan out your week so you can stay focused.

10. Improve Upon Your Weaknesses

Make your biggest weakness into your biggest strengths by being aware of areas in which you can improve and focusing directly on them.

Being able to recognize your weaknesses shows self-awareness and strength in your character. But what do you tell potential employers when they ask about your weaknesses? Do you tell them the solid steps you’re taking to improve upon them?

personal development plan sample pdf | personal development goals for leaders | good goals to set

You won’t improve without accepting that your skillset isn’t perfect and then creating a strategic plan for improvement. ( A personal development plan template can help you! ) If you can take concrete steps to turn your weaknesses around, not only will you be a role model for other professionals, you will also be engaging in self-improvement.

This is not to say that your biggest weakness has to turn into your biggest strength, but being aware of the areas in your work where you have room for improvement and trying to bridge that gap is a constructive personal development goal.

First, practice some activities in self-awareness so you can gain this important characteristic, such as:

  • Asking yourself “Why?” three times
  • Label your emotions
  • Go for a walk
  • Keep a journal

Secondly, it is important to get guidance from someone you trust . In doing so, you may be able to learn about some weaknesses that you have but may not have noticed.

And for some things? You really just need to get good enough . It’s alright if you’re never an expert at every task involved in your company–but some tasks are important enough to gain minimal competence, just so you can understand the comprehensive work of your company.

For example, let’s say you’re an internet entrepreneur…but you have very few technology skills. You can trust your employees to take care of the technology piece, but you’ll still want to learn just enough so you can tell if they’re doing their jobs as they’re supposed to and you know if your expectations for their outcomes are realistic.

11. Pursue Ongoing Professional Development

This is another personal development goal that will keep you on top of your game at work. Employers are often reluctant to invest the money in sending their employees to seminars or conferences, but engaging in professional development will help you maintain your competence in your field and excel when faced with the competition .

This continuing professional development can take the form of listening to the best business podcasts and reading the best business books .

Ensuring that your professional skills remain up-to-date in our rapidly changing world is critical to your long-term success . Think of your five-year plan . Your education certainly doesn’t stop with your diploma, and staying abreast of changing trends in your industry will help you be an in-demand candidate for prospective future employers.

You can engage in continuous learning on your own by seeking out opportunities for webinars and new research and things of that nature. You can also look for senior executives at your job whose job may be your goal to obtain one day and ask if you can spend some time shadowing them to learn what they do on an everyday basis.

But if you want to be able to attend and participate in more intensive trainings, you may need to learn how to ask your boss how your company can fit that into their budget. And to convince anyone of this you have to have a strong argument as to why or how your attendance at this conference will benefit the entire company and what kind of knowledge you can bring back from it. So do your research first and approach your boss with a strong argument in mind as to how spending this money will benefit the company.

12. Learn How to Motivate Others

If you want to be a leader in your industry, it is important to know how to motivate your team members. Otherwise, your organization will go through periods of struggle with productivity and overall morale.

If you aren’t in a leadership position, you can still look for opportunities to bring to your leaders’ attention that address motivation if you feel that this is an obstacle in your workplace. If you are able to enhance the motivation of your team or have a positive impact on the work ethic of the employees, you will be helping to maximize the effectiveness of your organization.

Here are 9 ways you can motivate others. Part of doing this is to challenge people and be encouraging when they start to make progress . You want to set others up to be in a position where they’re ultimately motivating themselves, and sometimes this requires prompting them to do some self-reflection as to why they are doing the job that they’ve chosen and what they’re ultimately working toward.

And if they’re still not quite sure, try to get the person to create a vision for their future so they can have a more clear picture of what they want out of life. You can teach them about making vision boards to help them think about their future or add some inspiration to their current work as they make connections to where it may be taking them for the future.

Personal Development Goals for Self-Growth

13. enjoy life more by taking it less seriously.

A lot of people fail to keep the bigger picture in mind on an everyday basis. The majority of us are fortunate to have been born healthy and into families that could provide us with our basic needs. However, many still get caught up in the small things that happen and completely forget about how well-off they are.

Think about someone you know who earns a large salary, but still gets mad at small inconveniences. Taking life less seriously will help you be happier, reduce stress, and make you a more enjoyable person for other people to be around.

If you’re able to move past the small and insignificant things that happen, you will get more enjoyment out of life. Laugh at unexpected inconveniences, laugh at yourself when you make a mistake , and laugh because it will reduce the amount of stress that you’re putting on your body.

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” — Elbert Hubbard

There are several things you can do to take life less seriously. Practicing gratitude is a great place to start since it will help you focus on the good things in your life. This will also help you m aintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Try to let go of any stress, worry, or anger so you can live in a more relaxed state of mind. Be mindful of the stress in your life and do your best to rise above it. As you know, there a lot of things in life that you have no control over. Align yourself to a brighter and lighter version of you by adding humor to your life , learning to be comfortable with feeling vulnerable, and spending more time enjoying life.

14. Engage in Self-Care

You can’t be an effective partner, mother, cousin, or friend to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Too often, people fail to take care of their own basic needs, either because they’re too busy or they’re not making it a primary concern.

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Learning how to engage in proper self-care and making it a priority in your everyday life will greatly improve your life and the lives of the people with whom you interact. You can’t take care of anything else in your life to the best of your ability until you take care of yourself.

Check out 274 self-care ideas here . Some of my personal favorites that I feel apply universally are:

  • Find a creative hobby that you enjoy
  • Write in a journal
  • Reward yourself when you do something positive
  • Spend time drawing in an adult coloring book
  • Declutter your living space
  • Learn vital self management skills

15. Be Proactive

Things will go wrong in life–it’s inevitable. These negative situations can either have a large impact on your life, or they could be a bit inconvenient. This all depends on whether you’re pro active or re active . If you always wait to react to problems until after they have already presented themselves, it expands the associated challenges and adds additional stress to your life.

On the other hand, if you’re proactive, it will minimize the issue and give you more stability because you will be facing a challenge that you were prepared for. It’s easier to remain relatively undisturbed if you’re proactive because you’ll always feel like you’re in control of your circumstances.

Being proactive is about being a good problem solver and being solution-focused. It’s about not wasting time and getting things done ahead of time by anticipating issues that may arise or being ahead of the game when it comes to an emerging trend in your industry.

Surround yourself with other people who are driven to increase your probability for success.  You cannot have people around you who drag you down and expect to keep the motivation to be proactive, rather you need to associate with like-minded people who also want to stay ahead. Doing so will also keep you abreast of new research or best practices in your field because you will be able to learn from the people you’re around, and they will be able to learn from you.

16. Practice Patience

It can be tough to be patient, especially if you tend to be short-tempered. However, this is something that can be managed with practice. It’s beneficial to maintain your patience during times of despair because it will help you keep a calm state of mind, which will allow you to effectively problem-solve without being impacted by frustration.

Also, having continuous patience will help you make decisions that will be beneficial for you in the long term because you won’t rush yourself into making decisions that will suit your needs for instant gratification. One way to ensure that you are practicing patience is to stop to think critically before making any decisions . Taking the time to do this will help you avoid having to re-do work, make corrections, or do something that you later regret.

Here are some concrete steps you can take to become more patient. A big part of practicing how to be patient is exactly that– practicing .

I know this may sound like a unique thing to work on because it’s not really tangible–you’re not practicing how to play the piano or practicing perfecting a perfect recipe of some sort. However, practicing patience is not as passive as it sounds. You can practice by focusing on your breathing, finding the silver lining in the extra time that you’ve been given while you’re waiting for something, and learning to battle feelings of anger and frustration that really are the negative aspect of being impatient.

Looking for some inspiration? Here's a collection of our favorites quotes about patience .

17. Say “Goodbye” to Toxic People

Do you have negative people in your life who drain you of your energy and confidence? Or, can you think of some people who are constantly complaining or judging others in some way? These people are known as being “toxic” and you should avoid having them in your life as much as you can .

( If you're not sure if someone is a toxic person, here are 15 warning signs. )

Toxic people will hold you back from achieving your goals. Because putting an end to any relationship is difficult, and you may not want to completely cut ties with a friend from childhood (for example), you can make a concerted effort to spend a minimal amount of time with them rather than completely cutting them off if you feel that would be more appropriate.

Instead, surround yourself with uplifting people who will inspire you and support you in being the best version of yourself . Spending your time with like-minded people will make it easier for you to achieve your ultimate goals in life.

Don’t sit around waiting for toxic people in your life to change. Rather, establish boundaries and maintain them by being comfortable with saying “no” to them . Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into someone else’s crisis just because they’ve been in your life for a long time.

Sometimes it’s ok (and necessary) to let go of the past and old relationships and move on with your life rather than holding onto them because the person has been a friend since childhood. People grow in different directions and while you may be able to have a mutually beneficial relationship with someone at one point in your life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship should last forever.

Keep in mind that toxic people have a tendency to keep coming back into your life if you let them, so once you decide a relationship of any kind is over, make sure to be firm with that decision.    

18. Accept Your Reality

You may feel like you know yourself, but have you accepted yourself and your life? Have you settled for “less than” what you hoped? Failing to connect with reality may keep you stuck in jobs, relationships, or even living situations that are just not right for you.

You will always be a work in progress and it is perfectly acceptable for you to make mistakes, but in order to make some sort of progression in your life, it is important to accept your reality if you're not living your dream.

Accepting your reality is one of the best things you can do for your future. Even if your current situation is awful, the first step to making positive changes is acknowledging and accepting it in its current state and then identifying the specific things you can do to improve it. Otherwise, you will remain unhappily complacent.

Dealing with the bad stuff takes a lot of practice, but you have to do it in order to make it to the good things. To accept your reality, you have to own responsibility for your mistakes and acknowledge any role you played in getting to where you are today, whether it’s good or bad. What have you done in the past to foster success? What about failure?

You don’t have to beat yourself up about your past mistakes, just look for lessons in them . And make sure to give yourself credit wherever it’s due. Accepting your reality means accepting all of it–starting with your competencies. Focus on your positive characteristics because even if you aren’t where you want to be right now, you’re sure to have done some good things that have put you ahead of where you could be.

19. Don’t Let Your Past Define Your Future

A lot of us have a terrible past, and you may believe that your goals are out of reach due to your undesirable history. Perhaps you’re discouraged, you feel unworthy, or you may even be embarrassed by your past.

But it doesn’t take too much research to find success story after success story of people who were able to overcome their past struggles and become very triumphant . Don’t let your past be an obstacle to achieving the future that you dream of. Rather, commit to your goals and realize that change can occur at any point, and you have endless opportunities for transformation.

Sure, it can be hard to let go of the past, especially if you believe it makes up such a large part of your identity. However, it can be done.

If you’re trying to deal with negative emotions from a past trauma and you want to be heard or understood, you can talk about your experiences with people, but you also have to identify how those experiences are now causing emotions that are holding you back.

Once you identify your limiting emotions, you can think about what positive motivating factors you may have to help you move past those feelings. Then, create new, positive experiences to replace the negative things that have happened in the past so you can reinvent yourself and live a happy and fulfilling life.

20. Let Go of Your Limiting Beliefs

Holding onto limiting beliefs will delay your progression because you will be stuck inside of your comfort zone, unwilling to try new things or take any risks. While you may have a fear of failure or you are scared you’re going to get hurt in the process of working toward your goals , these thoughts cannot mark the end of the road to your success.

personality goals | examples of smart goals for employees | employee development plan examples

You could have limiting beliefs about a variety of things, ranging from finances to relationships to your own abilities. The key is to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, overcome them, and replace them with positive thoughts that support your path to success.

To learn more, here is a step-by-step guide on how to identify and overcome your limiting beliefs . You will first need to overpower your limiting beliefs with empowering thoughts that can help you move past these roadblocks.

Do this by questioning your beliefs. Are you sure they’re true? Do you have any evidence or are you making an assumption? Are you thinking in “ all or nothing ” terms? Being honest with yourself about your beliefs and thinking outside the box to find potential new solutions can help you realize that your beliefs probably started out as being ideas, then turned to opinions, then cemented themselves in your belief system.

It takes a lot of self-reflection and challenging your own thoughts to move past your limiting beliefs, but doing the work is worth the reward because whatever is holding you back has tangible consequences, whether it’s preventing you from pursuing the job of your dreams, keeping you in an abusive relationship, or anything in between.

21. Set Personal Boundaries

If you’re like me, you have a hard time saying no to people. You want to please those who come to you for help or who need you to do them a favor. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not an endless resource to be used by other people.

You have to know your limits so you have enough time and energy for the things that you need to accomplish. Once you know where your limits stand, set strict boundaries for others and stick to your guns.

This could mean boundaries in romantic relationships, with your family members, friends, or even in the workplace. Setting clear personal boundaries is an important part of ensuring that your relationships are mutually supportive and respectful.

If you have weak or undefined boundaries, you will be left vulnerable and others may take you for granted. However, with strong boundaries, you’re setting the limits for what’s acceptable behavior from the people with whom you associate.

Learn to recognize when the boundaries that you have set are being pushed and be direct about that. With a strong sense of self-awareness, you will notice when your boundaries are being pushed because you will feel yourself becoming resentful toward the other person . When this happens, if you have a proper sense of self-respect, you will not feel guilty about sticking to your boundaries.

If you want to learn how to set boundaries, you can start small. For example, let your friends and extended family know that you’re turning your phone on silent every night at 8pm and won’t look at it again until 6:30 the next morning–at the earliest. This is a good first step to learning how to set boundaries with your time. A next step to consider may be to stop checking work emails when you’re at home. Work at whatever pace of progress feels right to you.

For more on this, here is a 7-step process for saying “no” to people and the requests for your time .

22. Become an Active Listener

We listen to people talk every day, so you would probably think that everyone is pretty good at it. However, this is not the case–in fact, research shows that we only remember about 25% of what we hear.

So when you’re talking to your boss, coworkers, family, and friends for, say, 20 minutes—and you’re speaking for 10 of those minutes–they will only remember 2.5 minutes of what you said. This also means that when someone is telling you something that’s important, you’re most likely going to miss parts of it.

Learning how to actively listen is a skill that pretty much everyone could benefit from. When you improve your listening skills, you can improve your productivity , your influence on others , and your negotiation and persuasion skills.

Also, part of being a great communicator is being a great listener. You give off a good impression to others when you lend them a listening ear, which helps you earn trust. When you are actively listening, not only are you showing the speaker that you want to understand what they’re saying, you’re also offering empathy and support, which builds stronger relationships.

To improve your active listening skills , mimic the speaker’s body language and ask questions to make sure you’re understanding what they’re saying . You don’t want to interrupt the person who is speaking, but nodding along in agreement and repeating back to them what you heard are effective ways to show the speaker that you are engaged in the conversation.

Also, maintain eye contact and ask clarifying or follow-up questions so they know that you’ve been paying attention to what they’ve been talking about. Try to have some empathy while you’re listening so you can feel what the speaker is trying to relay.

23. Learn to Let Go

Holding on to the past will prevent you from becoming the person that you want to be. But, letting go of things that have happened is much easier said than done. In fact, I think we have all heard someone say at some point in our lives, “let it go” and, if you’re like me, it makes you even madder than you were before.

While it seems counterintuitive, Psychology Today reports that painful feelings can ultimately be comforting, especially if most of your past is painful, because these unpleasant emotions become part of your identity, making them nearly impossible to let go.

However, if you carry the negative things from your past around with you for the rest of your life, it will only act as a burden and ultimately hold you back from living a fulfilling life. Remember the lessons that you take away from your hardships, but let go of the emotional weight that you’re holding on to .

A large part of letting go involves learning how to forgive . This doesn’t mean that you have to forget what someone else has done to hurt you, it simply means that you will not allow their actions to have a negative impact on your future.  Offering forgiveness is therapeutic when you’re trying to move past something, and if you share this forgiveness with the offender, it may motivate that person to seek moral growth, and improve themselves as a result of your forgiveness.

Aside from learning how to forgive, it’s important to always remember that the only thing you can control are your own actions and feelings . Don’t waste your energy trying to dictate the paths of other people, and don’t worry about what other people’s opinions are of you. Just focus on being your best self and living the life that you want to live from start to finish.

24. Build Resilience

Even for those who are relatively self-aware, life’s challenges can come at a surprise. But learning how to move through these painful times in a healthy way can help people bounce  back more quickly–or at least start moving in a positive direction.

When you’re resilient, you are able to cope with adversity and adapt when a situation doesn’t go the way that you expected. Having resilience is the difference between feeling powerless and being able to stand up to your problems with confidence and bravery. When you can recover quickly from a problem , you will come out on the other side a stronger person.

Having resilience is what helps you cope with whatever comes your way and just focus on what you can learn from the experience.  This personal development goal can help you in any area of your life, as it will prevent you from becoming easily overwhelmed and allow you to use your strengths to recover from challenges.

Many people use journaling as a way to build resilience, as this exercise helps you explore your thoughts, stop ruminating on past experiences, and it gives your thoughts structure by organizing them on paper. This can help you gain a new perspective and a sense of control over your past.

Journaling can also help you find the silver lining in things as you have the opportunity to purposefully think of positive things that may have come out of an upsetting experience. For example, if you got in a fight with your partner, it may have brought some significant issues to light , allowing you both to open up to each other’s points of  view. 

25. Wake Up 30 Minutes Earlier

Waking up early, energized, and with a purpose is a huge key to success . The most successful people are known for waking up early and getting a strong start to their day. Because of this, a great personal goal that could really enhance your life in all domains is to start waking up earlier than  you’re used to.

Set your alarm to get up early –at least 30 minutes before usual. There are many benefits to being an early riser, such as giving yourself time to eat a healthy breakfast , get some exercise , or complete some productive work before other people are awake and the chaos of your day begins. Waking up earlier than is necessary gives you quiet time to focus on anything that is important to you.

Studies have shown that people who wake up early tend to procrastinate less and get ahead of the game as opposed to their later-sleeping counterparts. So, if you want to get ahead, this is one simple change you can make that can give you a head start.

The first step to being able to wake up early is to make sure you’re going to bed at a reasonable time and getting a good night’s sleep . If you try to go to bed at the same time every night, you will eventually start to wake up at the same time each morning, without needing an alarm clock.

If you need to, you can make this change gradually by starting to set your alarm 10 minutes earlier than usual, and then 20, and so on. Once your body gets into this routine, you will become a natural early bird and wonder why other people waste so much time in the morning staying in bed or hitting the snooze button.

If you're having trouble with your morning routine in general, then this step-by-step resource can help .

Personal Development Goals for a Performance Review

26. improve operation processes.

While operations processes can look quite different depending upon the industry in which you work, the underlying concept is the same for all organizations of any size. The operation process involves turning inputs (raw materials, information, labor, money, etc.) into outputs (products, services, customer satisfaction , etc.)

Companies that can figure out how to do this well end up with a competitive advantage. Because of this, every component of an operations process has to be closely monitored so management can determine if their team is working at an optimal level of performance.

Well-designed operations process goals can help teams stay informed of all necessary information, standard operating procedures, and training. And, ultimately, when these processes are done well, they are what make an organization successful. If you’re at the helm of this, you’re on the right path toward professional success.

The best way to improve operation processes is to streamline them . Look at how your organization works and identify if there are any areas where you can improve efficiency. It’s important to not stay stuck in your old ways because that’s what has “always worked” before. Technology and businesses are constantly evolving, meaning there are new methods and tools available to streamline operations to increase workers’ productivity .

Another thing you will want to keep in mind to improve business operations is to fix small problems before they become big ones. Some seemingly insignificant glitches in your system can turn into a setback that can end up wasting a lot of time and being expensive to fix. So, make an effort to reduce any issue that you can identify within your organization. One way of doing this would be to create a new protocol guide for your team and then review its impact on a regular basis, tweaking the processes as needed.

Here are some specific examples of how a business can improve their operations processes.

27. Improve Clients’ Service Experiences

Goals related to clients’ service experiences with your organization involve greater engagement and client satisfaction. These types of goals may involve elements such as creating more self-service online features on the organization’s website, reducing phone hold times, or improving the timeliness of client follow up.

This type of goal will be highly individualized based on your industry, but whether you are dealing with retail clients in a small business setting or your clients come in the form of the kindergarten students that you teach, you can always find a way to improve others’ experience when they’re on the receiving end of your organization’s services.

Here are a variety of ways to improve clients’ service experiences that can apply to a diverse group of industries. But, in addition to this, it’s important to make sure that the employees are able to show that they truly care about their work and stand behind the company especially when they’re interacting with those receiving your services or buying your products.

To do this, you need to ensure employees have a sense of intrinsic motivation to do their job. When employees are intrinsically motivated to do their job, they will:

  • Respect and enjoy the process of the work rather than simply receiving a paycheck
  • Find pleasure in their everyday tasks
  • Show a sense of enthusiasm for their work
  • Seek opportunities to learn
  • Welcome challenges
  • Live up to their potential

For more information, read our examples of SMART goals for small business .

28. Improve Employee Morale

You don’t have to be in a leadership position to boost employee morale. When employees have a positive attitude about their environment at work and believe they can be successful in their job, employee morale naturally increases.

When working among other people, you can have an impact on the working environment and encourage a positive morale. For example, you can:

  • Praise your fellow co-workers for their hard work or success
  • Avoid using negative language or expressing complaints without offering a possible solution
  • Do something as simple as keeping your office door open or putting a bowl of candy on your desk to make fellow employees feel welcomed when approaching you

The culture of an organization cannot be changed by just one person, however, without at least one person making an effort to improve employee morale, no changes will ever occur. Do your part in creating positive general norms in your workplace.

The most effective way to improve employee morale is to demonstrate it yourself. Your own positive attitude about your work will be contagious to everyone around you. Go out of your way to point positive aspects of your job out to other people– no matter how small they are. For example, if the company buys a new Keurig for the breakroom, make the effort to point that out to someone in passing. Add as much positivity to your workplace as you can to negate any negative attitudes that tend to hang around there .

This video offers some more great ideas on how to improve employee morale.

29. Offer Solutions to Problems

Pointing out problems that are occurring within your organization time and time again gets exhausting for those who have to listen to you. Instead, be proactive about coming up with solutions to challenges that arise before complaining about the problem in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you’re finding frequent mistakes in your coworkers’ reports and you’re having to spend time going back and fixing them. If your method of attempting to deal with this problem involves complaining directly to your boss about your coworkers’ mistakes, you’re just going to sound like you’re whining or speaking poorly about others with whom you work.

There’s not much worse than sitting around wasting time talking about problems without planning on doing anything about them. If you notice a problem at work, have an honest conversation with the offending coworkers about these mistakes, what can be done to improve their work, and what (if anything) you can do to help. This way, when you do talk to your boss about the problem, you can report the action you’ve already taken to try to ameliorate the issue.

Don’t play the blame game , because remember, you’re a part of a team. This means that ultimately, everyone is responsible for the company’s success.

This video talks more about the importance of offering solutions rather than just problems.

30. Make Your Boss’s Job Easier

You were hired to make your boss (and their boss) successful. And the first step to making that happen is to understand exactly what is expected of you and how you should deliver on those expectations. Get to know your boss and his or her preferences so they don’t have to go back and correct your work.

In doing this, it’s important to maintain a sense of personal responsibility and stay accountable for your work . If you commit to something, make sure to follow through with it. By doing so, you’re letting your boss know that they can count on you.

One way that you can make your boss’s job easier is to stay ahead of your work. When you’re given a deadline, be sure to have your work completed at least one day in advance . This will allow your boss to have some time to go over the work on their own schedule rather than waiting until the last minute when you finally turn it in.

Some other ways to make your boss’s life easier include:

  • Learn how he/she operates, what they need from you, and how they want it done. Doing so will help you meet their expectations.
  • Know your boss’s goals so you can help ensure they’re met.
  • Be resourceful and respect your boss’s time. For example, if you have a question about health insurance, ask someone in HR. Save your time with your boss to talk about work-related issues that involve collaboration between the two of you–not questions that should be directed toward someone else.
  • Stick to your promises. Better yet– under-promise and over-deliver.

Here are some more useful tips on how to make your boss’s job easier.

31. Expect Change

Being flexible and accepting of change is critical in today’s job market. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2030, the average person who is entering the workforce will have to learn entirely new job skills between eight and ten times before they retire. As jobs evolve, the uncertainty regarding what skills will be needed in the future also changes, which makes it hard to be able to predict an organization’s future needs.

Because of this, it’s critical to be flexible and prepared to change paths at any moment. It’s important to be aware of the inevitable changes that are yet to come and the fact that the responsibility of keeping up with trends and new technology has shifted to workers rather than employers.

Being a lifelong learner allows for personal employability, which is important to focus on now since it will be a principal component of employment moving forward in this age of rapid automation. Having a personal goal of continuous skill development will become increasingly important as some of the more traditional jobs become replaced by emerging technology.

Being successful in the future job market will be less about current knowledge and more about your willingness and capacity to learn and evolve while your role is potentially redefined . This is where the importance of being able to easily adapt to waves of disruption is already extremely important. Furthermore, you need to stay on top of your skillset and always be on the lookout for anything new happening in your industry.

To “level up” your skills, we recommend three resources:

Finally, here are some growth strategies for being more flexible and adaptable in the workplace.

32. Be Resilient

Being resilient is important for a variety of reasons. Being able to bounce back from adversity helps you develop the tools you need to protect yourself from overwhelming situations and it helps you stay balanced when times get tough.  Resiliency can also help with the prevention of mental health issues down the line. 

Having resiliency and cognitive flexibility is also important for your short-term success at work. While some are born with a better ability to deal with unpredictable change than others, this skill can be learned . And, through your learned resilience, you will be able to develop an internal toolset to help you manage stress and find ways to use your inner strength that you may not have even known you had during the times that you need it the most.

Resilience can be built up with time as you make your way through difficult experiences in life. It’s beneficial to be able to develop the ability to determine when you can draw from a difficult life event and then be able to use that experience to your advantage during future stressful times.

You can work toward the goal of becoming more resilient by increasing your self-awareness , getting exercise, and switching up your normal routines. Getting daily exercise encourages your body to release chemicals such as dopamine, opioids, serotonin, and endorphins that not only make you feel good, but also increase your ability to learn . Also, adding some variety to your routine promotes cognitive flexibility because doing new things makes your brain have to quickly adapt to and work with new stimuli.

Here is some helpful information on the importance of having resilience in the workplace.

33. Develop Transdisciplinary Skills

This term is often used in school settings, but it also applies to your career performance . Having an understanding of your entire organization from various perspectives as well as understanding the synergy and alignment between all of the departments is becoming progressively important in businesses.

There are a few ways you can improve your transdisciplinary skills at work. One would be to schedule coffee dates with people who work in other areas of the organization where you can talk about each of your responsibilities and how you contribute to the success of the business. Or, you could spend some time shadowing a coworker who has a different job title than you do.

Knowing more about how your company works as a whole can help you understand and appreciate how your efforts fit into that puzzle.

One thing you will recognize while you’re working on this goal is the four stages of learning . There is probably a lot that goes on in your company that you’re unaware of, which also means you’re unaware that there is even so much to learn. But once you start talking with other people and getting to know how processes work in the business, you will likely uncover a huge gap in knowledge that you would have otherwise never realized you had.

Here are some good ways to learn about other areas of your organization , such as:

  • Volunteering for projects
  • Joining informal work clubs or groups (like a sports league)
  • Researching about the history of your company

34. Improve Your People Management Skills

An important component to generating innovation in your workplace is being able to collaborate with your team . Despite your assigned level of leadership within your organization, being proactive in leading by example in your willingness to be a team player and actuate progress in the people working with you is essential to the success of your team.

Therefore, being an influential employee who can manage people–even if it’s not done in an “official” manner–is a significant skill to have in today’s work environment. Effective people management skills are necessary for both current and future leaders who want to improve efficiency and communication at work. Building the skills that are required in order to effectively manage others can help you uncover your strengths as well as find areas in which you could improve.

Here are a few examples of how you can practice your people management skills, even if you aren’t their designated manager:

  • Have empathy for your coworkers during periods of conflict by imagining yourself in their shoes in order to assess how they may feel and consider what your behavior may look like if you were in their position
  • Give your colleagues positive (and constructive negative) feedback
  • Recognize your colleagues when they do work that’s beyond what is expected of them
  • Encourage an inclusive work environment by involving everyone and allowing all team members to have the time and space to share their ideas and opinions
  • Create an environment of cultural humility ( formerly known as cultural competence ) to improve communication, respect, and encourage collaboration

Here is a video that explains some more ways you can improve your people management skills.

35. Stay Informed and Teach Others About Emerging Communication Channels

Having clear channels of communication and creating a culture of welcomed feedback is a critical element of having a successful organization. Innovative apps, social media avenues, and new methods of communication are steadily surfacing in today’s workplace–and many companies have started to reduce their overhead costs by having their employees work remotely if it isn’t necessary to maintain a large office space.

The increase in physical distancing among team members on an everyday basis that was trending even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of new modes of communication, productivity apps , and video conference calls. To stay ahead of the game, it’s essential to stay informed and literate with new communication tools and be a pioneer in educating your colleagues about which new technologies can increase (or decrease) the efficiency of your unique work . Doing this will demonstrate your commitment to excellence to your employer.

Here are some actionable steps you can take to keep up with emerging channels of communication in the workplace:

  • Do some research every two to three months on new communication channels available
  • Outline the current productivity and communication tools your company uses and assess what’s working and what areas could use some improvement
  • Present new options to your team if you believe there is a tool that could increase your communication or productivity
  • Lead training sessions on any new tools that are implemented

To learn from those who are already successful in keeping up with these trends, here is how some top CIOs stay up-to-date with technology .

36. Be Confident in Your Decisions

It’s difficult to develop strong decision-making skills, but it’s essential to your performance in an organization. If you think about the thousands of decisions that you make every day , you can recognize their positive or negative consequences. Having the skills that you need to increase the positive results you achieve is a fundamental part of being productive in your job.

Developing strong decision-making skills will offer you that chance to increase positive outcomes and decrease the consequences of your mistakes. However, there is a learning curve to gaining this skill– it takes time to learn from your mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.

There are a few things that you can do to increase the confidence in the decisions that you make, such as:

  • Limit your choices. Having too many options for any decision is overwhelming, so narrow them down as best as you can.
  • Do a cost-benefit analysis (weigh the pros and cons) before coming to your final decision. This will help you uncover any potential opportunity costs that you may incur if you decide on one thing over another.
  • Set a time limit for making a decision. This will prevent you from mulling over a decision for 10 hours that should take 10 minutes.
  • Do as much research as you can before making a decision– including talking to other people who have some more experience than you do. For example, I recently had to purchase a new dryer so I called the company in my town who fixes appliances and asked them what machines they get called on the most and the least often to work on. That narrowed down my options really fast.

Here is a video with some more information to help you improve your decision making skills.

Final Thoughts on Personal Development Goals

Your brain and thinking methods both have an impact on every aspect of your life. The personal development goals discussed in this article are all dependent on your ability to retrain your brain to think (and therefore act) in new ways.

Your brain is flexible and can quickly adapt to reaching your new goals when you use the right approach and become more goal-oriented . Take a moment to think about your personal development goals and which of the aforementioned are the most important to you.

If you have had some other goals on your mind, how can you incorporate some of these personal development goals into your own to leverage your success? Reaching one goal can easily open a door to work on another of its kind or help you recognize another area of improvement you may be able to work on in your life.

To tie things up, writing down your goals in the form of professional goal statements can help you stay focused on your purpose . For specific examples, check out these posts:

  • 8 SMART Goals Examples for Your Nursing Career
  • 9 SMART Goal Examples for Teachers
  • 7 SMART Goals Examples for Administrative Assistants
  • 15 Leadership SMART Goals Examples for Your Workplace

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals .

how to write my personal development plan

Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.

examples of personal development goals | personal development plan examples professional personal development objectives for work examples

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How to prepare a personal development plan

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  • Fiona Tasker , clinical teaching fellow, University of Bristol
  • fionatasker{at}doctors.org.uk

Setting goals and gathering peer support are essential ingredients of a successful personal development plan, says Fiona Tasker

A personal development plan (PDP) will guide all doctors in their career, whatever grade they are at and whether they work in an acute or community setting. 1 PDPs help doctors become more self aware, enabling them to understand how to improve performance and develop new skills. All doctors should engage in this process, as it is now a key component of appraisals and revalidation. 2

A General Medical Council (GMC) survey found that 79% of respondents thought that their continuing professional development activity—of which PDPs are an essential part—over the past five years had helped them to improve the quality of care given to their patients. 3

An overview

When starting a PDP doctors should reflect on their learning and performance so that they can identify their developmental priorities. They should then plan how to deal with these needs for their current role as well as future aspirations. After undertaking a range of planned learning activities doctors must show that they have achieved their goals and reflect on how this benefits them and others. ⇓ 4


Personal development plan (PDP) cycle 4

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Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound (SMART) 5 goals is essential for your PDP as it is thought that low achievement of goals may relate to poor quality PDP planning. 6

Planning goals

When it comes to choosing goals, there are many ways of identifying strengths and development areas:

● Doctors should look at the GMC’s Good Medical Practice framework, which outlines the four domains that all doctors must demonstrate 7

● Those in a training programme should refer to the curriculum in their e-portfolio

● Qualitative feedback from colleagues using tools such as 360 degree assessments; feedback from patients, including details of complaints (if applicable); and feedback from consultants at previous appraisals

● Non-clinical aspects of practice, including audit/quality improvement, research, teaching, management, and leadership. For the leadership skill, review the Clinical Leadership Competency Framework. 8

Doctors should prioritise their goals, starting with essential learning needs. It is important to strike a balance between goals that are easily achievable and high aspirations. The number of goals to set will depend on personal choice and need and the resources available.

Example of objective one: To learn how to do a lumbar puncture by going on a clinical procedures course and watching colleagues perform this procedure. To ask colleagues to supervise me performing a lumbar puncture and then do a workplace based assessment. To complete this skill before my next interim review.

Example of objective two : To keep up to date with clinical practice by reading relevant journals once a week and reflecting on interesting articles in my e-portfolio. To continue to do this at this frequency up to the date of my job interview.

These objectives are well defined so they meet the specific criterion. They are measurable as they state how one will recognise when the goal has been achieved. They are also achievable. Example one is relevant for a doctor training in medicine, and example two is relevant for a doctor preparing for an interview.

A time scale should be set for completion of each goal, although some goals—such as example two—could be ongoing. A review date is important so that the goal can be adapted if necessary. So, in addition to reading journals, a doctor could perform evidence based reviews on relevant topics to keep up to date with clinical practice.

Achieving a goal

A PDP helps plan and show the achievement of continuing professional development. The GMC states that continuing professional development activities should maintain and improve the quality of care doctors give patients and the public and the standards of the teams and the services in which you work. 9

Doing a range of different continuing professional development activities to tackle a particular learning need is likely to be more effective than one-off events. 10 However, study days and study budgets are limited, so doctors should consider what they will gain from attending courses which award continuing professional development points as well as the impact it will have on clinical practice. The royal colleges and faculties provide guidance on the types of activity that would be most appropriate in particular specialties or general practice. 3

Potential ways of achieving goals include:

● Attending courses

● Attending regional/national/international conferences

● Completing e-learning modules

● Attending meetings—that is, multidisciplinary meetings, grand rounds

● Shadowing others

● Completing assessments—that is, workplace based assessments

● Discussions with seniors and colleagues for support and advice

● Learning from peers

● Collaborating with colleagues—that is, working on an audit project

● Completing a logbook of clinical cases/interesting cases.

Achieving objectives

Reflection on learning and performance is a powerful learning tool, with the GMC stating that doctors must reflect on all aspects of their professional work. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has created a guide to aid the documentation on reflection on a variety of activities and events. 11

Most doctors in training programmes will have access to an e-portfolio, which can be used to record reflections. Alternatively, organisations including the royal colleges and faculties, specialist associations, and professional trade bodies may have an online portfolio or similar tools. 9 Methods to show that you have achieved your objectives(s) are:

● Reflection

● Certificates from courses or e-learning modules

● A record of the minutes and summary of learning points from a meeting

● Feedback from colleagues—that is, workplace based assessments, 360 degree assessments, peer group discussions

● Feedback from patients

● Winning awards/prizes

● Being able to perform a new skill/task

● Increased patient satisfaction, improved patient care measured via audit.

Protected time and peer support

A study of 14 general practitioners highlighted the problems in undertaking PDPs. They suggested that while PDPs were valued in principle, protected time is needed to complete them, as well as leadership and facilitation of this process. 12

Newby showed that peer groups are a practicable mechanism for generating PDPs. Participants at workshops reported that it was refreshing to take time out of their pressured working lives to reflect with colleagues on prioritising objectives and discussing how to achieve these. The author outlines factors for successful peer groups and PDPs. These include regular meetings at least every six months, which last two to three hours and have between three and eight participants, all of whom should have individual space to consider requirements. The meetings must be facilitated and structured with agreed “ground rules,” and there must be tangible outputs from the process. 13

Another study showed that a peer led approach opened up mutual conversations that also promoted and enhanced reflective learning. The role of the group facilitator was valued in helping to structure the sessions, and the authors have recommended the wider use of peers and mentors to help deaneries with educational planning. 14

The PDP is an important aspect of a doctor’s professional life and should be planned to meet patients’ needs as well as those of doctors. Doctors should choose goals that motivate them as this will provide the energy and drive to achieve them.

Planning and evaluating learning should be a continual process as circumstances change and plans may need to be modified. The final step is to reflect on how effective the PDP has been and whether there are areas that have not been tackled or have not worked. Reflection must drive learning, and a completed PDP should be a building block for future PDPs.

I thank Tom Roper, Brighton and Sussex Library and Knowledge Service, for the evidence search on personal development planning.

Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have no competing interests.

  • ↵ Bullock K, Jamieson I. The effectiveness of personal development planning. The Curriculum Journal 1998 ; 9 : 63 -77. OpenUrl
  • ↵ General Medical Council. Supporting information for appraisal and revalidation. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/RT___Supporting_information_for_appraisal_and_revalidation___DC5485.pdf_55024594.pdf .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. The GMC’s role in continuing professional development: Annexes. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/static/documents/content/CPD-Annexes.pdf .
  • ↵ Bryson D. The personal development planning cycle. Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine 2011 ; 34 : 177 -82. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Doran GT. There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objective. Management Review 1981 ; 70 : 35 -36. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Etherington C, Smith C, Wadhera M. Top tips on developing your personal development plan. BMJ Learning 2012 . http://learning.bmj.com/learning/module-intro/tips-personal-development-plan-pdp.html?locale=en_GB&moduleId=10037199 .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. The Good medical practice framework for appraisal and revalidation. GMC, 2012 . www.gmc-uk.org/GMP_framework_for_appraisal_and_revalidation.pdf_41326960.pdf .
  • ↵ NHS Leadership Academy. Clinical Leadership Competency Framework. NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. 2011. www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NHSLeadership-Leadership-Framework-Clinical-Leadership-Competency-Framework-CLCF.pdf .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. Continuing professional development: Guidance for all doctors. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/Continuing_professional_development___guidance_for_all_doctors_1114.pdf_56438625.pdf .
  • ↵ Pyatt RS, Moore DE, Caldwell SC. Improving outcomes through an innovative continuing medical education partnership. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 1997 ; 17 : 239 -44. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Academy reflective template for revalidation. 2012. www.aomrc.org.uk/doc_view/9556-academy-reflective-template-for-revalidation .
  • ↵ Ramsay R, Pitts P, While R, et al. Factors that helped and hindered undertaking practice professional development plans and personal development plans. Education for Primary Care 2003 ; 14 : 166 -177. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Newby D. Personal development plans: Making them work, making them count. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2003 ; 9 : 5 -10. OpenUrl Abstract / FREE Full Text
  • ↵ Main P, Curtis A, Pitts J, Irish B. A ‘mutually agreed statement of learning’ in general practice trainer appraisal: the place of peer appraisal by experienced course members. Education for Primary Care 2009 ; 20 : 104 -10. OpenUrl

how to write my personal development plan


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Exercises • 105 min read

Drafting Your Personal Development Plan

A Team Exercise About PDPs

By the Mind Tools Content Team

You have been encouraging your team to take responsibility for drafting their own personal development plans for some time now. But, typically, you find that they really don’t know where to start and they either come with a blank sheet, or an exhaustive list of interesting courses they have identified. Use this short development session with your team if they need some coaching.

how to write my personal development plan

Team Session Outline

This informal team training session comprises three separate activities, and will take approximately 1¾ hours to complete.

Team session activities and learning objectives

  • Introduction – introduce your organization’s personal development plan, and allow team members to identify and select appropriate development methods for their needs
  • Identifying Your Training Needs – understand how to draft learning objectives to meet development needs
  • Selecting Development Methods – recognize preferred learning styles and use this to find the most suitable training/development methods
  • Review – reassert key learning points and agree the actions to be taken in advance of the performance agreement meetings


Decide how your team will gain the most benefit from this exercise. You can run it as a one-off session or merge it with the other related team sessions over a longer period. Either way, ensure it is timed so that your team can apply the skills learned immediately after the session.

One month before…

  • confirm details of the team session with your team members and distribute an outline program and learning objectives

Two weeks before…

  • copy appropriate supply of materials (if appropriate, customize the suggested resources and/or design your own slides to tailor and reinforce key messages you believe are important)
  • book any necessary equipment and refreshments
  • if you have a team development plan, distribute copies to individual team members (if not, consider listing some priorities for the team as a suggested draft)

On the day…

  • set aside at least half an hour to prepare the room and create a fun learning environment
  • set up and test the equipment and prepare any other visuals such as flipcharts
  • put coloring pens and notepaper around the room to encourage everyone to make their own notes, illustrations and learning maps
  • bring along any necessary handouts and copies of your organization’s personal development plan template
  • The ‘Methods of Development’ exercise (which you can download, below)

Methods of Development exercise

  • Your organization’s personal development plan documentation/ template
  • flipchart and pens
  • ‘Preparing My Personal Development Plan’ top tips
  • Your own training and development policy, if appropriate
  • ‘Learning Styles’ questionnaire from the Developing People topic

09.30 – 10.00 Introduction

10.00 – 10.30 Identifying Your Training Needs

10.30 – 11.00 Selecting Development Methods

11.00 – 11.10 Review

Team Session Activities

Introduction (30 minutes).

  • Briefly outline the program, timings and format.
  • Introduce the format of your organization’s personal development plan.
  • Run the short introductory exercise, ‘Methods of Development’ to introduce the team to the wide variety of development methods. This should take 20 minutes.

Identifying Your Training Needs (30 minutes)

  • Distribute copies of the top tips on ‘Preparing My Personal Development Plan’ and talk them through how to draft a learning objective.
  • Illustrate this with a worked example on the flipchart.
  • Now ask your team to individually select one relevant personal development need and draft a learning objective. Once they are happy with their draft, ask them to write it on the flipchart.
  • Ask team members to critique each other's learning objectives. Have they been specific enough in identifying the training gap? Has the standard required been made clear? Amend the objectives as the team revise them.

Selecting Development Methods (30 minutes)

  • Introduce the Leading Thinkers Honey and Mumford and their work on Learning Styles.
  • Ask your team to complete a 'Learning Styles' questionnaire.
  • Alternatively, you might simply ask them to reflect on what their preferred learning style would be.
  • Remind them of the large variety of development methods identified earlier in the session and ask them to select three possible methods of development that would help them achieve their learning objective.
  • Discuss the results.

Review (10 minutes)

  • Remind the team of the objectives for the session and encourage feedback to gauge to what degree they have been met.
  • Remind the team of the key actions they need to take between now and their performance agreement meeting.
  • Reviewing what has been learned is vital for memory retention. Reinforce key messages and achievements.

Team Session Follow-Up

If this team session is run in the month leading up to personal development planning, then the learning should be applied almost immediately. Even so, individual team members will almost certainly need coaching to ensure the training gap identified is precise and the learning objective is SMART. Encourage team members to form learning pairs to share and refine their Personal development plans with each other in the lead up to the performance agreement meetings.

Be prepared to probe around the learning objectives they have identified to ensure they are clear about the difference between what they are good at and what they would like to get better at. Remember to think creatively around the development methods and do not underestimate the value of in-house coaching between team members and team development sessions.

Encourage individuals to refer to, review and adjust their plans regularly, and to take personal responsibility for ensuring that any planned activity takes place.

In the future, when team members are revising their development plan, you might only need to email them the ‘Preparing My Personal Development Plan’ top tips.

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how to write my personal development plan


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