What is Personal Development

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What is Personal Development?

What is Personal Development
What is Personal Development

Personal development is a lifetime process. It is a means for people to assess their skills and qualities, recognize their aims in life, and set goals to actualize and develop their potential.

This article helps you to recognise the skills you need to set life goals which can improve your employability probabilities, boost your confidence, and guide to a more gratifying, higher quality living experience.

It’ll help you to plan to make appropriate, positive and effective life decisions and choices for your tomorrow to facilitate individual empowerment.

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Even though early life development and early developmental experiences inside the family, at an institution like a school, etc. can help to mould us as adults, personal development should never stop later in life.

This page contains data and guidance that is designed to encourage you to consider your personal development and how you can operate towards goals and your full potential.

‘Personal Development’ and ‘Personal Empowerment’ are two fields that overlay and intermingle, so it is advised that you understand this page in combination with our page on Personal Empowerment.

Why is Personal Development Important?

Many concepts are encompassing personal development, one of which is Abraham Maslow’s method of self-actualisation.


Maslow (1970) recommends that all individuals have an in-built requirement for personal development which transpires through a process called self-actualisation.

The degree to which an individual can develop depends on certain needs are met, and these needs constitute a hierarchy. 

Only when one level of need is gratified can a higher one be developed. 

As changes happen throughout life, however, the level of need motivating someone’s behaviour at any one time will also change.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as displayed in the pyramid, are Physiological, Safety, Love and Belongingness, Esteem, Cognitive, Aesthetic, and Self-Actualisation Needs.

At the base of the hierarchy are the primary needs which are the the basics for survival like physiological needs for food, drink, sex and sleep, i.e., .

Second, is the need for safety and security in both the physical and economic sense.

Thirdly, improvement can be made for serving the necessity for love and belonging.

The fourth level correlates to meeting the necessity for self-esteem and self-worth. This is the level most intimately related to ‘self-empowerment’.

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The fifth level corresponds to the necessity to understand.

This level incorporates more abstract concepts such as curiosity and the search for meaning or purpose and a more profound perception.

The sixth relates to the aesthetic need of symmetry,  beauty, and order.

Conclusively, at the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-actualisation.

Maslow (1970, p.383) says that all individuals need to perceive themselves as responsible and self-sufficient, also that every individual has limitless room for growth.

Self-actualisation applies to the desire that everybody has to mature into everything that they are competent of maturing into.

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In other words, it applies to self-fulfillment and the need to attain full potential as a unique human being.

For Maslow, the path to self-actualisation requires being in touch with your emotions, experiencing life completely and with total intensity.

Maslow, A. H. (1970), Motivation and Personality, (2nd Edition), Harper & Row, New York.

For more on motivation, see our pages: Self-Motivation and Motivating Others.

Managing Your Personal Development

There are several measures to take in accomplishing your personal development.

Developing a Personal Vision

Personal development can be for fun. Most of us, nevertheless, find it easier to motivate ourselves to acquire skills and develop if we have a purpose in doing so.

Developing your vision – a definite idea of where you desire to be in a few months or years, and the reason why – is a significant part of developing this idea.

There is more about this in our articles on Developing a Personal Vision, Refining and Narrowing Your Vision, and Setting Personal Goals.

Planning Your Personal Development

Once you are definite about where you want to be, you can start preparing how to get there.

Drafting up a personal development plan is not required, but it does make the planning method more realistic.

For more about this section of the process, take a glance at our page on Planning Your Personal Development.

If you are striving to identify which areas to target for development and improvement, you may find it convenient to read our pages on Personal SWOT Analysis and Identifying Areas for Improvement.

Starting the Improvement Process

There are several distinct ways in which you can discover and improve.

Our page on Improving Performance – Few Specific Techniques reveal several methods of knowledge acquisition, including a method, described as expertise transfer.

Our page on Learning Preferences advises how several types of learning processes may be more productive for certain individuals.

You may also look upon our page on Learning Styles helpful in understanding how you like to learn.

Recording Your Personal Development

It is usually a great idea to keep a record of your personal development.

By penning down key developments in your learning and development as and when they happen, you will be able to speculate on your success later.

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This observation will serve to motivate you to learn more skills in the future. Try maintaining a learning log or journal as you enhance your skills and knowledge.

See our page on Reflective Practice for some ideas of how to do this.

Reviewing and Revising Personal Development Plans

Our column on Learning Styles uses Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle to demonstrate that learning is a cycle.

For more practical learning, it is crucial to reflect on your experience, and analyse what you have acquired from it.

Routine analysis of your personal development plans, and your development activities, will guarantee that you learn from what you have created.

It will also guarantee that your activities extend to move you towards your goals and that your goals or vision remain important to you.

There is more about this on our page on Reviewing and Revising your Personal Development Plan.

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