What Is Personal Development? A 2023 Guide

What Is Personal Development

What is personal development and why does it matter?

Are you interested in finding out about what personal development means? 

Maybe the term has been used in your professional life and you’re trying to find the best way of achieving professional success.

Or perhaps there are other areas of your life where goal setting would be an important component of more successful personal growth.

In this article we’re going to discuss 5 key areas of personal development and how you can build these to help you achieve your full potential.

The first step in our journey is to understand what personal development means:

What is personal development?

The dictionary definition

Personal development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.”

What Is Personal Development
What Is Personal Development?

Essentially the personal development journey begins by having the correct mindset ie. a growth mindset.

Doing so will enable you to become an agent of change and allow you to develop your interpersonal skills, mental health, professional growth and physical health.

Setting Personal Development Goals

An important part of personal development is being able to set goals for yourself in different aspects of your life.

Setting personal goals is a great way to maintain a positive mental attitude and a universal strategy for building new habits.

Setting life goals can be quite a daunting task so we have broken these down into five broad categories: mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical.

We will be going into each one and giving examples that you can employ to help kickstart your self-development journey.

If you’re interested in finding out more about why goal setting is an important part of a growth mindset, then check out our 27 Growth Mindset Principles.

1. Mental Personal Development

Developing your mind is one of the most exciting aspects of personal development.  We are very lucky that in the 21st century we have so many ways that we can make this happen.

Building new knowledge by taking an online class, reading a book, or watching YouTube videos are all easy ways to digest information. 

The best part is that the internet is a wealth of free information with many articles and videos created by the best people in their field.

Why not watch this video below on becoming successful, after all it is a speech given by billionaire Tony Robbins!

By setting aside as little as 15 minutes each day, you will begin to develop new skills, see career growth, increased productivity, and challenge some of those limiting beliefs.

I am a big fan of podcasts and Youtube videos, I listen on a range of subjects from entrepreneurial business development to history. 

These are two of the best ways to learn if you are an auditory learner like me.

2. Social Personal Development

This category is all about improving your communication skills. 

Social development is an element of personal development that is often ignored. We are sometimes guilty of focussing internally rather than looking outward.

Learning a new language, practicing public speaking, networking and doing more active listening are all activities that can help with social personal development.

What Is Personal Development
What Is Personal Development?

Developing these hard skills will require you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and you will have to get used to being uncomfortable in order to push forward.

People skills are some of the most important that we can learn, developing these is a sure-fire way to fast track your professional career.

3. Spiritual Personal Development

An area of your life that some people think very deeply about and others shy away from. 

By spiritual personal development we aren’t necessarily talking about religion although that can be a part of it.

The best way to describe it is anything that brings you peace, a more meaningful life and helps you connect to your true self.

What Is Personal Development
What Is Personal Development?

The activities that fall under this category can be anything from meditation to spending time in prayer or even reading the Bible.

Some people find they are at peace when they’re out walking or close to nature.

The Bible always has some words of inspiration regardless of your religious stance, why not check some of the most motivational Bible verses, here?

4. Emotional Personal Development

Emotional personal development is what most of us are thinking of when we talk about the personal development process. 

We tend to believe that our inner strength comes from within us and is linked to our level of emotional intelligence ie. how much we understand about ourselves.

Successful people understand that personality development can be a lifelong process. It is foolish for us to think that some people have a positive attitude and others do not.

What Is Personal Development
What Is Personal Development?

In actual fact it is that openness to learn and change the way we react to things that allows us to become a positive person. 

People with a fixed mindset believe that you are born with a set amount of human potential and cannot learn anymore.

The truth is that human development has no limits and if you develop your mind and emotions, you can achieve anything.

Some people like to speak to a life coach to help with their personal and professional development.

Personally, I prefer to do an activity like bullet journaling which I find really helps explore my emotions.

5. Physical Personal Development

Physical personal development is the final and very obvious category but don’t be lulled into thinking that this is just about exercising every day.

It is easy to tweak your daily routine to help develop this aspect of your life.

Exercising is of course the obvious one.

Raising your heart rate for just 15 minutes each day will have a beneficial effect on your BMI, muscles, and mental well-being.

Diet is another element where small changes can bring significant results.

Cutting down on sugar intake is a surefire way to improve your physical development.

What Is Personal Development
What Is Personal Development?

Doing so will protect your teeth, stop you from having short-term highs and longer-term lulls, and help you avoid putting on unnecessary fat.

Prepping your meals is another important step that you could take, especially if you are busy and find yourself eating junk food or snacking throughout the day.

You will spend over one third of your life sleeping and mastering that sleep is a great way of physical self-improvement.

Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night so that you are fully prepared to attack the next day with all that new found energy. 

This might take some time especially if you aren’t in a pattern already but persevere with it and you’ll soon see the difference.

By creating healthier habits around exercise, healthy eating, and sleep you will be on your way to be your best physical self.

The Science Behind Personal Development

American Psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow (1970) suggests that all individuals have an in-built need for personal development which occurs through a process called self-actualisation.

The extent to which people are able to develop depends on certain needs being met and these needs form a hierarchy.  Only when one level of need is satisfied can a higher one be developed.  

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

  • At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic physiological needs for food, drink, sex and sleep, i.e., the basics for survival.
  • Second are the needs for safety and security in both the physical and economic sense.
  • Thirdly, progression can be made to satisfying the need for love and belonging.
  • The fourth level refers to meeting the need for self-esteem and self-worth. This is the level most closely related to ‘self-empowerment’.
  • The fifth level relates to the need to understand. This level includes more abstract ideas such as curiosity and the search for meaning or purpose and a deeper understanding.
  • The sixth relates to aesthetic needs of beauty, symmetry and order.
  • Finally, at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-actualisation.

Maslow (1970, p.383) says that all individuals have the need to see themselves as competent and autonomous, also that every person has limitless room for growth.

Self-actualisation refers to the desire that everybody has ‘to become everything that they are capable of becoming’. In other words, it refers to self-fulfilment and the need to reach full potential as a unique human being.

For Maslow, the path to self-actualisation involves being in touch with your feelings, experiencing life fully and with total concentration.

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