Personal Development: Identifying your developmental needs

I started the year by focusing on personal development, though I have been focusing on it more intensely these last few weeks because I know that, as the year wears on into February and March, life has gotten fully back into gear, with the rhythms of our schedules taking over, and our resolutions soon forgotten or pushed to the wayside.

I have since discussed the ‘why’ of personal development, using the ‘stagnant pond’ metaphor, as well as the ‘how’, concerning planning – but today comes a different challenge: the ‘what’.

The process of personal development starts with self-reflection. It is difficult to review a book or movie if you haven’t seen it, likewise, to understand your developmental needs, you don’t just need to know where you are going, but you also need to know where you are – the process of personal development starts with a benchmark. Identify where you are by taking a look at your skills and limitations. You don’t have to measure or analyse yourself, but you do need to know where the starting line is. What needs improvement?

Identify Your Weaknesses:

  • We often think of our strengths and weaknesses as separate traits that do not interact, leading us to try to ‘switch’ out our weaknesses for strengths, instead of trying to make up for them with our strengths.
  • It is impossible for a person to be fully well-rounded or ‘well-balanced’; everyone performs well in a few areas and underperforms in others – the question is how you make up for that underperformance (this is most commonly achieved by relying on team members).
  • At Gallup we use a Strengths Assessment, giving people a ‘language’ for their strengths, knowing which words to use and fostering an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Invite Feedback:

  • Apart from introspection and self-reflection, feedback is the best way to see and understand your progress. Find people who are willing to give you honest, critical feedback, people who will focus on both the positive and the negative. Be sure to ask a wide variety of people for feedback, too; your boss will give you feedback from a work productivity and performance standpoint, but a close friend will likely have something else to say entirely.

Prioritise Developmental Areas:

  • Define your goals. What needs changing, how does it need to change, and how long will it take? Which of your goals are short-term and which are long-term? Which ones will you need help with and in what ways?
  • Figure out what needs to happen ‘now’, in the next three months, in the next year, and, maybe, in the next five years. Prioritise them that way, to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed.
  • Segment your goals by the required investment – considering time, cost, etc.
  • Remember to balance your professional and personal developmental needs; these won’t always match up. Make sure not to prioritise one over the other.

Make the Process Reasonable:

  • Your list of developmental goals will surely get longer, and prior commitments will often get in the way to some degree (usually related to free time, or a lack thereof). Work through your list of goals to figure out which ones you need to focus on the most, setting the others aside for the time being.
  • As you work your way through the smaller and/or more urgent developmental goals, you can slowly bring your other goals back into the picture.
  • Consolidate your plan into a single, clear roadmap – what are you developing and why, when will you schedule time for this, and how will you work on them?

Self-reflection is important, but on its own, it will never be enough. Change only comes from action, not inaction. When it comes to personal development, ‘ongoing’ is a verb – ensure your development remains ongoing, so that you don’t become a stagnant pond.