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How to Create Your Own Personal Development Plan

About the Author

LQWilliams is a Master’s level social worker with more than 15 years of experience. Her training and specialties include therapeutic services with children/families, child protective services, mental health support services for adults (life coach), and medical social work. In addition, she is licensed as a certified substance abuse counselor.

Who are you? The true answer to this question isn't rooted in your choice of career or the amount of money you make. Instead, it is intensely personal. It is a question that only you can answer, and one that is completely within your control. Who you are at your very core cannot be determined by anyone or anything else. Taking a good look at who you are is the first step to defining who it is you want to be.

The question of who you want to be is one you will probably ask yourself several times over the course of your life. Typically, we think of this in terms of what we want to do. We think of career options, professional decision making, education, family roles, etc. Personal development planning encompasses all of these things and more.

We are all works in progress. Regardless of our successes there will always be something to improve upon, some goal to conquer, or some desire we have yet to pursue.A personal development plan is the ideal tool to examine the key aspects of of our lives in order to achieve growth and change where it is needed.

We are all works in progress and, as such, we all have moments that could have been better, that we are not proud of, and that caused grief for  others as well as ourselves.

We are all works in progress and, as such, we all have moments that could have been better, that we are not proud of, and that caused grief for others as well as ourselves.

What is Personal Development?

Personal development is the practice of improving one's life. It includes activities designed to improve awareness, identify talents/potential, enhance the quality of life, and to help your dreams be realized. In addition, personal development often involves goal setting and the changing of habits. It is typically not an easy task but can be quite rewarding as you become the person you have set out to be.

There are several common assumptions when it comes to the concept of personal development. These are:

You are responsible for how you live your life. Your thoughts and actions play a major role in what you get out of your life. If you are the kind of person that just lets things happen to them and who never takes responsibility, this is probably reflective in the state of your life today. The truth is that most of us inspire our own destinies by simply exploring the possibilities that life has to offer. This requires you to take responsibility for your life.

Defining what you want is essential to achieving it. Too many of us go through life aimlessly. Knowing where you intend to go is key to actually getting there.

A personal development plan (PDP) may also be known as:

  • Individual development plan (IDP)
  • Self improvement plan (SIP)
  • Personal enterprise plan (PEP)
  • Personal improvement plan (PIP)

Short-term costs can lead to long-term benefit. Personal development is an active process. It requires effort, and anything that requires effort carries the risk of failure.This is a chance to invest in yourself. The end result will, undoubtedly, be a great benefit.

You are constantly becoming. Regardless of whether or not you decide to make a conscious effort to change certain aspects of your life, you are still changing and developing. Developing a plan for this change allows you to have more influence over the end result.

Your thoughts, habits, and emotions matter. Nothing about you is inconsequential. What you think influences your actions, and how you act influences the results you get out of life.

Establishing Personal Development Goals

Establishing goals for personal growth and development is not always an easy task. The trick to setting goals is to be SMART about it. Setting SMART goals is the best way to gauge your progress and ensure success. SMART stands for:

  • Specific - In order to achieve your personal growth and development goals you must first clearly define what they are. Specific goals have a much better chance of being accomplished. To ensure your goals are specific make sure they answer the 6 Ws where possible. These are:

Who: Who is involved?

What: What do you want to accomplish?

Where: Identify a location

When: Establish a timeline

Which: Identify Requirements and/or contraints

Why: Specific reasons, purpose, or benefit of accomplishing goal

Examples of SMART Goals Vs. Not So SMART Goals

Not so SMART goal: I want to lose weight

SMART Goal: I want to lose 20 lbs by May 5, 2013. I will perform a half hour of cardio and half hour of strength training 5 times a week.

Not so SMART goal: I want to write a book

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SMART Goal: I want to write a book on “How to Interpret Dreams” that is at least 150 pages in length. I will complete this by July 12, 2013. I will write at least 6 pages every day until I complete the book.

  • Measurable - The ability to measure progress is the key to keeping you motivated and moving in the right direction. Goals that are measurable will answer questions such as how much, how long, and/or how many. How will you know when a goal has been accomplished? When you have reached the measurement outlined within the goal.
  • Attainable - When you begin setting goals, it is important that you do not aim too high or too low. Setting goals that are overly ambitious can leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Setting goals that are too humble can leave you feeling uninspired and bored. Making sure your goals are attainable may require you to break your ultimate goal down into smaller pieces. For example, you wouldn't say I will run 10 miles every day when you've been a couch potato all your life. Instead, you may start with a short daily walk achieve it and then readjust your goal to possibly running one mile, then two, then three. Each mini goal that you achieve gives you a sense of confidence and accomplishment. They are also leading you toward your ultimate goal.
  • Realistic - You are the only one who can decide just how high a goal should be. To be a realistic goal, it must be something you are willing and able to work toward. If you truly believe a goal can be accomplished then it just may be a realistic goal for you.
  • Timely - A target date can be quite motivating. Having a deadline makes it difficult to procrastinate. Make sure your timeline isn't too far into the future, however, because this will lessen your motivation and make it easier to put things off. In addition, setting your timeline too close may be unrealistic and discouraging.

Personal Development Plan Template 1


A personal development plan can be used in all areas of your life. You may have aspirations related to your career, physical/mental health, spiritual growth, finances, and more. A personal development plan is ideal in helping you to sort out exactly where you currently are in relation to your goals and what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be.

While developing your plan for personal growth and development you should explore three basic questions. These are:

1. Where am I now?

2. Where do I want to be?

3. How do I get there?

Think of your personal development plan as a blueprint for success. The format or template used for personal development planning can vary widely. Just find one that works for you and stick to it. The most important part of the process is to develop SMART goals. Some find that starting with a list of their strengths and weaknesses really helps focus their efforts of identifying areas of improvement and setting goals that lead them to success.

Personal Development Plan Template 2


4 Steps to the Perfect Personal Development Plan

1. Decide where you want to be

2. Set SMART goals

3. Develop a strategy or to-do list according to your goals

4. Take action and follow through with your strategies

As you work towards you goals do yourself a favor and keep it simple. There are four simple rules to make you personal develop planning a painless yet effective process. First, determine where you want to end up. Where you come from matters a lot less than where you are going, and achieving what you want requires you to first know what you want.

Second, don't forget those SMART goals. Be specific, make sure you can measure that success, reach for the attainable, keep it realistic, and set a timeframe for your success. Many underestimate the power of goal setting, but it is an essential skill. Write your goals down and review them periodically. Take them along with you if this will help keep you focused and moving in the right direction.

Next, write out the steps needed to accomplish those goals. You can write a strategic plan, a to-do list, or a step by step guide. The format doesn't really matter. What does matter is that you have actionable steps that will lead you to your goal.

Lastly, take action. Having a goal is great. Making no move to achieve that goal is tragic. You have to take action and then you have to take more action. This is the only way to get to where you say you want to be.

Your personal growth and development is completely within your hands. Using a personal development plan is a great way of developing goals, identifying what steps you need to take to achieve those goals, and ultimately realizing your dreams.


GypsyFootedWoman on October 12, 2015:

All good points. I am a firm believer in never allowing ourselves to be simply a passenger in our own lives. I enjoyed this Hub.

Marilyn from Nevada on December 07, 2014:

I also totally agree with everything you said on your blog. Great information and additional helps with the forms for personal development. Great read!

David James from Sarasota, Fl on February 18, 2014:

I agree with everything you say here. I mean, it is up to us to change our own lives. So many people, are waiting to win the lottery or for something to happen to them. I mean it is great to be positive about winning and manifesting. We need to take action and take small steps to get where we want to go in life. The steps we take in self betterment can eventually compound greatly in our lives. From nothing and no hope to amazing results. We have to make goals and be very focused on what it is we want. Then from there take action to get it done. So many people I know want that get rich scheme or to find a quick way to make money. We must invest in ourselves before we can invest in others. We must make our own changes. Thank you for this post from

LQWILLIams (author) on July 29, 2013:

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Marsha Musselman from Michigan, USA on July 29, 2013:

Great hub with inspiration of thing to do to achieve success for all age groups. I was hoping that you would mention something about personal improvement as far as keeping one's body in shape to prevent ailments that generally arrive in the later years of one's life.

You have a great way of writing and getting your points across. Voted up.

Happinessteacher on June 03, 2013:

Thanks for this - very helpful.

LQWILLIams (author) on February 25, 2013:

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Lisa Palmer from Attapulgus GA on February 25, 2013:

Great hub with some very useful information.

landocheese on December 15, 2012:

Good ideas to set goals for personal reasons as well. Many people do this at work, but not at home.

Mobyi on December 10, 2012:

i think it's really great thoughts ...nice one!

LQWILLIams (author) on December 07, 2012:

Thank you for reading and commenting

Laurasmother from Europe on December 07, 2012:

Thank you for interesting thoughts about personal development. I agree, lifetime learning is a process, which is always in progress and will never end....

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