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 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 of 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 of 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:
- Training on the job
- Joining groups
There are many 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.
What are my dreams?
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.”
Image credit: My own