What is Personal Development?

The definition of personal development changes with the context and means different things to different people. For example an organisation will have different priorities when investing in the personal development of their staff than an individual on their own journey of personal growth. However there are some things that are core to any worthwhile definition.

Within organisations any personal development programme set up by the Human Resources department is primarily there to develop individuals to more effectively fulfil their role and meet the needs of the organisation.  It may be trying to develop certain skills, behaviours and attitudes in their staff, to develop them into managers and leaders for example.

Taken from an individual’s perspective, personal development is more about fulfilling their potential, becoming the person that they’ve lost touch with in the busyness of living in today’s challenging world  – have only seem faint glimmers of and want to explore further. It may also be based on a fantasy of a rosy future in which they have all the skills, talent and charisma to be successful in the world. Presumably the assumption is that this will make them happy and fulfilled.

An organisation would also like this – for staff to be happy and fulfilled as it means they are more likely to be highly motivated, committed and productive. Which leads us to the next point of deciding how personal development is assessed. For an organisation ultimately it comes down to whether staff are more effective in their role. The organisation wants staff to be “better”, to “improve”. Quite understandably appraisals therefore talk of “weaknesses” and “areas for development” and these lead to a personal development plan or PDP for the member of staff.

For individuals, assessing how their personal development is going is of course down to them. In some ways the assessment criteria is the same – am I effective in my role? This role though is not one defined by the external world, but one defined by the internal world. The role that we are playing is the ultimate one – ourself – and only we know when we are playing it fully and authentically. Ultimately individual personal development is a journey, perhaps a lifelong one, rediscovering ourselves and letting go of our attachment to external roles that we have necessarily adopted through life.

So whilst an organisation will see personal development as improving what’s not good enough, individual personal development is not about fixing what’s broken – quite the opposite, it’s about re-discovering the true you, who and what you really are. We believe that it’s the realisation that you’re OK as you are, you’re not broken!

The more enlightened organisations and businesses recognise this – they realise that limited budgets cannot continue to pour money into developing people’s weaknesses. What’s the point? At best they work hard to become mediocre at something they’re not naturally good at. A different approach is to find what people are good at and develop and encourage those inherent strengths.

So a first step in personal development – whoever’s paying for it – has to be self-awareness. Recognising what actually is. Dealing with reality. I’m naturally good at this and not much good at that. Anything else is self-delusion and doesn’t help anyone. However dealing with reality, being confronted with the truth, perhaps for the first time, can be challenging – it may mean realising that you don’t match up to the benchmark you have had in your head for so many years! This is where a bit of compassion can go a long way. Developing self-awareness in a safe, secure and non-judgemental setting is what personal development coaching can offer. Holding up a mirror to the individual so that they can see themselves as they really are. Self-awareness is a necessary first step in true and lasting personal development.

So what is personal development? It’s a journey that starts with self-awareness and travels towards personal authenticity and fulfilment. If you want to start on your journey or personal development, you can book an initial life coaching session with Charles, Andy or Anne Katrin.

Posted by:
Andy Turnbull