Making a Personal Development Plan

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Many people want to try to improve themselves in a variety of ways, but they often don’t know where to start. Perhaps you have a laundry list of traits that you’d like to change about yourself, and it’s simply overwhelming before you even start? Truthfully, if you made only a few changes, you could see a drastic improvement; it’s really not necessary to change everything about yourself. Instead, you need to create a plan which prioritizes and organizes your personal goals. By prioritizing your goals, you end up with a manageable plan of just a few items and will avoid the burnout that comes with trying to do everything at once.

The first thing you need to do is to write down your “need to change” laundry list. Putting these items down in black and white helps you when selecting which items to prioritize, as you will be sure you haven’t forgotten anything important. Once you have your list, you should sort the individual goals into groups, putting similar goals together. For example, you might have a “physical appearance” group which includes getting a more flattering haircut, becoming more physically fit, and changing your diet. You might also have an “emotional responses” group which includes being overly aggressive in social situations and reacting badly to constructive criticism. Continue this process until you have sorted all of your goals. Try to avoid having categories with only one item in them, as the entire point of the exercise is to reduce the number of discrete tasks in front of you, not to simply rename the goals.

Once you have sorted all of your goals into larger categories, you next need to rank those categories. Start with the category which you feel needs the most work. This is not necessarily the one with the most items in it; instead, it should be the category which most affects your day to day life. Continuing with the example above, it is likely that the emotional response category affects your life more than the physical appearances category does, since an inability to accept criticism could affect your professional or academic life as well as your personal life. The emotional reactions category would then be given the highest priority and placed at the top of the list.

Now that you have determined which categories of goals are the most important, you need to develop a plan for executing them. Don’t create a plan for all of the categories just yet. You want to take this process one step at a time. Instead, break down the ultimate goal of the category into smaller and more manageable tasks. This does not mean that you break your category back into the separate goals. Instead, it means looking at the overall picture of the category and trying to improve on that. Again using the example above, we wouldn’t break down the emotional responses category to aggressive behavior and a response to criticism again. Instead, you would break this goal into action steps that change your emotional response to situations. Both aggressive behavior and a poor response to criticism stem from having an inordinate amount of anger at an otherwise benign situation, so you would want to focus on techniques to control and reduce your anger. You should not make a plan for the next category on your list until you are satisfied with the progress on your first item.

By prioritizing your personal development goals, you take an overwhelming task and make it manageable. You cannot do everything at once. Changing one trait at a time means you’ll see real progress, and be a better person in no time.

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