What is Personal Development?

Personal Development

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Yesterday I was at a birthday party of one of my best friends, who just turned 30. One of the guests asked me what I currently do, so I told him I’m building something in Personal Development …

… which earned me a blank stare from him! As the seconds ran by I could literally see him articulating the question: “What is Personal Development?”

So I was trying to find common ground by telling him Personal Development is a bit like Self-Help, but more proactive from my perspective. Just like Self-Improvement, which he had an understanding for. The fact that he obviously was lacking some real personal development of his own, got me into elaborating on the topic more and more, earning more and more interest from him…

A Definition of Personal Development

Personal Development is the conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills. [Tweet this!]

Those skills include my mind, my body, my spirit as well as my level of success in all areas of life, however I may define that. The ultimate goal of Personal Development for me is to be a self-realized human being. That means living consciously at my full potential and reaching real happiness in my life.

By progression I mean that there are essential steps to take when starting out with Personal Development. I believe that in the process of personal growth there are specific milestones to reach, and that without tackling these, personal growth is not really possible or at least not complete.

Maybe you are still not convinced that Personal Development is for you and you may still ask “Why?” The reason is simple:

Life is just better when we have done work on ourselves. [Tweet this!]

And that includes our mental, physical, emotional, social and financial life. I think it’s fair to say:

Personal Development makes you happy. [Tweet this!]

You can’t really argue with that goal…

How to Start Personal Development

So how can you get started on your own journey of personal growth. Or if you have already started to consciously follow personal development, how can you get to the next level? During my now over 10 years work on that topic, I identified several of those milestones mentioned above.

There is the basic motivation to improve yourself. It’s either coming from inspiration and you are looking to get better than you already are, or it comes out of desperation: something unpleasant challenges you to grow. For instance, what brought you here today?

One of the first things you need is something I would sum up as acceptance. Acceptance means to see your life / your situation as it really is and accept that. Stop rationalizing things you are truly unhappy about and tell yourself the truth. That may also mean you have to look at areas of your life where it really can be painful to accept the status quo. If you connect to the truth you have laid the most important basis to really grow. You have to know where you stand. From there you can move forward. Without that it’s just not working. Period.

I think the most essential things in Personal Development deal with how you look at the world and how you see yourself in the world, which then determines how you act in the world. Are you a victim or a winner? Do you see yourself as self-confident or not? Are you in control or not? Are you successful? Are you happy or not, and in what parts of your life.

Making the Unconscious Conscious

Much of it is about making the unconscious conscious. That’s what this blog is really all about (and then to do the work). It’s always the first part to become conscious of how we really work on the inside. Only then we can get control over it. For instance the idea from above of telling yourself the truth, acceptance, is just the same: to make the unconscious reality, that we may have ignored before, conscious. Just that we can make progress now, while before it wasn’t even on our radar – in was just unconscious.

In psychology this is called the four stages of competence:

Quote from Wikipedia:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Makes sense. And in Personal Development we are talking about this process for our whole personality. During this process we make unconscious beliefs that limit us conscious (see my article How to Change Self-Limiting Beliefs). We take responsibility for ourselves and stop pointing to others for results that we are responsible for. (see Take Responsibility in Your Life). This moves us back to power again, since we are the one in the driving seat. We are response-able, which enables us to dream again, set a life-vision and set some exciting new goals for our life (see The Fastest Way to Set Motivating Goals).

We learn to get more energy (see How to Increase Your Energy) and how to use it intelligently. We get more self-awareness and improve our mental focus (see How to Develop a Laser-Sharp Mental Focus). We develop a personal development plan that will guide us to where we really want to go.

There are a lot of more things to improve in our own personal growth. But with those mentioned tackled, I think we start to lay a strong the foundation for Personal Development.

So, next time someone asks me  “What is Personal Development?” I may just give him a link to this post.

And coming back to the question, what would you have said?
What is Personal Development for yourself?

About the author Myrko Thum

I'm author of this site and I could coach you to make a giant leap ahead in your personal life and your business. I founded Personal Breakthrough Academy, a powerful personal development video course to create your personal breakthrough. Sign up below to get started:

19 Comments

  • Robin

    April 15, 2012

    Great blog post and interesting ideas. Personal development, for me, is to become rooted in now and therefore to enjoy the energy and clarity of mind that this brings. When you are totally present you cannot be negative, so it’s all about bringing consciousness away from the incessantly thinking mind.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    April 16, 2012

    Robin, yours is a nice definition, which is focussed on presence and on self-awareness, I enjoyed that. This post again brings me back to one of my main themes of this blog, which is “personal development and spirituality“.
    Yesterday I read this blog emptyfist.com and he states “For best results, ignore Personal Development”. It argues that there isn’t much to achieve with personal development and it is terrifying, opening the point with the premise that many people who do it don’t show results. Then its more about going with the flow to be successful.
    While I love the flow idea, I think it should try to integrate both worlds, instead of confusing personal development with hard effort that is simply done wrong. Yes of course, there is bad advice in personal development, and there is bad advice in spiritual development. In the end I believe everyone has to be with himself and see what works for him, and not expect something to be the magic bullet. That’s the essence of intelligently taking responsibility for your life.

    ReplyReply
  • Nahum Correa Ruvalcaba

    April 17, 2012

    Hi Myrko, nice post and great topic. Let my tell you my story with personal development:

    Something like 15+ years ago I began to travel into the road of self help, personal development, positive thinking and spiritual development. ¿My main reason? a -strong- car accident.

    Everybody knows, an event like this one, changes your life.

    Well, when I woke up I still remember having my mind white. Little by little, as I was recovering, I became conscious about what happened to me and my condition, as a survivor.

    And then.
    When I fully recovered,
    everything become a challenge.

    This is hard to explain,
    and difficult to understand,
    for most people.

    Well, as everything was so challenging, I remember myself one of those days saying: No more !!.

    That day I got immerse totally into personal development, until today.

    I can say that I’m a nice guy, trying to be successful.

    And about: ¿What is, for me, Personal Development?
    The answer is: A conscious choice.

    I saw the map of my life until my car accident, and had the “you are here” arrow.

    When I was conscious enough I had to make a decision, to follow stay there and following the self pity path or to move and following the recovering path to the life I always wanted (if I didn’t died, was because god gave me a second chance)

    I wanted to share my story, because, I think that personal development saved my life in many ways. And, because I wanted to say that everything in your article is totally right.

    Personal development is about awareness.

    So, if you think you are right as your are, there will be no development.

    But if you feel the need to improve yourself in any area (Rocky Balboa called this as “hunger”) the gates of self improvement will open for you, and this is a powerful moment because you gave yourself permission “to be a better you”.

    And there will be no resistance.

    Thanks for reading me.

    Saludos desde Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

    ReplyReply
  • Johnny Salter

    October 7, 2012

    No body believes this but if I want to absolutally gurantee that something will not happen is to set a goal or hope for something to happen. Its happenend so much that I have no doubt that anything I plan for in the future or really want it will not happen. I went through a very opptomistic period here while back and set a goal which I thought was very achivable to increase my business about 30% naturally it droped about 75%. I was so discpouragedd I didn’t give a F…. if it increased 900% or if I had so little I lived on the street.

    When I got like this business increased rapidally but am so disouraged I hardly do it. I am sure when I startt it will get cut off..

    I think I could plan for something I could act on it if I could get my mind like Zorba the Greeks is below Where he could have an ambitiong and acttually not care if it came to pass. Acctually what he says is how I want to end up.

    This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.”

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    October 7, 2012

    @Johnny Salter: have you examined the reasons why your business went down by 75%? Of course, sometimes there are things that we cannot control. Then we have to adapt. But in any case, usually you can learn something which is valuable for your next and better try.

    ReplyReply
  • Johnny Salter

    October 7, 2012

    I learned never to hope.

    ReplyReply
  • Anton Kranenburg

    November 29, 2012

    After a stay in Africa for 4 months I returned home (the Netherlands). My “best friends” ruined my house, so I am totally broke by now. That is why I am busy to start my own business online. After weeks of working real hard, 12 to 16 hours a day, I found myself a teacher, who is helping me right now. I will not give up, I wanna succeed, one way or the other. Giving up would make, that I wasted hundreds of hours and as I have a goal, I will not give up. It is not for myself, but for the little children in Uganda. I wanna support them in near future. Without education many of them cannot have a human future. I maybe will tell you more about “how I will do” in a later message.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    November 30, 2012

    Anton, there is plenty of opportunity out there right now for online businesses. From whom do you learn at the moment? I have a fairly good overview of the online marketing space as well, maybe I can suggest some people to follow as well.
    Also, I think personal development is always among the best investments you can ever make, since its an investment in yourself, the one “asset” you will always work with. I wish you all the best!

    ReplyReply
  • Rick

    May 9, 2013

    Hi, I am new to your site and enjoyed the read. Very articulate and well rounded. Clearly you have a firm, first hand grasp of the elements of personal development and unleashing the power of your subconscious mind. I related to the 4 stages of awareness you’ve mentioned above; very concise, clearly defined and accessible. I like it a lot. I would like to ask for the opportunity to perhaps guest as a blogger here if you are interested. I will continue to visit the site and comment on articles that pique my interest (which most seem to do) and make my voice and presence known here while absorbing all of the interesting and valid opinions and perspectives being shared here. If you have the time, perhaps you could take the opportunity to read some of my blogs on http://www.johnkanary.com and let me know your thoughts. Provide feedback, without which we are half as good as we might be, no?

    Thank you for sharing. I’ll be back.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    May 10, 2013

    Rick, if you want to guest-blog here, please take a look at my guest-post page here http://www.myrkothum.com/guest-posts/

    ReplyReply
  • kalaiarasan karuppaiya

    July 24, 2013

    Dear brother myrko,
    I like to say something about me

    I’m 28 years old , i met many bad failures in my life,
    For example i say two events ,
    10,years before my aim was becoming as a police ,
    I was 100% fit for that job ,physically ,and all,
    But unfortunately they refuse me to give that job,
    Not only one time 5 times i did try again and again ,
    But result is fail.
    Now last 10 years i’m working as a construction
    Civil supervisor ,

    I did love one girl,very deeply
    She also left me to
    Because i’m poverty
    Now i’m a love failure,if i see my life backward all filled by failure

    But i never give up my confidant
    I want to become rich and majestic with willpower
    Until that i will not sleep .

    ReplyReply
  • Danijela Stojkovski

    November 23, 2013

    Improving my present self to reach the future self. I like your page and I will follow your posts.

    ReplyReply
  • Frankie Law

    June 5, 2014

    Hi Myrko, I had been on this personal development journey for a while myself and was curious about how OTHER people see personal development and their definition.

    I was surprise to see that almost every blog that I read have their own definition of personal development and their unique approaches and starting point.

    I personally started this whole journey because I had nothing to hope for back then. No friends, no jobs, no money, it was literally a life of emptiness. I am still working hard on this everyday.

    I think of the most important factor in personal development is willingness to move pass that comfort zone. I can understand why that article “For best results, ignore Personal Development” is saying. Because I got overly consumed by “fixing” myself and improving that I have forgotten to move forward in life.

    You might think this is silly, how can that be? If you are improving, you must be going somewhere right? Not necessary, for me, it felt that I had over develop and not enough application with those new found skill. Another words, yes I am build up, but no opportunities to use it.

    I think too much of anything is like a double edge sword. Too much knowledge in school restricts creativity, while too much personal development restricts practically.

    Of course, this is all from my personal experiences. Everyone approaches life differently and I think the uniqueness to this whole experience is that you are given the opportunity to shape your own destiny, find your own branding and such.

    For me, I am slowly moving out of my comfort zone with personal development and just go with the flow front now on. Let’s see where it will take me in the next 5 years. LOL

    If I may ask, was the question that your friend asked made your started personal development or was there something more before that encouraged you?

    Thank you Myrko for this article, very nicely written, it reminded me a lot why I got started. Visit me sometimes and see how I got started, I promise it is the weirdest you will ever come across, or link me if you found weirder. :D

    Thanks again!

    ReplyReply
  • Frankie Law

    June 5, 2014

    @Frankie Law: Sorry to post again, but I found the answer to my own question about what encouraged you to start personal development. :)

    ReplyReply

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