What Exactly is Personal Development?
Personal development is the process of self-enhancement that can occur individually or under the guidance of a mentor, teacher or personal development coach. The field of personal development is ancient and history reveals that it is an ongoing area of research and understanding as each generation faces new challenges an opportunities. There are a variety of online and in-person learning programs, training programs, books, audios, and videos. Each of which share different perspectives, tools, techniques, and methods to enhance one’s personal development. The key premise behind personal development is intentionality: the intent to change one’s circumstances or effectiveness based upon specific, measurable criteria. In most activities this affects an individual’s health, wealth, relationships and spirituality. To begin with, there must be an initial intake using specific criteria to establish where you are currently and this is contrasted with one’s desired outcomes. This process reveals the missing resources that the individual must personally develop. The resulting objectives, goals and benchmarks can be used as milestones that demonstrate progress upon a person’s personal development path. Both failures and successes upon this development path provide a feedback system in real time. A personal development coach helps the coachee to effectively evaluate the feedback and make adjustments accordingly so as to stay on track.
The Connection Between Psychology and the Personal Development Movement
It is generally assumed that personal development mixed with psychology when Alfred Adler and Carl Jung made their respective impacts upon psychology. Alfred Adler is recorded as one of the first psychologists to not limit psychology to just analysis that focused upon past childhood circumstances or unconscious drives as derived from the Freudian psychotherapy model. Adler also defined the concept of lifestyle, which is a person’s overall approach to life including how they face problems, their self-image and general attitude toward life. Carl Jung brought to psychology the notion of the process of individuation. This is the individual’s drive to experience a sense of wholeness and internal balance. Later, Daniel Levinson developed a model of seven life stages that has come to be known as the lifecycle. Within the lifecycle, each individual is unconciously influenced by the aspirations of an ideal life; “the Dream.”
Personal Development and Goal Achievement
David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University, Albert Bandura has revealed through his research that personal development is an effective approach to goal achievement because of the internal resources it creates within the individual. One of the primary resources each individual who proactively begins a self-directed personal development path or personal development coaching is self-confidence. Self-confidence, according to Bandura, is an important predictive quality supporting individual success because within the individual it: creates the context of anticipated success; it allows for controlled risks and challenging goals; it encourages continued attempts in the face of failure; and it empowers one to control non-beneficial emotions.
The Effects of Personal Development Upon Higher Education
The educational researcher in the field of student affairs, Arthur Chickering, outlined seven import points of personal development that should be experienced by university students:
- Develop competence
- Manage emotions
- Achieve autonomy and interdependence
- Develop mature interpersonal relationships
- Establish identity
- Develop purpose
- Develop integrity
The application of personal development within academia can be seen in the following disciplines:
- Personal development in education for epistimology of learning and assessment
- Personal development in psychology to understand motivation and personality
- Personal development in sociology to better evaluate identity and social networks
- Personal development in economics to enhance human capital and economic value
- Personal development in philosophy as a basis of ethics and self-reflection
How Personal Development Affects the Workplace
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs reveals self-actualization at the top of the pyramid, signifying a human being’s desire to be more and be everything that an individual has the capacity to become. It is interesting to think that Maslow estimated only a small percentage of the population were actually concerned with self-actualization, individuation and personal development. The remainder of the population would be solely interested in the lower levels such as financial security and personal needs being met. With the growth and globalization of the world’s economy, it becomes less the responsibility of corporations to ensure the personal development of their employees and more so the responsibility of the employee to ensure she or he is well suited for a position. Peter Drucker stated the following in the Harvard Business Review (
We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity: if you’ve got ambition and smarts, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession, regardless of where you started out. But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their employees’ careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers. It’s up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years.
It can be generalized that corporate personal development programs can be divided into two categories: employee benefits and development strategies. The purpose behind employee benefits personal development coaching programs is to enhance motivation, create employee loyalty and improve job satisfaction. Such personal development programs focus upon: time management, work and life balance, stress management, leadership, and the personal discovery that can occur in sports, martial arts, NLP coaching, hypnosis, personal finance, yoga, meditation, etc. Regarding development strategies, these often overlap with professional development goals. Often programs are created or consultants and personal development trainers brought in to enhance productivity, inspire innovation or motivate employees to enhance the quality of their work. The overall interests benefit the employees but more so benefit the long term development goals of the organization. In this sense, it is a win-win scenario because the company can look at enhancing one or all of the following factors: increase performance, reduce costs, or increase revenues. While the employees receive training and resources to better ensure job stability and enhance performance.