Personal development is about continuous growth. It’s about becoming the best person you can be. In personal development, you’re introduced to concepts like, self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-esteem, and goal setting. Of all these concepts, the central one is goal setting. Goal setting is an integral part of personal development because it’s the accomplishment of set goals that brings about growth and progress.
Even though goal setting is important for growth, it has been established that most people don’t set goals. Only about 5 percent of the adult population has clearly written goals. One of the reasons people don’t set goal is because they just don’t know how to. Another reason is that most people are not prepared for the attention to details that goal setting requires. Yet one other reason is that some people try to avoid the disappointment that may accompany non-achievement of goals. All the reasons can be summed up in one word – ignorance.
I count myself fortunate to have ventured into personal development early in my career considering that I knew next to nothing about setting goals in my seventeen years of formal education. The progress I’ve made so far in personal development is attributable in part to the organizations I was privileged to have worked. In these places I had access to the internet, which made me favourably disposed to getting valuable information online. As a matter of fact, I got my first email address (a Hotmail address) in 1996 – five years after the advent of the internet.
The focus of this article is to share some of my experiences hoping that it would make life a lot easier for those making forays into personal development. Without proper guidance, anyone that ventures into this field risks getting overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. Over and above the risk of information overload is the complexity of some of the approaches and high sounding words personal development experts use.
Personal development basics
One thing that locked me in during my early personal development efforts was hearing that the principles required for a life change are just about half a dozen. I found this encouraging because I thought: “If all I need to learn is just about six principles, I can cope with that”. I was also encouraged by the fact that these principles are old. Mr. Jim Rohn put it this way: “…Fundamentals are old. There are no new fundamentals… Beware of a person who says to you, ‘I have new fundamentals’… That’s like someone saying: ‘Come, let me take you to where they manufacture antiques! …’” This presentation style did a lot in giving me a positive orientation to the idea of personal development.
Goals you should consider
With a positive orientation to personal development in place, the next step to overcoming the challenges of personal development is to come up with worthwhile goals that can stand the test of time. Some of the materials I came across assisted me in putting the goals I needed to pursue in clear perspective.
From these materials, I learned that, as humans, we face two major challenges in life. Our goals should be to overcome these challenges; when we overcome them we experience growth. The first challenge is the full development of your potentials. To identify your potentials, think of all the things you can do if you had all the money you need in life. This would enable you go deep into yourself to see all you can possibly do. You’re advised to keep money out of the way because it could be a formidable obstruction to clear thinking.
There are generic potentials we must all develop. For instance, a man should develop his potential to become the best husband and father he can be. A lady should invest her efforts to build her capacity as a wife and mother. Other generic potentials include becoming a better employer, employee, colleague, team member or friend.
Beside the generic potentials, you have specific potentials. Early in my banking career, I realized I had the passion for writing. Even though my efforts were not rewarded, I kept at it. I remember writing a six-page credit appraisal memo, sometime in 1994, that was reduced to barely one and a half pages because, in my boss’s opinion, it had a lot of irrelevant details. My mental attitude then was that I would get better. Over the years, I learned and I am still learning to rid my writings of verbose statements.
One major advantage of recognizing your potential is that it gives direction on where to seek help. For argument sake, if you’ve recognized your potential of becoming a reputable financial analyst, you wouldn’t seek admission into a medical school! Recognizing your potential is also an insurance against information overload. With billions of resource materials available globally, knowledge of your potential is critical to locating the right kind of materials.
The second challenge in your personal development effort is the wise use of your resources. The key resources are, time, money, talents and skills. For the best life, your ability to effectively and efficiently manage these resources is essential. The first step in effective resource management is proper identification of all your resources (tangible and intangible). Having identified your resources, the next step is to set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T) goals in each growth area and come up with workable plans for achieving the set goals.
When it comes to being a good manager of resources, I find the Parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25 verses 14 to 30 very instructive. One fundamental lesson from the Parable is that if we do not productively use the talents God has given us, we are as guilty as any other sinners and the consequences are the same – eternal damnation. The second lesson is that we are expected to double our talents within a reasonable time. In applying this lesson, you may set a goal of doubling your net worth every three years, for instance. And with respect to your time, your goal may be to become so productive that you can accomplish the same task at half the time it used to take.
In summary, our broad life goals are the full development of our potentials and the wise use of our resources. I believe this puts the whole idea of personal growth in proper perspective. If this article has been useful to you, I will appreciate having your comments in the space provided below. Do share this article with your friends and colleagues.