The Personal Development Plan a.k.a. Building a Road to Your Goals

Open Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and your feed will be flooded with “new year, new me” posts. While it’s amazing to...

personal development plan

Open Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and your feed will be flooded with “new year, new me” posts. While it’s amazing to see so many people looking to change things up in the new year, we know, from our own experience, that not all of those resolutions will stick for more than a week. You’ve surely been through it at some point, just as we did. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about changing things when everyone around you is also buzzing with excitement, but as soon as we get back to work and our to-do lists and old habits and patterns, the resolutions we made don’t seem as reasonable as in the night we put them on paper.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to change our lives for the better. It only means we should embrace an effective way to do so – like the personal development plan – even if it has nothing of the glamour and sparkle of New Year’s Resolutions.

Why think of a personal development plan in the first place?

Happiness has three components: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. We need to nurture each of them in order to be happy and we can learn how to do things better in each of these three areas. A personal development plan acts as a roadmap, showing where you need to take a left or a right to arrive at your destination, whatever it may be – more fulfilling work, closer friendships, more passionate love life, better paying job, etc.

In some countries, when they enroll in college, students are expected to start work on their personal development plan so they could make the most of their academic training. All around the world, HR departments make employees fill out professional development plans (focusing on developing skills relevant to their role and industry) and then track their progress. While personal development plans aren’t new, as a society we’ve only recently started seeing them as useful tools in designing the life we want and increasing our happiness.

What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan is a detailed course of action describing the skills you must achieve and the activities you must participate in to achieve a specific goal you have set for yourself. You can also think of it as the simplest form of a logical model: inputs >>> activities >>> outputs >>> outcomes.

You can use a personal development plan to change careers, start a business, start earning a passive income, make new friends, get promoted, write a book, or anything that requires more than a single, simple tweak to your resume or skill set.

Many, many years ago, in an interview, Will Smith told the story of how his father tore down a wall when he was a kid and told him and his brother to build it back up. The kids initially thought it would be impossible, but they eventually figured out what they had to do to build it. That was one of the life lessons Will Smith treasures to this day:

You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest wall that’s ever been built’. You don’t start there. You say ‘I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid’ and you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.

The same goes for your personal development plan, you list the bricks you need to build your wall and then you get them and lay them the best you can.

How do I figure out what I need?

If you got this far in the article, you must be ready to start work on your personal development plan, and you’ll be happy to read that there are only 3 steps you need to take to design your plan, beautifully summed up by Rachel Bolton, Ontario-based Life Design Coach & Mentor:


1 ) Assess where you are right now (Point A).
How satisfied are you with what’s going on in your life? Your job? Your love life? Your friendships? Your health? Your spirituality and mental health? How happy are you with what you’ve currently got across all these areas?Key question: Where am I now?


2 ) Set goals and deadlines (Point B)
What would take something from unsatisfactory to deeply satisfactory? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to be different in half a year to two years from now?

Key question: Where do I want to be?


3 ) How can you get from point A to Point B?
What are the specific actions you could take to build brick by brick the road to Point B? What are the pieces of this puzzle that you can identify? In what order are you going to tackle these activities?

Key question: How will I get there?


How should I design my personal development plan?

Well, it doesn’t matter. It can be a complex workbook or a Pinterest board, the only important thing is that it should allow you to remember what your goals, deadlines, and activities are, so you could track your progress and guide your next steps.

If you’re like us, and you like a little more structure, there are three formats you can test out on a simple sheet of paper.

#1 The Mind Map

personal-development plan mind map

Write your top goal on a piece of paper. Think what actions or skills or situations would lead to achieving that goal. Write those down and connect them to the goal. Now, think what actions or skills or situations would help you achieve those things and write those down.

#2 The Table

personal development plan table

This one is a simple table where you list the activities you need to perform in order to achieve your goal, a timeline, and proof that you have completed the task (picture of the scale, eCourse completion screenshot, etc.)


#3 The Circle

personal development plan circle

This one is really great if you want to constantly improve your skills or advance in your career. It forces you to come back to it and assess your results. Start by writing down where you are, what you want to achieve, what activities are necessary to achieve the goal and then how you’ll know if you’ve been successful.

One thing to remember before starting

Suzanne Eder is an award-winning writer and transformational life coach who should be on your radar. In her TEDxWilmington talk, she said something you should always remember before embarking on a personal development journey:

Deep within many of us, at any level of skill or accomplishment, is an ancient belief that there’s something wrong with us. We may not be fully conscious of it, but it’s there and it affects us. It’s a painful belief to hold. It’s also a false belief. But until we know it’s false, we’re in the dark about who we are and what’s possible in our lives.

There is nothing wrong with you, you’re human. Thinking you’re broken in some way will make you abandon all inner wisdom and focus solely on other’s answers and advice. We disempower ourselves when taking someone else’s path and not our own.

Start work on your personal development plan, but make it your plan, about what you want to achieve, how you want to do it. You’re not fixing yourself because there’s nothing that needs fixing, you’re just boosting up your awesomeness.

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