What Does Personal Development Mean to You?

personal development and you

When you think of personal development, what comes to your mind? The dictionary likens the process of personal development to personal change, growth, progress, advancement, and improvement. It’s an evolutionary process toward personal excellence or a state of being outstanding. It’s the opposite of settling for mediocrity.

I invite you to look around. Tell me, which do you see more of, mediocrity or excellence? Now, ask yourself this, “which do I want to be, mediocre or outstanding?”

What are your personal development expectations?

It’s not really important what others expect from you. What really matters is what you expect from yourself. Personal development is, after all, a personal pursuit. For some people such a pursuit is just not worth the effort. That’s fine, because life is not a contest.

Others, myself included, expect much more of themselves. For people like us, the whole point of the “school of life,” is to learn how to be the best possible version of ourselves. Not that anyone will actually achieve excellence in the ultimate sense. Rather, it’s the process of continued personal development and growth that we seek. It’s about the journey. Is that how you feel?

Are you on a personal development quest?

Are you constantly looking for ways to make subtle improvements in your life? When you discover some new way to improve your thinking or perception, are you quick to apply what you’ve learned? When you compare where you are today to where you were a year or two ago, can you see improvement?

In all likelihood, that’s exactly the kind of person you are. Why do I say that? Because you are here. The only reason people read my articles or hire me as a coach is because they have a progressive attitude toward their own personal development. That being the case, I have a question for you. What areas of your life would you like to focus on improving?

Targeting specific areas for improvement

There are several reasons why it’s important to identify a specific areas in your life that you want to focus on improving. First of all, personal development does not happen by accident. In order to improve in some areas of your life, you first need to identify what that area is.

The field of personal development takes in a lot of territory. It’s much easier to make noticeable progress by concentrating your efforts on only a few select areas. A key ingredient to success is focus, which requires that you purposely limit your efforts to these select areas. Once you identify these areas and give them special priority, you automatically prime yourself for success.

What area of personal development is your top priority?
What kind of personal development articles do you enjoy?
The lines are open and you have my attention!

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  1. Kikolani January 14, 2010 Reply

    The area I plan on working on the most this year is confidence. Confidence in myself, in the fact that people do like me for me (and not some ulterior motive), and confidence in my abilities. Sometimes even with proven results, reactions, responses, etc., I still feel like I’m lacking in certain areas. That is what I want to focus on in personal development this year.

    • Jonathan January 14, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kristi,

      Isn’t it interesting how perspective is such an individualized trait. For example, I see you as an extremely competent person. You seem to excel at just about everything you do. So, from my perspective it’s natural to conclude that someone with that much competence would have a corresponding degree of confidence. Logical, right?

      On the other hand, even with a proven record of producing positive results accompanied by favorable reactions and responses, you still don’t feel confident. This is because the confidence issue is emotional, while the results are logical. And in a tug of war between the two, emotions always win.

      Almost without exception, an inconsistency in this area is based on some subconscious sense of insecurity. I know you’ve done some of the self-awareness exercises in 7 Simple Steps. You may find it helpful to look at step 6, specifically chapters 24-29.

      I feel certain that this will be the year when your confidence catches up with your competence. Then, look out world! Thank you for sharing this Kristi, it’s very helpful and appreciated.

    • Personal development is a never-ending process to me. That is why I chose it as the main subject of my blog – one can never stop getting better and better. Great post Jonathan!

      • Jonathan January 15, 2010 Reply

        Hi Steven, when we make personal development a life long pursuit it literally transforms our life experience. The process of constant personal growth means that we are always learning and then applying what we learn. Life becomes an exciting adventure and we always have something to look forward to.

        You’ve made an excellent choice Steven. I made the same choice decades ago and it’s been a great ride so far, with much more to come.

  2. Tess January 14, 2010 Reply

    I’ve tried to do strength building exercise for my bones the last five years. Notice the word tried! I always quit and begin again five times a year and never get consistent. I’m definitely stuck in this area. I hike and run and this is the area I’m lacking!

    • Jonathan January 14, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tess,

      For busy, productive people, making the time to stick to an exercise routine can be challenging. Usually, it’s a matter of constantly juggling priorities.

      One thing that has made it easier to make a commitment in this area for me is finding a strength building routine that only requires of very small time commitment, but produces exceptional results.

      Thanks so much for sharing your challenge Tess, I hope this was helpful.

  3. Jonathan Figaro January 14, 2010 Reply

    Anyone who dedicates themselves to person growth will become great. Crossing boundaries, taking responsibility and reaching pinnacles of greatness is something we all can do with a lil personal power!

    • Jonathan January 15, 2010 Reply

      Hey Jonathan, certainly learning to cross boundaries, take responsibility and reach pinnacles are all very attainable benefits of pursuing personal growth and development. Feeling great about our progress is also a benefit, but I’m not sure what to say about the concept of greatness. I think it’s in the eye of the beholder.

  4. Mike King January 15, 2010 Reply

    Great summary Jonathan of what personal development is really about and what it can be for separate individuals. It is a vast field for sure, I agree. For me, relationships are my biggest area to work on and make a difference with in my life. I’ve always been more work / achievement focused and as much as it has taught me, there is a tradeoff. I’ve made a huge shift in my thinking, my time and my focus but as with anything, there is so much more to learn.

    The other area I am always interested more in with personal development, is about influence and impact to others in personal development who haven’t yet started any or have much interest in it. As you say, its not for everyone, but those who do get started have great rewards and were started by someone or something. I’d like to think I can have an impact towards that for more people.

    • Jonathan January 15, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike, it also took me awhile to fully appreciate the value of, and allow time for, close personal relationships. Like you, I was pretty wrapped up in achieving certain things and not really feeling the need for too much personal involvement with others.

      I always knew that I wanted a partner, and I wasn’t willing to settle for a less than exceptional relationship. In fact, by the time I was 30 I began to wonder if I would ever find the right person. Well, I did and it’s been excellent.

      Over the years I have gained an enormous amount of appreciation for the many wonderful people in my life. I think for some of us, we work on self first, then our world expands to include others as we open up the door of our heart and allow room for them in our lives.

  5. Amit Sodha January 15, 2010 Reply

    I have this deep feeling inside of me of where I could be as opposed to where I am right now. Everytime I choose to live where I am, I feel a sense of sadness. Everytime I take step towards the greatness that I could be I get deep feeling of inner fulfillment.

    I think I am great and wonderful and I know there’s much more, so I move towards it. That to me is the journey of personal development.

    I loved your final thoughts on community. It feels that way and I’m loving the community feel that we have with each other right now.

    Thanks Jonathan.

    • Jonathan January 15, 2010 Reply

      Hey Amit, it’s important to recognize that we will always have desirable goals to reach out for, no matter how much we develop personally. Life is fluid and we are always in a state of transition.

      With that realization, we see that life is a journey that we are all on. Where we are today is the culmination of all the days that came before. Tomorrow will be different because it’s a day to day journey.

      Even though you are moving toward something desirable, it’s important to feel good about where you are right now. Appreciating the progress you’ve made so far is one way we live in the moment and enjoy it.

      Feeling sad about where you are right now does not serve you Amit. It postpones happiness and satisfaction until some imaginary point in the future. Life happens in the present, that’s where we should find our happiness.

      • Amit Sodha January 17, 2010 Reply

        Maybe sadness was too harsh a word to use. However it’s a feeling of when I settle for less than I know I can be!?

        Maybe you could post on that in the future Jonathan, about the balance of being happy now and yet wanting more for the self.

        • Jonathan January 17, 2010 Reply

          Hey Amit, I had a feeling that sadness was overstating it a bit. You seem like a pretty happy guy to me. That sounds like a great idea for an article. Thanks for suggesting it.

  6. Brad Davis January 16, 2010 Reply

    Mike King sent me your way and I can see why. This topic ties in very closely to his last post Action Creates Change. Imagine the difference one could make when they combine their skill to “constantly looking for ways to make subtle improvements” with “take on any change in life easily and do it well every time!”

    I appreciated what you had to say here about targeting. Often the personal development community seems to jump from one good idea, goal, book to the other without fully exploring, understanding, and implementing the last.

    I’m interested in your book recommendation “7 minute muscle”. Can others recommend or not this book? I’ve been able to make a lot of changes recently on the cardiovascular side but like others now realize the next step is on the strength side of things.

    But the real thing I’m interested in is trying to improve the connection between personal development and purpose. That is, to make the things I try to improve (along with ALL the things I do) align in one direction – towards things that I believe really matter in life. Like you said, “What really matters is what you expect from yourself.”

    Finally I have to take objection to your comment “which do you see more of, mediocrity or excellence?” This rings a bit of arrogance Just because we have chosen an active path towards development doesn’t make us better. I think this view comes from having a narrow “textbook” view on what is important. Just because others are mediocre in the areas you are not, doesn’t mean they don’t have other areas of excellence.

    Thanks for the ideas – even your comment replies I found insightful.

    • Stephen January 17, 2010 Reply

      Hi Brad.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking around and believing you see mediocrity all around. There is nothing wrong with saying you want to do more than the masses. If that’s arrogant so be it. Often one of the people I see being mediocre is myself.

  7. Jonathan January 16, 2010 Reply

    Hey Brad, it’s great to have you here and I appreciate your well thought out comment. Improving the connection between personal development and purpose is an excellent place for your focus. The whole connection both depends on, and builds, internal harmony. The first and longest section in my book covers this in detail. It really is a vital connection to make.

    Regarding my remarks on mediocrity or excellence, notice that it was a question for my readers, not a judgment on my part. I also followed up by asking which do you want to be. These questions were designed for self-evaluation. I even reminded everyone that it’s not a contest.

    Even though I personally tend to expect a lot from myself, I am totally comfortable with whatever anyone else chooses for themselves. If I came off otherwise, I sincerely apologize. That was certainly not my intention. If you take the time to read a few more articles (which I hope you will), I think you’ll get a better feel for where I’m coming from.

    Thanks for stimulating some meaningful conversation Brad. I look forward to your future comments.

    • Brad Davis January 17, 2010 Reply

      Jonathan – I appreciate your response. After reviewing my comments I owe you an apology for wording my comment as an insult, I’m sorry.

      Your comments and Stephens have made me think further on this, and for that I am grateful. It is discussion like this that gets me excited in the morning.

      What I’ve found is the more I get to know someone, the less I see mediocrity and the more I see differences in view on life, priorities, values, and skill sets. When I originally read your comment I felt like it was an insult to all those I used to think were mediocre but have since got to know. But this is all a reflection on me.

      One thing I can’t reconcile this too is Stephen’s comment that “Often one of the people I see being mediocre is myself” for which I wholeheartedly agree. But how can I say that its unfair to characterize the masses as mediocre – while also saying the one person I know the best, is?

      Perhaps this all stems from my own pride. Anyhow thanks for the great discussion.

      • Jonathan January 17, 2010 Reply

        Hey Brad, I love it when a conversation gets everybody thinking. I feel like the comments are just as important, if not more so, than the article. Honest self-examination is the precursor of all intentional personal change.

        I don’t really know anyone that I would say was mediocre as a person. As you said, the deeper we look, the more we discover. The comparison I was focused on was whether we are personally happy with mediocrity, or expect more of ourselves.

        Isn’t it cool that that is where we ended up, looking at ourselves?

      • Mike King January 17, 2010 Reply

        Hey Brad, I’m glad to see you come back here and clarify. I was a bit surprised to see how you worded things but from knowing you, I also was certain there was more to what you were getting at and I do think there is often a whole view of personal development that stems from some level of arrogant feelings. Its a danger I watch myself and am happier nowadays looking for mediocrity in myself instead of in others, since like you said, once you know people, you usually discover they are just or more capable in that of other areas so the mediocrity is often undeserved and judged prematurely.

  8. Stephen January 17, 2010 Reply

    Hey Jonathan, great article!

    “For people like us, the whole point of the “school of life,” is to learn how to be the best possible version of ourselves.”

    When I was young, I was constantly on the move, looking for ways to improve. Then I settled into years of being comfortable just floating along. At some point I woke up and dedicated myself once again to constant improvement and I think I will do so until the day I die.

    One thing I constantly struggle with is separating the wheat from the chafe. What is really important and what is not. I’m getting better, but when I ask myself the kinds of questions that are the subject of my last article, I often don’t like the answers.

    • Jonathan January 17, 2010 Reply

      Hi Stephen, just went and read your 12 questions, good article. When we don’t like the answers to important questions like that, it just means we need to make some adjustments so we can keep moving in the right direction.

      The answers are like road signs on the path of life. Some tell us we are headed the right way, others let us know we made a wrong turn somewhere. It’s all good as long as use use the answers wisely.

  9. Paramjit January 20, 2010 Reply

    Thank you for your article. I am interested in personal development centered around increasing productivity and time management. In this internet age, there are a hundred things to do with a hundred distractions. Getting more information on how to stay focused in these times would be helpful.

    • Jonathan January 21, 2010 Reply

      Hi Paramjit, I know exactly what you mean. I developed a technique that you should find very helpful, it works for me anyway. Here’s the article that explains it: Using Applied Focus Sessions to Boost Productivity.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns, I really appreciate it.

  10. Dallas M Cyr January 20, 2010 Reply

    Great post. For me I would love to get clarity on the idea of Focus. I have a personal development blog as well. I love the work I do and am passionate about many things. I am a serial entrepreneur and believe in following my heart but conventional wisdom says pick one thing, master it and you become a master of many things. I “get that” and feel I am focused in general on success and living a good life, so what if I have two or three HUGE opportunities, that all excite me and are in line with my values and goals do I force myself to choose just one? Does the idea of Focus change based on someone’s idea of Success? Thanks.

    • Jonathan January 21, 2010 Reply

      Hey Dallas, you have posed some really great questions here. I can personally relate to this because l also struggle with the concept of choosing just one thing to focus on.

      I deal with it by using something I call Applied Focus Sessions. That way I can work in several areas at once, but only on at a time. I wrote an article about this technique called: Using Applied Focus Sessions to Boost Productivity. I think you will find it interesting.

      I would love your feedback on this. Please, let me know if you find it helpful, or have another favorite technique.

  11. Dorothy Stahlnecker January 24, 2010 Reply

    Just recently I read, it’s not where you start it’s where you finish and doesn’t this go with what your saying. During these difficult times where we wonder what’s next hearing how to make life matter is a breath of fresh air.


    • Jonathan January 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Dorothy, your comment reminded me of another favorite saying: “Start where you are and move forward.” This works in any situation and I have put it to good use, especially after setbacks.

  12. Chris Stonecipher January 25, 2010 Reply

    My finances are most biggest concern. I need to work on improving my discipline so I am saving and not spending. I have a habit of paying bills first and then not have anything left for savings.

    • Jonathan January 26, 2010 Reply

      Hey Chis, saving is a great concept, but so is paying our bills. If there’s nothing left once the bills are paid then saving is not possible. There are only two solutions. You can either reduce the bills, or increase the income, or both. This is pretty hard to do in the current economy, so if you find a solution please share it with the rest of us..

  13. Joseph Bernard January 25, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, this is my first visit to your blog and it looks great.

    My focus for 2010 is to become a more conscious human being with my emphasis on realizing more fully my Higher Self.

    I write on a blog about the journey of consciousness and peace at http://www.explorelifeblog.com. Stop by my fellow self-development blogger

    Peace and consciousness to you,


  14. Angela James February 4, 2010 Reply

    Hello to all, I just found the Blog, what a wonderful place. I am a life coach and on my personal best quest. Every day is a learning experience full of grace and wonder. I also, look back each year to reflect on what I have learned. I believe I was twenty-two when I first noticed this. This keeps me humble because year after year I am amazed at how far I have come. I laugh to think, I thought I had is all figured out at 20;)

  15. Richard February 8, 2010 Reply

    Personal development at the moment for me means improving my quality of life so that I can have the energy to serve others.

  16. Rocket Bunny January 8, 2011 Reply

    I’m an endless work in progress. There are areas in my life that will always be changing because I am getting older and wiser.
    I will never be perfect. I will love myself and stride to help others improve their lives.
    You always make me think.
    Great article.

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