Personal development can include any skill that you build to improve yourself—your emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. It doesn’t really matter which skills you want to improve; the key to personal development is taking the right steps — steps that help ensure that you reach whatever goal you are pursuing.
What are the most important personal development skills? It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. But here are 9 that I have found to be important to successful personal development.
1. Start by figuring out which personal development skills you need to build. The first step in any personal development strategy is to figure out how to best use your time. It makes little sense to learn how to code if you don’t plan to be a coder or to bench press 400 pounds if you don’t plan to be a weight lifter. These can be hobbies, but personal development is more about building skills to reach your goals. So it’s good to take some time to self-reflect. (If well-being is a goal of yours, take this well-being quiz to see which skills you need to build.)
2. Develop entrepreneurial thinking. Everyone can benefit from learning how to think like an entrepreneur, regardless of whether or not you are one. Why? Because entrepreneurs are innovative, good at planning for all possible outcomes, and skilled at getting others to buy into their vision or dream. And perhaps more importantly for personal development, they tend to be adaptable to all sorts of situations.
By developing entrepreneurial thinking, you better adapt to whatever your circumstances are so you can more easily achieve your goals, whether those goals are to start a business that makes a positive impact in the world, to set yourself up for an early retirement, or climb Mount Everest.
3. Develop a growth mindset. If we have a “fixed mindset,” we may shy away from challenges that could help us grow. But this can be problematic because our fear of making mistakes can lead us to avoid challenges and new experiences—experiences which would help us grow, improve ourselves in important ways, and create the life we desire.
If we have a “growth mindset” we seek out challenges because we value learning and growth more than we value feeling smart or knowing what we’re doing. That’s why those with a growth mindset often build new skills more easily: They believe they can and so they really work at it.
4. Develop your self-soothing mechanism. High levels of stress are not only bad for our health and well-being, they can prevent us from effectively pursuing and achieving our self-development goals. By learning effective, long-lasting stress-reducing strategies, your body and mind will be more equipped to handle the inevitable challenges that arise when you’re trying to develop yourself.
5. Develop resilience. Resilience is that super-important skill that helps you bounce back quickly after being knocked down. This is one of the most important skills for success because none of us will achieve anything if we don’t keep trying when we fail. We can build resilience by improving skills like emotion-regulation, mindfulness, and positivity.
6. Develop your value compass. It’s not always easy to live by our core values. But when we go through life without following our personal values, we can easily get lost. We may suddenly “wake up” and realize that we are not who we want to be or where we want to be. This is why it’s so important to stay in alignment with our personal values.
What are your values? Perhaps: kindness, curiosity, creativity, hard work, or personal relationships. Define your personal values so you know which actions are in alignment with those values.
7. Create a personal development plan. A good personal development plan takes all these factors into consideration — the WHAT, the HOW, the WHY, and the WHEN. So ask yourself:
What skills will you build?
How will you build them?
Why will you build them?
And when will you build them?
8. Record your progress towards personal development. Keeping track of our progress as we move toward our personal development goals is key to making sure we’re on the right track. Then we can pause and take a different direction if we’ve gone off course. By maintaining self-awareness and frequently checking in with ourselves, we can identify things that we need to devote more attention to. As a result, we can make better progress toward our personal development.
9. Keep developing yourself in new ways. The science is clear: The more ways we develop ourselves, the broader our skill set, and the more success we tend to have. So try learning some new emotional skills or do some activities to build new skills. You just might learn something that changes your life.