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The secret to personal development

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on Feb 14, 2017 7:52:48 AM

The secret to personal development

The secret to personal development

Personal development is a funny thing.  There are periods in life where you don’t have to put much effort into it.  You go through schooling and higher education.  You experience things for the first time.  You travel to new places.  You meet different people.  You learn new skills and experiment with new careers. 

But at some point, the things that teach us and develop us naturally start to dwindle.  And then comes the arduous task of actually making an effort to developing yourself further.  Maybe you have to take a risky leap and switch a comfortable job for a more challenging one.  Maybe you have to search a little harder for those new experiences and people.  Maybe you have to identify a new skill you want to learn. 

Since taking the initiative to develop yourself in new ways doesn’t come naturally to all of us, here’s a list of things you can do to get you going.  Choose one, any one.  Before you know it you’ll feel that light and energetic feeling you used to when you could feel your brain and your heart growing in new ways.   

Learn Something New

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When you make the choice to learn something new, you should decide how to go about it based on how disciplined you are.  Let’s say you’ve done the hard part and identified what you want to learn.  It might be a new language, history, a science, a sport like tennis or running, a new skill like pottery making, painting or computer programming or practical knowledge to add to your repertoire like online and social marketing.  Now the question is, are you able to teach yourself?  The internet has a wealth of knowledge today.  You can find an online course, an article, a YouTube video or an app about anything.  So if you’re the disciplined self-teaching kind, you can start right away on that next thing you want to learn.

I am amongst the less disciplined.  If I don’t have a time and a place to be (and the nagging guilt of a teacher who won’t take me seriously if I don’t show up always and on time) I’m likely to opt for having a coffee with a friend or running an errand instead.  So for me, a formal learning environment will work best.  To learn a language I might sign up for a class or get a private tutor.  Seeing what courses are available at my local university or college is a great way to continuously learn new things.  A personal trainer or instructor for sports is expensive but the optimal way to be accountable.  Sports classes are the more budget-friendly version. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the commitment of signing up for something you’ll have to commit to at least once a week, a cooking class is a great way to dip your feet in the world of personal development.  Go with a friend or your partner.  They’re often a one-time class and you’ll walk away with some new skills and recipes to try out in your own kitchen.   It will hopefully leave you with a taste for wanting to learn more.

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Experience Something New


The easiest way to experience something new is to visit a new place.  Whether you notice or not it’s bound to get your thoughts rolling and add to who you are.  If you can, choose a travel destination to tick off your bucket list. Traveling is by far the best way to develop yourself.  Visiting a new place when you travel is like stepping into another world.  You get to see how people live, eat, work dress and socialize and that has a profound effect on you.  It enriches you and makes you more sophisticated.   The best part is, you get the upside of that development while thoroughly enjoying yourself. 

Going out of your comfort zone is probably the scariest but another surefire way to grow.  You can choose the extreme version and jump out of an airplane (which I am convinced most people are afraid of even if they won’t admit it).  But you can also find a wealth of less extreme ways to break out of what’s familiar and comfortable.  Perhaps try a food you think you will dislike.  Or see a foreign film.  Or wear an unexpected outfit.  Start small, it doesn’t require skydiving to step a bit outside of your usual.

Ditch your routine for a day
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When you get into a rut living out your daily routines and comfortable habits and neglecting your personal development, sometimes what you need is a day outside of this routine to jolt you a bit.  That jolt can either inspire you to take the initiative to do something about your personal development or, it can quietly and discretely be the thing that opens you up and teaches you something new about yourself.  A writer sometimes needs that change of scenery to get out of the writers’ block rut. You might need that experience just the same.  

You can choose to do this on a regular basis (once a month is a good starting point).  Or, on those days when you think to yourself how much you want to “call in sick” from work, or life, or family responsibilities, rather than thinking about it, do it.  Doing the unexpected can have a profound impact on growth.  Aside from the immediate adrenaline rush that breathes some life into you, it proves to you that you can do and be more than your routine has limited you to and it also might just remind you about the things you like to do most but haven’t been able to for a while.  Take that day to roam the streets, or spend time with a good friend.  Go for a walk in nature.  Sleep in late.  Eat your favorite junk food.  Go to the movies.  Giving yourself this treat every once in a while will not only make you feel lighter, it will help you introspect and think about how you want to improve and develop as a person.  What you’re not doing enough of or could be doing more of.  It will help you disconnect (like travelling to a faraway place without a cell phone does).  And that disconnection will actually help ground you and connect you back to what you want to do to grow as a person.    


Whether you choose to take a class, teach yourself a new skill, take the day off or jump out of an airplane, it doesn’t really matter.  Step one is realizing that at some point you need to take an active role in your persona development as it doesn’t happen so naturally anymore as the years go by.  Step two is choosing the thing that you feel will most help you grow or that you have a curiosity to learn more about.  Start anywhere, but start somewhere.  Remaining dedicated to growing as a person is what keeps us young, active, interesting and connected to the world around us.

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