Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Personal development takes place over the course of a person’s entire life. Not limited to self-help, the concept involves formal and informal activities for developing others in roles such as teacher, guide, counselor, manager, life coach or mentor. When personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.
Among other things, personal development may include the following activities:
- improving self-awareness
- improving self-knowledge
- improving skills and/or learning new ones
- building or renewing identity/self-esteem
- developing strengths or talents
- improving a career
- identifying or improving potential
- building employability or (alternatively) human capital
- enhancing lifestyle and/or the quality of life and time-management
- improving health
- improving wealth or social status
- fulfilling aspirations
- initiating a life enterprise
- defining and executing personal development plans (PDPs)
- improving social relations or emotional intelligence
Personal development can also include developing other people. This may take place through roles such as those of a teacher or mentor, either through a personal competency (such as the alleged skill of certain managers in developing the potential of employees) or through a professional service (such as providing training, assessment or coaching).
Beyond improving oneself and developing others, “personal development” labels a field of practice and research:
- As a field of practice, personal development includes personal-development methods, learning programs, assessment systems, tools, and techniques.
- As a field of research, personal-development topics appear in psychology journals, education research, management journals and books, and human-development economics.
Any sort of development—whether economic, political, biological, organisational or personal—requires a framework if one wishes to know whether a change has actually occurred. In the case of personal development, an individual often functions as the primary judge of improvement or of regression, but validation of objective improvement requires assessment using standard criteria. Personal-development frameworks may include:
- goals or benchmarks that define the end-points
- strategies or plans for reaching goals
- measurement and assessment of progress, levels or stages that define milestones along a development path
- a feedback system to provide information on changes