Personal development is defined as – activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.
Personal development occurs automatically. People grow and change over time with very few conscious adjustments to their inner selves. But it is in the conscious decision making process that allows people to make the changes they feel will produce the most benefits for their life. By acquiring key skills and proactively performing self-assessments we can make positive impacts in the areas of our life we feel need adjustments and/or improvements. Personal development is a lifelong process. Each of us are fortunate to have the ability to change, grow and evolve.
There are many ideas surrounding personal development, one of which is detailed below.
Abraham Maslow’s – Process of Self-Actualization
Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.
Maslow (1970) suggests that all individuals have an in-built need for personal development which occurs through the process called self-actualization.
The extent to which people are able to develop depends on certain needs being met and these needs form a hierarchy. Only when one level of need is satisfied can a higher one be developed. As change occurs throughout life, however, the level of need motivating someone’s behavior at any one time will also change.
- At the bottom of the hierarchy are the basic physiological needs for food, drink, sex and sleep, i.e., the basics for survival.
- Second are the needs for safety and security in both the physical and economic sense.
- Thirdly, progression can be made to satisfying the need for love and belonging.
- The fourth level refers to meeting the need for self-esteem and self-worth. This is the level most closely related to ‘self-empowerment’.
- The fifth level is the need to know and understand the environment, this level includes more abstract ideas such as curiosity and the search for meaning or purpose.
- The sixth relates to aesthetic needs of beauty, symmetry and order. At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, is the need for self-actualization.
Maslow (1970, p.383) says that all individuals have the need to see themselves as competent and autonomous, also that every person has limitless room for growth.
Self-actualization refers to the desire that everybody has ‘to become everything that they are capable of becoming’. In other words, it refers to self-fulfillment and the need to reach full potential as a unique human being. For Maslow, the path to self-actualization involves being in touch with your feelings, experiencing life fully and with total concentration.
Source: Maslow, A. H. (1970), Motivation and Personality, (2nd Edition), Harper & Row, New York.
Here is a list of skills that when practiced can increase the success of personal development:
Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to check in with yourself, either on a mental or physical level. It is being able to know and understand where you stand in relation to the external world. It’s like saying to yourself “How are you doing?” to yourself; a person who is self-aware is someone who can see past their own emotional barriers and know what’s really going on. To be self-aware you have to be willing to admit the ugly stuff to yourself. Lying to yourself and others about “how you’re doing” is not going to help you; it’s going to hold you back from being able to see the truth. Mastering self-awareness takes time and practice but eventually can become a part of your every-day functions on an almost subconscious level.
Emotional Intelligence: This is your ability to recognize and control your own emotions and, at times, those of others. Emotional intelligence is learned from your experiences and it can truly take a lifetime to become emotionally intelligent if you aren’t making a conscious effort to become so. Being emotionally intelligent requires you to tailor your emotions, thoughts and reactions to each situation you are in; for example, an emotionally intelligent individual would be able to manage stress in a productive rather than destructive way.
Problem Solving: This is one’s ability to solve every day conundrums. Problem solving can be as simple as figuring out the best route to take to work if you are short on time to something more complex like figuring out how you can better manage your expenses. Problem solving skills are acquired through various ways of thinking: one is from past experiences and their outcomes; this allows you to know what works and what doesn’t. Another is knowing that you can apply similar solutions to different problems and seeing how. If what you already know won’t work then it’s time to get resourceful and creative
Conflict Resolution: To be able to grow you should be able to take responsibility for your wrong doings. In any conflict, it’s important to consider that, even if not all of it, some of the fault may fall on your shoulders. In admitting this to yourself or the other person, you are already cutting the problem in half. To develop conflict resolution skills you should also be able to empathize with the other side; when you’re able to understand where the other is coming from it becomes easier to find the right approach for resolving the issue.
Communication Skills: Communication and interpersonal skills help us grasp how to interact with the exterior world. While things can be messy in our own head, if we want someone to understand us we have to be able to communicate it in a way they would understand as well. Every society deals with communication in different ways so what may work in one country may not in another, take sense of humor, for example.
Goal Creation: Having goals allows us to stay motivated and gives us a reason to push ourselves forward, even in the face of adversity. Challenging ourselves or having an objective in mind is like exercise for the mind; instead of building muscle you’re building skills like: problem solving, stress and time management and organizational skills.
By developing the skills mentioned you are engaging in personal development. The further you are willing to develop them the further your growth will reach.