Plants growing through various stages of development

The chances are that at some point you will have come across the term Personal Development Plan or a PDP.

It could have been in the context of your working life, or perhaps you read it in a magazine, or heard the phrase in conversation.

If you’ve never got any further than simply being aware of the concept then this article is for you – we will outline what a Personal Development Plan is, how to go about creating one for yourself, and how to put your plan into action.

What is Personal Development?

Personal development is (or should be) a continuous process of self-improvement – be that via learning new skills, earning new qualifications or, on a more personal level, developing or deepening the more spiritual side of yourself.

Fulfilment is the key.

There’s no doubt that humans are happiest when they are fulfilled in their lives and not stagnating. Developing new skills, changing careers, having new experiences are all part of growing as a person.

However, it can be all too easy to feel stuck– doing the same thing, day in day out. If you find yourself in this kind of scenario it may be time to work on a plan of action (see a little later in this article).

Investing in yourself allows you to manage yourself more effectively and become proactive about your future. You become empowered to make things happen rather than waiting for things to come to you.

Stop Meandering Through Life

Personal development plans are essential for fulfilling your dreams and creating a meaningful life.

Benefits of Personal Development

As we mentioned above, one of the key benefits of personal development is the feeling of self-empowerment it imbues you with.

Knowing you have the skills and ability to perform your job effectively is a huge confidence builder, and this self-confidence will spill over into your personal life too.

In terms of work, being prepared to learn and develop sends the right signals to your employer. You become ‘one to watch’ and your willingness to take on new projects, learn new systems etc. could set you on track to build a career.

A higher skill base may also equate to higher wages – so learning could increase your earning potential.

You also shouldn’t forget how great it can feel to be good at something – anything! You could learn an instrument, a craft, a sport and aim to be the best you can at it. Just like a work-based skill, being good at something will boost your self-esteem.

What is a Plan?

A plan is a structured approach which will enable you to keep on track. It may seem obvious, but if you don’t know where you’re heading or where you started then it’s impossible to see how far you have travelled.

What is a Personal Development Plan?

A PDP is a plan, just like any other. The only difference is that it relates just to you. It is highly personalised.

Your PDP needs to be a written account of where you are now; where you wish to be in 3 months/6 months/12 months/5 years (or whatever timescales are appropriate for you).

It will require a degree of self-awareness, time and lots of inward looking to create and once completed you should revise it frequently. Life is not linear, and you will find that as you grow, develop and change so will your PDP.

You are going to devote time to the process and you are going to need to be totally invested in the idea. Writing your plan and then sticking it away in a drawer and forgetting about it, isn’t going to help you get to where you want to be.

You need to buy into you plan. It’s far much more likely to succeed if you’ve bought into it.

Are There Different Types of PDPs?

You could certainly create a different PDP for every area of your life – work, business, personal, family, health (and any other headings you could conceivably think of). However, you could also think of your PDP as an holistic plan for your future by encompassing all the different areas in your life.

For example, you want to train to be physical training instructor – that is a work goal but it will impinge on your health (you will need to be fit, strong and healthy). It may also affect your family life (if you plan to see clients at home) and it may involve you creating a business.

Looking at areas in isolation may help you to identify specific issues and targets but ultimately you will need to ensure that each area of your life is in harmony. It makes sense therefore to ensure your PDP takes account of your entire life.

Who Uses a PDP?

Everyone, is the answer to that! Many are built into mentoring programmes.

From CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson to mum’s, dads, teachers and athletes. From presidents to plumbers.

The principle remains the same, whoever you are and whatever level you are at. Your PDP should help you to get to where you want to be.

How to Create Your PDP

Now we’re getting to nitty gritty – the how.

Remember that a PDP is essentially a plan for the rest of your life (or at least a specified period of it) and as such it demands your care, attention and time to create. It’s not something to dash down in a few minutes on the back of a fag packet.


The First Step – Where am I Now?

You’ll remember earlier in this article we said – ‘if you don’t know where you’re heading or where you started then it’s impossible to see how far you have travelled’.

You need to audit your current situation, what’s working, what’s not. What makes you happy, what do you need to get rid of (or minimise)?

Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) on yourself – there’s lots of tools online you could use to do this, or just write down your thoughts under the headings.

Be kind to yourself when you are doing this – the last thing you want, or need is to be so harsh about your current situation that you feel you can’t possibly extricate yourself from it. Even consider re-wording the SWOT. For example, ‘What could I improve?’ in place of weaknesses and ‘Areas of concern’ in place of threats.

The aim is to end up with a clear idea of where you are now – once you have that to hand you can start to work on how and what you need to change to get to where you want to be.

Identifying your Destination – Where do I Want to Be?

You now know where you are – but do you know where you want to go? Further than that, do you know when you want to get there?

This may be the stage you will struggle with the most, unless you already have a clear goal in mind. If you need help at this, or indeed any stage, remember a coach could help you.

You may need some career coaching. Take a look at one of our other articles about how to change your career for some ideas around this.

Look at it as an opportunity as well. Set realistic goals. Do not be afraid of making changes. After all, if you’ve not bought into it you’ll struggle to achieve it.

When considering the health side of your PDP you could decide you need to change your diet, lose weight, get fitter etc.

You may discover you need to make changes within your family dynamic.

Examine everything you can. Take as much time on this stage of your plan as you did establishing your starting point.

Write it all down. Brainstorm. Mind map.

Do whatever works best for you in order to come up with your end point.

You may find that in the process of self-analysis you change your mind – your destination – a few times. This may be the only time you have really attempted to unravel yourself, so don’t be surprised if you discover some new things along the way.

Remember that you are trying to become the best version of you with your best possible life.

Making it Happen – How Do I get There?

You’ve done all the background work on yourself, worked out where you want to go and what you want to do – now to make it happen!

There is a quote:

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.

Follow this advice. Give your ultimate goal a date by which you want to achieve it. Similarly plan out every step along the way and date those too. Be clear on your time frames and ensure that you build into your plan review dates and regular progress checks.

Make sure you do actually review you’re your progress – just writing down that you plan to do something doesn’t count!

Buy a journal, a wall planner, use Google Calendar and set yourself reminders. Don’t let everyday life get in the way of reaching your goals but be realistic. You can’t change your life overnight.

If you have identified any resource gaps you need to fill, be those training, finance, education, go and find the solutions. You need to jump out of your comfort zone in order to grow and develop (the whole purpose of a PDP after all) so do so. Find the people doing the sort of things you’d like to do. Talk to them, shadow them – ask if they will mentor you.

How about an accountability partner? It can be frighteningly easy to think to yourself “Oh I missed that deadline, I’ll give up”. DON’T! Working with someone else will help you stay on track. If you’re both going through the process you can support each other.

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Your Quick PDP Checklist!

  1. Identify your starting point
  2. Work out what you want to change and where you want to end up
  3. Set a time frame
  4. List the individual actions you will need to take and when
  5. Find a mentor and or accountability partner
  6. Take the necessary action(s)
  7. Record the results/outcomes
  8. Review. Review

Remember that this is your personal development plan, it is not set in stone! You can (and probably will) change the plan as you go along. Sometimes you get to where you need or want to be by a circuitous route. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get there.

There is a lot of information in this article, if you feel overwhelmed, unsure of how to start or need help putting your PDP into practice get in touch!

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