When you’ve got someplace you want to go, knowing the destination and how to get there make sense. Human beings are always on the go in numerous ways; not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, professionally, relationally as well. We’re always growing, and we want to get the most out of life.
What is a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan is a blueprint for how you want to grow as a human being and meet your goals. Investing in your growth will allow you to reach your full potential to fulfill whatever purpose God has set for you and your life. Sometimes our lives can be like vines – they will grow even in the wild, but they grow best when they are nurtured, trellised, and pruned.
Having a plan can give us clarity in our aims and how to achieve them. As the adage goes, if you aim for nothing, you’re going to hit it. A personal development plan gives you something clear to aim for. Your development plan may be centered on career goals, growing spiritually or relationally, or developing a particular skill. Whatever your goal is, to meet it you’ll need to invest time, effort, and other resources toward it.
Do I Need a Plan?
Plans can seem rigid, presumptuous, and unnecessary to some people. The kernel of truth in those sentiments is that just because you plan for something, that doesn’t mean it will happen. Also, some plans can be too rigid and lose sight of the spontaneity and unpredictability of life. What this means is that in making our plans, we shouldn’t be presumptuous, but remain flexible.
To avoid presumption, we make plans recognizing that God is in control. Two nuggets of wisdom from the book of Proverbs say, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3); and “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). We shouldn’t presume that our plans will get us where we would like to go. Plans can only succeed if God so wills.
However, we also know that if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Before we embark on a project, we need to count the cost, as Jesus said when talking about the cost of discipleship.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30).
Carefully consider what it will cost you to follow a path before you commit to it. In other words, plan for your personal development so that you are intentional about your growth as a person.
Creating Your Personal Development Plan
As you go about creating your personal development plan, keep in mind that the plan is yours and it is for you. You need to create a plan that works for you and toward what you want to achieve and then own the plan. You are the primary driver for achieving your goals, though you may have accountability partners who help to keep you on track. You can create your development plan keeping the following things in mind:
Who are you, and in what ways do you want to grow? When you know yourself well and have a clear goal in mind, you’re off to a great start. Set goals for yourself and plan in ways that are useful to you. It’s no use setting a goal for yourself regarding something you care nothing about and then creating a plan that won’t work for you.
Setting a goal to become a more conscientious consumer when you don’t care about what you consume, how it’s sourced, whether it’s renewable, and uses recyclable materials would be a bit pointless. Any plan you develop will fail because you’re not motivated to achieve your goal. Knowing a little bit about yourself will help you create goals and a plan you’ll work at because you care about the outcome.
As you set off on your journey, it’s important to find someone who will keep you accountable. This person will ask how things are going, if you’re sticking to what you said you would do and offer some encouragement along the way. It’s important to find someone who will ask the tough questions and won’t let you off the hook easily.
Set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and timely (SMART) goals.
Specific goals are clear. A goal like “I want to get in shape” is vague. What does “get in shape” mean? A more specific goal would be “getting a gym membership at gym X and putting in four 30-minute workouts each week to get healthier.” Another vague goal is to “get closer to God” or “become more spiritual.” A more specific goal may be to “read one chapter of Scripture every day and pray over it to get closer to God.”
Measurable. A measurable goal is one where you can keep track of your progress and will know when it has been accomplished. There are clear criteria you can use to determine your progress. You may measure your fitness goals according to how many laps you run or swim, the number of pounds you lose, or how much weight you can lift.
Achievable means that it’s something you can accomplish, even if it might stretch you.
Relevant/realistic refers to whether your stated goal matters to you, and if you are the right person to reach that goal. There’s no point, for instance, in setting “get sober” as a goal if you’re a teetotaler. Is it a realistic goal that is within reach, given the available time and resources? Can you commit to achieving the goal?
Timely refers to a start date and target date by when you’ll accomplish the goal. This gives you a target to aim for so you can get started on your journey.
When you get going with your plan, start small. The “go big or go home” mindset often hinders people from even getting out of the starting gate. Part of your planning should incorporate this step. Instead of starting your exercise regimen with heavy weights, start light.
Instead of going for that four-minute mile on your first day, just aim to finish the first mile on your feet. You may not be able to read a French novel on the first day of your language study, but you may be able to retain at least five words or phrases in French.
Once you’ve started, keep going. Being able to stick to it and work through the dry patches (and there will be dry and hard patches) will get you through to your goal. You’ll need grit and determination to achieve anything, so prepare yourself for the demanding work you’ll need to put in to get where you want to go.
A personal development plan will help you by providing focus to your efforts. When you know where you want to go, you can chart a path for getting there. It’s important to remember that your plan is a tool to help you get where you want to go. Sometimes things change, and what may have been realistic or timely when you began is no longer so.
Be flexible enough to shift things around or adapt your goals and methods if you need to. In the beginning, we noted that though we make plans, it is the Lord who establishes our steps. Sometimes the Lord sends fresh circumstances into our lives, and that can make us reevaluate our goals and the methods for accomplishing them. Remain open to God’s guidance and his leading in your life as you plan for your growth and development.
“Reading”, Courtesy of Austin Distel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Footprints on the Beach”, Courtesy of Christopher Sardegna, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Planning”, Courtesy of STIL, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Remember why you started.”, Courtesy of Cristofer Jeschke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License