Updated: Sep 17
The summer before my junior year of college my Grandfather gifted me some money “for my education.” He sent a separate note to my parents which included a comment that not all learning occurred in the classroom. I had shared with him that my classmate Chris was spending his junior year at Cambridge in England, and how I wished I could visit him. And because of my Grandfather’s belief in lifelong learning I was able to.
The picture above is of the Coast Path in Wales. Chris was, and still is, a very free spirit (he is also incredibly brilliant!!!) He convinced me to jump on the train and take it to the end of the line in Wales. We then got on a bus, and again rode it to the end of the line. We stopped in the post office of a small village and convinced the Postmaster to hold our bags for the day. Armed with nothing more than a paper map we set off to find the coast path.
I have no idea how far we traveled that day. We found the path, turned south, and started walking. At several points the “path” was more of a “suggestion;” barbed wire to our left containing sheep, and sheer cliff face to our right. The scenery was breathtaking! We eventually succumbed to the growling in our bellies and cut through a field to find our way back to the town pub for lunch.
That was Day 1 of my trip, and each day was equally eventful. But what does this have to do with personal development?
Just as my Grandfather encouraged me to learn by traveling, we need to be aware of a wide variety of opportunities to learn and grow. And the more sources of input you employ the greater diversity of thoughts and ideas you will discover.
There are formal activities such as classroom or online education, conferences, and workshops. Informal choices provide more flexibility in terms of time and cost: books, magazines, online platforms and social media. Beware of taking on too much though; a scattered approach might provide some interesting trivia but may not fulfill your intent and in the end can be dissatisfying.
Muscle confusion is an exercise philosophy. The premise is that your muscles adapt to specific exercises over time, and response will begin to diminish. To continue to add strength or size - to grow your muscles - you need to change your routine and challenge your muscles in new and different ways.
Guess what? Our brains are muscles too, and the same principle applies! Varying experiences lead to more creativity and innovation. Think about the people in your orbit. How similar or different are their experiences and backgrounds?
Building Your Development Plan
Think about your purpose and core values; and not only from a professional perspective, from a holistic whole person perspective. As you evaluate options ask yourself “Will this serve my purpose? Does it align with my core values?” Activities that are in alignment will not only help you grow they will fuel your energy tank.
Your plan can be designed to amplify your existing strengths, build out existing skills, or satisfy curiosity in a new area. We need to learn and grow across all aspects of life - mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are some prompts to get you started:
Mental Development: Read one book a month; subscribe to a magazine (I read Men’s Health, Experience Life, and Martha Stewart cover-to-cover every month!); complete an on-line certification; and if you are feeling frisky, get a degree - or advanced degree!
Physical Development: Set a regular bedtime - and follow it! Commit to move for 15 minutes a day (please consult with your medical provider before starting;) complete a 5k; swap out one sugared drink per day for water; try something new, like yoga or Tai Chi.
Emotional Development: Start each day by naming one person or thing for which you are grateful; call one friend or family member every week just to talk; Learn a breathing technique and use it any time you feel stressed or anxious.
Spiritual Development: Identify and write down your core values - not your company’s values, yours! Schedule one activity you really enjoy each week - and do it! Provide at least one piece of feedback to someone - anyone - each day.
Commit to Your Plan
So often we sacrifice our own development, thinking it is selfish, or prioritize others’ needs ahead of our own. Just as you would for an employee or a person you mentor, do write down your development plan. Yes, you really need to do this! By now you should have lots of ideas about activities to pursue for your growth; writing them down allows you to process and be intentional about those you commit to. Six months or a year from now you will not remember that genius idea you had today!
Start with 2-3 activities, with at least one each in the personal and professional buckets. You will likely discover that elevating your performance in one area spills over to the other!
And the science behind the power of writing things down is solid. Your likelihood of success improves significantly when you write down your plan! Then…. put your commitments on your calendar!
Listen to Your Inner Voice
Be open to the unexpected. When something or someone strikes a chord within you pay attention.
No one is more surprised than I am that I am a Certified Personal Trainer! Obtaining my CPT was not “on my plan” initially. So glad I was listening to me! This skill set, and in particular my nutrition training, has been invaluable on every one of my professional engagements. Friends and family also come to me with questions and ask for guidance; and nothing feels better than knowing I am helping others feel their best in every way.
Your development plan can and should change over time. Part of your commitment to yourself is to review it periodically and revise in ways that tighten your alignment to purpose and values. Success is the best motivator!