Personal development

Last updated on 23rd June, 2022

Personal development focuses on increasing your self-awareness, looking at life goals, personal challenges and long-standing aspirations. Personal development coaching aims to evaluate these life changes, whilst assessing your strengths and weaknesses to improve certain areas of your life.

What is personal development?

Personal development, or self-improvement/development, is a way of assessing your goals and making a conscious effort to better yourself. This is a lifelong process that is entirely personal and unique to you. You may consider your abilities, skills, qualities, values, and aims in life and try to act on these to reach your full potential. You might ask yourself "what do I want to achieve in life?" This could be anything from focusing on your employability to increasing self-confidence or living every day to its fullest. 

The need for personal development stems from Maslow's 'hierarchy of needs'. This theory suggests that we progress onto the next stage of our life once we have fulfilled our preceding needs. As humans, we all have basic, or 'physiological', needs; these include food, water, sleep, sex, and exercise. Once we have fulfilled these, we then focus on our 'safety' needs, which include health and job security. We progress through the hierarchy - love and belonging, esteem and cognitive needs - until we reach self-actualisation. This is the desire to be the best version of you possible. 

It's important to recognise, however, that despite this theory being linear, in today's society this is not universal. We are all on our own life journeys and will achieve our goals at different stages of our lives. For example, we don't have to have fulfilled all our basic needs to have a desire to learn.

Remember it's not about perfection and having everything catered for - take a holistic approach to personal development and see how even the smallest changes to your day-to-day life can have a big impact. We might also face individual challenges along the way, such as a bereavement, which may throw us off our path - and that's OK. Our motivation to achieve our goals can also fluctuate, and that's where having a personal development plan can be useful. 


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What is personal development coaching?

Coaches aim to help you recognise where you want to be in life and how you can get there, as well as identifying the potential that already exists within you. This is often accomplished through a series of questions designed to help you recognise, accept and build upon your strengths and weaknesses. 

You should expect to be given the opportunity to assess your emotional well-being and how you are progressing in life. You will consider whether you are happy, whether you are reaching your goals, and assess your state of mind and your relationships.

A coach won’t necessarily offer direct advice and they won’t tell you exactly what to do; but with expert strategies, they will offer guidance and support through a tailored personal development plan, in order for you to set realistic goals and continue working on the journey outside of the coaching sessions.

An accredited life coach can help you build confidence, accept your strengths and work with you on a journey towards change and a happier you.

A personal development coach will also:

  • Ask questions in order to guide you to an answer.
  • Encourage deep thoughts about your life currently and the changes you want to make.
  • Encourage you to challenge your thoughts by identifying inconsistencies.
  • Support you through difficult decisions.
  • Assist you with creating and following your personalised plan.
  • Help you to create strategies and reach your goals.
Coaches who can help with personal development

Is personal development coaching for me?

Personal development coaching can cover a range of issues and concerns so it’s important to remember this when seeking a coach, as confidence and rapport with your coach are essential. Common issues covered include money management, confidence building, public speaking or any other skill linked to promoting personal growth.

If you’re considering enlisting a life coach, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you wish you had better communication skills?
  • Do you want to become more confident?
  • Do you want to be more motivated?
  • Do you need a specific skill to advance further in life?
  • Do you want to be happier?

For a personal development plan to help you, you need to feel ready to start making permanent changes and be dedicated to achieving them.

Personal development in a sense is similar to a spring clean: by evaluating aspects of the self and putting them in order of importance. A coach can be particularly valuable in helping you re-organise your thoughts, wants, and aspirations and put weight on them by providing an objective point of view.

Whether you have one skill you wish to target, or if there are several issues contributing to your concern, they can help you to devise an effective personal development plan.

Common issues personal development coaches encounter include:

Mental and emotional state

Often, the way we feel about events or changes that happen in our lives affects the way we react to certain events. Having the confidence and motivation to achieve what you desire is important in personal growth, but understanding your mental and emotional state is perhaps the first step in reaching your goals.

In order to understand yourself better, a coach may ask you to place emphasis on the most meaningful things in your life. For example, if you wish for success, you will need to ask yourself what that success means to you. What makes you successful? And how do you know when you have reached 'success'? 

Social life

Personal development coaching can often help you address any social concerns you may have, most commonly, lacking the confidence to meet new people or make friends. A life coach will be able to help you recognise and overcome certain anxieties that are preventing you from moving forward; including anxieties over arguments, coping in relationships or dealing with anger.

Your coach may ask what your social life is like. They will help you to understand whether you need lots of people around you to feel safe and happy, or whether you are happier in your own company. Recognising your social needs can help you to understand what has caused certain issues and how you can find a healthy balance.

Work/life balance

For many of us, we spend more time at work than we do at home or with loved ones. So if you’re not feeling fulfilled in your work or not enjoying your job, you’re struggling with stress, feeling undervalued or feeling like you are not reaching your full potential can all have a negative impact on other aspects of life too. Equally, not maintaining a balanced routine can affect relationships, productivity, happiness and well-being.

The effects of habits like working too many hours in the office, eating unhealthy comfort foods, not exercising enough, drinking on weeknights and not sleeping enough combine to create one much bigger problem [...] This creates a vicious cycle which could have a significant long-term impact on your mental and physical well-being.

- Read more on Happiful.

Relationships and happiness

Personal development coaching can help you address your relationship concerns, build your confidence to find the satisfaction you deserve. Your happiness can be greatly affected by the status of your love life. It doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or single - take a moment to consider if you are happy.

It is important to learn what you want, to trust yourself in search of a partner, and to assess how happy you are in your current situation. Recognising the state of your happiness is the first step towards understanding what improvements can be made and making those positive changes.

Money management

Money is the source of many problems and one of the main causes of stress for people in the UK. If you find yourself in debt, you will often think of nothing else. The debt can cast a shadow over every aspect of your life, eating away at your positivity and overall health.

Read more about the cost of financial stress on our mental health on Happiful.

If you are experiencing financial worries, a coach can help you identify your financial strengths and weaknesses, and guide you towards better money management. You’ll receive help in devising a money managing-plan that will in time, help you to regain control of your finance


Personal development techniques

Enhancing your current skills, or learning new ones can empower you as a person and increase the opportunities available to you. There are many techniques you can try in order to develop across multiple areas of your life:

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

The first step in personal growth and development is identifying the strengths and weaknesses in each area of your life. If you wish to develop yourself personally, then you need to understand what you want to develop.

This is a journey of discovery, of recognising your potential and acknowledging your strengths, realising you have all the answers you need to achieve your goals.

- Emma Tyer, accredited Life Coach.

Develop self-confidence or self-esteem

Acknowledging your own ability will help you progress further, but this can often be a barrier many people face when wanting to develop their skills. Your confidence levels will grow in time, but be sure to look for support from people around you along the way; this may be your friends, family, colleagues or a professional coach. Voicing what you are doing and the journey you want to take will often promote encouragement from others.

To build self-esteem you can:

  • engage in positive self-talk
  • remember what you like about yourself
  • discuss your good qualities
  • write down your achievements to look back on
  • plan for your future

Manage your time well

Time seems to get in the way when considering making lifestyle changes so it’s worthwhile to evaluate how you currently spend your time. With this knowledge, you’ll find the process of time management less stressful when changing your routine.

Tips to manage your time more effectively can include:

  • Saying “no” to extra responsibilities at work that requires you to stay late.
  • Make a list of tasks you need to complete; organisation is key to time management.
  • Recognise your most productive time of the day – complete priority tasks during this time.
  • Try to spend at least one hour after work doing something you enjoy.

Personal development apps

Depending on what you want to achieve, there are many apps available that can help you manage your goals. You might decide to try these for yourself before seeing a life coach, or you can use them alongside your personal development plan. Here are a few apps that you might find useful:

  • Couch to 5k (to be more active)
  • Skillshare (to find a new hobby)
  • Glassdoor (for employment opportunities)
  • Endel (for sleep and focus)

You can also download our Happiful app to connect with well-being professionals, read every issue of Happiful magazine, view events and social groups, and have a daily source of inspiration across a variety of well-being topics. 


Practising positive emotional well-being

Recognise your achievements

Developing yourself and building confidence is all about recognising your achievements, however big or small. Day-to-day challenges can sometimes make us feel unsuccessful, but recognising and praising yourself for the small things will help this.

Try to view life as a series of small challenges, where each journey you make has its own achievements. Recognise these and you will start to develop a more positive perspective.

Set goals

Setting personal goals is a great way to start growing. Make a list once a month, or once a week and try to tick off most of the goals you have given yourself.

They don’t have to be big goals either. If you have long-term goals, that’s a great way to look towards the future and keep you motivated, but you can break this down into interim goals. Often, the simpler these are, the better. Just remember to applaud yourself when you have achieved each goal.

Track your achievements

Recognising your successes will build your confidence and self-worth. You may find your coach suggests keeping a personal development diary. This will be for you to record your thoughts and feelings about each journey you make in life. Write down any key events, developments or achievements as they happen so you can reflect on these later. Having a record of your feelings toward different events will help you to evaluate your behaviour and know how to improve it.


Finding a personal development coach 

If you are wanting to go on a journey to better yourself, but are unsure where to start, seeking guidance from a personal development coach may benefit you. They will help you navigate your path and help you achieve your goals.

To find a coach that's right for you, use our advanced search tool.

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