A holistic approach to personal development

When there’s a new skill we want to learn or an area in our lives we want to develop (for example, building confidence) we can fall into the trap of zooming in completely on this one goal. We focus our attention as if we’re wearing blinkers, while everything else falls away.

woman sitting among leaf shadows

While this dedication can be helpful, it’s also important for us to consider how our behaviours and actions in other areas of our life affect our goals. The truth is, everything is connected. 

When we take a holistic approach to personal development, we honour this connection. We understand that not getting enough sleep is going to have a knock-on effect on our stress levels, or that connecting with something bigger than ourselves can ease self-doubt. But what exactly does this approach look like in practice? We believe it comes down to looking after these three areas: the physical, the mental and the spiritual.

The physical 

The way we treat our bodies may not seem relevant if your personal development goal isn’t health-related, but supporting your physical health can help you feel energised, more optimistic and resilient. Consider how you feel when you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep or when you’ve eaten foods that don’t make you feel good – are you excited to tackle your goal? Chances are, you’re not.

Here are some areas to bear in mind when looking after the physical:

  • Nutrition: Are you feeling fuelled by your food? Are you feeling energised? What changes could you make to support yourself?
  • Exercise: Are you moving your body regularly? How do you feel when you do this? Could you make room for more movement in your days? 
  • Sleep: Are you getting enough good quality sleep? What’s keeping you up at night? Do you need professional support?
  • Physical therapies: Do you have any niggling pains? Could a holistic therapy like massage or Bowen therapy support you?

When we take care of our physical selves, we’re giving ourselves the best chance of success. Remember, our bodies are our vehicles to success. 

The mental 

Depending on your personal development goal, the mental side of things is likely where you’ll be paying the most attention. Maybe you want to learn a new skill or overcome a mindset issue that’s holding you back. However you’re tackling your goal (alone or with a coach), it’s helpful to have a broad approach when looking after your mental health. There are lots of areas under this umbrella, but keeping an eye on the following is a good place to start:

  • Managing stress: What tools do you have to manage stress? Do you need to revisit your self-care practices?
  • Managing mental illness: Have you sought support? What strategies do you have in place to manage mental health concerns?
  • Connection with others: Do you have a support network? Have you reached out to others recently?
  • Mindfulness: How will this support your self-awareness? What mindfulness practices resonate with you?
  • Introspection: Do you have space to check in with yourself? Would a practice like journaling or meditation be helpful?

Taking care of our mental health only supports learning, development and growth – we must clear the weeds before planting something new.

The spiritual 

When we say spiritual here, we don’t necessarily mean religion. For some, this will be where a spiritual connection can be found. For others, it will be about spending time in nature or simply doing something that feels good for the soul. Perhaps the most often forgotten about, taking care of our spiritual side can help us feel aligned with our values and happier overall. Here are some areas to consider when thinking about the spiritual:

  • Connecting with something bigger than ourselves: What does this look like for you? Religion? Being in nature? A higher purpose?
  • Living your values: Do you know what your core values are? Is your goal aligned with these?
  • Having fun: When was the last time you did something purely for the joy of doing it? How can you incorporate more play into your life?

It may not feel important to cater to our spiritual side, but it’s here we often find the fuel that keeps us going when our goals feel unreachable. 

Of course, it’s very rare that we’ll have every aspect of ourselves catered for while pursuing a goal. But, it’s not about perfection or trying to excel at everything. Having a holistic approach to personal development is about seeing the thread that ties it all together and respecting it.

Try reading through the points listed here and noting which areas could do with your attention and consider how you can start addressing them, knowing how it will impact your personal development goal positively. 

If it all feels a bit overwhelming and you’d like a guide in the process, get in touch with a coach. Helping you see the wood for the trees, coaches can help you identify what’s affecting what and how best to navigate and accomplish your goal. 

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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