How to Reach Your Full Potential, Pt. 3: Create Your Personal Development Plan

Welcome back to Life Compass, where we’re talking about how to reach your full potential in life.  After you take a good look at yourself (step 1) and clarify your purpose in life (step 2), the next step is to create a personal development plan to help you maximize who you are in order to accomplish what you’re called to do.

Your personal development plan will synthesize and build upon all the work you’ve already done in the first two steps.  In addition, it will help you evaluate your current reality in the basic areas of life (financial, family, career, health, spiritual, etc.), set well-defined goals, and create a specific plan of action that will propel you to achieve your goals.

How to Create a Personal Development Plan

1.  Start a notebook, 3-ring binder, or computer folder and label it, “Personal Development Plan.” Use this to keep all the material you’ve produced so far from this process, and other inspirational thoughts or articles you like, in a place that you can easily find and readily come back to.

2. Review your Life Purpose and make any changes or tweaks that come to your mind. Then write the final version onto one sheet of paper titled, “Life Purpose”, and put it in your binder.

3.  Get seven separate sheets of paper and title one after each of the seven basic life areas: Family, Career, Financial, Social, Health, Personal Development, Spiritual/Ethical.

4.  Review the list of personal values (the things or ideals that are most important to you) that you created previously, and assign each one to the life area it best fits into. For example, if one of your values is to maintain your ideal weight, then this one best fits into the “Health” life area.  I recommend that you have at least 2-3 values for each life area, so feel free to edit, re-write, or write new ones as needed.

5.  Assess your current reality (how well you’re doing) for each life area. How do you feel about your health, family, career, etc.?  Are you making the success you had hoped to achieve in each area?  What things are going great?  What things need to improve or change?  Are there any areas where you feel you need a major overhaul?  This is a chance for you to benchmark where you’re at today in each life area, so you can measure and celebrate your improvement and success in the future.

6.  Review your list of goals and assign each one to the life area it best fits into. For example, if you have a goal to lose 20 pounds, then this one best fits in the “Health” life area.  Next, set a deadline for each goal and sort the goals according to the deadline:  within the next 3 months, sometime this year, over the next 3 years.  Make sure you have goals for each life area.  Sometimes we focus more on our “Career” life area and don’t think much about the  “Spiritual/Ethical” or “Personal Development” life areas. But we won’t reach our full potential if we don’t invest in each area.

7.  Narrow your focus by picking your seven top goals (one goal from each of the seven life areas) to focus on for the next season – which could be this month or this quarter. If you have a hard time deciding which one should be the “top” one for a certain life area…don’t worry…just pick one this month or quarter, and pick the other one the next month or quarter!

8. Identify your overarching seasonal theme that will help you accelerate the achievement of your goals and reach your full potential. This is a tip I learned from one of my mentors. Stop and think for a moment:  As you look over your key goals, personal values, and dreams for the future, is there one goal or one thing that, if you did it during this season of life, would…

  • make a huge difference in your life?
  • positively impact multiple life areas?
  • propel you forward faster toward the achievement of your dreams?

If so, write it down and make it what I call your “seasonal theme,” the over-arching theme for this season of your life.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Imagine that, as you look over your top goals and values for each life area, you notice that you have a Family goal to dedicate more time to your family, a Career goal to create more time flexibility into your work schedule, and a Financial goal to allocate more money in a travel fund so you can travel more with your family.

It seems there might be something you can do that would give you a big impact in these three life areas…but the course of action you could take will depend on the other goals and values you’ve established.

One thing you could do is find a new job that gives you more income and greater time flexibility.  Another thing you could do is start your own business, either full or part-time.  So, for this season of life, you dedicate time, energy and resources to finding that new job or starting that new business.

Or, you might realize that your income is fine and you enjoy your job, but you’d like to see if there’s a way to change your job a bit, or move into a different position that gives you a less demanding schedule, doesn’t require you to work late or travel so much, and will allow you to take your full vacation time off without guilt.  So, for this season of life, you dedicate time, energy and resources to finding a way to downshift your job and life.

Again, there are multiple courses of action, depending on your personal situation.  But the main point is that you identify a theme that will be your main focus, your rallying cry, for the next season of your life and help move you farther and faster toward your other goals and dreams.

9.  Make a separate “Goal Planning Worksheet” for your seven life area goals and your seasonal theme goal. At the top of each sheet, write today’s date, the life area that this goal corresponds with, and the due date. Leave space at the top for a completion date, which you’ll fill-in when the goal is completed.  Next, write out the goal using the SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible).  Then list the benefits you’ll receive by achieving this goal.  Feel free to write a few sentences – these will help motivate you to achieve the goal.  Next, list the obstacles that could keep you from successfully attaining the goal, along with ways you can avoid or overcome the obstacles.  Lastly, identify the specific action steps that are necessary for you to achieve this goal.  You might list them in order and put a target date next to each one…or you might create a mind map or use some other kind of chart or timeline.

10. Re-orient your life around your personal development plan. Now that you’ve set some serious goals and created a plan for achieving them, you need to be sure you allocate enough time to work your plan.  This means you’ll have to decide what things you need to start doing, and what things you need to stop doing.  If you don’t, one of two things typically happens; either you…

  • keep doing all the stuff you’ve been doing, attempt to add your new goals on top of it, and watch your life become overloaded and out of balance
  • keep doing all the stuff you’ve been doing and never get around to finding the time to work your new goals.

We don’t often like to think there’s a price for achieving what we want in life.  But there is!  You need to ask yourself, “what price am I willing to pay in order to achieve my goals and dreams and life to my full potential?”  Robert Pagliarini, in his new book, The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose, reminds us that we work 8 hours, we sleep 8 hours, and we have 8 hours left…which we can fritter away on tv, the internet, etc., or strategically invest in the things and people that are most important to us.  And as I’ve said before, life’s greatest truth and hardest lesson is this:  Everything is a choice.

You’ll also want to set aside a regular time to review your progress as you work your plan.  I recommend a weekly review to help keep your goals fresh and on your mind.

11.  Repeat. Now that you’ve taken a good look at yourself, clarified your purpose, created your personal development plan, and have begun to work your plan, the next step is to repeat steps 5-10 as needed (I recommend quarterly, though you can do it monthly).

After a few months or quarters, you’ll be amazed at how many goals and dreams you’ve achieved, and you’ll feel a sense of greater fulfillment and freedom.

Final thoughts

I’ve given you a lot of info here, but I tried to keep it as simple as possible.  I hope you’ll find these steps helpful as you seek to reach your full potential in life.

Remember that success comes in stages, and you won’t reach your full potential over night.  It is the journey of a lifetime that takes time and can involve some trial and error.

Don’t feel you have to “get it right” the first time. With each month, or quarter that you use this planning process, you’ll gain new insights and greater clarity and focus. And you’ll move closer to reaching your full potential.  I’ve always found that experience both clarifies and illuminates my path more and more.

Have you ever created a personal development plan?  If so, how has it worked for you? If not, is it something that you want to try in order tohelp you reach your full potential?  Please share your comments.

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