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Are you reaching your full potential? A guide to personal development

February 10, 2022 - 17 min read


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What is personal development?

5 areas of personal development

The benefits of personal development

6 steps to developing a personal development plan

How personalized development can help

I’m no stranger to feeling stuck.

There are days I wake up and just go through the daily motions. I make coffee then sit down at my computer for a day of work. I’ll usually work out, walk the dogs, make dinner. Then, read, watch a show, go to bed. The next day? Wake up and do it all over again. 

Especially at the height of the pandemic, it started to feel like vicious monotony. Our lives seemingly stalled in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It feels like dreams, goals, and ambitions are buried in thick molasses or honey at the back of our brains. And even as we navigate this new normal, that “stuck” feeling might be stuck with us. 

The good news? You’re not alone — and personal development is here to help. 

I embarked on an intentional personal development journey well before I knew what it meant. I knew I wanted to see personal growth — and had reached a point in my life where I needed real change.

At BetterUp, personal development comes to life in what we call an Inner Work® practice. Inner Work® is deep work, a practice that isn’t always visible to the outside eye. But with the right personal development toolkit, you can build a lifelong practice of Inner Work®

My own personal growth journey has seen its series of ups and downs, failures and successes. Any personal development journey is a lifelong commitment, not a sprint or achievable task. It will weather bumps and roadblocks but it can also thrive in other areas of your life. 

If you’re looking for ways to up your personal development game, we’re here to help. 

What is personal development?

It’s certainly not as easy as it sounds. Every person is unique. So, it only makes sense that personal development will look different for everyone. But what does it actually mean? 

At BetterUp, we’re big believers in the practice of Inner Work®. In many ways, personal development is a form of Inner Work®. It is the act of looking inward to achieve a purpose or result, especially in the pursuit of clarity, purpose, and passion in life. 

Personal development is much larger than just career development or self-development. It encompasses all aspects of your life where you’d like to see personal growth — and it doesn’t discriminate on where it shows up for you. 

5 areas of personal development

When it comes to personal development, it’s hard to not reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to Maslow, your basic needs need to be fulfilled in order to reach your fullest potential. In other words. To reach self-actualization means we’re reaching the highest levels of self-awareness, self-confidence, personal growth, and self-realization. 

Much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we see five different areas of personal development. Different personal development goals can fall into different categories. 


Exercising your brain and staying mentally fit is critical to personal development. At BetterUp, this comes to life in a few ways: coaching, learning opportunities, and career growth. For example, right now, I’m taking a creative writing course to help keep my mental creative muscles going strong. (And BetterUp foots the bill as part of our learning stipend.) 

Mental development can be anything from workshops, training sessions, or even just rest. Rest is just as (if not more) important than mental exercise. And as your mental fitness improves, so does your resiliency, innovation, and self-awareness. 

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Social connections and relationships are also a must-have for any personal development. After all, self-improvement is not a solitary pursuit. Humans are social creatures — we need that connection to learn and grow.

And from social connections, we gain important skills. Like communication skills, problem-solving, relationship-building, and the ability to receive (and give) feedback. We also learn from those around us and their experiences. 


Personal growth and development — whether you’re religious or not — can come through in spirituality. It’s important to recognize that religion and spirituality are not synonymous. In fact, far from it. 

Spirituality means you’re investing in a deeper understanding of your own self in the world around you. It helps you get to know yourself and uncover your values. And in the context of Inner Work®, the spiritual personal development tool can bring greater awareness to self and change. 



Emotional personal development often goes hand-in-hand with emotional intelligence. At its simplest, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand feelings. Beyond feelings, it’s understanding how those feelings shape our thoughts and actions. 

Any number of experiences lends itself to emotional personal development. And those experiences can help you in your pursuit of self-improvement. Take your own Inner Work® journey so far. What experiences have shaped you into who you are today? When you reflect on your journey, what have you learned? 

If you’re looking back at your journey and identifying the growth, it’s likely you’ve fostered a sense of emotional development along the way. This requires emotional intelligence to understand what role your feelings and thoughts played. 


A healthy body nourishes a healthy mind. There’s an intrinsic link between your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

This aspect of personal development is focused on physical health — like nutrition, sleep, exercise, and movement. When your physical self is nourished, it’s likely your mind is also reaping those benefits. Consider ways you can build this area of personal development and take note of how your body and your mind feel. 

The benefits of personal development

There are plenty of benefits to personal development. Personal growth isn’t easy but the benefits will make the journey worthwhile. 

My friend at Google has worked with a BetterUp coach for the last year. In her own personal development journey, she's shared why working with a coach has transformed her personal growth journey. 

"My experience with BetterUp has transcended the professional workplace. My coach knows me on a personal level, which allows for her to help me set boundaries, manage expectations, and receive feedback. Ultimately, it's helped me reach my biggest goal of having a work-life balance." 

 A Google employee, BetterUp Member 

  • Increased self-awareness and self-esteem. Personal growth requires looking inward at your own thoughts, feelings, habits, and reactions. It requires attentiveness — and awareness — to who you are as a person in a present state. But it also challenges you to look to the future to where you want to go. By investing in yourself, you’re increasing your self-awareness and by default, self-esteem
  • Increased mental fitness. Becoming mentally fit requires work. And many aspects of personal development aid in building strong mental fitness. With increased mental fitness, you’ll see a ripple effect of positive benefits. We’ve gathered data around the impact of mental fitness. People with strong mental fitness are more productive, are less likely to experience mental illness, and are more creative and innovative. 
  • Greater resilience. With personal development, you gain greater resilience. This is another positive symptom of strong mental fitness, too. Investing in your personal growth means investing in your ability to bounce back after rough patches. 
  • More knowledge and learned skills. Oftentimes, personal development comes with more knowledge and learned skills. This can come to life in different ways. For example, you may take courses in digital marketing that help you gain the skills you need to further your career development. Or, you may sign up for art or pottery classes, which help you gain skills in entirely different areas of your life. 
  • Improved personal and professional relationships. Another personal development benefit is improved personal and professional relationships. This is an area that flourishes when you invest in your personal growth, especially in emotional and social aspects. 


11 personal development skills to work on

If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with a coach. Personalized coaching can help serve as your guide while you’re building your roadmap to self-actualization. 

Your coach will work one-on-one with you to help identify key skills to work on catered to your own experience. You can start by taking the Whole Person Assessment to help assess where your strengths and areas of opportunity lie. 

We’ve identified some common areas of self-improvement and personal development you may consider investing in: 

  1. Communication and interpersonal skills 
  2. Problem-solving 
  3. Cognitive agility and adaptability 
  4. Self-compassion, self-care, and self-reflection 
  5. Conflict and conflict resolution 
  6. Navigating change and uncertainty 
  7. Future-mindedness 
  8. Organizational skills 
  9. Growth mindset 
  10. Teamwork and collaboration 
  11. Self-awareness 

6 steps to developing a personal development plan

Like any other goal, it’s important to put together a plan. By assembling your personal development plan with some structure, you’re more likely to achieve your goals. 

1. Identify areas where you’d like to improve 

This first step will likely require some Inner Work®. Take a minute to reflect on where you are right now. What are your strengths? In what areas do you want to focus? What growth and development do you want to see in yourself? 

If you’ve taken the Whole Person Assessment, this can help as a useful tool. Once you’ve reflected on your personal goals, identify the areas where you’d like to improve

2. Work with a coach or mentor to assemble a plan 

Even if it's your own personal development plan, you don’t have to do it alone. Lean on support systems — like life coaches or mentors — to help frame a plan. With the right structure in place (and feedback along the way), you’ll be better equipped to put the plan into action. 

3. Structure your personal development goals 

Stick to a routine — and build consistency. Start to examine your day-to-day and try to find ways to either build habits or stack new habits onto existing ones. 

In this last year, I wanted to build strength training into my fitness routine. The kicker? I never use weights. I decided to put a yoga mat with weights next to my running shoes. Every time I go for a run, I have to think about those weights sitting next to my shoes. It helps to remind myself to do a quick 5-minute exercise with some dumbbells.  


4. Find an accountability buddy 

Sometimes, having someone holding you accountable makes all the difference. If you and a friend are both setting intentions and goals, consider ways you can support one another. 

Every new hire at BetterUp gets a stack of great books during the onboarding process. My teammate reached out today to see if we could create an accountability plan. We’re each holding each other to 100 pages of reading a week. 

5. Be honest and aware of your progress 

Your personal development plan requires integrity. Be honest with yourself about your growth and progress. This also requires a level of self-awareness. You can also gather feedback from friends, family, and colleagues to help gather insight on how you’re progressing in your goals, too. 

6. Factor personal development into your mental fitness plan 

How does personal development factor into your mental fitness plan? Consider ways you can work with your coach on building aspects of personal development into your overall mental fitness. 

How personalized development can help

Personal development is just that: it’s personal. 

Every human is different. If our society cracked the nut on personal development, every self-help book would help everyone. Or every learning process would benefit every student. 

But we know from our life experiences that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to anything when it comes to human nature. 

It’s important to lean on personalized support like coaching to help craft a catered plan that works for you. You won’t have the same needs, strengths, opportunities, and skills as your neighbor. So why would your personal development plan be the same? 

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. By doing so, you'll be on the path to reaching your full potential.

While self-actualization and Inner Work® is a lifelong process, your personal development goals shouldn't be daunting. Start small — like building a new skill or even investing in work-life balance. By doing so, you'll set yourself up for success in all areas of your life.

If you're ready to make a change to improve the quality of your life, consider how personal and professional development coaching can help. With help from BetterUp, you can awaken your full potential.
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Published February 10, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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