Build a Personal Development Plan for Personal & Career Success

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What is a Personal Development Plan (PDP)

“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” — Benjamin Franklin. In life, having a plan, a schedule, a routine or just sticking to some sort of programme can be the difference between someone who’s actually happy & successful versus someone who ‘tried but couldn’t cut it. Successful businesses function much the same way. Whether you are interested in growing individually or as a business, if you do not have a plan for how you want to be successful, you will fail.

This EliteDaily article titled ‘Be Spontaneous: The 6 Reasons You Should Never Make A Plan Again’ has some valid points regarding the benefits of spontaneity and why planning everything all the time may not always be the way to go. However, when you are making a plan for something as huge and important as your (or your business’s) long-term growth, not planning and ‘being spontaneous’ could mean years of time passing without you ever really making progress.

Having a plan is also beneficial for your mental health. The clarity that comes with unpacking a goal and visualizing the steps needed to achieve said goal is extremely enlightening. With the global working environment becoming increasingly competitive and suicide trends rising consistently over the last 20 years, having a plan by which to lead your life can significantly help you manage the inevitable stresses of daily life. Especially considering the fact that the tech industry is constantly evolving, having a rock-solid, goal-achieving blueprint can aid with navigating the constantly changing environment of the tech world.

1) Set a goal

Image of the word Goal with the letter O being a bullseye

Before creating a plan, you need to know what you’re planning for. Identifying the ultimate goal that you are planning for is equally important as the steps needed to achieve it. Goals vary depending on what life stage you are currently at so it would be important to think about where you’re at in life and set goals accordingly. Someone who’s just graduated from university would have different goals that they’d want to achieve in the next 5 years as opposed to someone who’s been in an industry for years and is seeking to expand or start something new. Simply thinking about what would make you happy in the long run is a good place to start. 

Your dream, ambition, vision, whatever you’d like to call it – these are your goals. The more unrealistic, seemingly unachievable and scarier the goal, the better. This can often be the trickiest part of creating a development plan because we have to balance ‘being realistic’ with actually being successful. However, the goal-setting stage is usually where we should be unrealistic.

Unrealistic goals only fail when the overall plan is unrealistic. You can’t aspire to be a cryptocurrency millionaire in the next 2 years without ever planning to go through hours and hours a day of reading about blockchain technology, market trends, trading platforms etc. Sure, overnight millionaires exist, but how often do those come along?

2) Analyze & break down your goal

Illustration of a goal analysis.

Once you’ve set your seemingly insane and unrealistic goal, it is important to spend a significant amount of time educating yourself about said goal – you need to understand this goal inside out. Assuming your goal is to become a millionaire, you have to take the time to learn and research everything there is to know about millionaires in general. Who are they? What kinds of jobs do these people have? How did they make their money? How long did they take? – You need to be curious about everything there is to do with your goal if you are to eventually achieve it.

This step is crucial because once you’ve accumulated all this knowledge about the goal you’ve set, you may find that there are other micro-goals that need to be achieved on the road towards your ultimate goal. For example, a quick google search of ‘how to become a millionaire’ would bring you to many articles, most of which cite investments as one of the ways to get rich. But there are many kinds of investments – cryptocurrency, stocks, gold, NFTs, index funds, sports cards, and real estate – to name a few. Each of these investment options are similar but also different in many ways.

Perhaps you’re curious about NFTs because of all the buzz they’ve been getting of late and maybe you feel like you could make money through NFTs – well, the only way to know for sure is to educate yourself about everything there is to do with NFTs in order to become somewhat of an expert, or at least someone who knows enough about NFTs to be able to make money with them. This is not a small task and could therefore be categorized as a micro-goal that takes you closer to achieving your ultimate goal.

3) Set deadlines

Image of a calendar with a clear deadline on the 16th of the month

Contrary to popular belief, procrastination is not simply a result of laziness. It wouldn’t be surprising if procrastinating and telling yourself that you’ll ‘do it tomorrow’ comes up as a recurring theme throughout the pursuit of your ultimate goal, it makes sense that this would happen in fact. One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we are afraid of failing – with a goal as big as the one you are going to set, it is perfectly understandable that you would be afraid of not being able to achieve it. The act of putting tasks off till ‘tomorrow’ could be seen as a way of avoiding the potential pain of failure.

However, to look at things more rationally – you will definitely fail if you don’t try, and you will definitely fail if you procrastinate too often. This is a good place to remind yourself that if you are passionate enough about your ultimate goal, you should make it a priority to set deadlines and stick to them. Once you have broken up your ultimate goal into multiple ‘micro-goals’, do plenty of research into how long each of these micro-goals generally takes to complete and proceed to set deadlines for yourself so you can measure your progress and stay on track. 

4) Prepare for setbacks and take advantage of opportunities

Image of the board game Snakes and ladders.

A pursuit as big as your chosen one is bound to encounter setbacks. Setbacks may come in the form of friends and family telling you that you’ll never make it, physical injury or financial downturn to name a few. Some of these setbacks may even be of your own doing – self-doubt, procrastinating, not prioritizing your goal etc. Setbacks however are not a cue to give up, setbacks are simply a reminder that achieving any form of success in life is not easy since we are, unfortunately, only human.

Although it is easier said than done, setbacks are a cue for you to get back to the drawing board and re-strategise in order to find a different (perhaps even better) path towards your goal. Setbacks are inevitable, so be prepared by not basking in the glory of success too much. By this, I mean that you should not overvalue completing a task too much, because when you do that, setbacks hurt a lot more. Should you encounter some sort of misfortune, allow yourself some time to process your emotions, surround yourself with like-minded people, re-strategise and get back to work!

Though setbacks are inevitable, so are opportunities. Every day we are faced with opportunities to excel along our path towards our goal, but too often we make excuses – “I’m not ready for that”, “That’s not good enough for me”, “That’s a waste of time”. If you make your ultimate goal your ultimate priority, every experience you have throughout the day can be turned into an opportunity. Being open to meeting new people is a gateway to opportunities because you’ll never know who you meet and what value they can bring to your life (and vice-versa). By now, through all the research you’ve done about your ultimate goal, you would have immersed yourself fairly deeply into ‘the scene’ – whether that’s the cryptocurrency scene, nightlife scene, motorsport scene etc. By now you should be aware of ‘what’s happening’ and ‘who’s doing what’ – This is a great stage to be at because you can gain access to many different opportunities to learn and grow – conferences, networking events, general meetups and seminars.

Take advantage of these events, step out of your comfort zone, ask questions, be curious about people and expand your circle (both in terms of quantity and the quality of people) because you never know who is going to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime in the future. 

5) Develop yourself 

Image of a graph illustrating continuous improvements.

After all, it’s called a personal DEVELOPMENT plan for a reason. Though your ultimate goal is the aim, the progression towards your goal should develop you into a stronger, more competent, skillful and talented person overall. The setbacks you encounter along the way should expose what you may be lacking as a person. The opportunities you encounter should tell you a lot about how much more you could improve about yourself and in what specific areas.

This is a great time to learn new skills, learn to love yourself more, get started on an online learning program, read more books that contribute to your growth, exercise etc. Think of your personal development as a process of arming yourself so that you can be a more dangerous warrior when going into battle. You cannot progress efficiently towards your goal unless you are also working on yourself in the process of achieving your goal.

6) Trust your support network

Multiethnic group of young people putting their hands on top of each other. Close up image of young students making a stack of hands.

Every single person who has succeeded in life would not have gotten to where they are today without the support of a small group of people around them constantly encouraging them, inspiring them and helping them back onto their feet when they fall. You don’t need to do everything by yourself if you try to do everything by yourself, you will most likely fail. However, this doesn’t mean that you should depend on others, it just means that you need to know when to power through something and get a task done and when to stop and reach out for help.

While making your plan, list down the people you know you can trust to offer help when you need it – this could be a friend, a work colleague or a mentor. Think of the people whom you always feel great around, the people that constantly lift your mood – these are the people you should consider as part of your support network. Achieving a goal as big as yours is not going to be easy if you are doing everything correctly: you are going to feel like giving up and you are going to be stressed, this is inevitable.

Thankfully, the world is slowly becoming more aware of the importance of mental health and one of the best things you can do to pull yourself out of a slump is to surround yourself with people and reach out to those you can trust – the process of talking and getting what’s bothering you off your chest is extremely enlightening and will help you get back to working towards your goal much faster


7) Measure progress

Image of Shia LaBeouf flexing in front of a green screen with white text overlay

He really wasn’t kidding when he said “don’t let your dreams be dreams”. If you have no way of measuring the progress you are making on the road towards achieving your goal (or if you are even making progress) how will you know that you are getting closer? Without some form of progress measurement, your dreams will remain dreams. So while deadlines are crucial , so are visual and tangible targets. These targets help confirm that you are in fact getting closer and therefore, it’s worth carrying on. Think of targets as very small (but significant) goals. Assuming your dream is to become a millionaire and you have chosen to dedicate your time to learning about investments in the form of cryptocurrency, your targets could look something like: Read one chapter a day of The History of Money by Glyn Davies (a great book, by the way) until the book is complete. Every target you reach counts as progress.

Having your targets written down can also be encouraging when you experience setbacks. If you find yourself feeling terrible one day for whatever reason, visually seeing all the targets you’ve reached and how far you’ve come can help perk you up and get you back on the horse.Making use of your support network by asking for feedback is also a great way of measuring progress. If you are hitting your targets, the people closest to you will notice it, trust their feedback. 


Image of a woman walking up stairs besides a wall filled with business illustrations

In summary, having an ultimate goal to aim for in the form of a PDP is a great way to live your life. It gives you purpose, something to live for and a chance to experience life in its fullest. Despite there being great value in spontaneity, living every aspect of your life spontaneously is not as fulfilling as planning for something to happen and watching as the plan unfolds as you expected (or even better than you expected!). Having a PDP, whether you are a business or an individual is rooted in the philosophy that being organized, focussed and disciplined is the recipe for long-term success and it would be difficult to imagine that any successful person in the world today wasn’t organized, focussed or disciplined in some way. Set a goal, break it down, set deadlines, be prepared for the worst (and for the best), work on yourself, trust the people closest to you and measure all of your progress – do this and you can achieve ANYTHING.

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