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Personal development: 12 tips & 6 exercises for your self-development

Only gradually – and often through conscious effort – do we develop ourselves further, over the course of our lives. Self-improvement is exhausting, yes, but it also makes you satisfied and happy. Below you’ll find tips and exercises to help you get more out of yourself.

Most people are far from tapping into their full potential. Self-development is a long, continuous process, but in the end, you can grow from the challenges you set for yourself. Read on to find out how this works.

Personal development – a definition

Personal development – a definition

Personal growth is an ongoing process that can go in very different directions and some goals include the following:

  • Getting to know yourself better and understanding the way you act and why.
  • Finding out what objectives you want to achieve and how to achieve them, as well as what principles you want to live by.
  • Becoming happier and more relaxed, more stable in life.
  • Being more flexible when dealing with difficult times, problems, and crises.
  • Living a self-determined life and becoming more independent from others.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? However – and here comes the catch – personal development is a slow process and progression comes in small steps. What’s more: you will never be "finished", as there is always more to learn and experience. Fortunately, the journey itself is exciting and fulfilling.

12 tips for your self-development plan

So how do you get started? Below are 12 helpful tips for your personal growth.

Establish a (preliminary) focus

One thing at a time: set a focus for your personal development

As you can see from the list above, there is a broad range of possible goals when it comes to personal development. It is impossible and also unnecessary to work on all of them at the same time.

The first thing you should do is decide on which direction you want to go in. Do you want to develop more self-confidence? Become more relaxed? Gain a zest for life? Deal better with criticism? Identify your goals in life? Or something completely different?

First, decide on a direction, but don’t worry: your focus will keep changing depending on your life situation and interests, and other topics will have their turn sooner or later.

If you’re having trouble making decisions, here are some tips on decision-making.

Read, read, read

There are many books and websites that deal with self-development in all its facets. There you will find a lot of exciting content, thought experiments, experience reports, and tips.

The experiences and thoughts of others are very helpful for your own personal development, and by really delving into a topic, you won’t lose sight of it so quickly. Therefore, read an array of different things and pick out the aspects that suit you.

Find your own way

Nothing is as individual as personal growth. Only you can find out what you need and what is helpful for you. Therefore, do not limit yourself to one single path, and do not put complete trust in any "gurus" or specialists. Only you can find the right way for you.

Experiment and try new things

Experiment and try new things

By reading or talking to others, you will discover a number of different practices, tips, and strategies. Finding out which ones work for you, however, may need some trial and error.

Try some approaches out and see how they work for you. If they don’t do much or don’t feel good, simply stop and try something else. Be mindful of yourself and test out what works for you.

Keep a diary

It can be a huge help to write down what you’ve tried and how it made you feel. On the one hand, it can be very interesting to look back on what was on your mind a few months or years ago. On the other hand, it can enable you to better understand the progress you’ve made and distinguish useful from useless ways. Therefore, make notes on important insights, exercises, thoughts, and results.

Appreciate the small steps forwards

It would be great to become self-confident, happy, and successful the day after tomorrow, but that’s not how personal development works. You will move forward in small steps and roads will be winding.

Therefore, don’t expect too much from yourself, but be happy about any little bit of progress you do make. This will add up over time and lead to substantial results in the end.

Be open-minded

Developing yourself involves experiencing new things, learning different ways of thinking and meeting new people. The more open-minded you are to this, the easier it will be for you to move forward.

Take responsibility for your life

You, and you alone, are responsible for your own personal development. Not your parents, friends, partner, boss, or anyone else in your life. By letting other people take responsibility for your life, you will only slow yourself down. Take the steering wheel yourself and determine your own course.

Work more on your strengths than weaknesses

Work more on your strengths than weaknesses

Many people are interested in personal growth because they want to get rid of a perceived flaw. This approach, however, often leads to frustration.

If you’re very shy, you will probably never develop into a party animal. If you’re very messy, your home may never look like something out of a furniture catalog.

Feel free to work on toning down your weaknesses and bringing them to a level you’re comfortable with, but then focus on your strengths. This makes development much more fun, produces better results, and helps you fully develop your skills.

Make way for change

Engaging in self-development won’t come without change. You will gradually change your way of thinking, your goals, and your view of the world, and that’s a good thing.

Sometimes you may also realize that you need to change your habits or some of the basics in your life. Don’t worry: there doesn’t have to be any sudden radical changes that turn your life upside down.

Remember, it’s up to you to decide on the changes you want to make, but there will have to be some.

Keep at it

Important for self-development: keep at it

Personal development is an ongoing process that never really stops. Therefore, try to set aside a little time to deal with your personal growth on a regular basis. Even just 10 to 15 minutes a day, or 1 to 2 hours a week, can go a long way.

Seek help

If you happen to encounter any issues that you can’t handle on your own, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to a coach or psychotherapist – sometimes just a few sessions are enough to help you see things clearly again.

6 exercises for your personal growth

6 exercises for your personal growth

Are you eager to get started right away? Then perhaps one of the following exercises might spark your interest.

Evaluate your current situation

In order to work on yourself, you should first find out whereabouts you’re at now, right? This exercise is good place to start. Take an hour where you won’t be disturbed, get some writing materials and make yourself comfortable. Then start writing down everything you can think of about yourself:

  • Important experiences from the past
  • Character traits that set you apart
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Interests, hobbies, passions
  • Some issues that have been bothering you for a long time
  • Goals and dreams
  • Unfinished business from the past

Your notes don’t have to have a structure, just write down what comes to mind. When you’ve had enough or the hour is up, put your notes aside, then go back to them the next day.

Read through your notes from the day before and add to them. What else comes to mind? Is there anything you see differently today? What aspects have you not yet considered? Ideally, you should repeat this exercise every day for a week.

This should give you a comprehensive overview of your current situation, and you’ll certainly come up with some ideas about what you want to work on whilst you’re completing the exercise.

Get out of your comfort zone

Get out of your comfort zone

Things come easily to you and don’t require any special effort when you’re in your comfort zone. You know what to do and you feel safe. This is great and absolutely vital for your everyday well-being.

The only problem is that you can’t really learn anything in your comfort zone because you already know everything here. For personal development, you should get into the habit of regularly doing things that are a bit outside your comfort zone.

Visit places you’ve never been before. Talk to people who are strangers to you. Overcome your fears and do something that scares you a little. Try a sport you’ve never done before. Find out about a subject you know nothing about. Experience something outside of what you’re used to.

A little advice: it’s up to you to decide what kind of changes you’ll make, but you will have to make some.

Learn mindfulness

Mindfulness means to be present in the here and now and take closer stock of your feelings and the things around you. This is important to personal development for various reasons: mindfulness helps you to get to know yourself better and understand what is good for you, not to mention that it also helps you to relax.

You can do this simple exercise at any time, preferably several times a day:

Stop what you are doing and notice the here and now. Pay attention to your breath. Take note of how your body feels right now. Does something hurt? Are you tense or relaxed? How do you feel right now, what emotions are you experiencing?

Look around you. What do you notice? Don’t try to change anything, just open up your awareness to what is already there.

Notice the positives

Notice the positives

If you are one of those people who tends to look on the negative side, this exercise can come in handy. It is also very simple: make it your task to take a photo of something you like or care about every day.

It can be an object, person, flower, sunset, or something else entirely. If you like, you could even make a collage of your pictures after a month.

Get to know yourself

Familiarize yourself with other ways of thinking

In order to get to know yourself even better on a daily basis, you can use different kinds of workbooks – just choose one that appeals to you. These kinds of books will regularly confront you with a question that you have to find an answer to yourself. This is a fun way of getting to know yourself better.

Familiarize yourself with other ways of thinking

If there is a particular issue that keeps bothering you, ask yourself, "What are some other ways of looking at this?". Try to find as many different assessments of the same situation as possible. Gather information: talk to your loved ones about it.

Search for other people’s experiences and thoughts on the issue on the Internet or in books and in doing so, open yourself up to ways of thinking that may be foreign to you, without judging them.

Ask yourself: what would a punk think about this issue? Or a nun? A person from another culture? Your first love? Your great-grandmother? A child? In this way, you can broaden your horizons and it’ll get easier and easier to shift your perspectives in the long run.

Take note: personal development is good for everyone, but sometimes motives can be misplaced. If you think that you have to change because you are not good enough, then you’re setting yourself up to fail. You don’t need a perfect body, a stylish apartment, or wealth to be happy. You are amazing just the way you are.
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