The 5-Step Personal Development Plan

A personal development plan is simple, basic, effortless. It is a decision with commitment. That’s it. A decision to do something differently that you completely commit to.

Pen and Pad

There are books with complex goal charts and life fulfillment wheels that you can use to plan each year out meticulously. However, I’ve found that much of that is too complex. It is fun to create an elaborate plan, but implementing it, actually using that plan to change something, very rarely happens.

A much more effective strategy is to follow these five basic personal development plan steps:

  • Step One: Prioritize
    Determine what you personally need to change in life. Just pick one top priority. Examples include: eat healthier, exercise, be kinder, focus on gratitude, say affirmations, become more focused, give first, live mindfully, and the list goes on. The category you pick can be fairly broad at this point.

  • Step Two: Choose One Resource
    Find one resource to help you implement your focus above. This is important. Choose one book, online program, class, mentor or blog that will help you get closer to living out your priority. I have found that there is so much information out on the net and in bookstores these days it is easy to become scattered and bounce from one philosophy and strategy to the next. You can quickly collect lots of information without taking action to implement any of it. At this point, choosing just one resource is vital. You can sample a variety of books, articles, seminars, etc…, but you must ultimately pick a starting point to stick with.

  • Step Three: Study Your Resource
    Meet with your mentor, read and reread the book, scour the blog, take the class, devour everything your resource has to offer again and again until you really understand the philosophy and strategy offered.

  • Step Four: Consistently Implement a New Standard
    From the resource you have chosen, determine what new behavior will help you implement your priority. I call these standards because standards are non-negotiable. Once you decide what your new standard is, that is what you live by, rain or shine. There is no arguing about sleeping in versus going to the gym, you don’t have to mentally contemplate what happens if you cheat on your diet, you only have one option: to follow your standard, religiously.


    The standard you choose should be specific and measurable. For example:

    • Priority: Eat Healthier, Standard: Consume Zero Sugar
    • Priority: Exercise, Standard: Walk One Mile Each Day
    • Priority: Gratitude, Standard: Write Down Five Things I’m Grateful for Each Evening
    • Priority: Mindfulness, Standard: 20 Minutes of Breath-Focused Meditation Daily
    • Priority: Giving First, Standard: Ask Each Person I Encounter at Work How I Can Support Them

    There is an endless array of behaviors that you could implement. The resource you studied in Step Three will give you a good idea of where to begin.

  • Step Five: Expand
    Once you have implemented your new standard for at least a month, and it has become a well-ingrained habit, revisit your resource and choose a new standard to implement. If you feel ready to expand further, you can find a second resource to enrich your understanding of your priority and gather a new standard from that resource. Repeat this process of gathering resources and implementing standards until you feel that you are fully living the priority you chose in Step One.

Having a personal development plan that is this focused and methodical will ensure that you actually change your behavior instead of becoming distracted by too many goals or resources. After you’ve gone through Steps One through Five with your first priority, you can start back at Step One and choose a new priority to place your attention on. Over time you will see that your personal development plan has turned into a new you.

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