How to Create a Personal Development Plan | 7 steps to success

8 Minute Read

Whether it’s in your career or in your life in general, every so often it’s good to reassess where you’re going, and where you want to be going.


How to Create a Personal Development Plan -

7 steps to success

A lot of us look at our personal development like it’s a line. We go from point A to point B as though we’re a train on a track,


But your career isn’t a train, and you can jump off or change tracks at any point! Whether it’s in your career or in your life in general, every so often it’s good to reassess where you’re going, and where you want to be going.

At Growth Tribe, we work with people every day who are looking to grow in their career, or even change to a completely different one. We’ve seen how investing in your personal development can change your career thousands of times.


Creating a personal development plan is a great way to start setting career goals and make sure you’re growing in the ways you want to be. 

Why do you need a personal development plan?


Achieving career goals requires making a plan. We all know this, but we often get swept away in our day-to-day and struggle to make changes when we need to. Making a personal development plan can give you a clear overview of where you want to go, and how you can get there. A good personal development plan breaks down your mission into small, achievable goals, and provides you with the blueprint for success. You’ll be able to make deliberate decisions, and understand how these decisions are helping you reach your goals.


Time management expert Alan Lakein said: “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” 

So, if you’re ready to do something about the future now, we’ve broken the personal development plan down into 7 steps.

  1. Understanding yourself and your motivation 
  2. Finding your vision or north star goal 
  3. Break down your vision into milestones 
  4. Break your milestones further down into smaller goals 
  5. Assess your skills 
  6. Get others on board 
  7. Get practical with your development plan  

Step 1: Understanding yourself and your motivations


Before you can start planning, you need to know where you want to go, so this step will involve a bit of soul searching. We call this the Personal Analysis. You’ll start by understanding who you are, what motivates you and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. 


These questions often sound daunting, because they are. If you’re struggling to figure out what motivates you, or what you’re good at you can always try self-assessment tools (such as the Character Strength Survey or the MBTI), but make sure to use them as guidance as opposed to gospel. 


If that’s not for you, try on the following questions until you have a good understanding of who you are and what drives you: 


  • What do you live for? 
  • What are you really good at naturally? 
  • How do you know you’re really good at that? 
  • According to others, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you absolutely dislike (generally in life and at work)?
  • What did you always want to learn? 


If you find it difficult to answer those questions, get some input from the people you spend a lot of time with first: your colleagues, your manager, your friends, your partner, your family, etc. As all of them know you in a different setting, you should be able to get 360 feedback on yourself. Choose a couple of questions from above that resonate most with you and reflect on the answers you get. 


→ Do you agree or disagree? 

→ Is there anything that surprised you? 

→ Did they miss anything that you deem very important?

💡 We’ve created an easy to use document so you can map out this whole process, download it
here. 👈

Step 2: Find your vision or North Star goal 


Now that you have a full picture of who you are and what motivates you, it’s time to find your vision or ‘north star’ goal. 


A vision or north star goal is a single goal that guides you in everything you do and that you can always reflect back to. Make your vision big and ambitious. If it feels overwhelming, you’re doing it right. Writing down your ambition should feel scary because life plans are no joke! 


You won’t make your vision a reality within a year - think long-term. But also bear in mind that your vision can change over the course of your career as you evolve as a person. Don’t stick to a vision if it doesn’t resonate with you anymore and be open to finding yourself over and over again. 


Step 3: Break your vision down


So, you’ve got a big dream. How are you going to get there? Part 2 of the free, downloadable personal development plan template will help you break your vision statement down into smaller learning goals and milestones. Ask yourself:


  • What do I need to learn?
    What soft skills and hard skills do you need to achieve your career goals? Think: Time Management, Flexibility, Front-end code.
  • How does this help me meet my long-term goals?
    Why do you think this is important to learn? This will help you prioritise all your learning goals.
  • How will I learn this?
    This can be a combination of methods like courses, networking, discussions, readings, and more. 
  • How will I measure my progress?
    What will success look like for this learning goal? E.g. course completion, business case studies.
  • What’s my timeline?
    When would you like to achieve this learning goal? Be realistic, but don’t shy away from a challenge!

Here's an example of some goals set with our Personal Development Plan template.

Step 4:  Break your milestones further down into smaller goals 


Next, ask yourself what goals need to be achieved in order to reach your milestones. 


Think about the goals you set in step 3, and break them down even further. For example, if your goal is to improve your time management, and you’ve decided to use the Pomodoro Method to achieve this, break the process down into smaller steps. Here's what that might look like:


  1. Research the Pomodoro method
  2. Compare apps and tools to help you use this method
  3. Test it out for an afternoon of work
  4. Reflect on what went well and what didn’t
  5. Try using the Pomodoro method a couple of hours a day for 2 weeks
  6. Decide whether it works for you using the framework laid out in the Personal Development Planner.

Step 5: Assess your skills


You’ve got a plan, and you’re almost ready to implement it. Now’s a good time to check in with yourself and the people around you. Discuss what you’re good at and where you can improve with your colleagues or family/friends. This will help you get a better understanding of your baseline. 


So if your goal was to improve your time management, you could assess your own skills, ask people around you what your strengths are and where you could improve, and based on this, define the baseline you want to improve from. 

Step 6: Get your manager on board (optional)


In the course of our lives, we spend an average of  90,000 hours at work. That’s why it would be great for your personal ambitions to overlap with your professional ones. This way you can develop some of the skills you need at work (if you’re currently working at a company), and there doesn’t need to be a conflict between them!


A good way to embed your vision in your day-to-day is to think about what your company wants you to develop and how you can relate this to your own North-Star Goal. Identify any overlapping areas which you can focus on in the short term. 

Imagine a Venn diagram with the skills and capabilities your company wants you to develop in the short term and the skills and capabilities you want to develop in order to reach your North Star Goal in the long term. The overlapping area between the two is where you should focus on your personal development. 

Not sure how to go about this?

  • Plan a talk with your manager to get an understanding of what skills you might be missing or could be needed in the future within your team.
  • Look at your job description and define where you think you might be falling behind. Which areas could use new challenges? In what areas could you stretch yourself a little?
  • Discuss your goals and ask how your company can help you achieve them. Make sure you're also clear on how it would benefit you and the company.


Step 7: Get practical 


Now that you’ve figured out your vision, know what milestones you need to reach to get to your vision, have broken down milestones into manageable goals and you know what skills are needed to achieve them - it’s time to get practical and start developing your skills! 


Do your research, talk to your network and find the best resources that fit your needs. Whether it’s a course, a book, a seminar, coaching, make sure to consider all options you have and pick the one that best suits you and your needs. 

Download The Personal Development Plan