Personal development can mean a lot of different things to different people. But, overall, the majority of people might agree that personal development is a lifelong journey. We will never fully reach personal development because the very nature of the word ‘development’ infers progress, growth, movement, and overall change. We will always, for that reason, be growing in our understandings of ourselves.
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs he outlines what development looks like, stating that it begins with basic needs being met (food, shelter, water), then safety needs, social needs, esteem, and eventually, what Maslow refers to as ‘self-actualization’.
This is the ‘highest’ form of personal development that one could achieve in their lifetime because at this stage, a person has reached their highest potential. Maybe they got the job, the spouse, or the experience they were always wanting. They became the most advanced version of themselves possible, reaching their potential with their skills.
This all sounds nice, but what does “self-actualization” really look like? In order to know what full potential means, a person first has to know who they are, what their skills are, and what God has designed them to do. After we discover who we are, we might have a better idea of what our personal growth goals would then be.
3 Steps to Realizing Your Personal Development Goals
A lot of quality time can be spent in therapy providing someone with the opportunity to explore specific areas of their own personal development. I have broken down ways to realize your personal growth here in 3 steps, however, keep in mind, this list is not the only way one can realize their potential. I chose these three because to me, they have proven the most important and valuable:
1. Understand Your Personality Type
I love talking about people’s personality ‘types.’ If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram, I highly suggest you do! According to the Myers-Briggs typology, there can be 16 different types of personalities! That represents a lot of variations in the ways we all think, act, and live.
These typologies really help a person understand things like the best types of jobs for them, their social tendencies, and everything in between. Some of my favorite things found by taking these tests are aspects of one’s tendencies. It’s fascinating to me that there is so much you could not know about yourself until you think about the questions asked in these types of tests and begin to see patterns in ways you think.
For example, some of the questions on the Myers-Briggs revolve around understanding what you’re like in group settings. Other questions prod you to think about your needs for self-care, do you need a lot of alone time to recharge, or just a little? Do you find social settings fill you up, or drain you?
These types of questions only scratch the surface of understanding who you are. There are four dichotomies of personalities in the Myers-Briggs for you to understand! Are you an intuitive person, or a sensor? Are you a thinker, or a feeler? A judger or perceiver? An introvert, or an extrovert?
Sometimes there is confusion as to what exactly those ‘title’s mean. Some might think, “my type says I’m a J for judging, does that mean I’m judgemental?” But don’t worry, this letter simply just means you are someone who likes to plan for the future and has a strong bent towards organizational skills and structure when it comes to day to day situations.
The perceivers, on the other hand, are much more ‘go with the flow’ personality types and tend to have more capacity to relax and enjoy the moment without much tendency to plan everything in advance.
You can easily begin to imagine the pros and cons of each of these tendencies. And keep in mind, that is all the personality typings are – our tendencies. They are not our concrete ways of being, but they do differentiate ways we might be more likely to think or act compared to others.
The reason I find these tests so helpful in a person’s journey through personal growth is that they invite us to be curious about specific struggles we might have based on our personality tendencies. These tests can also help us see specific ways partners, friends, or family might complement or contrast our typing.
If a person is always spending time with extroverts, they might feel something is fundamentally wrong with them if they start asking questions like “why can’t I keep up with how much energy they have?” or “why do I have so much less to talk about?” But if they know they tend towards introversion more, they can begin to understand “this is me, I’m not broken, I’m just different.”
Another good example of this kind of understanding is with regards to sensors and intuitives. I am a strong sensor. I need concrete audible, visual, or other tactile experiences in order for me to feel like something is real. This means I am not someone who can just ‘know’ something exists or is true. I need to feel it out for myself.
I guess you could say I’m kind of like Thomas who needed to directly feel Jesus’ wounds to believe he was risen. I find my brain very stimulated by the aesthetics of a well put together room.
Intuitive types may not be so visually captivated, but instead, they just can tell if a space pleases them or not. They are not as strongly driven by concrete experiences as they are by just gut instincts.
One of the other wonderful aspects of a personality test is learning about the type of qualities you possess that others don’t, and how that can benefit you in jobs, relationships, and more. This website, www.16personalities.com, is my all-time favorite resource for the Myers-Briggs.
It has catchy character icons representing your type, it gives you a name, (you might be known as the ‘defender’ type, or the ‘logistician’). Then, when you go into the profile of that type, you can read roughly seven pages worth of organized information about your type.
It addresses everything from your strengths and weaknesses, what you’re like in romantic relationships versus friendships, whether you’re more of an idealist or a realist, what careers best suite your personality, what type of parent you’ll be, and much more.
I and many others have taken the brief 12-20 minute quiz on this site and found the results to be staggeringly accurate. Everything right down to how you perceive the world is explained and rationalized.
I highly recommend this website as a starting place for anyone going through personal development, because, what better way to get to know yourself than through narrowing down who you are, and who you’re not? I am way less harsh on myself now when I look at the athletes, engineers, and other professionals in the world that I once compared myself to.
I once thought of them as “better” than me because their skills seemed so beyond anything I could ever do. But now I know why! Because I wasn’t made to do those things – I was made to counsel, and do art, and write – I am an entirely different machine than you are, and I have to respect my strengths and understand them in order to be kind to myself and allow myself to flourish.
I can honestly say I have accepted that I am more of a listener than a talker, more of a feeler than a thinker, and more of a planner than someone who can relax, and it has helped me tremendously lean into my career and my overall sense of what my calling is as a person.
I haven’t talked much about the Enneagram in this portion (because quite honestly I have much less exposure to it), but what I have heard is the Enneagram can also be extremely helpful in understanding yourself, but it tends to point out more of our struggles than the Myers-Briggs. The enneagram might identify you as a ‘3’, someone who is charismatic and outgoing, the life of the party, but it will also address what you fear most.
You might fear rejection and as a result have a higher than usual need to please others or make people laugh, even sometimes at their own expense. I am not quoting the Enneagram word for word here, this is just my unstructured example, but you get the point. The Enneagram can be very helpful if you want to also consider what you are avoiding by some of your actions or in-actions.
2. Identify Your Skills
Okay, now that you’re done hearing about personality types, let’s move on to the next step for personal growth: identify your skills. You can know all about who you are as a person or what you’re potential is, but unless you put it into action or test it out, you may never actually know what you’re capable of.
Skills are something we develop over time. We don’t just wake up playing an instrument perfectly. We may not even know what instrument we could play perfectly, so we explore. I am using music as a metaphor here, but the principals are the same: you have to sometimes take a few jobs to learn which ones you’re actually not interested in and which ones you are.
Identifying the particular set of skills that you enjoy most is a great way to organize your growth around what you were made to do. Another way to think of skill is to as yourself, “what am I good at,” “what do I like doing,” and “what fits both categories?” The things that fit into both categories are worth pursuing.
Another great way to get to understand your skills is to consider what you think you’re good at but maybe aren’t sure of. Do you think you’d enjoy working with animals? Then volunteer at your local shelter or zoo! Do you think you’d be good at graphic design? Then shadow a graphic design person! Nowadays there are endless ways to expose yourself to possible careers, hobbies, or jobs.
3. Discover God’s Goals for Your Life
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And in Psalm 139:13-14 we read: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. When you are taking steps towards personal growth, I highly recommend stepping into prayerful consideration of God’s plans for your life.
This is not always easy, since some (if not many) people may feel unable to hear God’s voice directly, or might feel they are mistaking their preferences for God’s guidance. I have found that steeping myself in Scripture, journaling, and talking to God regularly in quiet, private settings allows me to keep my mind open to possibilities and giftings I never knew I had.
I think God has designed us all for specific purposes, each of us called to bring Him glory in very unique ways. Some do it through art, others through music, others through poetry, others through design, and the list goes on.
These abilities extend beyond creative fields and into technical jobs as well. Personal growth entails asking God, “What do you have for me?” and “Who have you made me to be?” It entails being curious about the intricacies of what makes you, you.
In conclusion, these are, again, only three steps to personal growth, but together, I believe they can bring a person to a place of immense peace and understanding about who they are, and they will feel themselves reach that “self-actualization” stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
A book I recommend reading on this topic is called Make Your Job Your Calling for more inspiration on vocational and personal growth.
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