Self-development or personal development is a process you’re in your whole life, whether you think about it or not. From the moment you are born, you start your unique journey of discovering who you are and constantly evolving towards newer versions of you.
When you look back and remember how you were a year ago, you’re not that same person. You’ve grown. You’ve learned new things.
The term “self-development“, therefore, means you are aware of this process and consciously working on it to make yourself a better person.
I started to think about self-development when I graduated from university. Not finding enough opportunities on the job market and dealing with the psychological burden of being unemployed taught me that you have to learn and evolve when the situation is not in your favor. It is the only way to overcome unpleasant circumstances and eventually find yourself in a better position with new and valuable skills.
From there, I learned that I don’t have to wait for things to go wrong and then react to them with necessary changes. Instead, I can proactively work on myself. Step outside the comfort zone. And be better prepared for anything to come.
This quote from one of the greatest self-development theoretics describes the self-growth principle perfectly.
One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen, again and again, fear must be overcome again and again.
So, you can’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back, leaving you stuck in a place that’s no longer good. Overcoming this fear barrier is a crucial part of self-development. It helps you shape yourself. It helps you continuously expand and find the right direction.
Then you can look at yourself year after year and see how much you have grown.
Here’s a handful of skills I’ve come across that I found most influential and have the most profound effect on the quality of life.
5 Essential Skills for Self-Development
1. Effective Communication
Being able to formulate your ideas clearly is a golden skill when it comes to personal and professional communication. It leads to a better understanding of others and faster decision-making. It also lowers the chances of unnecessary conflicts.
However, good communication skills depend not only on how you express yourself but also on how good a listener you are. People like to feel they are being heard. They want to see that you genuinely care about what they’re saying. An equally important ingredient of quality conversation is empathy. Because connecting to people’s feelings and reading their body language increases your mutual sympathy and creates a bond between you.
Some benefits of effective communication are:
- Improved relationships
- Enhanced teamwork
- Greater clarity of thought
- Increased confidence
2. Practice Self-care
Self-care can take many forms, but essentially it’s a series of activities promoting physical and mental well-being.
Self-care is crucial to stay balanced no matter what’s happening around you. It’s nice to have goals and dreams. However, if you forget about your basic needs, you’re screwed because neglecting yourself is like standing on a brake while trying to move forward. You still improve and grow but much slower. So always make time to recharge and pursue your hobbies, and connect with your friends and family.
Some of the benefits of self-care are:
- Improved mental health
- Thriving relationships
- Increased well-being
- More energy for work
- Better work-life balance
3. Manage Your Emotions
The ability to be aware and understand your emotions and the emotions of others can have a significant impact on your self-development. You experience all kinds of emotions throughout the day, negative and positive, and all are a normal part of life.
The problem is when we don’t have control and let our emotions rule us.
Then, your life can transform into a crazy emotional rollercoaster. That’s when the ability to manage one’s emotions becomes useful. Learning to think before acting on some big emotion can save you many troubles and protect you from spiralling down to some extreme feelings that are much harder to manage.
Some of the benefits of emotional intelligence are:
- Improved relationships
- Enhanced communication
- Greater life satisfaction
- Increased resilience
- Better collaborative teamwork
4. Become a Perpetual Learner
If there’s the best rule for self-development, it’s this one. If you commit to being a learner, you’ll never stop self-developing.
There’s always something new to try and improve. You can get better at anything you already know or decide to learn something completely unique.
Maybe you think: Why would I force myself to do such things when this should end with college? But learning is never-ending. School education is just a beginning; the essential part starts with adulthood. That’s when you start learning the things that genuinely interest you and add value to your life.
Some benefits of being a learner are:
- Promoting open-mindedness
- Keeping your brain in top shape
- Generating new and better ideas
- Expanding your horizons
- Discovering more opportunities
5. Let Go of Past
Serious growth can only happen when you’re living in the present moment. So many of us have been hurt in the past, made mistakes, hung out with the wrong people and lots of other things we’re not proud of. These experiences bring emotions like fear, shame and guilt that we sometimes can’t let go. But it’s essential to work through your past and leave it behind. Otherwise, you’re stuck.
Because here’s the thing, if you have one leg in the past and one that wants to go to the future, you will move nowhere. So, you have to loosen the stuck leg. That’s how you become ready to grow.
Learning to leave the past behind is a process that will set you free. Free to evolve and become closer to fulfilling your dreams.
Some benefits of letting go of the past are:
- Increased awareness of the present
- Limiting boundaries that hold you back from growing to your potential
- Freedom to explore new things
- Healthier mind
If you embark on your self-development journey, you may realize that for you, different skills are more valuable than the one I just presented. And that’s ok. Always choose the most relevant skills and commit to practising them regularly. Your efforts will pay off.