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What is Modern Personal Development?

Modern personal development is more than skills training. It offers useful alternative methods for coaching and mentoring. 

  • Effective modern personal development now involves various integrated techniques, theories and behavioural concepts, that extend options around traditional ideas. 
This article provides examples of modern methods of developing people - enabling real personal growth and change - for individuals and organisations.

Optimising individual performance through progressive personal development significantly improves business performance as well.

This example of an integrated approach to personal development is based on the work of UK-based psychotherapist Pam Weight, whose contribution to this free article is gratefully acknowledged.

Pam Weight's modern approach to personal and professional development is born out of the study of these contemporary models, which are explained in more detail later in this article:

  • Human development
  • Humanistic theories
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and
  • Energy Psychology.

The personal development process enables individuals to achieve critical personal changes, specifically to:

  • Update personal identity, attitude, values and beliefs
  • Increase congruency and satisfaction, and
  • Release blocks have been restricting the realisation of personal potential.

In this context, 'congruency' means behaving and feeling naturally and comfortably - ie, true to oneself.

Modern Personal Development Applications

The integrated personal development approach is highly beneficial for most people.

  • It is however particularly effective for people who have experienced little or no benefit from conventional training, especially where progress is blocked by issues raised in the training process.
  • Integrated personal development is also especially helpful where one-to-one coaching or mentoring has had limited benefit or has prompted surprising reactions.
  • Equally, those who want to develop themselves in some way, but cannot identify a particular direction, will also benefit from this sort of modern integrated personal development.

Modern Personal Development Essentials

Modern personal development differs from conventional training methods, most importantly:

  1. By settling the past
  2. By reducing the effort required to live in the present
  3. By formulating a compelling future

These fundamentals are rarely found in traditional skills training or coaching. The principles underpin the process of effective personal development. 

Modern Personal Development - an Alternative

Modern personal development tends to achieve results because:

  • It creates balance in the system (the person as a whole)
  • It is realistic (and is perceived by the person as being achievable and relevant)
  • It reduces stress
  • It increases personal control

These factors are not commonly present in traditional skills training or one-to-one coaching, and as such provide a useful alternative if traditional methods have not been effective.

Personal Development Outcomes

Many situations benefit from the improvements arising from effective personal development, for example:

  • Within a corporate environment - producing better organisational performance and effectiveness
  • To improve self-awareness
  • To improve personal communication with others
  • To improve personal relationships with others
  • Reducing and resolving conflict and stress

Traditional training can, of course, produce good results in these areas, however, some people require more focus on personal issues, which can be difficult for some types of traditional training to address.

Component Theory

Human Development

Human development includes the 'nature and nurture' elements that determine who we are and how we behave. 

  • Human development is a lifelong process beginning with 'nature'. Our 'nature' elements are everything we bring into this world: from our genetic make-up, and our conception, up until our birth. 
  • After we are born, the 'nurture' process begins; namely every influence we encounter that affects us: our environmental influences and behavioural conditioning by others. We are each also subject to a slow continuous forming process; a sequence of stages through which we each pass in the same order, over a number of years.

Throughout these stages, other developments occur:

  1. Brain development
  2. Motor development
  3. Cognitive development
  4. Social development 
  5. Development of self-concept and basic trust
  6. Our emotional development.

The influence of these human development factors on people, and their response to change, is considerable.

Humanistic Theories for Self-Development

Humanistic theories focus on our inner capacity for growth and self-fulfilment; with an emphasis on human potential. 

  • The early theorists referred to humans as being 'set up' or 'pre-programmed' for growth and fulfilment, unless thwarted by an environment that restricts growth.

Here are some key principles of the Humanistic Theories of Self-Development:

  1. From a humanistic perspective, a positive self-concept is the key to personal happiness and success in life. 
  2. Moreover, acceptance and empathy help us to nurture positive feelings about ourselves, and consequently, we develop the capacity to extend and apply positive feelings to others. 
  3. Overall, a humanistic perspective purports that people are basically good, and capable of self-improvement.

See also McGregor's XY Theory, which includes aspects of humanistic thinking, and usefully positions them in the context of corporate organisations, management, motivational development, etc.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a model of human experience and communication. It has also been referred to as a study of subjective experience and human excellence. 

Importance is placed on rapport:

  • Mutual trust and responsiveness. 
  • Rapport can be applied to your relationship with yourself and your relationship with others.

NLP states that the greater the mental, physical and emotional rapport with yourself, the greater your health, well-being and inner peace. As a result, the greater your ability to relate to and influence others. Other pivotal aspects are:

  1. Knowing what you want - set your goal or outcome
  2. Using your senses - being aware of what is happening to you helps you regain the curiosity and acuity you had as a child - this increases behavioural flexibility, which improves your chances of success (see the first law of cybernetics).

See also the detailed free introductory guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Energy Psychology

Energy Psychology is the collective term for a range of approaches focusing on the interconnectedness of mind and body. 

  1. A principle of Energy Psychology is that psychological and physical problems can be treated through the body's meridian system and other bodily systems. Some of the approaches have their roots in traditional Chinese medicine energy healing, such as acupuncture.
  2. From an Energy Psychology perspective, if the energy or meridian system balance is upset and left unchecked, there will be a physical manifestation. If there is a disturbance in the system, there will be an impairment in thinking and physical health. 
  3.  Once the disturbance is cleared, the body can do what it is meant to do - repair and/or heal itself, creating harmony and balance.

 Summary and Conclusion

By carefully integrating and applying the behavioural models explained above, Pam Weight has developed a truly progressive and effective system of personal development. The approach is in tune with the needs of people living and working in the modern age, and provides a useful alternative to traditional training, coaching and mentoring practices.

Effective personal development must value:

  1. The person's individual journey
  2. Acknowledge the person's learning from experiences
  3. Offer the opportunity for the person to update their system, and 
  4. free the individual to consider their current capabilities and how and where to apply them. 
Truly effective personal development must be tailored for the individual, and be flexible and realistic, producing real and sustainable results, the basis of which must always be improved balance, less stress and more control.

Author Acknowledgment - Pam Weight

Pam Weight is a psychotherapist with a special interest in health and wellness, based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The contribution of this article by Pam Weight is gratefully acknowledged.

Further Resources on Personal Development