May 13, 2020

I've always been interested in personal development...both trying to improve myself in different ways, and striving to help others improve themselves too.

personal development

Because there's nothing better than seeing someone's self-improvement have life-changing results, helping them achieve something they've always dreamed of!

But...what exactly do I mean by personal development?

If I asked you to go start on a personal development journey right now, you may not know where to start. And that's okay!

In fact, that's exactly why I'm writing this blog post today. Because I think a lot of people are not sure what personal development, self-improvement, goal-setting, etc. actually look like...and yet would love to begin taking those actionable steps to grow as a person.

The 5 Characteristics of Personal Development

So without further ado, I'd like to present how I discovered what personal development is!

There is one theory that says there are five ways to improve yourself, or five traits that can be improved.

The five traits of personal development are:

1. Extraversion
2. Agreeableness
3. Openness
4. Conscientiousness
5. Neuroticism

(Don't worry, I'm about to explain what all of these are!)

1. Extraversion

personal development

This is actually the most controversial of the five personal development traits.

As you may already know, if you're an outgoing person you're called an extrovert, and if you are shy person who keeps to themselves, you're called an introvert.

I am convinced that there is no right or wrong with this.

But THIS theory of personal development says that extraversion is better. So if we're going with this theory, let's try and analyze why extraversion is better...

The theory isn't saying that outgoing people are good and shy people are bad, or that shy people should force themselves to be outgoing, exactly. It's more saying that pushing yourself to be outgoing — making friends, connecting with people, caring about people, showing empathy, doing nice things for people — are all very important.

So, the personal development trait of extraversion doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be talking to people 24/7, and can't have a night to recharge by yourself. It's just saying that connecting with your fellow human beings and showing you care about them is vital. The MORE you do that, the better.

2. Agreeableness

personal development

This trait is a lot more self-explanatory. It makes sense that personal development means making yourself agreeable and kind.

But this trait of agreeableness isn't just about agreeing with people, despite what the name implies...

Rather, according to this theory, agreeableness is more about putting others before yourself, considering others first, and frankly, not being selfish.

It doesn't mean pretending to agree with things that you don't like, but it does mean trying to put yourself in someone else's shoes. So it doesn't mean that you should bottle your emotions up when your spouse or your kids make you upset, but it does mean that you should consider their perspective, and make sure that your own perspective isn't coming from a place of selfishness. The more you can understand other people, and practice seeing things from others' point of view, the more smoothly your personal development journey will go!

3. Openness

I think this is actually one of the most important personal development traits because, how are you supposed to develop personally if you never try anything new?

I think, for a lot of people, when they hear about open-mindedness as a way to better themselves, they mistakenly think, "Well, I'm open-minded, so I've already got that down!"

But the point isn't just being an open-minded person, but also actually getting out there and trying new things! You could achieve personal development through openness by trying a food you usually hate, and seeing if you can't get yourself to like it, exploring a new place with a different culture, or reading up on arguments or perspectives you disagree with.

Being open-minded doesn't mean you have to change everything about yourself, but being willing to DO a few things outside of your comfort zone.

4. Conscientiousness

This trait is all about how you handle your impulses. How are you when it comes to WILLPOWER?

I think this is often the hardest element of personal development for some people to tackle.

Are you good at making and following a plan? Are you responsible and reliable? Or do you tend to break appointments?

Can you follow through on something now in order to achieve gratification later, or do you seek immediate gratification?

When it comes to personal development, the trait of conscientiousness is all about becoming more organized and having better willpower to get stuff done! I think the best way to do this is by forming habits. Sure, it may be hard on day 1 to get up and exercise in the morning, but if you can push yourself to day 15 of doing it, you can easily make it all the way to day 30...And before you know it, it will be second nature to have enough willpower to get up and exercise every morning. You go, conscientious girl!

5. Neuroticism

Last but not least on the list of 5 traits you need to improve in personal development: neuroticism.

You have probably heard of someone being described as "neurotic" before, typically meaning they tend to get anxious and have difficulty managing their emotions.

And I know what you're thinking...

If crazy things are happening in someone's life and the feeling are overwhelming, then how the heck are they supposed to control it?

The trick is trying your very best to think clearly, even when you are stressed.

For some people, this means counting backwards from 10, or taking slow, deep breaths. But for a lot of people, I think it can mean trying to figure out whether your thoughts are rational, or whether it's an example of catastrophic thinking.

Catastrophic thinking basically means that your thoughts quickly go from 0 to 100 in terms of thinking bad things are going to happen.

For example, you might think, "Oh no, I'm going to be late to work, and then I'm going to be fired, and then I won't be able to pay my rent or mortgage, so I'll end up homeless on the street..."

None of these leaps of logic look so crazy individually. But when you put them all together, it is highly unlikely, isn't it?

So when you find your thoughts spiraling out of control, try to take a step back after some deep breaths, consider whether the situation is really as bad as your emotions are making you think it is...and then come up with an actionable PLAN to make things better!

Overall, I think that this theory of "5 Traits” is a great place to start in your personal development journey.

Whether it means connecting with other people more, empathizing with them, or learning how to slow the negative thought train...these are the paths to personal development.

But I should note that total personal development is never truly achieved.

There's always something we can improve about ourselves and I’m okay with that because I have found that it is when I am growing that I am happiest.

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