Can’t Make Lasting Change? Develop a Personal Development Plan and Follow These Tips

Making long-term change is rarely easy. We may promise ourselves we’re going to get healthier and exercise, that we’re going give up our time wasters, or that we’re going to actually start apply what we learn from reading blogs and going to seminars. Simply put, making sustainable change tends to be easier said than done. Why is following through so difficult? I know this struggle applies to my life. It’s not easy to stick to a mediation schedule, make time to exercise, or to read and write as much as I would like. So, that’s why I’m setting personal development goals along with you. I am applying the ideas below to help me develop my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. What about you, where do you want to see improvements? There are many areas to develop that can help us live more optimally. We can improve our physical health, knowledge, attitude, or relationships. Maybe you want to develop in areas of business, like marketing or sales. Decide what you want to focus on this week and devise a plan to improve in these areas.

“One of the best prizes life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Develop your action plan

First thing first, write out your personal development goals. I created a form for your Personal Development Plan that can be downloaded below. I find it easier to organize my goals by different domains, so I organized the form into emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual goals, though any area or domain you desire to improve can be incorporated.

Here is the basic outline:

Desired outcome:

Why it Matters:

Action steps: By __________________ (date), I will (insert goal):

Possible obstacles:

Alternative solutions for possible obstacles:


Tips for Sustaining Change

Now that you have clear goals to work toward and have established a plan, consider these tips about what it takes to make sustainable and lasting change.

1. Enlist support from others

It’s easy to make excuses when we have no one holding us accountable. We have others counting on us, we’re less likely to let them down, so getting support from others can be helpful. Find someone who you respect and who can keep you motivated.

2. Use principles of reinforcement

The principles of reinforcement are well documented. Think of how you can build rewards and/or punishments into your plan. What can you do to reward yourself for a job well done? What may be a punishment that prevents disruptive behavior in the future?

3. Consider using stimulus control

If you are trying to avoid a certain behavior or want to maintain a specific change, consider developing an environment and routine that bolsters this behavior. If you want to give up drinking, don’t be around alcohol or go to bars. If you want to eat less of a certain food don’t have that food in your home. Set up your environment to support your goal.

4. Anticipate failure and create a plan for handling it

Learn to frame failure as an important part of the process. We are going to go through trials and tribulations as we work to change unhealthy habits. We won’t succeed 100% of the time so don’t let this deter you. Prepare for obstacles and don’t let them be an excuse to give up.

5. Remember the “law of baby steps”

The accumulation of small things is what gets us to where we want to be. Be proud of and congratulate yourself for any positive action toward your goals. Set small goals that keep you motivated and excited.

6. Keep your eye on the prize!

Keep yourself motivated by focusing on the benefits and value you will get from achieving your goal. Having purpose and meaning can be a major factor in staying committed and dedicated. Keep reminding yourself of the reason you want what you want.

Continue growing and developing self-awareness

I believe that it’s natural for people to pursuing goals and seek personal growth. If you aren’t at a point where you have clear personal development goals you may be at a comfortable and positive place, or you may have become complaisant with your situation and ceased growing. Continue exploring your personal desires, aspirations, and values to help guide you to a more fulfilling, healthy, and positive life. Journal activity and results Journaling one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences, and reflecting on them has long been recognized as an invaluable tool for personal growth. The practice stimulates insight and acknowledges success. Use journaling to develop greater self-awareness about what you want and why you want it. Debrief and revise What was your experience with having a personal development plan? What worked for you? What did you learn? This can stimulate a very valuable dialogue about how you can achieve what you want in life. For example, if you couldn’t or didn’t do the behavior you can investigate where you got stuck. If you had insights about yourself in that situation or got a particular result, you can explore it to great benefit. This is your opportunity to learn from the process. Set-up a weekly personal development plan and follow these tips to make sustainable positive changes. Photo credit: skippyjon