The One Thing You Really Need to Know About Personal Development

Do you want to know the real magic word when it comes to personal development? It might surprise you. It sure got me thinking when Dan Erickson shared it with me.

Productivity does not equal personal development - Dan Erickson

Productivity does not equal personal development. -@DanErickson8 (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

Read more from Dan below. If you don’t know Dan, he is a college instructor, a single dad, a musician, and a writer. He’s written hundreds of poems and songs and two books: A Train Called Forgiveness and At The Crossing of Justice and Mercy. Read his advice below:

When Matt asked me to write a post on personal development the first thing that came to mind was:

“Really? Personal development? Why me, Matt?”

That’s right. My first thought was that I am definitely not qualified to write about personal development. After all, what have I accomplished in life? I’m just a college instructor who’s written a couple of books that have sold less than a couple hundred copies. Personal development? Me?

The second thing that came to mind was a word:


After all, even though I’ve not seen financial success from my books, my songs, my poetry, I sure have written a ton of stuff. That’s it. That’s what Matt wants me to write about. Productivity.

Wrong! Productivity does not equal personal development.

But isn’t this the truth? Don’t many of us want to measure our personal development by how much we’ve produced, by what we’ve accomplished?

Sorry, but that falls more under professional development. Matt asked me to write about personal development.

So then I started mulling around words like: wisdom, faith, character, courage, dedication, and fatherhood. Ah? Now I think I’m getting closer to something that has to do with personal development. But even so, there is one concept, that for me, highlights the very core of personal development.


So what if I’ve never taken any classes on personal development? I’ve never gone to any personal development conferences or seminars. The only thing I know about the topic is what I’ve learned through my own life experiences. And I have come to the conclusion that the key to personal development is balance.

We’ve all known people who have taken the wrong road in life. In fact, you might be one of them. You may have had a problem with alcohol, gambling, sex, or drugs. Maybe you’ve just spent too much time playing video games or watching TV. Or maybe you’ve fallen prey to sweet and fatty foods and gained a little too much weight. But anyone with a bit of common sense knows there’s a common theme here. Whenever we do anything in excess we throw our lives out of balance. And without balance things go downhill fast.

So here’s my take on personal development:

Personal development is the fine balance of dedicating oneself to practicing positive characteristics in all areas of one’s life.

If you try too hard or put too much effort into one specific area of your life it will throw everything else out of balance. So here’s a list of things I practice:


I make a point to spend a little time each day with God. After all, it’s only by God’s grace I am here in the first place. And it’s only by his grace that I have been blessed with all the other things in life: a daughter, a home, a job, and talent.


As a single dad, I spend a lot of time with my daughter. But I have to remember to make “special” time for her. It’s easy to work too hard or get caught up writing blog posts. I have to stop and make time for Annie to play a game or go to the park.


I make my living as a college instructor. It would be easy for me to sail through each year just teaching three public speaking classes. But I volunteer to serve on the curriculum committee and I just created a new “Social Media and Online Writing” class. I want to excel at work, not just sail.


Being a part of a church community is an important part of personal development. I’m able to work with mentors and be a mentor to others. Church is one place where I can build relationships and learn to serve others.


Staying educated is important to me. I spend 30-60 minutes a day learning something new. It may be through reading books. It may be through blogs. It may be through mentors or personal experience, but learning is part of the whole picture of me.


Here it is. Way down the list. Perhaps it should even be further down. As a creative, I am constantly writing and playing music. But I’m learning that in this world of blogging it takes more than just writing. There’s the technical aspects, networking, publishing, promoting, and much more. But I have to stop myself from getting caught up in this aspect of my life or I lose track of more important things. That’s why balance is key.

Exercise and nutrition

I’ve been a yo-yo here. That’s why it probably belongs further up the list. But practicing a regular exercise routine takes dedication and builds character. I’m a walker, runner, biker, hiker, but I seem to get off track once in a while. Proper nutrition is also key to keeping ourselves healthy and balanced.


I believe it’s important to get away, take vacations, explore. Having fun and experiencing new things, learning about different cultures and meeting a variety of people in life help to develop our sense of curiosity and empathy.

I’m sure there’s more I could add to this list, but that’s not the point. The point is that one becomes successful at personal development by balancing a variety of positive characteristics. Without balance we only develop one part of ourself and other parts suffer for it.

Action item: Look at your own life. Study the things that are important. Make a list of what helps you in the area of personal development. Share your discoveries with Matt and me in the comment section.

Question: What did you list? What do you consider vital to a balanced life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Free Affiliate Training from Matt McWilliams