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.

What did you list? What do you consider vital to a balanced life?


20 thoughts on “The One Thing You Really Need to Know About Personal Development

  1. I agree 100% Dan, Balance is the key. The old spokes in the wheel as Zig would say. Thank you for sharing. We all need to be reminded. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      Thanks for commenting. It’s real easy to get out of balance, too. I just caught myself and I’m tweaking things a bit.

    2. Matt McWilliams says:

      Make sure to check out @disqus_3iu9zxEOOI:disqus’s site Rich!

  2. Dan Erickson says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to guest post on your site again, Matt. I hope this is something your readers can benefit from.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Absolutely! It got me thinking for sure.

  3. Steve Pate says:

    Amen to the Grace in our lives. At his moment on the balance wheel, I’m focusing on my family in our transition, focusing on physical strength and being a bit guarded who I’m being influenced by, on line or in person. Great post Dan

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      Thanks, Steve. I’ve been learning a lot lately at how much I’ve been influenced online and how some of that influence needed to be rethought.

  4. Joshua Rivers says:

    Having and living with purpose. Having the “why” for what you’re doing. It helps to put things into perspective. With the correct perspective, you can establish the right priorities. A good focus on the priorities helps achieve a balance in your life.

  5. Awesome post, Dan. I would have been lost. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, brother.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Glad you liked it Floyd. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Dan Erickson says:

      Thanks, Floyd. I’m always learning. It’s the doing that’s more of a challenge.

  6. Kari Scare says:

    What I’ve realized about balance is that it doesn’t necessarily mean every element has an equal share. It’s also defined uniquely and differently from one person to the next, which is why comparisons are useless. With that, balance provides every person with their own, unique normal. And, that normal changes periodically too. (What is normal anyway?) Balance isn’t something we find and are good to go; it must be deliberately maintained. Great thoughts on balance, Dan!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well said Kari. I’ve often said that happiness is not found, it’s worked for. Sounds paradoxical but it’s true.

      1. Kari Scare says:

        We must be deliberate about happiness, that’s for sure. Seems like the opposite happens when we do nothing to stop it.

    2. Dan Erickson says:

      I agree, Kari. I put more time into writing these days than reading. I also have to remind myself to put more time into my daughter’s life than my own hobbies.

      1. Kari Scare says:

        My schedule revolves around my boys’ schedule right now. Doesn’t mean I don’t do “my” stuff, but I do let the when, why & how much be determined by what they need right now. I only have them for a season.

  7. Chris Bailey says:

    I’m personally big into productivity, and I really enjoyed this post. I think way too many people obsess over doing more, more, more, and that leads them to forget why they’re doing in the first place.

    To me productivity isn’t about doing more; it’s about getting whatever outcomes you want out of your time. For example, over the weekend I decided that I wanted to completely separate from my work and invest time and energy into my relationship with my girlfriend. Even though my weekend wouldn’t be considered productive by a lot of people, I consider it incredibly productive because I achieved exactly what I set out to.

    Just my 2¢, great post 🙂

    1. Dan Erickson says:

      I think that’s a great way to look at it, Chris. I’m trying to do more time management. I’ve had times where I’ve become so productive it stole other parts of my life out from under my feet. I’m trying to be mindful so that that won’t happen.

  8. Jana Botkin says:

    Good approach to a relevant topic, Dan. We used to only have 3 channels on tv, the phone was connected to a wall rather than in our hands, and a computer was a machine at work. Now we have multiple methods for productivity and personal development continually in our pockets and on our laps. It costs us face-to-face relationships and lots of extra money, and robs us of our empty time to just sit, walk, pull weeds, stare out the window or read a novel without guilt.

    If you can give yourself permission (approval?) to have some time off from all the demands of continually working on things, then I recommend reading “A Train Called Forgiveness” (if you listen to it from Audible, you get to hear the songs!) After that, read “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy”. Turn off your phone, stop trying to be productive and just ENJOY something good without guilt!

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