Here you will learn why it is so useful to follow a personal development plan (PDP). You will also study three guidelines that illustrate a general personal development plan template.  Once you’ve assimilated the information in this section, you will be able to move on to additional articles in the series that provide examples of personal development plans for specific life changes.

Mohandas Gandhi, the still-influential Indian leader who devoted his life to the achievement of peace and fulfillment, had this to say:

Your beliefs become your values
            Your values become your thoughts
            Your thoughts become your words
            Your words become your actions
            Your actions become your habits
            Your habits become your destiny…

                                                –Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, 1869-1948


By reading through that sequence, you can understand that your innermost beliefs have a tremendous formative impact on the values and thoughts that externalize to in the form of your actions: what you do in and with your life.  As those actions become habitual, you are taking control of your ultimate destiny in life.

At first, that might sound a little disconnected from compared with your everyday activities and goals, but apply it to something that affects people every day -smoking.  If you really believe that smoking is harmless or that you will live forever, then you will never stop smoking!

But, if you had someone close who suffered an early death because of smoking, or after you experience the birth of your first child, you begin to think twice about the issue.

These experiences have an impact on your view of reality and also on the value that you place on your own life.  When your beliefs carry you through that transition, then giving up smoking becomes much more likely! Your personal development plan template is all about that.


The Triple-Loop Cycle

There is a triple-loop personal development plan template (figure 1, below) that expresses the same idea in a different way:




The Doing Loop

Your outcomes -the things you do or achieve in life- result from the actions you’ve taken.

The personal development plan template shows you can improve your performance, and thus your outcomes, through practice.  Suppose you build brick barbecues.   Your second attempt will always turn out better and require less effort than the first.

Of course, building a better barbie doesn’t require any fundamental shift in your learning, and it doesn’t have a significant impact on the inner you!

The Thinking Loop

This part of the personal development plan template figure shows how you change the way you conceive, think about, or understand a problem:  “I don’t know about building a barbie, because every time we have a barbie it rains.

So…hmmm…I’ll build an extension to the porch that will be big enough to shield the barbie and keep us dry!”

In this loop, you have applied reasoning and motivation to create a new set of actions.

The Being Loop

At this step in your personal development plan template, you’ve made a leap in how you see yourself as a person, a change in who you are.

“I’ve built backyard barbies as a favor for many of my friends and relatives, and I’ve given advice to scores of others.  I’m tired of doing it for free.  I always wanted to be my own boss by the time I was 50.  I am going to make money from doing this…I’ll hire some workers to build barbies the way I teach them.  I’ll be the buyer and project manager.  The first step to my new job will be to get a team together to provide service for my new business!!”

In this third loop of the personal development plan template, your beliefs about you role in life has changed. And new beliefs drive new actions that result in you taking charge of your financial destiny.

The Experiential Learning Cycle

Next, study the personal development plan template below (figure 2), because it describes how adults learn.  As you use it, think of a past experience or situation that you wanted to learn from.

The stages in the reflective process are probably familiar to you.  If you’ve ever had help from a coach, a tutor, a mentor, even a boss or manager-anyone who’s a good listener-you’ve done this, and you’ll recognize each of these stages.

But real life is not so neat and tidy.  Whenever you go through a change cycle, you develop new insights that take you to-and-fro-instead of one neat progression; you jump to different places throughout the personal development plan template cycle.




This type of personal development plan template is often used to help people take a good look at a plan that they’ve taken action on, analyze its results, and revise the plan to make things better.

At the top of the diagram is the personal or professional concrete experience that motivated you to explore it.  Maybe it’s happened too often, or it results in time and energy being wasted…you’ll have your own reasons.

Next, you write down the events that led up to the event.  You explore how it unfolded.  And you might go back to the first step to gather additional information, to recall things you didn’t notice at the time.

Third, you theorize about why it happened.  You analyzed the string of events.  You can review how things unfolded by going back a step before you move on in the cycle.

Last, you consider what you can do to achieve a better future outcome.  Once again, you might need to jump back and forth to the different steps of this personal development plan template cycle in order to develop the plan that works best for you.


Reflective Learning Cycle

Look at the diagram below (figure 3) to understand the entire learning cycle more fully.




A concrete experience compels you to gather facts concerning the incident, and theorize why it happened.  It must be something that evokes your commitment to time and effort -something that will result in a significant payoff.

Reflect on how it made you feel, evaluate your behavior, and consider any consequences.  Replay the event in your mind, including what others said and how you felt about that.  Gather information so that you can formulate an abstract conceptualization, but don’t analyze, criticize, or judge yourself harshly.

Next in this personal development plan template comes the natural process of re-thinking and re-evaluating the string of events.  This is a very analytical step.  You are in a different emotional space by now, and with the new information from your previous efforts you can formulate a revised plan.

The fourth and last step is synthesis -you bring all your thoughts together into an action plan.  There is where you decide what you will do differently.

You also have to put your personal development plan template into effect -otherwise, it’s just an intellectual exercise- but you always have the option and capability to translate your insights into new actions, new plans, as needed.


Tips for Success

  • Don’t force it; don’t rush things or view it under the microscope for too long. If you need to step away from it -take a walk or bake a cake- do it and then go back to it.
  • Even more importantly, remember that the engine-room of the personal development plan template process is stage one -and the new awareness it brings. Mine that experience for details, and switch on your peripheral vision.