Personal Growth

The 5 Areas of Personal Development and How to Work on Them

What is Personal Development?

Personal Development means slightly different things to different people, but according to Thrive Global, it’s ‘a process of active learning and developing new skills’.

For me, it’s simply trying to become the best version of myself. What that looks like to me, may be different to what it looks like to you. I recently read ‘The Miracle Morning’ (highly recommend), and in it Hal talks about creating a ‘level 10 life’. Some of us may be level 10 in our relationships, but not level 10 in our career or recreation. Thinking about personal growth in this way makes it really easy to visualise the areas that we might want to think about working on more, and what areas we’re really satisfied with. 

This is not about thinking ‘oh I’m terrible at everything and I really need to work on myself’, it’s about thinking ‘I’m really good at x, y and z, but there’s definitely room for improvement in z, so maybe I could level up that aspect of my life’.

Personal development isn’t about changing your life overnight. It is a lifelong investment in yourself to keep learning and developing your skills. You’ll go through periods where you’re less concerned about growth, and that’s normal! You can’t be focused 100% of the time, it’s simply not feasible. 

Hierarchy of Needs

If you’ve ever studied psychology chances are you’ll have seen this triangle:

Source: Simply Psychology

According to Simply Psychology, this triangle represents the different tiers of needs and motivation that each human has. These are the reasons we get up in the morning. Starting from the bottom, once we have our basic needs satisfied, we can move on to working on psychological needs. From there we can work on our self-fulfilment needs. The final level ‘self-actualisation’ is the desire to become the best person we can be. We all have this drive, but we must satisfy the needs below it before we can think about personal growth.

This is why I say that you can’t dedicate 100% of your time to personal development, because sometimes your energy or focus will be on one of the more ‘basic’ needs.

Why should I care about Personal Development?

As I’ve just said, the motivation to grow and develop is within each of us. It just may be a bit closer to the surface in some people compared to others. Because there are so many differences in what people’s goals are in terms of personal growth, many people will be on a journey of personal growth and not even know it. 

Started learning a new language on Duolingo? That’s personal growth. Started working out more? That’s personal growth. Stopped talking to people that just constantly bring down your mood? That’s personal growth. 

Next I’m going to talk about the five main areas for development. Then later on I will get into the different ways of developing them, and some great resources for you.

The Five Areas of Personal Development

If you’ve read my self-care article, you’ll notice that these five areas are basically identical to five of the six ways to practice self-care, and that’s not a coincidence. You can think of practicing self care as personal growth because you’re taking the time out to work on/ care for yourself, it’s basically the same thing. The only real slight difference is that in self care the aim is to DO these things vs in personal development the aim is to LEVEL UP these things.

  • Physical – looking after your body is way more than working out and eating healthy. It’s about getting enough sleep, checking yourself for lumps and bumps, going to the doctors if you suspect something is wrong, taking care of your skin.
  • Emotional – this is probably one of the hardest. Working on emotions is incredibly personal and it takes a lot of strength and discipline to look at your own emotions and think about how you might be able to improve the way that you react to things.
  • Mental – Taking on new information to improve the accuracy of your ‘map’. (check out my post on The Road Less Travelled, if you haven’t already, for more understanding of this). I like to think of this as ‘improving my general knowledge’.
  • Social – not just about making more friends, but working on strengthening your current relationships. This could be it romantic partners, friends, family or course mates. This is mainly about improving communication skills.
  • Spiritual – spirituality isn’t the same thing as religion. I know a lot of people who would say that they are spiritual, but don’t regard themselves as belonging to a particular religion.

Other areas you might want to focus on

As well as those five main areas, there are a couple of other ones that you might want to specifically focus on, depending on your needs.

  • Financial – financial literacy is not something that is taught in schools, but it’s an incredibly important skill. I’ve learnt loads from watching The Break Platform and I have the books ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and ‘You are a Badass at Making Money’, on my to read list.
  • Career – As a medical student, I know that working on my career is going to take up a lot of my time. Not just 5 years of school, but after that I will have more training and more exams. And there are other aspects to consider outside of my course that I need to work on as well, such as conferences, audits and journal papers. 

How to start your Personal Development Journey

So now we’re going to talk about how to really kickstart your personal growth journey!

1) Assess where you are now

Grab a piece of paper and write down all the areas of personal growth that are relevant to you at the top in separate columns.

Write below each of the headings where you think you are currently, on a scale from one to ten, with ten being your absolute best.

2) Where do you want to be

At the bottom of each column, write out what you envision level 10 to look like for each of those areas. E.g. For level 10 physical it might be one of the following:

  • Sleep 7 hours every night
  • Eat a healthy diet based mainly on fruits, vegetables and healthy fats
  • Run a 10k every weekend

Please bear in mind that these are just examples! Everybody’s level 10 will be slightly different, these examples are not my level 10 physical.

These level 10 ‘ideals’ are now basically your goals. Even if you don’t achieve them all, they’re a great way to focus yourself and keep yourself on the right track.

3) How do I bridge the gap

Now you’ve identified where you are currently and where you want to be, you can figure out how to bridge that gap. Work backwards from your end goal and come up with checkpoints that you can cross off on your journey. See below for an example.

4) Keeping on track

One of the best ways to stay on track is to track and document your progress. For example, if I’m feeling really demotivated with my blog, I’ll look back at my statistics and see how much it’s grown over the past few months.

It’s really hard to notice change when it’s so gradual, so being able to look back and remind yourself of how much you’ve developed can be really useful. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Journal – this year I started journaling for the first time every night before I go to sleep. t’s normally just very random stuff, but I can look back and see how my thoughts have developed.
  • Pictures – Great for tracking physical progress, but also for skills. During the first lockdown last year I cross-stitched a floral design. I took progress pics throughout, so that I could look back and see how much progress I had made. I’ll include a few pictures below. 
  • Mental check ins – even if you don’t write everything down, you can literally just use your memory. E.g. If you handle a stressful situation particularly well, you can think back to how you would have handled that in the past and take a moment to be proud of yourself for the growth.

5) Adapt

As you grow and develop, your priorities might change, and who you saw as the ideal version of yourself might change. This is completely normal, and so it’s important to regularly review and adapt your goals. They are not set in stone!

Resources for Personal Development


Honestly my life got so much better when I started reading, and now it’s an integral part of my day. I read for 20 minutes on a morning and night before bed (however long it takes for me to get tired). Here are some of the books I’ve read/are on my to-read list:


The websites that I’ve linked in the references at the bottom of this page are all great places to start. I also like Jari Roomer and of course, there’s always this blog!

Want to become a more productive student? Want to work on your personal development? Want to learn about how to get into medical school?

If you said YES to any of the above, then stick around because you’re in the right place!

Whether you’re a current or aspiring student, I share tips and tricks that are going to help you out.

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General Tips for Personal Development

  • Connect with like-minded people who are also putting in the effort to work on themselves more consciously.
  • Build habits into your daily routine. For example, the Miracle Morning is now a fixed part of my routine Monday to Friday. 
  • Stop comparing where you are on your journey to where someone is on theirs
  • Get yourself a few role models that inspire you. (Don’t use them as comparison tools to bring yourself down, use them to boost you)
  • Read, read, read (I’m sure you’re bored of me saying this by now
  • Create a vision board
  • Make time for actively working on your goals, whether you get up a bit earlier, or spend an hour less doing something else. (obviously not neglecting any of your responsibilities)
  • Write a letter to yourself – there’s a website called Future Me and at the start of this academic year I wrote a letter to myself of where I imagine I’ll be in a year’s time, and then I scheduled it to be emailed to me when that year’s up. 
  • Ask for feedback – this is such a brave thing to do and admittedly this isn’t something I’ve tried yet. But sometimes asking others can help you identify some areas that you might want to think about working on 

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this post useful, if there’s anything you want to talk about or if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch. 

Personal development is a weird topic to write about in times like this when people are just trying to survive day to day. I want to stress that this is not me saying that you need to get out there and do better, because honestly there are days when I’m just trying my best to get through the day. I just wanted to write this for anyone who might want to use any extra time that they have, to work on themselves. 

As I said before, the areas for personal development and the areas of self care are basically identical, because they’re essentially the same thing, I just think that ‘personal development’ sounds a bit more aggressive and to be honest just sounds like more work. 

Wherever you are on your own journey, I wish you luck, health and happiness!


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