Personal development is not measured by financial, social or external success. Instead it is determined by our efforts to develop our intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects in order to reach our full human potential.
In the process of developing ourselves, we also strive to express our talents and abilities for the enrichment and benefit others.
Unfortunately, in today's instant gratification culture there has been an unhealthy trend towards 'get rich quick' (substitute thin, beautiful, fit, etc.) schemes gaining ground.
It implies that if you are rich enough, thin enough, or beautiful enough, you will be happy. Instead of encouraging legitimate personal growth and development, these schemes and false claims work against it.
I'm sure most of us have read, or heard the woeful tales of lottery winners who attained massive fortunes only to be broke soon after their windfalls. We have also seen beautiful, rich, and influential entertainment stars end their own unhappy lives in spite of their outward success.
There are no "quick fixes" or short cuts to personal development.
It is a deliberate, disciplined process achieved by reflection, introspection and self-awareness.
The emphasis on personal development began to arise in the 1960's with the Human Potential Movement that had its roots in existentialism and humanistic psychology.
Its purpose was to promote the idea that humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity and fulfillment when they strive to reach their potential.
Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, put forth the idea that self-actualization (the fulfillment of self through reaching one's potential) is the highest expression of a human's life.
In his research Maslow found that self-actualized people were those who are creative and spontaneous, possess a good sense of humor and are able to tolerate uncertainty.
Those who are self-actualized also have an appreciation for what life has to offer, a deep concern for others and are able to enjoy close, meaningful, personal relationships.
He advocated a list of behaviors that he felt lead to self-actualization.
These behaviors include:
Humanistic psychology emphasizes the importance of attending to and developing the "whole" person or those aspects of ourselves that make us human - the physical, the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual.
To be your "true self" means to be and take responsibility for it on all of these levels.
Personal development is therefore, the process of striving to be the best that you can be in order to reach and realize your full potential. It is a journey of self-discovery, self-improvement and self-realization.