Like the old saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.” With that in mind, we also know that being able to take an honest look at ourselves and evaluate what we can be, doing better in our lives is much more validating than striving for perfection. We all have goals that usually fall into the personal or professional category (or both), and doing some daily personal and professional development can seriously help take aim at our goals and achieve them with more precision and confidence than we ever thought possible. A common issue is differentiating between the two, because though they have their own distinct definitions, in practice and real life the two can often overlap. So what’s the deal?

Let’s begin by clearly defining the two for the sake of distinction. In a nutshell, professional development usually takes the form of continued learning and training directly related to your current profession/job, with the intention of making you more efficient at what you already do, or allowing you to keep up with the latest trends, best practices, tools or technology that impact your field in an ever-changing work environment. For example, a salesperson in a large company may attend a training to learn how to use new software for better customer tracking and follow ups. A hair stylist may continue to train on the newest techniques, trends and hair colour products in order to stay current in his/her field. A construction worker may receive additional training on new safety codes or the benefits of using eco-friendly materials. All of these are examples of improved skill sets required for these professionals to perform their work more effectively.

Personal development, on the other hand, can cover a very broad area. This involves specific skills you need to have to accomplish your goals, primarily in everyday life, though it can also positively impact your professional arena. It is really about reaching your full potential, improving on strengths or developing new talents that help get you to your goals. For example, a stay-at-home parent may be overwhelmed or stressed with all the tasks that need to get done and would benefit from learning some stress-management techniques or even taking a Yoga class to help better manage those emotions. This allows that parent to feel happier and healthier on a day-to-day basis, with the added benefit of making the home environment more harmonious. A working parent may feel the desire to be more present for his/her children and would benefit from learning how to “switch off” from e-mails, calls, and work-related thoughts when at home. This allows the working parent to spend more quality time with loved ones, and perhaps become more efficient at work due to the improved quality of downtime outside of the office.

Personal development really gets to the core of who you are or who you want to become. It helps shape your daily thoughts and actions in a big way, but gently points you in the right direction for success. Personal development gives you the tools to retrain your mindset on various levels, from how you react to your child’s tantrum to how you respond to criticism in the workplace.

So you may be thinking, where do I begin? If you do nothing else after reading this article, just do this ONE exercise. Grab a pen and paper and jot down a quick list of things that make you happy. Then make of list of things you do every day. Compare the two lists. Chances are, you’ve found some clues.

This article is the first contribution to a series in Laval Families Magazine on professional and personal development. Each edition of the magazine will now feature an inspiring story of how someone transformed their personal or professional life—or both—and how they did it. For the time being, here are some tips on how to begin dabbling in professional or personal development.

  1. Commit to 10 minutes a day. You have to start somewhere, so investing 10 minutes of your time daily is more than enough to get the ball rolling.
  2. Ask an honest question and expect an honest answer. Ask your boss or a trusted co-worker what he/she thinks you could be doing better at work and build a conversation from there. If you want to focus on personal development, ask your spouse or close friend to describe your strengths and weaknesses and build from there.
  3. Read. Just 10 minutes a day on a topic related to your targeted skill can help retrain your mindset and keep you accountable in your quest for improvement. Reading can take on many forms, be it from books, a magazine subscription, an online article or blog, etc.
  4. Listen. Whether you are focusing on personal or professional development, find a well-known public figure who has achieved what you are trying to achieve, and hear what they have to say about their transformation story. Podcasts are great tools that are easily accessible anywhere, at any time. There are podcasts for virtually any topic you can think of, and the inspiration and tips you might garner are priceless. Listen while on the drive to work, or while doing dishes or folding laundry. This doesn’t have to be time consuming.
  5. Widen your network. Join interest groups on social media, or follow public figures on Facebook who have expertise with the skill sets you are working on. This will create a more personalized news feed so that the time you spend on social media will continuously guide you to information and people who can help you or inspire you to achieve your goals.
  6. Ask questions. When you meet someone who clearly has achieved a goal you are working toward, ask them what they did to get there. This may seem like a no-brainer (because it is), but it’s important to ask! People like talking about themselves, especially if they are successful at something and sense that you are genuinely interested.
  7. Surround yourself with like-minded people. This is where # 5 can really come into play. This may mean planning more time to spend with people who are working toward similar goals, or this may mean letting go of certain people or relationships that are counter-productive to what you are trying to achieve.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Whatever you want to change or improve in your life, know that the power to do so lies within you.