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Updated 28 Sep 2020

The fundamental importance of making learning a part of your life

Personal development is an often used but rarely understood term. In a nutshell, it's about investing in yourself in order to learn, grow and manage yourself (and others) effectively. If used wisely, it is your toolkit to deal with whatever life throws at you. 

Glenn van Eck, 21 February 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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There are many benefits to investing in your personal development: Self-awareness, a sense of direction, focus, motivation, a specific skill, greater resilience, mentoring others and enjoying more fulfilling relationships. But, how do you do this amongst family time, hobbies and your career?

Work on areas you enjoy

The most crucial step to successful personal development is choosing the right skill or topic. I’ve come to realise that there are certain things I don’t enjoy or am not particularly good at – and no matter what intervention, if I don’t feel a passion or need to improve, it simply wont have an effect. 

That’s why I surround myself with a team who are skilled in diverse areas. Focus on an areas you have an interest in – or are vital for your success. Your time and energy are precious so make sure you only spend them on things that are meaningful to you. 

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Every step must count

The scope of your learning is up to you. You can dedicate a full week to discovering conflict resolution, or you can listen to inspiring podcasts in the car.

You don't need to be able to spend a lot of time on a skill to make it worthwhile. After a mere fifteen minutes of practice, you'll have improved. After reading ten pages, you'll know more than before. So never let a busy schedule put you off, because every bit counts. But, do switch off to everything else when you are learning as the mind battles to compete for brain time.

Have a goal

Even if you are learning something for the fun of it, it's a good idea to have a goal in mind. For example, an event where you can utilise your new skill or knowledge. 

The idea here isn't to add pressure (if your goal has that effect, scale it back), but to motivate and give something to work toward.

Find the right method 

Online -studying

Based on your personality, select the most appropriate way to approach your chosen skill or topic. Would you find more inspiration in attending a class or finding a mentor, or would you prefer to work your way through a book, or participate in online webinars? The key to success is choosing a method that aligns with your personal preference for studying, so you'll enjoy it and make progress.

Create a plan

If you are taking a class or working with a mentor, this step will be taken care of for you, but if you are going solo, I'd recommend you spend some time familiarising yourself with your learning materials and then create a study plan. Working with clear direction from the start will improve your progress, and that's always the best motivation. Remember, as they say, failure to plan is planning for failure.

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Get into a routine

To make personal development a habit and help you stick to your plan, reserve time in your week for it. If possible, tie your study sessions to a task you already regularly do. For example, after your weekly team meeting, dedicate one hour to a webinar. Or every morning after breakfast, spend 20 minutes watching a TED Talk. Book the time as you would a meeting with an important client – that way you will have more chance of actually making it happen.

Keep track of your progress

One last optional, but handy tip: Get a notebook to keep track of every milestone, to store your study plan, pen thoughts on your progress, and to note down everything you still want to learn. If, like me, you tend to overdo the notes and seldom refer back to them, write a key observation at the top of each page and then ideas around how to implement or use that within your life. 

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About the author

Glenn van Eck

Aged 20, Glenn started a gardening service in his second year of University, and sold it five years later to buy Magnetic Storm. Still at the helm, Glenn has grown a two-man disco into a full-service event and tech company with offices in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, servicing the entire country.

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