Advice on personal development and leading a more fulfilled life is often confusing and full of contradictions . Of these, one of the biggest inconsistencies revolves around taking action. If you were to look back through some of the posts on this very blog, you would be forgiven for spotting potentially opposing advice.
There seem to be two schools of thought on this subject. The practical side will preach the importance of taking action, learning from your experiences and adapting along the way. The theoretical side, however, will stress the importance of reflection, setting goals and making plans. Surely, one of them must be right, but which one?!
The reality is that both of the above are right. Together, they both highlight the key stages in the personal development process. Not all of the stages are relevant for everyone, and there is no set order in which they should be followed, though. I put reflection at the top of this list because that is my starting point, which works best for me.
- Reflection. This is the ideal starting point, as you identify your strengths and weaknesses, your interests, what drives you and what you hope to achieve both personally and professionally.
- Goal Setting. With a good understanding of your situation and circumstances, the next logical step will be set goals, both short and long-term. Goals are a great way to keep you motivated as you have something to strive for which is broken down into small steps. Furthermore, goals are an indicator of what progress is being made, and whether you are staying on track.
- Planning. The planning stage is more a matter of personal preference than a necessity. Some prefer to take action once their goals have been set, but others prefer to plan and strategise. In this instance, some find it helpful to set out how they will use their resources in order to reach their goals, and what knowledge or skills they may need to acquire.
- Action. Arguably, the most important stage of all. After all, without taking action in the direction of your goals, you won’t achieve very much, if anything. It is by taking action that we gain the experiences from which we learn and grow.
- Review. As you take action in the direction of your goals, it’s important to regularly review your progress. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge and areas to be addressed, as well as highlight what has been working well. The review process also gives you the opportunity to amend and update your goals as you meet them.
As with everything else in life, both sides are right but balance is essential. In this case, you need to find a healthy balance between reflection, planning and taking action. If you spend too much time thinking, planning, searching or strategising, you won’t have enough time left to actually take action and so will get nowhere. On the other hand, if you just jump straight in and get to work without a plan, it becomes incredibly difficult to judge what it is that you are actually achieving.
Through reflection and planning, you gain an understanding of who you are, what you have to offer and what you would like to achieve from life. When this is coupled with action, you then get to experience life in all its glory. The lessons gained from your experiences help you to understand what happiness and life itself mean for you.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life