How to Identify Areas for Personal Development in 6 Steps

UPDATED: June 17, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 13, 2024
Woman outside writing in her journal and smiling while learning How to identify areas for personal development

Personal development is an estimated $43.77 billion-dollar industry, and it’s also expected to grow. If you go online and search for “personal development,” you will be bombarded with book suggestions, podcasts and online courses.

It’s great to invest in your own personal development. Most of us want to be better, but figuring out how to identify areas for self-improvement can be daunting.

How to identify areas for personal development

1. Find a mentor

Being able to turn to a strong mentor is indispensable. There are all kinds of ways to set up formal mentoring connections, but you don’t necessarily need to do that. Lauren Wesley Wilson, the CEO of ColorComm Network, a community for women of color in communications, believes the strongest relationships are cultivated.

“What mentorship really is, is a relationship with someone who has more experience than you, who can guide you,” Wilson explains. “But the way they’re guiding you is through a set of questions. They are thoughtful and deliberate—they’re not sitting here on Friday at 4 o’clock saying, ‘I’m going to now mentor you to the next level.’”

According to Wilson, your willingness to ask the right questions is important in mentoring relationships. When you ask direct questions about your performance, you are more likely to get strong answers.

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“It’s asking a series of questions about your work and getting a better sense of how you contribute to where you work,” Wilson says. “So if you have a better idea of how you show up, good or bad, you’re gonna be able to make decisions that could help you in the long term as it relates to your career.”

2. Try to hear the unsaid

Sometimes the people you work with directly may know you better than your higher-ups do. Your working relationships with other people impact the type of feedback you get, whether it’s nonverbal or direct. Wilson notes that today’s work culture is careful, which means you may not always get the advice you don’t want to hear, which is often the most important advice of all.

“I think that the people you work with are constant windows into your learning and your development, whether they explicitly tell you or not,” Wilson says. “Can you pick up the signs through engaging with people? Do they feel pleasant around you? Do they feel like they’re trusting you to deliver an assignment on time? Are they sarcastic with you?”

3. Be open to feedback

Being open to feedback and developing a rapport with your colleagues where they are willing to directly give feedback is one of the best ways to get real, honest advice when identifying areas for improvement. Wilson notes defensiveness can hold us back.

“Sometimes we look at feedback and we think it’s negative things about us, and we don’t want to hear it. We get defensive; we get upset,” she says. “You’re in a position to grow and learn when you hear things you don’t agree with. And feedback isn’t really intended for you to agree.”

4. Identifying areas for improvement: The four domains

Kelly Weekers is the author of the book Choosing Me and a psychologist who specializes in authenticity. She notes there are four domains where most people struggle in their lives: health and well-being, work and career, love and relationships, and personal issues. In her sessions, Weekers asks questions about where her clients are in each of these domains.

“It helps you just navigate where you are today, where you want to go and also what should be your primary focus,” she says. “I always believe that you should start somewhere, but it’s better to pinpoint one thing because sometimes people overwhelm themselves. They have like 10 goals at the same time, and of course, that’s impossible.”

5. Check your autopilot

We have a tendency to become immersed in our routines, and sometimes we end up on autopilot. At times, this is healthy, and it helps us complete tasks more efficiently.

But sometimes our autopilot routines don’t benefit us. Weekers recommends checking your own autopilot and asking yourself why you do certain things.

“It’s really interesting to ask yourself the question, ‘Why do I do what I do?’” she says. “I always say to go from autopilot to authentic pilot. Who are you really?”

6. Finally: Write it down

Wherever you turn for your answers, make sure you write them down. This helps with accountability and also gives you an opportunity to come back to your answers.

“It’s like an overview, and it makes you really answer questions because we’re not answering with one word,” Weekers explains. “You should take time to reflect and think about it. When you write things down, you can even say ‘OK, I’m going to grab a cup of coffee or a cup of tea. I’m going to let it rest for a bit and see what else I come up with.’”

This article originally appeared in the March issue of SUCCESS+ digital magazine. Photo by mimagephotography/