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Use this checklist to improve personal development

Developing positive habits and getting feedback to help you improve your skills are two of the eight personal development activities Paul B. Thornton recommends.

3 min read


personal development

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Achieving your personal best will help you be a more impactful leader. I’ve developed a checklist of actions that I have found helpful in working on my personal development.   

  1. Increase your positive self-talk. When negative self-talk occurs, I reframe it into a positive statement. “I will never have a powerful serve in tennis,” is changed to “I am going to keep searching until I find a way to increase the speed of my serve.”
  2. Invite experts to observe your performance and provide feedback. You can do this by identifying colleagues whom you admire and asking them for input regarding your performance. When I was a college professor, I invited a theater professor and a teacher development coach to occasionally sit in on my class and critique my performance. Their advice was valuable in helping me improve. 
  3. Observe top performers and study what they do. I watch a lot of TED Talks on YouTube to gain new insights about organizing and delivering a message. There is always something to learn by studying experts.      
  4. Don’t overly focus on negative feedback. Each semester, I received course evaluations from my students. More than 95% of them provided great ratings and positive comments. But there was always a couple who didn’t like some aspect of the course. I learned not to obsess over the one or two negative comments and undervalue the 28 positive ratings.   
  5. Establish one metric. In 2007, I had a heart attack. One stint cleared up a blocked artery. Going through the cardiac rehab program, the dietician said that my daily intake of saturated fats shouldn’t exceed 10 grams. I now check the saturated fat content level on all foods. That one metric has forced me to change my diet in many ways. What one metric could you use to track a behavior that you want to change? 
  6. Create reminders like the buzzer in your car that reminds you to fasten your seat belt. My dental hygienist told me I had to start using a Waterpik. I bought one, used it once and stored it under the bathroom sink. Didn’t use it again for three months. Out of sight out of mind. My last trip to the dentist, my hygienist demanded (in a nice way) that I use the Waterpik every day. I now keep the Waterpik on my bathroom sink. Seeing it every time I enter the bathroom is the reminder I needed. I haven’t missed a day in two months. What visual reminders could help you change a particular behavior? 
  7. Meditate. I meditate twice per day. I close my eyes and observe the words and thoughts that pop into my mind. It’s easy. It helps me be present and more aware. Try it for 30 days and see if it helps.  
  8. Exercise every day. It’s a good way to lower your stress and stay in shape.  

Achieving your personal best requires you to keep learning and evolving as a person. Take time to reflect and try new approaches to help you grow and develop. 


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His books are available at Amazon and include: 

He frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on LinkedIn.   

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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