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Personal development planning

personal development plan gdc

The General Dental Council (GDC) introduced a new enhanced continuous professional development (CPD) scheme for dentists in January 2018 and for dental care professional (DCPs) in August 2018. The list below details the key changes:

  • the requirement for all dental professionals to have a personal development plan (please see the files below to download a printable version of the personal development plan (PDP) Portfolio or to download a version that can be filled in digitally)
  • an increase in the number of verifiable hours and the requirement to spread the hours more evenly across the five-year cycle
  • dental professionals no longer have to declare non-verifiable CPD to the GDC and there is an overall reduction of CPD hours for all dental professionals
  • the requirement to make an annual declaration of CPD hours completed, even if zero hours have been completed for that year
  • the requirement to align CPD activity with specific development outcomes
  • the requirement for professionals to plan CPD activity according to their individual “field(s) of practice”.

PDP Portfolio

How can we help.

Our role is to facilitate and support learning for all the dental team as recommended in the General Dental Council Guidance with regards to continuing education. We can put together an effective plan of action to direct you and your team to the most appropriate pathway of learning that will suit your personal and professional needs. Interested? Please contact the Quality Improvement Project Officer to arrange a date for your areas quality improvement (QI) educator's visit. Contact: HEIW Dental QI Tel: 03300 584219

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  • PDP|CPD Template

Personal Development Plan (PDP) and CPD Activity Recording Template

Published on 27 January 2018

Create and maintain your personal development plan

Under the enhanced CPD scheme, dental professionals must hold a personal development plan (PDP), record their CPD activities and submit an annual report. We have created an Excel template to simplify the process. Excel is readily available, with free online and mobile versions, so you can use the template and have it readily available on your desktop or mobile device.

The template guides you through the creation of a realistic PDP, helps you record your CPD activities and complete your annual submission to the GDC. It facilitates reflective practice, guides career development and helps assess the impact of CPD activities on patient care.

The template is compatible with the desktop versions of Microsoft Excel 2016, 2013 and 2010, mobile versions (iOS, Android and Windows 10 Mobile) and online version. Please note that the mobile and online versions of Excel do not have the full feature set of the desktop versions, but this does not affect the ability to create a PDP, record CPD activities and view the summary.

We recommend storing the document on cloud storage (DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive etc so that it is always available across your devices. This will make it simple to keep your PDP and CPD up to date and therefore genuinely useful.

To install and start using the template:

  • Download the file (see below; you must also agree to our terms and conditions).
  • Copy the file to where you would like to store it. Using your cloud storage (e.g. OneDrive) makes it readily available across devices and it will be backed up.
  • Click to open in Excel and follow the guide. If you are using a mobile device use the Excel app which can be downloaded from the respective store.

PDP Excel template image

Training and support

The template is featured in our free course Making the most of The Dental Channel . Watch step-by-step how to use the template to:

  • identify your learning needs;
  • create your PDP;
  • record your CPD activities;
  • update your PDP;
  • submit your reports to the GDC;
  • assess the effectiveness of your CPD.

You may post any questions about using the template in the accompanying community group.

For a broader discussion of personal development planning and CPD please see Personal Development Planning and CPD recording: Making them work for you .

PDP course image

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Personal development plans (in primary dental care)--getting started


  • 1 Peninsula Dental School, UK.
  • PMID: 21905356
  • DOI: 10.12968/denu.2011.38.6.419

This article reviews how to develop a personal development plan, its benefits and how it may relate to the GDC's proposed revalidation scheme.

Clinical relevance: Revalidation is an essential part of reassuring the public that the profession delivers care to appropriate standards in safe work environments. A personal development plan is a key element in improving performance and quality of care.

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personal development plan gdc

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Personal development plans (in primary dental care) – getting started

From Volume 38, Issue 6 , July 2011 | Pages 419-422

Personal development plans (in primary dental care) – getting started Alasdair G Miller Dental Update 2024 38:6, 707-709.

Alasdair G Miller


Parkfield Dental Surgery, Taunton, Somerset TAI 4RL

Articles by Alasdair G Miller

This article reviews how to develop a personal development plan, its benefits and how it may relate to the GDC's proposed revalidation scheme.

Clinical Relevance: Revalidation is an essential part of reassuring the public that the profession delivers care to appropriate standards in safe work environments. A personal development plan is a key element in improving performance and quality of care.

personal development plan gdc

What is a personal development plan

Personal development plans (PDPs) have been in existence for many years in many guises. The New Year's resolution is, in many respects, an example of a plan. In its simplest form, a PDP is a list of things you wish to learn or learn to do differently over a given period of time. It has long been known that plans which are written down and reviewed are more likely to succeed. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in 2009 1 defined PDP as

A structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development.

The key aspect of a PDP is its link to the way the owner learns and the process of developing a PDP and its outcomes involve reflection and are linked to learning theory. 2 The General Dental Council has indicated that a PDP will be an essential part of a dentist's revalidation portfolio in its consultation on Revalidation in 2009. 3 The NHS salaried dental services have expected staff to have a PDP for a number of years. To the busy practitioner, having a PDP probably seems like yet another bit of bureaucracy that takes one away from treating patients. Certainly, if that view is taken it is unlikely that a PDP will be of value. On the other hand, if one embraces the concept, it brings great benefits to the individual owner of the PDP, his/her patients, staff and colleagues. The benefits of a PDP can include the following:

  • Promotes effective learning;
  • Sets targets;
  • Encourages personal reflection;
  • Improves clinical and professional performance;
  • Makes personal success more likely;
  • The results can be motivational.

How does one start making a PDP?

The starting point of any plan is deciding where one wishes to get to. Some of the questions that may help determine this include:

  • What do I want to be doing in my life in 5 years' time?
  • What would I like to be doing in my working life then?
  • How much do I want to be working?
  • What else do I want to be doing in my life?
  • What needs to change or to be done differently to achieve this state?
  • What are the obstacles to achieving it?

Developing this personal vision, whilst not essential for developing an annual PDP, helps give focus. The five year plan need not be detailed, more a direction of travel which acts as a reference point for each year's PDP. Why choose five years? There are no absolute rules on choosing the timeframe for a plan. The world is a rapidly changing place and few of us could have predicted all the changes in the past decade, so choosing a date which is far enough ahead to allow for a reasonable amount of time to accomplish the goals, but not too distant to be worthwhile, is worthwhile. Whilst developing the plan, one should also consider the practice one works in and its development plans so that the plans synchronize where the goals are similar.

Having determined, ideally, where one wishes to be in five years, the next stage is to identify where one is now. This can be done by asking the following questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I like to be better at?
  • What obstacles are there to my achieving my goals?
  • What could stop me achieving my goals?
  • What opportunities are out there for me?
  • What do my patients want now? What do they expect?
  • What will they want in 5 years' time?

These questions are the basis of a SWOT analysis ( Figure 1 ). Filling in the boxes of the SWOT matrix can be a quick method of reviewing the current situation. Very often the same item may appear in two boxes. For example, a drop in NHS funding of dentistry may be a threat to an NHS dentist. It may also be an opportunity as it may allow one to develop areas of private practice.

personal development plan gdc

What should a five year plan look like?

A five year plan should be broad brush without too much detail, eg

In 5 years I want to be working less than full-time, I would like to have a prevention-orientated practice but be able to offer quality aesthetic dentistry to patients who wish it.

My own practice sets its long-term goal for its three partners of having a practice that would allow us the flexibility to allow each partner to pursue his/her interests in a supportive way. We then defined what the practice wished to achieve for its patients:

To provide dental care in a relaxed and friendly way, within available resources.

The resources issue meant what the patients could afford, wish and what the practice could deliver within these constraints.

This then sets the direction of travel and we determined that reducing debt was the key goal to allowing flexibility in the future, and so that became a key goal, with the partners drawing less.

Having determined the long-term direction, the plan can be broken down into annual steps.

Annual plan

What is in the five year plan that needs to be addressed this year? Then again, one needs to determine where one is now. In terms of one's professional practice, a personal SWOT may be helpful in determining what goes in the plan.

The following questions can be helpful in determining areas for development.

  • What is the area of my clinical practice I am least confident in?
  • What is the area of my working life I am least confident in?

Dr Richard Eve, 4 in the 1990s, developed the concepts of Patients' Unmet Needs (PUNS). This was when a patient asked for advice and one gave it but was not certain that it was the latest position on the subject. So it might be what one prescribed as an antibiotic for an infection, but was it the best one for the condition? From this he generated Doctors' Education Need (DEN) which could just as easily be Dentist Learning Need. Having established the learning need it can be incorporated into the PDP.

For me, I felt that my root canal therapy was an area that could be improved upon.

What areas could one include in a PDP?

A PDP is a personal document that defines what you wish to learn over a specified period of time, and as such it can contain any learning goal the owner of the PDP wishes to determine.

Educationalists have defined the three components of learning as:

  • Knowledge – the facts;
  • Skills – the application of knowledge in a given situation;
  • Attitudes – how one views situations.

The synthesis of knowledge with experience allows one to make a judgement, which is a critical skill in deciding how best to deal with situations.

The PDP may need to contain these elements.

Having determined what one wishes to learn, the next stage is to formulate this into a series of objectives:

  • What do I wish to learn?
  • How will I learn it?
  • What resources are required to support the learning?
  • How will I know I've learnt it?
  • By when do I hope to achieve this?

Taking the objective and trying to make it a SMART objective is a critical stage in developing an effective PDP:

  • S – Specific;
  • M – Measurable;
  • A – Achievable;
  • R – Realistic;

Improve root filling – this is a very vague aim, an aim being a statement of intent.

An objective must have a measurable outcome so what is the objective?

Root filling: canals sealed with GP, well condensed within 2 mm of the apex .

This is now an objective:

  • Specific?–It states what will be achieved.
  • Measurable? – It defines a measurable result – 2 mm of apex.
  • Achievable? – It should be.
  • Realistic? – Yes.
  • Timed? – Not yet so it needs refining. Objective: By the end of the year I will be able to fill all root canals with GP, well condensed within 2 mm of the apex, 90% of the time .

This final version now defines the timeframe, within 1 year. It also adds a level of realism as it accepts that 100% compliance is unlikely.

Having set the objective, how does one go about achieving it?

Determination of goals

  • What needs to be learnt? – How to get a better result.
  • What is the problem? – Is it a lack of knowledge of techniques? – maybe.
  • Is it a lack of skill? – possibly.
  • Is it a lack of time? – which may relate more to one's attitude to what is acceptable?

So, from these questions, one may determine various learning goals which are all part of the PDP. The analysis of what needs to be learnt and how tends to make learning more effective. It may be that one determines that the solution to the problem is not attending courses, rather tackling the obstacles in practice to obtain the desired result. This may just involve allocating more time to procedures to achieve the desired result, ie achieving the Aim: improved root canal treatment, giving an example of a PDP ( Table 1 ).

The step of demonstrating success is one which can be challenging. If it is thought that if success is not clearly measured, it is less likely to be achieved, then types of measuring techniques need to be adopted:

  • Surveys and 360° feedback;
  • Third party feedback – comments;
  • Peer observation;
  • Validated assessment tools, eg dental foundation assessment.

The GDC has suggested that the domains of revalidation are:

  • Communication;
  • Professional;
  • Management.

One might chose to set one objective in each domain each year. In the first year it might just be that one undertakes surveys or audits in each area to determine the learning priorities for the future.

If all of the stages have been followed, then the PDP is likely to result in improvements in one's working life, which hopefully will make it more satisfying. The other factor that may be critical in success relates to the SMART objectives in the PDP.

It pays to be realistic, ie not setting too many goals in a year is very important to the success of the plan. In general, a few well chosen objectives each year is important. If too many objectives are set which all require a lot of time and effort, then they are less likely to be achieved. So it may be more important to determine which goals will have the greatest benefit and make these the priorities. Having a maximum of six objectives may be wise. One can always cover other objectives the next year, or later in the year, if the main ones are achieved earlier in the year. The plan is personal, so it can contain personal learning goals outside work so as to maintain work/life balance, eg setting goals of attending the gym at least once per week or taking an evening class in a subject that interests you.

Personal development plans and practice development plans.

Whilst a PDP can be something developed in isolation to meet personal goals, there may be benefits if items in it link to practice development plans. The days of practising independently have diminished for most of us. The cost of cross-infection control, technology and patient demands have made it difficult to practise on one's own. If a clinic or practice is to survive, it needs to try and deliver as many services in house so, having a plan to develop the practice is beneficial and may result in different practice members developing complementary skills, and so the practice plan will define who will develop which skills. The individual's PDP will define how that will be done and the outcome measures. Having both practice and personal development plans available for annual appraisal aids the process, as it can give a focus to discussions on successes of the year, obstacles and areas for future development that are agreed by the parties involved.

A well constructed PDP need not take long to develop. It gives a focus and structure to one's professional development and it should clearly define the outcome, uses and SMART objectives to maximize the chances of success. The result is the sense of achievement which benefits both the individual and his/her patients, which hopefully makes for a more enjoyable professional life.

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  • Published: 08 September 2017

Preparing a personal development plan for all members of the dental team

  • W. Maguire 1 &
  • P. Blaylock 2  

British Dental Journal volume  223 ,  pages 402–404 ( 2017 ) Cite this article

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  • Extended skills training in dentistry

Draws attention to upcoming changes to GDC enhanced CPD requiring a personal development plan (PDP) for all members of the dental team.

Explains how to develop a PDP.

Gives examples of objectives to be included within a PDP.

Personal development plans (PDPs) have been a requirement for NHS hospital staff, Foundation Training and Dental Core Training for some years; however, the General Dental Council (GDC) are changing continuing professional development (CPD) requirements in 2018 (enhanced CPD) making a PDP a requirement for all members of the dental team. A PDP consists of objectives for targeting CPD most relevant to your practice or intended practice to undertake over a defined period to maximise the improvement of your professional development. The aim of this article is to explain how to prepare a PDP ahead of the requirement to utilise its benefits in training and performance for the dental team. This article references a template for all members of the dental team to record their PDP.


The General Dental Council (GDC) are changing contining professional development (CPD) requirements in 2018 (enhanced CPD) making a personal development plan a requirement for all members of the dental team. 1

What is a PDP?

'Personal development is a continuous lifelong process of nurturing, shaping and improving skills and knowledge to ensure maximum effectiveness and ongoing employability.' 2 A personal development plan (PDP) records further training objectives, enabling the entire dentally qualified team to optimise the potential benefits of suitable CPD on an individual level for improving performance. This structured framework for recording learning needs which have been identified can then be prioritised concerning actionable objectives for each CPD cycle, and be updated as necessary with regards to providing safe and high-quality dental care in the UK.

Why is this now a requirement?

Personal development plans have been a requirement for NHS hospital staff, Foundation Training and Dental Core Training for some years; however, the General Dental Council are changing Contining Professional Development (CPD) requirements, called the enhanced CPD scheme, starting in 2018. 1 There are some changes for all members of the dental team, such as including increasing the number of verifiable CPD hours over a five-year cycle, having a minimum number of hours every two years, and having a PDP.

The GDC have published work they commissioned regarding how PDPs have the potential to provide a good evidence source in order to support the formative aims of continuing assurance – provided they have clear objectives which are relevant to practice, include an action plan and are focused on professional development. 3 Reliance upon PDP use for a summative process such as revalidation was regarded less positively, due to the reliance on self-reflection and the risk of selecting only positive evidence for inclusion. 3

The GDC have stated registrants will identify their CPD needs using a PDP, which will help to plan learning objectives in accordance with their scope of practice either individually or along with colleagues or indeed employers such as through an appraisal, and taking into account elements of clinical governance such as patient feedback, audit or significant event analysis. 1 The GDC has provided a helpful tool to explain the CPD requirements for individual cycles which can be used online. 4

Developing a PDP

When starting a PDP, dentally qualified professionals should reflect on their learning and current performance to help identify areas for further development, taking into consideration how aspirations of future jobs or clinical roles may require training which could take place sooner as well as their current role within the team. After undertaking a range of planned learning activities, this professional should be able to demonstrate they have achieved this objective with a certificate and reflect on how this training has benefited themselves as well as others. 5 The PDP cycle, shown in Figure 1 , illustrates how this is a continual process of refinement and improvement.

figure 1

The PDP Cycle

When setting goals, it is important that these use the SMART framework: being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. 6 Failing to achieve goals may be due to poor quality planning within a PDP: while there may be some obstacles to overcome the objective should be achievable to the individual. 7 When choosing goals, the dental professional could look at a range of sources to identify strengths and development areas which could include the following:

The GDC's Standards for the dental team document outlines the nine principles dental professionals must keep to at all times 8

Those colleagues in a training programme, such as Foundation Training, should refer to the curriculum in their e-portfolio or guidance documents from Health Education England or Postgraduate Deanery elsewhere in the UK

Qualitative feedback from patients including relevant compliments or complaints, colleagues using tools such as 360-degree feedback assessment and any previous appraisal from employers or educational supervisors

Aspects of practice which are non-clinical such as research, teaching, audits, quality improvement projects, management and leadership. For leadership skills, the dental professional can review the clinical leadership competency framework which is published on behalf of the NHS Leadership Academy and applies to every dental professional at all stages of their professional journey. 9

Each dental professional should organise their goals in order of priority, with essential learning needs being prioritised. The exact number of goals is dependent on the individual's choice, their needs and any resources available. However, more guidance on this from the GDC may be given in due course. It is critical to balance goals which are easy to achieve and those which drive an ambitious dental professional with further aspirations.

Example of objectives

To be able to restore a dental implant following its placement before my next review with my clinical supervisor . I aim to achieve this through attending a certified clinical course, observing experienced colleagues and getting an experienced colleague to supervise me restoring a dental implant with a subsequent workplace based assessment. I will be able to prove this through the certificate of attendance as well as reflections and the workplace based assessment results

To update my knowledge regarding decontamination requirements in dental practice within the next six months . I will undertake a certified training course within that timescale with defined learning objectives, and complete the questionnaire upon completion to obtain a certificate. Reflection on the course outcomes will be included within my PDP to ensure this event is best suited for my clinical practice and if or when a refresher course should be undertaken.

These objectives are explicit to meet defined criteria, with a measurable outcome to identify when the goal has been achieved. These are also achievable for specific dental professionals, with both examples relevant a suitably qualified dentist, however, could be adapted for nursing or other colleagues. A template to follow for recording your PDP has been provided by Health Education England. 10

Carrying out an assortment of CPD activities to achieve specific learning objectives is likely to be more successful than one-off occasions. 11 However, study leave from training or clinical practice is limited in nature due to contractual restrictions, clinical work requirements and the financial considerations involved with attending various events, so dental professionals should examine what they will acquire through attending the event or course which gives verifiable CPD. Each Royal College and dental faculty produce guidance on what courses or activities are suitable for dental specialities and primary dental care.

The various methods of achieving learning objectives include the following:

Attending conferences which can be regional, national or international

Attending suitable courses or events

Completing online learning or in-person training

Completing workplace-based assessments or other forms of clinical assessment

Learning from colleagues through observation, shadowing

Completing log books of clinical work carried out.

To demonstrate that the learning objectives have been achieved, certificates provided by course or training attendance, or other assessment documents as proof of completion should be kept. Once the dental professional has completed the goals set out in their PDP, these should be reflected upon to ascertain how useful the new knowledge or training was, how it can be applied to current or future practice, and to identify potential areas for future development or learning needs. The individual would ideally also reflect upon the method used to achieve these objectives so that it aids future learning decisions. This strategic thinking ensures that time and energy is directed towards learning activities that address the goals or objectives which need to be challenged.

Applying the knowledge obtained from these CPD events can bring positives to the individual such as job satisfaction, boosting self-confidence and potentially appreciation from other dental colleagues and patients. Starting to think about other educational opportunities should be driven by the dental professional motivated to continually improve. PDPs are continuously updated documents, going in the cycle process as described above. The dental profession is constantly advancing regarding new technology, materials and legislation, and it is every dental professional's responsibility to update themselves in areas of new development and avoid becoming complacent. 12 Through gaining more competencies, the individual should also consider whether they would like to progress along another career pathway which is open to them, such as teaching or providing more specialised clinical care.

Every dental professional will need to be aware of the updated requirements from the GDC, which includes having a PDP from 2018. Using this article, each dental professional should start to develop their PDP, encouraging all members of the team to take a proactive approach, and ultimately reminding each other that this document will need to be continuously updated.

The PDP framework will continue to be improved, and dental professionals should be eagerly looking forward to further guidance from the GDC on how this will continue to be developed uniquely for our profession.

General Dental Council. Enhanced CPD. 2017. Available at: https://www.gdc-uk.org/professionals/cpd/enhanced-cpd (accessed July 2017).

Chartered Management Institute. Personal development planning. 2017. Available at: http://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-bank/personal-development-planning (accessed July 2017).

Prescott-Clements L, Driessen E, van der Vleuten C et al. Evaluation of potential supporting evidence for continuing assurance of practice in dental regulation. 2015. Available at: https://www.gdc-uk.org/api/files/Evaluation%20of%20Potential%20Supporting %20Evidence%20for%20Continuing%20Assurance%20of %20Practice%20in%20Dental%20Regulation.pdf (accessed July 2017).

General Dental Council. Enhanced CPD transition tool. 2017. Available at: https://gdc.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ecpdtool (accessed July 2017).

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General Dental Council. Standards for the dental team. 2013. Online information available at https://www.gdc-uk.org/api/files/NEW%20Standards%20for%20the%20Dental%20Team.pdf (accessed July 2017).

NHS Leadership Academy. Clinical leadership competency framework. Coventry: NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, 2011. Available at: http://www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NHSLeadership-Leadership-Framework-Clinical-Leadership-Competency-Framework-CLCF.pdf (accessed July 2017).

Smith M. A guide to personal and professional development planning. Newcastle upon Tyne: Health Education North East, 2014. Available at: https://madeinheene.hee.nhs.uk/Portals/13/PDPguidanceApril14inctemplate.pdf (accessed July 2017).

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Maguire, W., Blaylock, P. Preparing a personal development plan for all members of the dental team. Br Dent J 223 , 402–404 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2017.730

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2017.730

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personal development plan gdc

Dental Nurse Network

Personal Development Planning


Working in a dental practice can be exciting, invigorating and rewarding. At the same time it can be very demanding as there is always a lot going on. The dental industry is one of continual learning – things are always changing, especially in medical terms – so it is vital to keep up. A dental nurse’s role has advanced more than ever in recent years, a dental nurse carries out a wide range of tasks. These include looking after patients, patient reassurance, safety precautions, being at the dentist’s side and preparing and sterilising equipment, the list goes on . In addition, of course, all of these tasks must be performed to very high standard. This is why it is so important to take time to reflect on your role, your tasks, your progress and then evaluate how you can develop yourself professionally.


Completing and utilising a Personal Development Plan (PDP) effectively can help support you on your road to progression and what you really want to achieve. It can give you, as an individual, structure, focusing on quality and accountability, which are significant considerations in terms of future goals not only for the individual, but for a dental practice too. A PDP is a method for identifying your developmental needs and devising the best solutions to achieve this development.

A PDP is part of Clinical Governance – the government requires that all NHS clinicians have and use a PDP. A PDP involves updating, revisiting, stimulating ideas, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and prioritising and planning for your future career.

Many people find the idea of reflecting, evaluating and making plans daunting and overwhelming. A word of advice, go through the process slowly and break it down. It will hugely benefit you if you make and stick to an effective PDP.

A PDP in other words is a ‘plan.’ This ‘plan’ demonstrates commitment to your professional development. It can be useful to break down what you need to learn and what you want to learn. This will encourage you to focus on what you want to achieve through this learning and it will force you to think specifically about how you are going to get to that point. You can create your own learning objectives and your PDP will therefore stands as a evidence of your learning and objectives.

A Personal Development Plan demonstrates to the General Dental Council (GDC) that you are committed to lifelong learning in your professional field. It also provides guidance and goals, in addition, assisting with continual professional development (CPD). A PDP has been defined as ‘a process by which we identify our educational needs, set ourselves some objectives in relation to these, undertake our educational activities and produce evidence that you have learned something useful.’ (Rughani, Franklin & Dickson. Personal Development Plans for Dentists. The new approach to continuing professional development. Oxon: Radcliffe Medical Press, 2003, p. 27)

Since August 2008, it was determined by the GDC that Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) have to complete 50 hours of verifiable CPD (in recommended subject areas) and 100 hours non-verifiable in a five-year cycle. Furthermore, it is now law for dental professionals to take part in CPD. The GDC introduced the CPD scheme to ensure patients the best possible treatment. CPD was put in place to ensure patients receive high quality care. 


A PDP involves identifying your learning needs, it incorporates CPD activity and aims to improve your professional status. This means you can take control of your own learning and future career. The GDC require that you keep CPD records for five-years and you may be selected for audit. The GDC have declared, ‘As a registered dental professional you have a duty to keep our skills and knowledge up to date so you can give patients the best possible treatment and care. Continuing professional development (CPD) is compulsory, but ideally it should just set out a formal framework for what you are already doing.’ (GDC) A PDP is essential for an individual’s professional portfolio as well as requested by the GDC. A PDP will also be useful for job interviews.

Some practical advice

Before you start your PDP it is a good idea to make a spider diagram including the following topics: Learning and educational needs: how you will address these? Outcomes and Evidence: scribble down ideas and many of your first thoughts which surface when thinking about your career and job role. You can refer back to this. It will be useful as a draft and template.

Whilst drawing on your spider diagram it may be useful to reflect on the following:

• What are you good at? • What could you do better? • What do you think you could change to benefit your practice? • Do any patients make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy? • Has a patient asked you something you don’t know the answer to? • Have you ever needed to look anything up? • What issues have been raised in your appraisals? • Does your practice run effectively? The best it can? • What doesn’t run well in practice? • Have there been any significant events in practice? • What are the practice development priorities? How do they affect you?

You might prefer to use a ‘Reflective Model’ which helps you to reflect and focus on something specific using the certain subtitles: Description: what happened? Feelings: what did you think or feel? Evaluation: was it good or bad? Analysis: what sense have you made of today? Conclusions: what else could have been done? Action plan: what will you do now? Gibbs (1988) stated that a Reflective Model will ‘help you reflect and focus on your thoughts today'.

The next stage is to begin your PDP. The key is to construct a simple, clear PDP and this can be achieved through a step by step approach.


SWOT analysis - open a word document, google document or pages document ( or DOWNLOAD one here ) and title it ‘SWOT analysis’. SWOT stands for STRENGHS (for example, team leader, update with CPD, good communication skills, good with elderly patients. This is an opportunity to sell yourself), WEAKNESSES (difficultly finding time for CPD or completing CPD, not recording CPD, lack of knowledge in specific areas. Address your weaknesses to help you overcome them), OPPORTUNITIES ( extended duties , supportive boss and colleagues, taking charge of PDP) and THREATS (new job, limited time, overwhelmed with learning new skills, poor communication with team). This gives you a chance to sit down and analyse your current situation. This can help you to work out your long term goals. You may want to do this with a colleague which may help.

The next part is to open a word document ( or DOWNLOAD one here ) and title it SMARTER GOAL 1, you may have more than one so the following pages you would label SMARTER GOAL 2, SMARTER GOAL 3, etc. This is where you can consider your goals, evaluate them, really think about them and make them smarter. You can identify your goals through appraisal, self-awareness, audit and reflection, etc. An occasion may occur when a patient asks you a question and you do not know the answer to it e.g ’ What are implants made of?' This realisation that you are not sure what to respond might highlight that you need to develop your knowledge on implants. Another example of goal may be to complete a certain number of CPD courses. In you PDP you should specifically state which CPD courses you want to undertake. You do not have to write 50 at once, you can build your PDP gradually.


Once you have determined a goal, you then make it smarter by addressing the following questions:


It is important to break your goals down. How will you achieve your goal? What will mark your success? What resources will you need? Set a date to complete the goal Too. You make these decisions and be as flexible as you want working towards what you want to achieve.

The next section of your PDP needs to be a record of your CPD  ( DOWNLOAD Record sheet here ) . This includes both verifiable and non-verifiable CPD. This is just a case of compiling certificates, recording dates and sources.

Now you need to decide on how you are going to present you PDP and formulate your PDP portfolio. This can also include: your CV, references, appraisals.

Some practices have undergone annual appraisals and PDPs are involved in the final part of these appraisals. PDPs set out some of your planned, future learning. In this case, your appraiser will likely sign your PDP as satisfactory. Changes or suggestions may be given. The following year's appraisal will involve a review of the previous year's PDP.

The important thing to remember is that you must update your PDP constantly. You can change, alter and modify your goals and then you can add new needs as the year progresses. It is all about self-awareness and figuring out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. It is personal, so it is yours to do and decide what you want to do with. Its main aim is to help with your own development and this further benefits the practice and patients.

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How to prepare a personal development plan

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  • Peer review
  • Fiona Tasker , clinical teaching fellow, University of Bristol
  • fionatasker{at}doctors.org.uk

Setting goals and gathering peer support are essential ingredients of a successful personal development plan, says Fiona Tasker

A personal development plan (PDP) will guide all doctors in their career, whatever grade they are at and whether they work in an acute or community setting. 1 PDPs help doctors become more self aware, enabling them to understand how to improve performance and develop new skills. All doctors should engage in this process, as it is now a key component of appraisals and revalidation. 2

A General Medical Council (GMC) survey found that 79% of respondents thought that their continuing professional development activity—of which PDPs are an essential part—over the past five years had helped them to improve the quality of care given to their patients. 3

An overview

When starting a PDP doctors should reflect on their learning and performance so that they can identify their developmental priorities. They should then plan how to deal with these needs for their current role as well as future aspirations. After undertaking a range of planned learning activities doctors must show that they have achieved their goals and reflect on how this benefits them and others. ⇓ 4


Personal development plan (PDP) cycle 4

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Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound (SMART) 5 goals is essential for your PDP as it is thought that low achievement of goals may relate to poor quality PDP planning. 6

Planning goals

When it comes to choosing goals, there are many ways of identifying strengths and development areas:

● Doctors should look at the GMC’s Good Medical Practice framework, which outlines the four domains that all doctors must demonstrate 7

● Those in a training programme should refer to the curriculum in their e-portfolio

● Qualitative feedback from colleagues using tools such as 360 degree assessments; feedback from patients, including details of complaints (if applicable); and feedback from consultants at previous appraisals

● Non-clinical aspects of practice, including audit/quality improvement, research, teaching, management, and leadership. For the leadership skill, review the Clinical Leadership Competency Framework. 8

Doctors should prioritise their goals, starting with essential learning needs. It is important to strike a balance between goals that are easily achievable and high aspirations. The number of goals to set will depend on personal choice and need and the resources available.

Example of objective one: To learn how to do a lumbar puncture by going on a clinical procedures course and watching colleagues perform this procedure. To ask colleagues to supervise me performing a lumbar puncture and then do a workplace based assessment. To complete this skill before my next interim review.

Example of objective two : To keep up to date with clinical practice by reading relevant journals once a week and reflecting on interesting articles in my e-portfolio. To continue to do this at this frequency up to the date of my job interview.

These objectives are well defined so they meet the specific criterion. They are measurable as they state how one will recognise when the goal has been achieved. They are also achievable. Example one is relevant for a doctor training in medicine, and example two is relevant for a doctor preparing for an interview.

A time scale should be set for completion of each goal, although some goals—such as example two—could be ongoing. A review date is important so that the goal can be adapted if necessary. So, in addition to reading journals, a doctor could perform evidence based reviews on relevant topics to keep up to date with clinical practice.

Achieving a goal

A PDP helps plan and show the achievement of continuing professional development. The GMC states that continuing professional development activities should maintain and improve the quality of care doctors give patients and the public and the standards of the teams and the services in which you work. 9

Doing a range of different continuing professional development activities to tackle a particular learning need is likely to be more effective than one-off events. 10 However, study days and study budgets are limited, so doctors should consider what they will gain from attending courses which award continuing professional development points as well as the impact it will have on clinical practice. The royal colleges and faculties provide guidance on the types of activity that would be most appropriate in particular specialties or general practice. 3

Potential ways of achieving goals include:

● Attending courses

● Attending regional/national/international conferences

● Completing e-learning modules

● Attending meetings—that is, multidisciplinary meetings, grand rounds

● Shadowing others

● Completing assessments—that is, workplace based assessments

● Discussions with seniors and colleagues for support and advice

● Learning from peers

● Collaborating with colleagues—that is, working on an audit project

● Completing a logbook of clinical cases/interesting cases.

Achieving objectives

Reflection on learning and performance is a powerful learning tool, with the GMC stating that doctors must reflect on all aspects of their professional work. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has created a guide to aid the documentation on reflection on a variety of activities and events. 11

Most doctors in training programmes will have access to an e-portfolio, which can be used to record reflections. Alternatively, organisations including the royal colleges and faculties, specialist associations, and professional trade bodies may have an online portfolio or similar tools. 9 Methods to show that you have achieved your objectives(s) are:

● Reflection

● Certificates from courses or e-learning modules

● A record of the minutes and summary of learning points from a meeting

● Feedback from colleagues—that is, workplace based assessments, 360 degree assessments, peer group discussions

● Feedback from patients

● Winning awards/prizes

● Being able to perform a new skill/task

● Increased patient satisfaction, improved patient care measured via audit.

Protected time and peer support

A study of 14 general practitioners highlighted the problems in undertaking PDPs. They suggested that while PDPs were valued in principle, protected time is needed to complete them, as well as leadership and facilitation of this process. 12

Newby showed that peer groups are a practicable mechanism for generating PDPs. Participants at workshops reported that it was refreshing to take time out of their pressured working lives to reflect with colleagues on prioritising objectives and discussing how to achieve these. The author outlines factors for successful peer groups and PDPs. These include regular meetings at least every six months, which last two to three hours and have between three and eight participants, all of whom should have individual space to consider requirements. The meetings must be facilitated and structured with agreed “ground rules,” and there must be tangible outputs from the process. 13

Another study showed that a peer led approach opened up mutual conversations that also promoted and enhanced reflective learning. The role of the group facilitator was valued in helping to structure the sessions, and the authors have recommended the wider use of peers and mentors to help deaneries with educational planning. 14

The PDP is an important aspect of a doctor’s professional life and should be planned to meet patients’ needs as well as those of doctors. Doctors should choose goals that motivate them as this will provide the energy and drive to achieve them.

Planning and evaluating learning should be a continual process as circumstances change and plans may need to be modified. The final step is to reflect on how effective the PDP has been and whether there are areas that have not been tackled or have not worked. Reflection must drive learning, and a completed PDP should be a building block for future PDPs.

I thank Tom Roper, Brighton and Sussex Library and Knowledge Service, for the evidence search on personal development planning.

Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have no competing interests.

  • ↵ Bullock K, Jamieson I. The effectiveness of personal development planning. The Curriculum Journal 1998 ; 9 : 63 -77. OpenUrl
  • ↵ General Medical Council. Supporting information for appraisal and revalidation. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/RT___Supporting_information_for_appraisal_and_revalidation___DC5485.pdf_55024594.pdf .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. The GMC’s role in continuing professional development: Annexes. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/static/documents/content/CPD-Annexes.pdf .
  • ↵ Bryson D. The personal development planning cycle. Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine 2011 ; 34 : 177 -82. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Doran GT. There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objective. Management Review 1981 ; 70 : 35 -36. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Etherington C, Smith C, Wadhera M. Top tips on developing your personal development plan. BMJ Learning 2012 . http://learning.bmj.com/learning/module-intro/tips-personal-development-plan-pdp.html?locale=en_GB&moduleId=10037199 .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. The Good medical practice framework for appraisal and revalidation. GMC, 2012 . www.gmc-uk.org/GMP_framework_for_appraisal_and_revalidation.pdf_41326960.pdf .
  • ↵ NHS Leadership Academy. Clinical Leadership Competency Framework. NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. 2011. www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NHSLeadership-Leadership-Framework-Clinical-Leadership-Competency-Framework-CLCF.pdf .
  • ↵ General Medical Council. Continuing professional development: Guidance for all doctors. GMC, 2012. www.gmc-uk.org/Continuing_professional_development___guidance_for_all_doctors_1114.pdf_56438625.pdf .
  • ↵ Pyatt RS, Moore DE, Caldwell SC. Improving outcomes through an innovative continuing medical education partnership. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 1997 ; 17 : 239 -44. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Academy reflective template for revalidation. 2012. www.aomrc.org.uk/doc_view/9556-academy-reflective-template-for-revalidation .
  • ↵ Ramsay R, Pitts P, While R, et al. Factors that helped and hindered undertaking practice professional development plans and personal development plans. Education for Primary Care 2003 ; 14 : 166 -177. OpenUrl
  • ↵ Newby D. Personal development plans: Making them work, making them count. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2003 ; 9 : 5 -10. OpenUrl Abstract / FREE Full Text
  • ↵ Main P, Curtis A, Pitts J, Irish B. A ‘mutually agreed statement of learning’ in general practice trainer appraisal: the place of peer appraisal by experienced course members. Education for Primary Care 2009 ; 20 : 104 -10. OpenUrl

personal development plan gdc

How to Create a Personal Development Plan: 3 Examples

Personal Development Plan

For successful change, it is vital that the client remains engaged, recognizing and identifying with the goals captured inside and outside sessions. A personal development plan (PDP) creates a focus for development while offering a guide for life and future success (Starr, 2021).

This article introduces and explores the value of personal development plans, offering tools, worksheets, and approaches to boost self-reflection and self-improvement.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

This Article Contains

What is personal development 7 theories, coaching in personal development and growth, how to create a personal development plan, 3 examples of personal development plans, defining goals and objectives: 10 tips and tools, fostering personal development skills, 3 inspiring books to read on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message, frequently asked questions.

Personal development is a fundamental concept in psychology and encompasses the lifelong process of self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth. Crucial to coaching and counseling, it aims to enhance various aspects of clients’ lives, including their emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

Several psychological models underpin and support transformation. Together, they help us understand personal development in our clients and the mechanisms and approaches available to make positive life changes (Cox, 2018; Passmore, 2021).

The following psychological theories and frameworks underpin and influence the approach a mental health professional adopts.

1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As a proponent of the humanistic or person-centered approach to helping people, Abraham Maslow (1970) suggested that individuals have a hierarchy of needs. Simply put, they begin with basic physiological and safety needs and progress through psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

Personal development is often found in or recognized by the pursuit of higher-level needs, such as self-esteem and self-actualization (Cox, 2018).

2. Erikson’s psychosocial development

Erik Erikson (1963) mapped out a series of eight psychosocial development stages that individuals go through across their lifespan.

Each one involves challenges and crises that once successfully navigated, contribute to personal growth and identity development.

3. Piaget’s cognitive development

The biologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget (1959) focused on cognitive development in children and how they construct their understanding of the world.

We can draw on insights from Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including intellectual growth and adaptability, to inform our own and others’ personal development (Illeris, 2018).

4. Bandura’s social cognitive theory

Albert Bandura’s (1977) theory highlights the role of social learning and self-efficacy in personal development. It emphasizes that individuals can learn and grow through observation, imitation, and belief in their ability to effect change.

5. Self-determination theory

Ryan and Deci’s (2018) motivational self-determination theory recognizes the importance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in personal development.

Their approach suggests that individuals are more likely to experience growth and wellbeing when such basic psychological needs are met.

6. Positive psychology

Positive psychology , developed by Martin Seligman (2011) and others, focuses on strengths, wellbeing, and the pursuit of happiness.

Seligman’s PERMA model offers a framework for personal development that emphasizes identifying and using our strengths while cultivating positive emotions and experiences (Lomas et al., 2014).

7. Cognitive-Behavioral Theory (CBT)

Developed by Aaron Beck (Beck & Haigh, 2014) and Albert Ellis (2000), CBT explores the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

As such, the theory provides practical techniques for personal development, helping individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors (Beck, 2011).

Theories like the seven mentioned above offer valuable insights into many of the psychological processes underlying personal development. They provide a sound foundation for coaches and counselors to support their clients and help them better understand themselves, their motivations, and the paths they can take to foster positive change in their lives (Cox, 2018).

Coaching in Personal Development

The client–coach relationship is significant to successful growth and goal achievement.

Typically, the coach will focus on the following (Cox, 2018):

  • Actualizing tendency This supports a “universal human motivation resulting in growth, development and autonomy of the individual” (Cox, 2018, p. 53).
  • Building a relationship facilitating change Trust clients to find their own way while displaying empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard . The coach’s “outward responses consistently match their inner feelings towards a client,” and they display a warm acceptance that they are being how they need to be (Passmore, 2021, p. 162).
  • Adopting a positive psychological stance Recognize that the client has the potential and wish to become fully functioning (Cox, 2018).

Effective coaching for personal growth involves adopting and committing to a series of beliefs that remind the coach that the “coachee is responsible for the results they create” (Starr, 2021, p. 18) and help them recognize when they may be avoiding this idea.

The following principles are, therefore, helpful for coaching personal development and growth (Starr, 2021).

  • Stay committed to supporting the client. While initially strong, you may experience factors that reduce your sense of support for the individual’s challenges.
  • Coach nonjudgmentally. Our job is not to adopt a stance based on personal beliefs or judgment of others, but to help our clients form connections between behavior and results.
  • Maintain integrity, openness, and trust. The client must feel safe in your company and freely able to express themselves.
  • Responsibility does not equal blame. Clients who take on blame rather than responsibility will likely feel worse about something without acknowledging their influence on the situation.
  • The client can achieve better results. The client is always capable of doing and achieving more, especially in relation to their goals.
  • Focus on clients’ thoughts and experiences. Collaborative coaching is about supporting the growth and development of the client, getting them to where they want to go.
  • Clients can arrive at perfect solutions. “As a coach, you win when someone else does” (Starr, 2021, p. 34). The solution needs to be the client’s, not yours.
  • Coach as an equal partnership. Explore the way forward together collaboratively rather than from a parental or advisory perspective.

Creating a supportive and nonjudgmental environment helps clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and goals, creating an environment for personal development and flourishing (Passmore, 2021).

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A personal development plan is a powerful document “to create mutual clarity of the aims and focus of a coaching assignment” (Starr, 2021, p. 291). While it is valuable during coaching, it can also capture a client’s way forward once sessions have ended.

Crucially, it should have the following characteristics (Starr, 2021):

  • Short and succinct
  • Providing a quick reference or point of discussion
  • Current and fresh, regularly revised and updated

Key elements of a personal development plan include the following (Starr, 2021):

  • Area of development This is the general skill or competence to be worked on.
  • Development objectives or goals What does the client want to do? Examples might include reducing stress levels, improving diet, or managing work–life balance .
  • Behaviors to develop These comprise what the client will probably do more of when meeting their objectives, for example, practicing better coping mechanisms, eating more healthily, and better managing their day.
  • Actions to create progress What must the client do to action their objectives? For example, arrange a date to meet with their manager, sign up for a fitness class, or meet with a nutritionist.
  • Date to complete or review the objective Capture the dates for completing actions, meeting objectives, and checking progress.

Check out Lindsey Cooper’s excellent video for helpful guidance on action planning within personal development.

We can write and complete personal development plans in many ways. Ultimately, they should meet the needs of the client and leave them with a sense of connection to and ownership of their journey ahead (Starr, 2021).

  • Personal Development Plan – Areas of Development In this PDP , we draw on guidance from Starr (2021) to capture development opportunities and the behaviors and actions needed to achieve them.
  • Personal Development Plan – Opportunities for Development This template combines short- and long-term goal setting with a self-assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and development opportunities.
  • Personal Development Plan – Ideal Self In this PDP template , we focus on our vision of how our ideal self looks and setting goals to get there.
“The setting of a goal becomes the catalyst that drives the remainder of the coaching conversation.”

Passmore, 2021, p. 80

Defining goals and objectives is crucial to many coaching conversations and is usually seen as essential for personal development.

Check out this video on how you can design your life with your personal goals in mind.

The following coaching templates are helpful, containing a series of questions to complete Whitmore’s (2009) GROW model :

  • G stands for Goal : Where do you want to be?
  • R stands for Reality : Where are you right now with this goal?
  • O stands for Options : What are some options for reaching your goal?
  • W stands for Way forward : What is your first step forward?

Goal setting creates both direction and motivation for clients to work toward achieving something and meeting their objectives (Passmore, 2021).

The SMART goal-setting framework is another popular tool inside coaching and elsewhere.

S = Specific M = Measurable A = Attainable/ or Agreed upon R = Realistic T = Timely – allowing enough time for achievement

The SMART+ Goals Worksheet contains a series of prompts and spaces for answers to define goals and capture the steps toward achieving them.

We can summarize the five principles of goal setting (Passmore, 2021) as follows:

  • Goals must be clear and not open to interpretation.
  • Goals should be stretching yet achievable.
  • Clients must buy in to the goal from the outset.
  • Feedback is essential to keep the client on track.
  • Goals should be relatively straightforward. We can break down complex ones into manageable subgoals.

The following insightful articles are also helpful for setting and working toward goals.

  • What Is Goal Setting and How to Do it Well
  • The Science & Psychology of Goal-Setting 101

Fostering Personal Development Skills

1. People skills

Improving how we work with others benefits confidence, and with other’s support, we are more likely to achieve our objectives and goals. The following people skills can all be improved upon:

  • Developing rapport
  • Assertiveness and negotiation
  • Giving and receiving constructive criticism

2. Managing tasks and problem-solving

Inevitably, we encounter challenges on our path to development and growth. Managing our activities and time and solving issues as they surface are paramount.

Here are a few guidelines to help you manage:

  • Organize time and tasks effectively.
  • Learn fundamental problem-solving strategies.
  • Select and apply problem-solving strategies to tackle more complex tasks and challenges.
  • Develop planning skills, including identifying priorities, setting achievable targets, and finding practical solutions.
  • Acquire skills relevant to project management.
  • Familiarize yourself with concepts such as performance indicators and benchmarking.
  • Conduct self-audits to assess and enhance your personal competitiveness.

3. Cultivate confidence in your creative abilities

Confidence energizes our performance. Knowing we can perform creatively encourages us to develop novel solutions and be motivated to transform.

Consider the following:

  • Understand the fundamentals of how the mind works to enhance your thinking skills.
  • Explore a variety of activities to sharpen your creative thinking.
  • Embrace the belief that creativity is not limited to artists and performers but is crucial for problem-solving and task completion.
  • Learn to ignite the spark of creativity that helps generate innovative ideas when needed.
  • Apply creative thinking techniques to enhance your problem-solving and task completion abilities.
  • Recognize the role of creative thinking in finding the right ideas at the right time.

To aid you in building your confidence, we have a whole category of articles focused on Optimism and Mindset . Be sure to browse it for confidence-building inspiration.

With new techniques and technology, our understanding of the human brain continues to evolve. Identifying the vital elements involved in learning and connecting with others offers deep insights into how we function and develop as social beings. We handpicked a small but unique selection of books we believe you will enjoy.

1. The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to the Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching – Julie Starr

The Coaching Manual

This insightful book explores and explains the coaching journey from start to finish.

Starr’s book offers a range of free resources and gives clear guidance to support new and existing coaches in providing practical help to their clients.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – Gay Hendricks

The Big Leap

Delving into the “zone of genius” and the “zone of excellence,” Hendricks examines personal growth and our path to personal success.

This valuable book explores how we eliminate the barriers to reaching our goals that arise from false beliefs and fears.

3. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Brown, a leading expert on shame, vulnerability, and authenticity, examines how we can engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

Use this book to learn how to build courage and compassion and realize the behaviors, skills, and mindset that lead to personal development.

We have many resources available for fostering personal development and supporting client transformation and growth.

Our free resources include:

  • Goal Planning and Achievement Tracker This is a valuable worksheet for capturing and reflecting on weekly goals while tracking emotions that surface.
  • Adopt a Growth Mindset Successful change is often accompanied by replacing a fixed mindset with a growth one .
  • FIRST Framework Questions Understanding a client’s developmental stage can help offer the most appropriate support for a career change.

More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© , but they are described briefly below:

  • Backward Goal Planning

Setting goals can build confidence and the skills for ongoing personal development.

Backward goal planning helps focus on the end goal, prevent procrastination, and decrease stress by ensuring we have enough time to complete each task.

Try out the following four simple steps:

  • Step one – Identify and visualize your end goal.
  • Step two – Reflect on and capture the steps required to reach the goal.
  • Step three – Focus on each step one by one.
  • Step four – Take action and record progress.
  • Boosting Motivation by Celebrating Micro Successes

Celebrating the small successes on our journey toward our goals is motivating and confidence building.

Practice the following:

  • Step one – Reflect momentarily on the goal you are working toward.
  • Step two – Consider each action being taken to reach that goal.
  • Step three – Record the completion of each action as a success.
  • Step four – Choose how to celebrate each success.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others reach their goals, check out this collection of 17 validated motivation & goal achievement tools for practitioners. Use them to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques.

personal development plan gdc

17 Tools To Increase Motivation and Goal Achievement

These 17 Motivation & Goal Achievement Exercises [PDF] contain all you need to help others set meaningful goals, increase self-drive, and experience greater accomplishment and life satisfaction.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

Personal development has a rich and long history. It is underpinned by various psychological theories and remains a vital aspect of creating fulfilling lives inside and outside coaching and counseling.

For many of us, self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth are vital aspects of who we are. Coaching can provide a vehicle to help clients along their journey, supporting their sense of autonomy and confidence and highlighting their potential (Cox, 2018).

Working with clients, therefore, requires an open, honest, and supportive relationship. The coach or counselor must believe the client can achieve better results and view them nonjudgmentally as equal partners.

Personal development plans become essential to that relationship and the overall coaching process. They capture areas for development, skills and behaviors required, and goals and objectives to work toward.

Use this article to recognize theoretical elements from psychology that underpin the process and use the skills, guidance, and worksheets to support personal development in clients, helping them remove obstacles along the way.

Ultimately, personal development is a lifelong process that boosts wellbeing and flourishing and creates a richer, more engaging environment for the individual and those around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free .

Personal development is vital, as it enables individuals to enhance various aspects of their lives, including emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness.

It promotes self-awareness, self-improvement, and personal growth, helping individuals reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives (Passmore, 2021; Starr, 2021).

Personal development is the journey we take to improve ourselves through conscious habits and activities and focusing on the goals that are important to us.

Personal development goals are specific objectives individuals set to improve themselves and their lives. Goals can encompass various areas, such as emotional intelligence, skill development, health, and career advancement, providing direction and motivation for personal growth (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

A personal development plan typically comprises defining the area of development, setting development objectives, identifying behaviors to develop, planning actions for progress, and establishing completion dates. These five stages help individuals clarify their goals and track their progress (Starr, 2021).

  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory . Prentice-Hall.
  • Beck, A. T., & Haigh, E. P. (2014). Advances in cognitive therapy and therapy: The generic cognitive model. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology , 10 , 1–24.
  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond . Guilford Press.
  • Cottrell, S. (2015). Skills for success: Personal development and employability . Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Cox, E. (2018). The complete handbook of coaching . SAGE.
  • Ellis, A. (2000). Can rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) be effectively used with people who have devout beliefs in God and religion? Professional Psychology-Research and Practice , 31 (1), 29–33.
  • Erikson, E. H. (1963). Youth: Change and challenge . Basic Books.
  • Illeris, K. (2018). An overview of the history of learning theory. European Journal of Education , 53 (1), 86–101.
  • Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). Applied positive psychology: Integrated positive practice . SAGE.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personalit y (2nd ed.). Harper & Row.
  • Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2021). The coaches’ handbook: The complete practitioner guide for professional coaches . Routledge.
  • Piaget, J. (1959): The Psychology of intelligence . Routledge.
  • Rose, C. (2018). The personal development group: The students’ guide . Routledge.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness . Guilford Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2011). Authentic happiness using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment . Nicholas Brealey.
  • Starr, J. (2021). The coaching manual: The definitive guide to the process, principles and skills of personal coaching . Harlow: Pearson Education.
  • Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance . Nicholas Brealey.

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Create an Effective Personal Development Plan in 7 Steps [2024]

  • January 5, 2024
  • In Career Development

How To Create A Personal Development Plan

Crafting a personal development plan is a vital step in achieving your goals. Learn how to create a comprehensive plan in 7 steps, including self-assessment, goal setting, identifying development areas, creating an action plan, tracking progress, seeking feedback and support, and reflecting and adapting for continuous growth and improvement.

Table of contents

What is a personal development plan?

Who needs a personal development plan, 7 steps to create a personal development plan, step 1: self-assessment, step 2: set clear goals, step 3: identify development areas, step 4: create an action plan, step 5: implement and track progress, step 6: seek feedback and support, step 7: reflect and adapt, faq: personal development plan.

A personal development plan (PDP) is an action plan that individuals can use to identify their individual goals, strengths, weaknesses , areas for improvement, and the necessary steps to achieve their goals. It is a method of focusing one’s goals into achievable steps, which helps in tracking personal development.

The plan can be aimed at education, career, personal goals, or a combination of these. It provides a clear sense of focus, helps in mapping out a path towards goals, strategizing a plan to achieve them, recording actionable steps, and setting a timeframe for completing them.

The process involves identifying strengths, setting realistic goals, planning the necessary resources and time, and taking action to work on the goals that have been set. 

Effective Personal Development Plan

A personal development plan can be beneficial for a wide range of individuals, including employees, professionals, students, and anyone seeking to enhance their personal and professional growth. Here’s a breakdown of who can benefit from a personal development plan:

  • Employees : Employees can use personal development plans to identify areas for improvement, set career goals, and enhance their skills . Supervisors and employees often work together to complete the development plan, but employees are ultimately responsible for taking the initiative for their professional development.
  • Professionals : Professionals in various fields can utilize personal development plans to identify strengths and weaknesses, set career objectives, and enhance their leadership and personal skills through activities such as formal training, 360-degree feedback, mentoring, and coaching.
  • Students : Students can benefit from personal development plans to set academic and personal growth goals, identify areas for improvement, and develop skills that will be valuable in their future careers.
  • Individuals seeking personal growth : Anyone interested in self-improvement , self-awareness, and achieving personal goals can use a personal development plan to focus on their internal state, identify their values and beliefs, and work on weaknesses while playing to their strengths.

Creating an effective personal development plan is crucial for anyone looking to grow and improve themselves. Here are 7 key steps to consider when creating your personal development plan:

Identify your strengths, areas for improvement, opportunities, and challenges. What do you want to achieve in the short term and long term? This self-evaluation will assist you in recognizing areas for growth and establishing achievable objectives.

  • Strengths: These are the positive attributes, skills, and qualities that you possess. They could include leadership abilities, communication skills, creativity, adaptability, or specific technical expertise.
  • Weaknesses: These are areas where you may need improvement or where you feel less confident. They could encompass skills gaps, emotional intelligence, time management, public speaking, or any other aspect of personal or professional life that you perceive as a challenge.
  • Opportunities: These are external factors or situations that could be leveraged to your advantage. They could be career advancement opportunities, chances to learn new skills, networking prospects, or positive trends in your industry or personal life.
  • Threats: These are external factors that could potentially hinder your progress or success. They might include economic downturns, industry shifts, personal obstacles, or anything else that poses a risk to your goals and well-being.

This self-assessment lays the foundation for identifying areas for improvement and setting realistic, achievable goals. It provides a clear understanding of where you currently stand and what you aspire to achieve, enabling you to create a targeted personal development plan that aligns with your ambitions and potential for growth.

Once you have a good understanding of where you stand, it’s time to set clear, achievable goals. These goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Whether it’s improving your skills, advancing in your career, or enhancing your personal relationships, having clear goals will keep you focused and motivated.

  • Short-term and long-term goals: Short-term goals typically cover a period of 1-2 years, while long-term goals extend to 3-5 years or beyond. Short-term goals could include acquiring a new certification, improving time management, or enhancing a specific skill. Long-term goals could involve career advancement, starting a business, or achieving a significant personal milestone.

Based on your self-assessment and goals, identify the areas where you need to develop. This could be acquiring new skills, improving emotional intelligence , enhancing leadership abilities, or simply working on your personal well-being. Be honest with yourself and prioritize the areas that will have the most impact on your overall growth.

  • Acquiring new skills : Identify specific skills that are crucial for your short-term and long-term goals, such as project management, public speaking, or leadership training.
  • Improving emotional intelligence (EQ) : Enhancing emotional intelligence can significantly impact personal and professional relationships, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. This includes developing skills in self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and social skills.
  • Enhancing leadership abilities : If your long-term goals involve attaining a leadership position, focus on developing leadership qualities, decision-making skills, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.
  • Working on personal well-being : Achieving a better work-life balance, reducing stress, and enhancing overall well-being can contribute to your personal development and long-term success.

Once you know what you want to achieve and the areas you need to develop, create an action plan. Break down your goals into smaller, actionable steps and set deadlines for each. Identify resources, courses, mentors, or support systems that can help you along the way.

  • Determine your objectives : Clearly define what you want to achieve and the areas you need to develop. This could be related to personal growth, career advancement, skill enhancement, or any other aspect of your life that you want to improve.
  • Break goals into smaller steps : Once you’ve identified your objectives, break them down into smaller, manageable steps. This makes your goals more achievable and helps you track your progress more effectively.
  • Set deadlines : Assign realistic deadlines to each of the smaller steps. This creates a sense of urgency and aids in maintaining your focus.

By following these steps, you can create a comprehensive action plan that will guide you toward achieving your objectives while providing a clear roadmap for your personal and professional development.

 Set aside time to work on your development goals, and regularly review your plan to ensure you’re on track. Be flexible and open to modifying your plan as necessary.

  • Put your plan into action : Allocate dedicated time to work on your development goals. Regularly working on your action plan is essential for making tangible progress.
  • Regularly review your plan : Set aside time to review your action plan regularly. This allows you to assess your progress, identify any challenges, and make adjustments as needed.
  • Be flexible and willing to adjust : Flexibility is key. Be open to making adjustments to your plan as required. Circumstances may change, and being adaptable allows you to refine your approach and stay focused on achieving your objectives.

With these steps, you can effectively put your plan into action, monitor your progress, and make necessary adjustments to ensure you stay on track toward achieving your personal and professional development goals.

Seeking feedback and support from mentors, colleagues, or friends is crucial for personal and professional growth. Their perspectives can offer valuable insights, help individuals stay accountable, and provide guidance in setting and achieving goals. Mentors, in particular, play a significant role in encouraging and enabling another person’s professional or personal development by helping them focus their efforts and set goals

Reflecting on your progress, celebrating achievements, learning from setbacks, and using this reflection to adapt your plan and make necessary changes are essential components of a successful personal development journey. This dynamic approach ensures that you stay aligned with your evolving goals and aspirations, and it empowers you to make continuous progress.

Additionally, learning from setbacks and failures is crucial for growth. By reflecting on what went wrong, what could have been done differently, and what can be learned from the experience, you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Q: Why is personal development important?

A: Personal development is important because it allows individuals to assess their own personal qualities and skills. It helps them set goals, improve themselves, and reach their full potential .

Q: How can I create a personal development plan?

A: Creating a personal development plan involves self-reflection and improvement. It is a written account that doubles as a detailed action plan used to fulfill academic, personal, or career-based goals. It helps individuals establish their aims, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and identify areas for improvement .

Q: What are some common questions to consider when creating a personal development plan?

A: When creating a personal development plan, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my goals and aspirations?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What skills do I need to develop?
  • What steps can I take to achieve my goals?
  • How will I measure my progress?
  • What resources or support do I need?
  • How will I stay motivated and accountable?
  • How will I overcome obstacles or challenges?
  • How will I celebrate my achievements?  

These questions can help guide your thinking and planning process.

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