Personal Development Stages

thumbnails-butterflyPersonal Development

The things people find motivating are linked to where they are in terms of their personal development. People who are just starting out in their careers, in their early 20’s, might be more motivated by recognition then someone who is much older. This is a generalisation of course there are many factors that effect personal development, which makes a correlation between age and development  tenative at best. However, understanding where you are in terms of personal development can be a useful tool.

Needs Development Models.

There are several development models but probably the most famous is the one put forward by A. Maslow. Maslow’s model suggestions that there are 6 levels of development that people move through as they grow up and develop. (Originally he proposed 5 levels which then increased to 8. He died before fully expanding upon the self-transcendence).

The 6 levels are listed below To add further clarity below split into deficiency needs and growth needs. Deficiency needs are focused on gaining things we need to survive and feel good about ourselves. Whereas growth needs relate to fulfillment of our full potential.

Deficiency needs

1. Survival level – need for food, water etc

2. Safety/security – includes shelter, safe environment, laws, freedom from fear etc

3. Relationships – need for a sense of belonging, friendship, love and connection.

4. Self-esteem – focused on building skills, individualisation. Includes need for recognition, mastery etc

Growth Needs

5. Self-actualisation – focused on self-fulfillment. Seeks personal growth and peak experiences. Here the personal has gone beyond conforming to social norms and has developed an understanding of their true selves. This stage is characterised by: acceptance of self flaws and all, ability to see things as they are, persistent appreciation of life, others and nature, experience “peak experiences” such as moments of bliss, harmony and a deep sense of purpose.

6. Self -transcendence needs – This stage is characterised by thoughts which could be described as spiritual in nature. Self-transcenders have moved beyond self-interest and recognise the unity of life. Their life is focused on helping others not in order to self-actualise or maintain self-esteem but because they realise that separation is an illusion.

Early research into this model and similar models suggests that 1 – 2 % of the research population had reached the self-actualised level.



attention-here Action:

What level of the model do you think you have reached?

Here are some questions to help you think through which level of development you are currently at:

What made you really happy in the last 2 months? Write a list of at least 20 things.

Describe 10 situations that have made you really angry in the last month?

Take a look at each item on your list and think about which one of the needs the item relates to?



Moving to the Next Levelthumbnail-plant

While our current development level relates to what motivates us, how well the previous levels have been navigated can also influence our motivations.

Movement from one level to the next is typically achieved through the natural process of maturation. At each level what we are learning is that we are able to fulfill the needs associated with that level. For example our need for safety, shelter etc do not go away but we learn how to fulfill those needs.

If the navigation from one level to the next has not gone smoothly it is possible to pick up limiting beliefs about your abilities to fulfill a particular need. These limiting beliefs can undermine the movement to next level. Understanding our motives and the reactions we have to unmet needs provides valuable information. Once we have identified the limiting beliefs we can replace them with more purposeful ideas.



Do you notice fear based reactions that are rooted in older levels of development in yourself?



Changing Limiting Beliefs

Two steps to changing limiting beliefs:

  1. Spotting the belief.
  2. Challenging and changing the thought/belief.


Spotting the Belief

Limiting beliefs are often those that have been learnt in our formative years. Back in week 1 we covered the automatic mode or what the elephant knows, limiting beliefs are very much in the remit of the elephant. This can make them difficult to spot.

Here are a few techniques for uncovering misconceptions or outdated beliefs:

  1. Using mindfulness to watch your thoughts. Mindfulness helps us slow down our thinking so we can observe our thoughts more easily and avoid moving to judgement. The process of watching our thoughts can reveal patterns of thinking. For example, if we frequently find our selves thinking that we can’t manage time well, then this is something we can explore to discover where the idea originates. We can then go on to change it.
  2. Listen for common phrases you use. For example, “it’s a nightmare” “it’s just so annoying.” Sometimes these are just throw away lines or habits but often they can give us clues about how we perceive our reality. Here is a link to 15 common thought distortions These are based on Aron Beck’s work on cognitive behavioural therapy. While these maybe used as part of a therapy session they can also provide clues to limiting beliefs or thought habits that should be challenged.
  3. What makes you angry? The things that bother you about other people or events can sometimes give you clues about beliefs that no longer serve you. When you find yourself annoyed by something dig down to find the source. Ask yourself a series of why questions followed by “what will happen if..”

For example :

On getting stuck in traffic the rationale might go something like this:

Why are you angry about the traffic? (This might seem like a pointless question everyone finds traffic annoying right? But detailing out the whys and wherefores can be enlightening.)

It’s annoying because I am going to be late.

What will happen if you are late?

I will miss the meeting.

What will happen if you miss the meeting?

The other team members will give me the worst jobs to do?

What will happen then?

I might be bored?

What will happen if you are bored? …

By digging down you can uncover ideas or beliefs that need to be challenged. For example, does the team really only assign tasks fairly if you are present? If that’s true what can you do about it?

Challenging and Changing Thoughts/Beliefs

Some beliefs we have are just habits and can be replaced by challenging their validity and replacing them with a more purposeful thoughts/beliefs. For example we can challenge a fixed mindset by reminding ourselves that we can achieve our goals with enough practice.

For beliefs that are more deeply rooted we might need to take some remedial action. For example, if we believe our time management skills are lacking we might look up strategies for managing our time better and practice them until we feel confident that we have mastered time management.

Changing “what the elephant knows” is often not a one shot deal it takes time and vigilance to spot and continually replace outmoded beliefs.





Think of ways you might use this information on unmet needs to support your development.