Personal Development: Why and How

Personal Development Why and How

Synergy! Wellness! New Normal! Outside the box! Is anyone else sick of buzzwords like these? I might as well add one more: personal development. The only difference is that I’m not sick of personal development. It is probably one of the greatest things in the world. Exaggerated? Maybe. Gospel related? Definitely.

Our Church believes very strongly in personal development. That’s a good thing because personal development is a good thing. It has a very simple definition. All it means is to improve yourself (Psst. We call this repentance. Don’t tell anyone). Simple enough. The trick isn’t in knowing what it is, though. The trick is in knowing why and how to do it. In this, the Gospel gives us ample information that we can couple with secular sources for optimal (buzzword) results.

The Why of Personal Development

The Gospel’s Response:

We all remember the Parable of the Talents in Mathew 25. Each servant (us) is given a specific number of talents. For us, this means we are each given a different number and quality of talents. That shouldn’t make us feel too good about ourselves because we are commanded to develop them. If we don’t, we lose them, or worse… (gulp).

The Church actually has a manual for Priesthood holders that has an entire section on personal development. In it, I found a passage that said, ” We should use these gifts to serve others and to bring joy to our lives.” Thus we see that joy, or the pure happiness of the soul, comes from personal development. Luckily, we can also extend this joy to others through service.

Two Men Smiling while skydiving

Not only should we develop ourselves to serve others, but to share the gospel as well. Our talents may give us a receptive audience to which we may preach the joyful message. That was the case for one ballerina from Arizona. Who knows what doors our enhanced abilities will open?

Aside from all of that, personal development is directly in line with the Lord’s work and His glory (Moses 1:39). His entire plan seeks to make us more than we were at present. When we undertake to become better, we do exactly what He wants us to do. We just need to seek to actually be better and not just different than we are right now.

The Secular Response:

A man at a personal development seminarOne of the best reasons I found for why we engage in personal development was on a site called SkillsYouNeed. It says: “Personal development is a lifelong process. It is a way for people to assess their skills and qualities, consider their aims in life and set goals in order to realize and maximize their potential.” It is all about reaching our potential. Personal Development is life architecture. We are building us.

Personal development is also very important because it shapes our attitudes. From, we learn that “ what you become is far more important than what you get.” This changes the way we work, magnify our callings, parent, and everything else. Everything then becomes an exercise in steady improvement. We can realize that life is about growing. That way “being perfect” isn’t as important as consistently getting better.

Thanks to this knowledge of why we should work on personal development we can prioritize better. We still need some boots-on-the-ground ways to actually do it, though.

The How of Personal Development

The Gospel Response

Here are a few conceptual methods of achieving personal development. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it gives you some actionable items to do.

“A goal is something we desire to achieve. In our premortal life, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we learned that this life was to be a time to progress toward becoming like our Heavenly Father. This progress should be our primary goal in life. To reach that goal we need to set and achieve secondary goals. Setting such goals will also help us live a full and abundant life.”

-Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual For Priesthood Holders, Part B, Lesson 17: Personal and Family Goals 

Goals are one of the first steps to personal development. You have to have a destination to arrive anywhere. Goals are almost the most important thing you could consider. The only things that might be more important than goals are plans and their execution. We are, after all, working for actual change. With any goals you make, be sure to couple them with a plan or two, and couple that with even more execution. Never hesitate to do.

Letters that Spell GoalsIn that same Priesthood Manual, there is a section about self-mastery that says “Entering into the narrow way requires self-restraint and self-denial.” This is a key principle of personal development. There is going to be some sacrifice. I mean that we will have to give some stuff up. It is part of the natural laws of God’s Kingdom. We can’t have both light and dark. If we want light, we have to give up the dark. 

Before you can set goals, or give up anything, you really need to know yourself. This isn’t self-discovery as much as it is brutal honesty. We hide so many things from ourselves. When we examine ourselves with an honest eye, we understand our natural tendencies and know who we really are. With self-knowledge, we can set realistic goals that will challenge and stretch us.

The Nitty Gritty

Now that we have some principles with which to pursue personal development, let’s look at some actual tangible resources. These will be all practical, non-conceptual, aids to engaging in personal development.

With these tools, I’ve mostly put things that I have personally tested. As you read them, make a list of ones that I haven’t mentioned. Add them to the comments at the bottom of this page. Feel free to share, other people might need a tool you have in mind.


Duolingo OwlDuolingo — This app is great for anyone trying to learn a foreign language. It has gamified the linguistic process. Taking five to twenty minutes a day, you can learn new words, build up an understanding of syntax, and start speaking. They even have chat bots for select languages. It is also FREE! App — This is a great app for learning certain new skills and or habits. I tried the ab workout habit, and it gave me a different ab exercise every day. There are so many types of skills or habits you can choose and once you do it, you mark it off and it keeps track. It’s actually kind of fun. It also lets you connect with the community they’ve built. Oh, and this one’s also free!

Productive Habits and Daily Tasks Tracker AppProductive Habits & Daily Goals Tracker — This is an excellent app for creating good habits. You simply write the habit you want to do, mark when you want to do it and off you go. It will send you reminders to help you stay on track. At the end of the day, you swipe if you’ve done it and it allows you to look back and see your progress. Super simple, and what? Free? What a great thing!

Mint AppMint — This one is good for your finances. It allows you to link all of your financial accounts to one platform. That means you can go to one place to see your numbers. You can also set up a budget and bill reminders all through Mint. It’s a pretty good place to try to get your wallet in tip top shape. It’s also free.

Mindlboom —This is actually a family of apps. They are each designed to gameify a part of your life. From doing challenges that improve your life to turning your life into a digital plant, these apps are interesting ways to work on yourself. I haven’t tried these out myself, but they seem interesting and very user-friendly.


Extreme Ownership, How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif BabinExtreme Ownership — This is maybe one of my favorite books ever. These are leadership lessons from Navy Seals. Everyone will need to lead at some point in life. Whether in combat or at home, the leadership principles are the same. I recommend listening to this book. You get the full intensity of the Navy Seals authors as they read it to you.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People  — This is one of the most popular personal development books out there. These are timeless principles on how to deal with people in any situation. While I read this, I thought of instances when Christ exemplified these principles. I would recommend this book to anyone who has to interact with people… So everyone.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey7 Habits of Highly Effective People — This last one was actually written by a Mormon! The book teaches excellent principles on how to be a good person. On of my favorite parts is when he quotes a prophet! This book helped me put my life in order when I got home from my mission. Need help prioritizing? Read this book!

More —There are billions of books, so go read ’em.


Optimal Living Daily PodcastOptimal Living Daily — This is actually a family of podcasts. They narrate different blog posts on subjects ranging from health, finance, relationships, business, and living well. Each episode goes about ten minutes long and every episode is so good. I love this podcast so much. It really gives me that gold nugget of wisdom I need every day.

Art of Manliness PodcastArt of Manliness — This guy is Mormon too! This podcast is about all sorts of different topics. It may be called Art of Manliness but it talks about important things for all listeners. He often interviews successful people teasing out their bits of experience. It is just good content that has good messages. I love what this podcast stands for. It teaches me and inspires me to be better.


UdemyUdemy — This is an excellent website that allows you to further your education without going back to school. They offer all sorts of cheap online courses. I saw a course on quantum physics for just $10. Everything! It is a time effective and cost effective way to really reach your potential.

Ted Talks: Ideas Worth SpreadingTed Talks — This is a collection of speeches by thought leaders about various topics. They have almost anything of which you could think. It really is an excellent place to learn all of those trivia facts that win Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It is a great way to get inspired and to learn something.

Certainly, this wasn’t a fully comprehensive list of all things personal development. It’s just the start. I’d love to hear what works for you. You have the why and the how. There’s only one thing more for you to do.

Go and Do

I love personal development. If you have doubts about it, take five minutes to look at your own progress as a person through the last few years. Think of how much you’ve grown. I hope you are smiling right now. You should be because if you’ve been living and breathing, you’ve been growing. How do I know that? Because the Lord has told us He’d “lead [us] by the hand” (D&C 112:10). He’ll get us there.

So now, all you gotta do is go and do. Here I’ve given you a bunch of tools. You gotta take them and make yourself amazing. You’ve got potential. Reach it (again sorry for the buzzwords). By using these tools, and others like them, you will have a more abundant life. You will feel the stirrings of eternity. You’ll be doing what the Lord wants you to and what you were made to do.

Thanks for reading this article. Please share it with anyone who is looking for a little bit of direction. Also comment below. I’d love to hear your success stories. God Bless.

Justin Lewis, a lifetime member of the Church, is a current BYU student studying marketing and Italian. He is also a part-time content writer at, and works at Holdman Stained Glass Studios. He aspires to produce his own podcasts and invest in real estate.