In 2003, I have had the privilege of attending Dr. John C. Maxwell’s conference in Manila, Philippines because I was part of the event hosts’ production staff (being a volunteer sound engineer for an event has its benefits.) While listening to him teach, I realized that I have been practicing the lessons that he was teaching, albeit in an unstructured way. Since then, I’ve read his books, listened to his teachings on audio and continuously learned from him. And I’m a big fan of continuous professional and personal development.
Throughout the years I have developed a personal growth plan that focused more on the mental and spiritual aspects of life. Having been raised in a Christian family, the focus was more on developing and growing the spiritual aspect. And since I love reading books, the natural inclination for me was to grow the mental aspect as well. But in order to reach our full potential, it is important to have a well-rounded, balanced personal growth plan that addresses the four major aspects of life, something that I took from Dr. Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Throughout the years, my personal growth plan has evolved to cover all four:
- Physical. I’m not a physically active person and am not into sports. When I was a kid, I suffered from a lung infection that prevented me from getting into sports. As I grew up, I became workaholic and very self-driven. This accounts for countless sleepless nights and skipping meals. This went on until I realized that the only one responsible for my physical well-being is myself. A few years ago, I started adding the physical aspect in my personal growth plan which included the following:
- Exercise. I didn’t go into a gym and enrolled in a physical fitness program. Instead, I became intentional about what I do everyday. I took the public transport to and from work so that I get forced to walk several blocks away from our house to get to the bus stop. If the weather permits, I take bike rides and long walks while listening to audio books. I help my wife clean the house and do manual labor to get my body moving. And as somebody who works with computers everyday, I make it a point to avoid prolonged sitting.
- Rest. Didn’t I say I’m a workaholic? What I did was to start implementing timeouts. I forced myself to quit working during weekends and specific times of the day. I sleep an average of 7 hours a day and intentionally disconnecting on a regular basis – no phones, computers, tablets, Internet, and anything that has to do with my work. I practice the Sabbath by avoiding activities that are directly related to work.
- Balanced meals. I stopped skipping meals and eating in front of the computer during lunch breaks. I’m blessed with a wonderful wife that’s awesome at cooking at baking and so I avoid fast food as much as I can. My special meal requests include vegetables and fruits that kids won’t even think of eating (bitter melon happens to be my favourite). Recently, I’ve reduced my consumption of white rice, something that I’ve struggled with throughout the years because it is what I’ve considered my staple food.
Adding the physical aspect in my personal growth plan has helped me become more aware of my physical well-being. I constantly remind myself that the small investments that I make in myself is more than enough to avoid the medical bills in the future.
- Social/Emotional. I’m an introvert and have struggled with interacting with people as I was growing up. I think that’s one of the main reasons that I love reading books and playing the piano – both activities don’t require human interaction. As I took stock of my gifts and talents and, realizing that I was a teacher, I made a conscious choice to develop the social aspect in my life. I also realized that my productivity and performance is directly affected by the health of my social and emotional life. Here are key areas that I work on to develop these areas.
- Family and Friends. I make it a point to express myself to my family daily – affirming my love for my wife and kids, teaching and modelling valuable lessons, and enjoying quality time together. I reach out to old and current friends and acquaintances by sending personal emails and giving them a call. I even use social media to connect with family and friends and engage in meaningful dialogues.
- Communication. I constantly try to improve my communication skills because I believe that part of leadership development is the ability to communicate effectively. Whether you’re sharing your ideas, leading a team or engaging a family member, effective communication is key to making an impact.
- Community. My active involvement in the Microsoft technical communities has given me an opportunity to give. I try to find ways to help others in ways that I can – whether by teaching somebody how to learn a new skill or volunteering to clean up a new apartment where my friends would be moving in. We’re wired to be a part of a community so it makes sense for us to make it a better place.
- Mental. As I said, this comes naturally for me. In fact, I would trade a new gadget with a book anytime. I remember saving my meal allowance in high school to buy my very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book. My office is filled with books that I read on a regular basis and use as a reference for my presentations. I’ve broken down the list of categories that I constantly read about in different formats – books, blog posts, articles, videos, Twitter and Facebook posts.
- Spiritual. Bible, inspirational, self-help and personal development.
- Leadership and business. Timeless principles and new trends that shape today’s leadership landscape (that’s why I’m a big fan of Michael Hyatt and John Maxwell.) These days, I’ve been reading a lot about marketing and how the Bible can be the greatest marketing handbook of all time.
- Computers. It’s my bread-and-butter so I need to constantly keep up with the technologies and how to solve business challenges using technologies.
- Spiritual. We are spiritual beings and we need to take care of our spiritual life the same way we take care of our bodies. I’ve seen great leaders whose achievements have been influenced by their spiritual beliefs. In fact, a Wall Street Journal article has been published about financial advisors talking to clients about their religious beliefs. Taking care of my spiritual life has been a priority for me, having been raised in a Christian family. Here are some of the things that I have in my personal growth plan.
- Bible reading. The greatest book that was ever written and has a solution for every challenge that we face in life. It’s not just for hearing a great story about a child defeating a giant but also for creating a strategic marketing and sales plan for your organization. I have the YouVerse application on my iPad and iPhone and downloaded reading plans that I go thru every morning.
- Prayer. It’s my way of being connected with God. Sometimes it’s formal, often times it isn’t. A quick way of saying thank you or asking for guidance throughout the day is my personal preference because it keeps me aware of the fact that He is always with me.
A personal growth plan has helped me get to where I am right now and has kept me on track when I felt like going astray. Mine has evolved thru the years as my values have been clearly defined.
How does your personal growth plan look like? I’d like to hear from you.