Both are crucial to your success, but what’s the real difference and where should you start with each?

Let’s first break them down:

Personal Development is focused on improving mental and social skills. It may include aspects of psychology and emotional wellbeing. The focus is on developing the quality of your thoughts, feelings and actions that help you achieve personal goals.

These skills are especially useful in social environments when interacting with other people. These are often called ‘soft skills’ but the term ‘essential skills’ is much more fitting.


“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.” ―Denis Waitley


Professional Development
on the other hand is focused on improving the knowledge and skills that improve your potential in your work environment. These are the skills that make you more efficient and effective at your job.

Done with the right intention and you can build your reputation, integrity and gain new roles and responsibilities. You can work towards a promotion or get yourself a pay raise. Alternatively, if you are already the boss, professional development is simply going to improve your business potential.


“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere” – Chinese Proverb

Naturally, there is going to be some crossover between the two, but usually aspects of personal development will have a greater impact on your professional work than the other way around.

What are Examples of Personal and Professional development?

Personal Development Professional Development
Emotional Wellbeing Management Training
Health and fitness Skill-based training
Communication Internal Assessment
Motivation Conflict Resolution
Spirituality Online Education
Self-belief Networking
Journaling Research


Which Type of Development is More Important?

Personal development is the foundation for everything that follows. If you focus on developing the core aspects of yourself first, you can actually move forward professionally faster and with greater ease. This is because personal development is where core habits of success are first formed.

Consider this quote by famed author and speaker; Brian Tracy:


“Personal development is a major time-saver. The better you become, the less time it takes you to achieve your goals.”

Remember, it’s impossible to help others until you’ve helped yourself. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know you are meant to put on your own oxygen mask first.

Soon enough you can work on both personal and professional development at the same time and reap new benefits in both. But, there are no quick-fixes. Your growth and development is a continuous cycle of reflection and self-improvement. It never ends and that is the whole point.

When we recognise there is always more to learn, we stay grounded, more open to new ideas and better able to manage greater challenges in life.

Personal development: Where to start?

Your mindset is arguably the first area to focus on. This is because it’s not the events in our lives that shape who we are, but how we interpret and react to them.

If you can view everything in life happening for you and not to you, you have begun a fundamental shift in your thinking. Life’s challenges become life’s opportunities and new possibilities in life will open up to you.

There are many resources availble, including books, videos and online courses that can get you started in your personal development journey. Personally, I’m in love with reading and my own book collection grows almost every week. Take a trip to your local book store and you are sure to find amazing value in the world’s most impactful books.

Top 5 books for personal development:

The School of GreatnessLewis howes
Joy on DemandChade Meng Tan
The Go-giverBob Burg
Daring GreatlyBrené Brown
GritAngela Duckworth

Professional development: Where to start?

Of course, your best starting point likely depends on your profession. If it involves speaking to people such as sales or media, you will want to focus on developing your communication skills. If your job is more technical, focus on getting more hands-on training.

Regardless of your profession, always aim to become excellent at what you do. Having your own high standards for your work will always reflect well on you. Going beyond expectations is one of the best ways to stand out in any organisation.

Next, look for networking opportunities whether in your own company or outside in your wider industry. Join local groups and meet-ups today. There are bound to be numerous events where you can share your views and demonstrate your value to others.

Lastly, seek out a mentor. There doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. Just someone who has the experience and qualities you aspire to. Try asking to take them for a coffee and prepare some genuine questions.

But remember, mentorship is meant to be a two-way relationship so consider how you can provide value to them too through your own ideas,  friendship and connections. If you can’t find a mentor (or even if you can) look for role-models instead (see below).

Top 5 books for Professional Development:

Rich Dad, Poor DadRobert Kiyosaki
Never Eat AloneKeith Ferrazzi
5 Stars – Carmine Gallo
Leadershift John C. Maxwell
CaptivateVanessa Van Edwards

Top 3 Role-models for personal and professional development:

Marie Forleo: Named by oprah as a thought leader for the next generation, Marie Forleo is on a mission to help you succeed in life and in business.

Ed Mylett: Ed Mylett is one of the top business leaders and peak performance experts in the world today. The Mylett Show brings to you the great motivational, entrepreneur, thought leaders, CEO’s, around!

Lewis Howes: Lewis Howes is an American author and entrepreneur. He hosts The School of Greatness, a talk show distributed as a podcast.

Looking to further your development journey?

If you are looking to begin or further your journey into personal and professional development, there is no better time to start than today. Taking that first step is so important or else you won’t know how far you can go.

Try digging into some of the resources above and you might just open new doors, achieve career goals and create momentum for a better life for yourself and others.