Skip main navigation

What is the personal development planning process?

You may have heard the phrase ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’ Personal development planning is no different.
© STEM Learning

You may have heard the phrase ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’, well personal development planning is no different. In fact, it’s a process that can help you to achieve your goals in three key areas:

The three key areas

  • Your volunteering
  • Your career
  • Your personal life


Personal development planning involves five stages, easily remembered with the SOARS acronym:

  1. Select the key areas for development. This will involve understanding your strengths and areas for development and what is realistic and achievable in your volunteering, career and personal life.
  2. Objectives – define objectives based on key areas for development. Make sure these are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound). This will depend on a number of factors – time you have available, money and other resources to achieve the goals. Your circumstances may change and you will need to review your objectives.
  3. Action – carry out the objectives. Sometimes these are series of smaller objectives you’ve set yourself towards a bigger goal. Be aware of any new skills that you’re picking up along the way.
  4. Record your progress on a Personal Development Plan. We have produced an example to help you in the next step. This should be a dynamic document which is amended frequently.
  5. Sustain the development by taking a step back to review what you’ve learnt and identify future areas for development so this is a continuous cycle.

Writing a SMART objective requires practice, and it’s useful to get feedback from others on whether your objectives are SMART. Writing objectives in this way makes it straightforward to assess your progress against them and how you may need to change your actions to achieve them.


Write a SMART objective for your Personal Development Plan.
© STEM Learning
This article is from the free online

Volunteering in the Classroom: Feedback, Reviewing and Improving STEM Activities

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now