“Who Am I?” vs. “What Can I Achieve?”: Choosing the Right Personal Journey

People often ask me what’s the difference between personal growth and personal development. While many people use the terms “personal growth” and “personal development” interchangeably, there are some distinct differences between these two concepts that are important to understand. In this post, I’ll break down the key differences so you can better focus your efforts in both domains.

Personal growth refers primarily to inner work—gaining self-knowledge, working through internal issues and challenges, and developing as a conscious human being. It’s about understanding yourself more deeply and expanding your perspective. Key elements of personal growth include self-reflection, building self-awareness, healing past wounds, and finding meaning and purpose. The focus is inward.

Some examples of personal growth activities include meditation, journaling, therapy, reading inspirational texts, having deep conversations with others, consciously working through traumatic experiences from your past, discovering your passions and values, or more abstract pursuits like developing wisdom.

Personal development, on the other hand, refers mainly to outward skill building, gaining concrete competencies, and achieving external goals. It’s about intentionally developing capacities to allow you to function at a higher level in your work and personal life. Key elements include learning new hard and soft skills, expanding your capabilities, accomplishing tangible objectives, and boosting performance. The focus is outward.

Some examples of personal development activities include taking courses to improve relevant job skills, learning to communicate more effectively, building habits to increase productivity, setting and pursuing goals like starting a business, getting mentorship to advance your career, taking on new challenges, and acquiring credentials to open up opportunities.

As you can see, personal growth is inner-directed towards increased self-understanding, while personal development is outer-directed towards increased functionality. Personal growth asks, “Who am I and why am I here?” Personal development asks, “What can I do and achieve?”

Pursuing both personal growth and personal development together is key to overall flourishing. Growth fuels development by providing a compass to guide your path. Development fuels growth by giving you the skills to bring your insights to life. Focusing on one helps the other come more naturally. With both, you set yourself up for inner wholeness and outer success.

I hope this breakdown helps provide clarity on these two related but distinct domains of life. Keep growing, keep developing, and keep flourishing!

Leave a Reply