12 Simple Ways to Prepare for Personal Development

The week after Christmas is a strange time.

In some ways it's relaxing and peacefully pleasant.

In other ways, it feels anti-climatic and unnerving.

The anticipation and festivity of Christmas is over, but the New Year with all of its promise hasn't yet begun.

You don't quite know what to do with yourself beyond picking up wrapping paper and making returns. I think it's fun to spend time with friends and family, read quietly, go to a movie, and just relax. Hopefully, you are spending some time doing these things too. (And reading my blog — thank you!)

But there's a part of me, and maybe you too, that feels just like I do on the last day of vacation. You want to relax and enjoy it, but you know the real world is waiting for you to show up the next day.

But maybe in addition to squeezing in the last bit of holiday fun, we can use this time for some simple preparation for the New Year.

Maybe this can be a time of quiet reflection, internal review, and tentative planning for how we want to grow and bloom during the year.

Some might call this setting goals, but I prefer to think of it as laying the foundation for personal evolution.

Creating and attaining goals is an important part of making big change in our lives. But personal evolution involves more than just setting goals. It is a process of self-actualization and life creation. It is a process of sculpting, refining, balancing, and articulating all aspects of our lives so we emerge with a life canvas that is a true expression of exactly who we are and what we want from life.

To create this canvas, you can't start slapping paint on it willy nilly. Nor can you paint by numbers based on what other people have outlined for you — or what you think you should be doing.

Before you dive in to the new year head first, perhaps this is a good time to reflect on the year that has ended, your life as it is now, and how you would like to evolve and create your life for the year ahead.

Here are 12 very simple ways you can start that reflection process in various areas of your life. Grab a pen and paper to make some notes. This won't take long, I promise!

1. Physically

Every New Year we vow to “get in shape.” We look at our bulging bellies or our flabby thighs with disgust — mainly because we don't fit the physical standard of perfection in the media.

woman lifting weights personal development

What if we stopped thinking about “getting in shape” as an attempt to meet those standards, but rather started embracing our bodies as the amazing home for our mind and soul? Begin the New Year by changing your perspective on your body. See it as your most prized possession, and treat it with tender loving care.

  • How are you treating your body now and over the last year?
  • How has your body been reacting to the way you've taken care of it?
  • What is one simple thing you could do to take better care of your body?

2. Nutritionally

This goes hand-in-hand with taking care of your body, but nutrition is so important to all aspects of your well-being. Proper, nutritious food not only keeps your body healthy, but also it provides energy, helps your mood, and keeps your brain functioning at a high level.

  • What have you been feeding your beautiful, amazing body over the last year?
  • How has this food supported or diminished your overall health and well-being?
  • What is one small nutrition change you could make that would improve your health?

3. Emotionally

Our emotions can profoundly impact our happiness and success in life. Even when we understand that negative emotions can undermine our ability to evolve and grow, sometimes these emotions appear out of nowhere.

Related: 37 Positive Emotions That Make You Healthier and Happier

However, there is usually some trigger or source for the negative feelings that hold us back. It's not fun to dig around in the wounds of our past or the pain of our present. But stuffing them down or denying them will only force these feelings to appear in other debilitating ways (depression, over-eating, anger, etc.).

  • What has been your emotional state in general now and over the last year?
  • Can you identify a problem, past event, or regret that has sabotaged your happiness and ability to be your best self?
  • What is one small action you can take to heal this wound or address the problem directly?

4. Relationally

Often our emotional state is impacted by our relationships. The people closest to us, particularly our spouse or significant other, can have a huge impact on our feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. And our relationships with our children, family members, work associates, and friends all create a fabric of joy and life fulfillment if we enjoy mutually supportive and healthy interactions with the people.

  • What is the state of your important relationships right now?
  • How have your actions, inaction, or behavior impacted those relationships?
  • What is one thing you can do to improve a relationship that needs tending?

5. Intellectually

A couple of years ago, I read the book The Brain That Changes Itself, and I've written about it here several times. It fascinated me because of the amazing implications of the science of neuroplasticity.

woman reading a book while standing personal development

Our brains are not fixed and rigidly mapped. We can rewire them, strengthen them, and keep them healthy well into old age if we continue to learn and challenge ourselves. Plus, leaning new things helps our self-confidence, keeps us engaged in life, and expands our opportunities for bold living.

  • What new things have you learned over the last year?
  • How has this learning impacted your life?
  • What is one small action you can take toward learning something new and challenging?

6. Habitually

Our lives consist of a series of habits, everything from the time we get up and when we brush our teeth to our routines at work. Some habits are good, some not so good.

Related: Reach Your Personal Goals With These 21 Power Habits

And some habits we'd like to have, we don't have. Incorporating new habits in your life isn't easy, but it can be done if know how to start small and use triggers, rewards, and accountability.

  • What habits have been missing from your life over the last year?
  • How would incorporating one of these habits improve your life?
  • What one action could you take to add one positive new habit to your life?

7. Financially

You don't need to be reminded of the importance of money and sound finances. Having enough money to meet your needs and some of your wants is essential to happiness, self-confidence, and security. Being in debt, having your finances in disarray, or even being overly-focused on wealth can create havoc in your life.

  • What is the state of your financial life right now?
  • How would you define a balanced and healthy financial life?
  • What is one action you could take to bring you closer to that ideal?

8. Professionally

Your work and finances are obviously intertwined, but hopefully you aren't working just for money. Your work should bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. In fact, it is best when your work is your passion. When you are working to just get by or to just buy — then work becomes drudgery or a means to an end, rather than part of the purpose of your life.

  • What do you love about your work now?
  • What do you dislike about it?
  • What one action could you take to bring you closer to feeling passionate about your work?

9. Spiritually

If having a spiritual life is important to you, then you have consciously determined why this should be part of your life and how you want to express it.

people praying personal development

Living a spiritual life may mean regular practice, worship, and prayer for some — or it could be meditating or walking in nature for another.

  • How well have you lived your spiritual life in the last year?
  • What defines your ideal spiritual life?
  • What is one action you could take to move you closer to that ideal?

10. Adventurously

Having fun, going on adventures, meeting new people, socializing, traveling — all of these add spice to your life and make you a more interesting and engaged person.

  • What kind of adventures have you enjoyed over the last year?
  • What new adventures would be fun to pursue this year?
  • What is one action you can take to facilitate one of these adventures?

11. Residentially

Our home is where the heart is. It also reflects our state of mind and supports or detracts from our energy and ideal lifestyle.

Related: 20 Personality Development Tips That Make You More Attractive

A home that is neat, organized, inviting, calm, and in the appropriate neighborhood, environment,  or city that supports who you are, is a haven for beautiful and joyful living.

  • Does your home fully reflect who you are and how you want to live?
  • What is the ideal home environment and location for you?
  • What is one action you could take to move toward that ideal?

12. Practically

The details of living can bog us down and create chaos and anxiety if we don't tend to them. Most of us don't enjoy paying bills, getting the tires rotated, or having the gutters cleaned. But these practical life details can begin to feel like a scratchy sweater, irritating us and inhibiting our full pleasure in life.

  • What practical details of life have you left undone this year?
  • How would it feel to have these cleared from your mind and to-do list?
  • What is one small action you can take to get the ball rolling?

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As you write your answers and read through this list, remember that you don't have to tackle all of these actions at once. From this list, you can begin to reflect on what is most important for you to address this year. All change begins with reflection and preparation, so empower yourself for personal growth and evolution by considering your options today!

If you found this post useful, please share it!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 39 comments
Noch Noch

great way of categorizing our goals. all mine used to be scattered around to whenever I could think of something. i think this could be a good framework to come back and check against our progress every now and then
i have to work on “spiritually”… a bit confused these days on this subject
Noch Noch

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Noch Noch,
    I think a framework is a good way to design your goals. That leaves some wiggle room for making adjustments along the way. And for spirituality — I think we all have some confusion there. It’s a work in progress!


Hi Barrie,
It has been a great year reading your posts. This last one hasn’t disappointed either. I believe you have impacted positively on your readers including me. Happy holidays and a great 2012.

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you Murigi. I can’t tell you how much your continued support and kind comments mean to me. Wishing you a blessed 2012.

[email protected]

Hi Barrie!

This is a really great post. I Tweeted it earlier and had to come back to say how much I loved reading this. This is worth printing and reading again, answering each of the questions you pose, then use it as a guide for the new year.

Wishing you the best as we approach 2012!

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Ken,
    Thank you so much — I am so glad you found it useful, and I so appreciate your sharing it. Love the title of your recent post!


Thank you Barrie,this post was spot on and exactly what I needed right now! Your words hit home and describes exactly what I’m feeling but haven’t been able to express myself. Setting goals is one part, but when you talk about personal evolution I know that’s what I’m looking for. I’m at work so I don’t have time to read the whole post now, but I will definately get back to it and use it as an ending of 2011 and as a starting point for my 2012. Thank you again!

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Asa,
    I am so glad the post resonated with you. Setting goals without context is usually a fruitless endeavor. But they seem to appear naturally when they are part of a bigger plan for personal growth. At least that’s been my experience. 🙂

Dr. Cris Green

Thanks Barrie for giving us twelve areas to contemplate on for the new year. I never really thought about reviewing the past year to see what my successes were and where I fell short. I truly believe that we are spiritually guided to our best selves—so I trust that even though I did not meet a goal—I was lead through another door that was better for me. I still have dreams, plans and goals—but I do not kick myself if the dreams, plans and goals do not manifest the way I wanted them.
I love reading your blog because it has benefited me immensely.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Cris,
    I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important to plan these things “loosely.” We me think we want to go one direction, but life may have different plans for us. That’s when “go with the flow” should be your goal! Thank you for being such a loyal commenter and supporter of my work.


Hi Barrie,
All make excellent sense. 12 great keys to unlock our greatness & propel us forward. Here’s to a tremendous 2012.
be good to yourself

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you David! And thank you for all of your support over the past year. Wishing you a wonderful 2012.


Hi Barrie,

this is exactly what I too needed at this moment! I especially loved the “adventurously” section, such and important and veeeeery neglected area in my life! I’m not really enjoying my work at this moment and therefore am pretty sick of the idea of setting goals, targets and measures related to it. So while I regocnize my work as something that needs a lot of attention next year I really like that this list takes a look at all facets of our lives. This way I can probably find areas where I am doing well and enjoying myself, even if that doesn’t happen at work right now.

So thank your for the wonderfully thought-provoking post and all the best in 2012!

    Barrie Davenport

    I am so glad it came to you at the right time Piritta! Life is a balance of all of these things, and it’s nice to know that when one area of your life isn’t the best, you can focus on the others. I do hope you will find joy in your work — whether it’s this job or another. Work is such a big part of our lives, and you deserve to be happy in it. 🙂

jack foley

Yea.., I have now seen from your post that I concentrate way to much in one or two areas. True personal development is being complete in all areas – a balanced holistic approach


    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Jack,
    I think we all tend to do that — focus in the areas that scream for our attention. It takes a mindful approach to life to remember to create that holistic approach. Balance is a great goal to have!

Marci | Liberating Choices

Barrie, I love the way you describe turning reflection into our canvas – “laying a foundation for personal evolution.” So, elegant yet empowering!

I, too, do some reflection around this time of year, thinking of the areas in my life that need the most tending and cultivating. Or, maybe the areas I value the most…

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Marci,
    Thank you so much! I wonder if the areas we value most are the ones that need the most or least tending?? That’s an interesting thought. I guess I give the most attention to the areas that I find most valuable, whereas exercise and organization seem to come in last! 🙂

Harleena [email protected] Writer

Loved the tips Barrie!

I couldn’t think of anything more, as you covered up everything so perfectly in your post! Here is wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous New Year- Happy Holidays 🙂

    Barrie Davenport

    Same to you Harleena! Thank you for your continued kind support.


Such great questions to ponder. Today I’ve spent some time thinking of how those practical (#12) things can go from (boring) routine to (enjoyable) ritual. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration this year…wishing for you a wonderful 2012!

    Barrie Davenport

    It seems like there is a backlog of boring, routine things that must be done this time of year. Finding a way to make them enjoyable is a great endeavor Angela!

Claire Kerslake

Loved this post Barrie. I particularly loved the comment ’embrace your body as the amazing home for our mind and soul’. I too enjoyed ‘The brain that changes itself’ and how it completely changed current thinking with regards to our brains and what we are capable of.
Thinking about just one action makes it all seem much less daunting!

Best wishes for a fabulous 2012

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you so much Claire. Yes, one action does make it less daunting. I try to keep my focus on the task at hand!


Hi Barrie,

Thank you for a wonderful set of categories with great questions. I’ve been making a list of things I did right this year, and your post helped me search in all the nooks and crannies of my life for more things to feel good about.

I like the idea of moving forward with “one small thing.” Instead of facing a big batch of mega-goals, I now have a simple list of tiny to-do’s. 🙂

Thank you for a year of practical and inspiring posts. I love your blog! May you continue to bless us with your wisdom in the New Year!


    Barrie Davenport

    Cheryl, thank you so much for your warm and supportive comments. I’m so glad my posts have helped you. It has helped me writing them and sharing them with readers who are so engaged in having better lives!


Barrie ~ another great post! So encouraging and insightful!! And positive!

I linked back here in a post on my blog today.

Looking forward to living more boldly and blooming in 2012!

    Barrie Davenport

    How nice Mikaela! Thank you so much . . .

Om in Mom

Hey Barrie,
Another great post! Thank you. I really enjoyed doing this exercise. It’s really worth doing and I would like to include a link to recommend it, if I manage to write a new year related post myself. (Not sure I’ll manage it, at this busy time, but I’m going to try!)
Hope 2012 is a great year for you.
Louisa x

    Om in Mom

    I did it! I wrote a New Year post and I linked up to your blog. Hope that’s ok with you.
    Thanks. Happy New Year.
    Louisa x

stephen budd

Barrie, thanks for this post. I like the idea of looking at goals as personal evolution instead of straight up goals. Words impact our feelings. This slight change in vocab. makes that dirty word “Goal” feel less threatening.
I’m glad I found this site through Tiny Buddha. I am enjoying your writing a lot. Thanks. BTW congratulations on being one of the top Best Blogs of 2011.


This is great. It’s interesting that you separated #1 and #2 because this is the first year I’m doing that. Every year, my commitment is to go into the new year in the best shape of my life. I generally spend the year making sure I don’t gain weight and I gain a little muscle and then spend the last couple months of the year making sure I meet my annual goal. But this year I’ve decided to change that and make nutrition a priority. It’s quite possible to stay in shape and have poor eating habits (Mavericks star, Lamar Odom and I have a similar sweet tooth). I lost 25 pounds 15 years ago and always kept it off using the same thought process found in the book I used to get the weight off: gluttony is a sin so eat only when hungry and stop right before you’re full (because your body takes 20 minutes to notify your brain that you’re full). Anyhow, that means I was eating McDonald’s and Wendy’s on my diet and continued that for the past 15 years. So this year, I have resolved to eat healthier and actually got a head start on this by beginning to curb my sweet tooth a few months ago and learning to eat healthier. Wow, I wrote a book here about my one resolutions. Sorry! Wishing you and your family the most fabulous New Year!


It’s definitely that time again to reflect on our goals and plan for the future. I find it best to focus on one thing at a time. Last year I primarily focused on career/work, and the year before that I primarily focused on my values/spirituality. This year I’m focusing on relationships.

Thanks for the helpful personal development reminders!


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