As a high school student, your days are packed with learning. You attend 7-8 classes per day, and they all assign varying degrees of work, including essays, projects, and tests to study for. As a student, you have been conditioned to work on whatever is assigned to you. It’s easy to adopt a mindset that if it isn’t required, I am not going to do it. This is a dangerous type of attitude to choose because of the severe impact it can have on your future.
As a high school student preparing for college, you are about to embark on one of the most transformative phases of your life. Here is where your choices will lay the groundwork for your career and your future. Yes, you should be focused on getting good grades and applying to colleges. However, you should also focus on growing yourself outside of the classroom. The most successful people in the world attribute that success in investing time in their personal development.
Personal development is a fancy term that many people use to sell books, courses, and other services. In simple terms, it is the act of gaining knowledge and skills that will help you grow and mature. Think of it as a workout for your brain. You go to the gym and use specific machines to increase the strength in your arms, legs, chest, and back. Personal development materials help you improve your mental strength in areas of communication, work ethic, organization, time management, and other areas of your life that help you succeed.
Most adults spend time in this area by watching videos, reading books, or listening to podcasts. However, those same adults would tell you that they regret not investing in themselves sooner. If they had taken the time to learn the skills listed above, they would have done better in college, gotten a job faster, and most likely be making more money. Personal development is critical at a young age because it gives you an edge over your competition.
So, how does one get started in improving themselves in this way? First, you must set aside time for it. Chances are, your schedule is packed, and whatever free time you do have is spent playing video games or watching TV. To start, schedule 30 minutes of personal development time, three days a week. Choose days and times that you will always be free to ensure you stick to your schedule. Then, designate an accountability partner to check-in and ask about what you are studying and what you have learned.
Once you have the time set aside, then you can focus on what to learn. Take out a pen and paper and write down your three most significant weaknesses. For me, as a student, this was organization, time management, and staying motivated. Then, write down three things you want to learn. This is where you can write down specific skills you want to learn before college, such as becoming a better writer, being stronger in math, or even adult responsibilities you haven’t learned yet.
Now that you have your list, you must prioritize them. You will not always have time to cover all your desired topics every week. Therefore, you need to decide what is most important. For example, if you struggle to manage your time, and you want to go away to college, this is a skill you need to start learning. If you are interested in a major that requires a lot of math or writing, that is what goes to the top of your list. Personal development is about learning specific skills that will help you achieve your short and long term goals.
The most overwhelming part of committing to developing your soft skills is the massive amounts of material out there for you to choose from. They come in all forms, such as books, podcasts, and courses. Only you understand how you learn best. Also, think about what is going to be most enjoyable for you. If you don’t love to read, don’t buy a book. If you are a visual learner, then commit to watching videos. The key is to know what you are trying to learn and putting in a process that will help you retain the information and refer back to it in the future.
It’s been proven that younger adults enjoy consuming videos over print content. You might be amazed to discover how much free content is on YouTube for you to take advantage of. A simple search of your desired topic will return thousands of results and several videos created by experts and reputable sources. If you are looking for more organized content that will guide you through a series of courses, I suggest checking out LinkedIn Learning. This paid platform provides multi-videos courses for skills such as time management, communication skills, and much more.
In addition, there are countless books and podcasts that will teach you almost anything you want to learn. When deciding which to choose, read the reviews to get an idea of what other people think about the content. Again, do not worry about picking the right book or podcast. Focus on where in your life, you are looking to grow, and what specific skills you need to learn in order to get there.
Personal development is something everyone should do, but most people don’t until it’s too late. As you begin your journey into the real world, you owe it to your future self to invest in giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed. Your weaknesses and shortcomings will not go away if you ignore them. They grow larger and threaten to damage your future and overall quality of life. Now is the time to commit to bettering yourself and creating a long-term plan centered around personal development.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.