The Personal Development Blueprint

A thorough guide for navigating personal development with key resources

There’s a lot of self-help and personal development resources out there. Some of them can be profoundly life-changing when applied. But when there is so much material, so much content, where do we start? What order should we learn skills in? How should we prioritize them? The below is a “game manual” or blueprint that may help you on your journey.

This is a step by step process that I have personally followed, and one that I have recognized the teachers I have learnt from have followed too. All of the key resources are included in this document, as well as my personal thoughts on the best way to implement the various techniques.

It is important to remember that this is a life-long journey. At the time of writing, I have been working on personal development for 7 years. The detailed steps below that I have followed have had an immensely positive impact on my well-being, state of mine, internal and external world. However, there is much more to do, the journey never ends! With that being said, let’s get into it.

The foundations of a great life

The amazing thing about personal development work is that the research has already been done for us! Psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper in 1943 – “A Theory of Human Motivation”, which contained Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The aim of this guide is to get to the stage where we can work on deep self-actualization. According to Maslow, (and this is very easily to verify in your own experience and observations) we cannot work on self-actualization until we have satisfied our more fundamental needs. The below figure tells the entire story here, but I will go into more detail, if you’re interested in reading more, click or tap the image for more articles.

Some of these points may already be addressed in your own life, if so – that’s great, tick it off and move on.

Let’s tackle the first stage – your physical needs. Just because you eat food and get some sleep doesn’t necessarily mean you’re meeting these needs. As with all of the material in this guide, it is meant to be a pointer – a map, not the territory. Bearing that in mind, I would strongly advise that you independently and extensively research each aspect. Having said that, following the key points below will ensure you meet your fundamental needs:

  • Keep your alcohol intake low – 1 to 3 drinks per week
  • Go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time each day
  • Don’t drink caffeine. This includes black tea, green tea, many soft drinks and of course coffee and energy drinks. Caffeine has a half life of around 8 hours. This means if you have a coffee at 10am containing 100mg of caffeine, at 6pm you will have around 50mg left in your bloodstream. That 50mg now has a half life of another 6 – 8 hours, meaning at midnight – 2:00am you still have 25mg circulating. Drinking any caffeine will disrupt your sleep, one of the fundamental needs we are trying to address. If you are in the 95% of the population addicted to this psychoactive drug, I would recommend quitting cold turkey. If you really can’t do this, calculate your intake per day in milligrams, buy a caffeine powder and some digital scales, use this as your only caffeine source, then reduce your intake by 1mg per day
  • Don’t use a screen (including your phone) for the last hour before bed. Replace with physical book reading, meditation or something else
  • Eat a whole-food diet. This means minimizing processed foods and moderating your refined sugar intake. One of the most important aspects of this is totally avoiding any vegetable oils
  • Drink plenty of water, ideally use a filtered water bottle and refill it several times per day
  • Exercise for around an hour 3 – 4 times per week

Take as long as you need to address these physical needs, they are crucial to maximizing your potential. You can’t focus on deep, meaningful work if you don’t feel as good as you possibly can physically.

Now that you’re feeling great, it’s time to address your need for security, stability and freedom from fear. So many people, even those with well-paying careers, live in a state of underlying fear. Many have a few months of savings at most, meaning they are in constant fear of losing their job, losing their income, or suffering some other kind of financial burden that would leave them in a state of desperation. Why is this? Consumerism and materialism are largely to blame.

It’s worth reading about planned and perceived obsolescence to further understand this, but in short - planned obsolescence is the sadly common practice that companies utilize to ensure a product becomes hard, or impossible, to use after a few years of use. Apple is a great example of this – they will provide customers with a one year warranty, meanwhile they build in non-replaceable batteries that greatly diminish in efficiency after that first year. Apple have sued independent repair shops and Tesla have gone the same way, servicing their vehicles at an independent garage can now void your warranty. The logic behind this is that when you take your product to a “certified” repair shop, the repair is usually extortionately expensive, leading most people to decide it’s just easier to buy a new product… great news for the company in question!

Cars, tech and fashion are the main industries that utilize intentional obsolescence. They also employ "perceived obsolescence" as a technique, where they make old tech or clothing seem uncool or antique. People use these products as status symbols so are easily swayed into buying the newest model. A great video that covers this in more detail can be found here.

Reading more about minimalist philosophy, (not the trendy, social media version of minimalism!) will set you on a totally paradigm-shifting mindset when it comes to how you spend your money. This video is a great start. The Mr. Money Moustache blog contains pretty much all of the information you will ever need about managing your finances and completely redefining the way you spend and invest your money. To summarize - we want to rid ourselves of, in the words of Philosopher Alain de Botton – “The constant tension or fear of being perceived as ‘unsuccessful’ by the society in materialistic terms”.

“But I don’t earn enough money to save or invest, I’ll never be financially independent!” I hear you say.

A common objection, and fortunately a simple one to overcome. In Japanese philosophy, there is a term known as Ikigai. This is the secret to developing financial independence, whilst cultivating meaning and joy from your daily work, as shown below.

The way to achieve this is to develop a valuable skill that is in demand, that pays well, that you enjoy and have a passion for and that you can get good at. There are many career paths that you can take that do not involve going to university or paying for expensive courses, I know this because I personally chose one. After university, I had no idea what to do with my career, so I researched jobs that pay well that can be self-taught. I found and fell in love with computer programming and software development. Since that time, only 7 years ago, I have tripled my salary, saved 2 years of living expenses, have paid off half a mortgage and have solid investments in various stocks, funds and cryptocurrency. I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m not “rich” by high-western standards, I live in a modest 2 bedroom bungalow in the country, drive a 17 year old car and I’m not a special talent in my field. However, what I have done is work almost every day on developing the skills related to software development, have read extensively about investing and personal finance and have implemented the techniques. It’s actually all pretty easy, as long as you are consistent, I believe anyone can achieve the same results.

So the first step in this process is finding something you love and have a passion for. Maybe it’s in IT, the arts, conservation, charity work, the service industry or something totally new. Like myself, you may well not know what this is until you try it out. You will need to experiment, but remember that passion and motivation is like a old well pump. The first few pumps are “primers”, you won’t get any water at first. But once the pump is primed, you will get water with each pump. This is exactly how motivation and passion works, you need to prime yourself by developing competence in a skill before you can become passionate about it.

A useful technique for finding your passion is asking yourself what you like, what you love and what you don't like. After you have a list of things, ask yourself why you like or love certain things and what the elements are that contribute to this. Search for patterns or connections to discover potential passions. Also learn about "flow". What gets you into that state? This could be a big pointer.

You don’t need to spend long working on your skill before either applying for a junior position in your field (I did this 2 months into learning programming, specifically JavaScript, I completely flunked the technical interview, but they hired me due to my enthusiasm and desire to learn), or starting your own business.

So, once you have developed the basics in a skill you have chosen, apply for positions as a junior or start your own business using that skill. After gaining around 2 years of professional experience, you will be much more competent and in a position to use the skill in higher paying positions. Once you have a decent income, start to invest regularly (monthly) in assets such as ethical funds & stocks. Research the effects of compounding interest if you need inspiration for why this is a great thing to do. Again, the Mr Money Moustache blog covers this in great detail. Also ensure you save at least 6 – 12 months of living expenses as an emergency fund. This ensures you always have the flexibility to deal with jobs or situations you want to leave, without being tied down by lack of financial freedom.

Ok, so at this stage, you’ll have a career, not just a job. This is a wonderful start. There are a few simple habits to add to our “foundations” stage, before we can move on:

  • Have a daily meditation routine. Meditate at a regular time, initially for 15 - 20 minutes. This will start you on the path to looking inward, recognizing and getting to know your own mind and feeling more calm
  • Spend some time outdoors / in nature every day if possible
  • At the end of each day, write down or digitally log at least 3 things that you are grateful for. This habit alone will have a huge difference on your outlook and mood with a matter of weeks, don’t skip this!

Post-foundation & breaking free of the social matrix

The foundation stage will have taken a lot of work, but by this point you should be able to reflect back to the “pre-foundation” stage of your life and notice many significant, positive and amazing changes. But that was just the tip of the iceberg!

We need to set up a way to track our progress moving forward, a master journal that will log thoughts, insights and hard data. My recommendation is to use cloud-based documents with a folder system. Examples of this are Google Drive and Microsoft OneNote. The key features you want are a global search function, so that you can quickly find things and a way to categorize everything (folders and sub-folders).

I recommend making a document about each subject and sub-domain as you develop through them, make notes and a master list of key concepts that you can continuously refer to and refine as you move forward. You will also want to track things like savings and investments, skill investments (perhaps the number of hours you have spent working on a particular skill), to help keep you on track and serve as a source of motivation.

Here’s a recommended set of documents you may wish to consider:

  • A list of key resources (books, webpages, video links, etc.)
  • A skills tracker – a place to log how many hours (or whatever the metric is for that particular skill) you have put in on a monthly basis, with a total figure and perhaps a goal
  • A financial tracker – a place to log the value of your main bank account, savings account, investment account and any other financial assets. This only needs to be updated once a month, but it should serve as a way to set and meet financial goals
  • A book list, or rather, two book lists. One list will be your “to read” list, the other will be a list of books you have read and the key takeaways from each book. This step is critical to retaining information as you read, make the notes as you go through the book and then refine them at the end
  • A list of meditation techniques, with your own notes on your personal experiences with each technique and perhaps even a log of how many hours you have spent practising each technique
  • Philosophy notes, key quotes, interpretations, etc.
  • World history and the associated life lessons
  • Psychology – how to develop great relationships, social connections, how to connect and relate with others, how humans think, what motivates you as a human, where emotions like anger and jealousy, happiness and love come from and how to manage them
  • Romantic relationship theory – how to sustain healthy, loving relationships, how to attract a high quality partner, how to be a high quality partner, common issues that arise in long-term relationships and how to overcome them, different relationship styles, etc.
  • Conflict resolution, non-violent communication, how to manage conflict and anger
  • Spiral Dynamics – the values you want to take from each stage and the ones you would rather leave behind
  • A list of powerful questions – with your introspective responses to them
  • A “Years in review” document, a place to review your year, each year. Use this space to reflect on progress made, lessons learnt and set intentions for the upcoming year. I usually do this on the 31st December
  • A “fun” document! Be sure to take time to relax and unwind. I use this document to makes notes on my favourite movies, video games, places I have visited, activity ideas or new hobby ideas. If I’m ever unsure of what to do with myself and have time I want to use to unwind, I’ll refer to this document
  • A “career” folder that will contain various documents related to your career. This can include notes on technical or practical skills, certificates, learning resources and of course, an up-to-date résumé / CV
  • A master document that contains the most important lessons from all of the above that you can refer to as a “cheat sheet” for retaining your notes and lessons over time

That’s so much work! Yep! And it will be totally worth it. You don’t need to do this all at once, create each document as you go and as you study each subject. Ideally spend time learning each one in a lot of depth before moving on. The key resources list at the end of this guide will contain much of what you need to accomplish this.

Now that your documents are ready to use, let’s start learning! Below is a list of thoughts, introspections and subjects that you will need to learn about in depth to break free of the “social matrix”, i.e. overcome your cultural and social conditioning. Why would you want to do this? In short, to discover truth in an absolute sense. Every worldview, opinion and even memory you and I hold are hugely skewed by our upbringings and our own biases. Don’t you find it suspicious that what you consider to be “right”, “moral”, “true" or even factual, coincidentally and conveniently adhere to that of the society you are based in right now?

Consider this for a moment, in 99% of cases the devout Muslim or Christian will have been raised in a Muslim or Christian culture and family. The devout scientist will surround themselves with other materialist, rational, left-brain thinkers. The exclusive house-husband or house-wife will live in a society that almost exclusively practices monogamy, (a relatively recent tradition). The person with the latest smartphone and clothes will live in a consumerist, monetary society. Even the skeptic will surround themselves (usually virtually, online) with other “skeptics”, all the while forgetting to be sceptical about their own scepticism.

Hopefully these ideas have at least opened your mind to the possibility that what you consider right or true, isn’t so and that you have a lot of opening up to do. With that in mind, here is the list, search for each one independently, use the resources I have provided and read one or more books on each topic. This will potentially take months or even years, but with each subject you will chip away a little more at your biases and current idea of “self”. This will have a profound impact on your life in practical, spiritual and external ways.

  • Learn about & practice mindfulness, including mindfulness meditation. Learn to label your emotions and see them as they are, without judgement
  • Write down a list of your values. What do you value in life? Work towards living by those values - this is a lifelong task!
  • Write down a couple of "ideal" life scenarios for yourself, what would such a life look like? Reverse engineer it and make notes on steps you would have to take to get there and how long it might take. Always focus on the next, smallest and easiest step
  • Read the recommended reading list and watch the recommended videos at the end of this guide. Take your time, make notes somewhere you can store them and refer to them regularly
  • Learn about spiral dynamics
  • Cultivate the skill of action. Start and then learn how to do it! This is one of the most important practical lessons / skills you can learn and the one most people miss. Talking about your intentions, writing them down or fantasizing about them can be useful and motivating, but it means nothing if you don’t take big action. Tony Robbins is a great motivator in this field, I’d recommend his books, or at least watch some speeches of his, where he discusses taking massive action in more depth
  • Research and learn about consumerism, planned & perceived obsolescence, how social media and modern applications, video games, streaming services, etc. design their products to be as addictive as possible. Hold this in your awareness and don't succumb to the techniques!
  • Take your physical fitness beyond just exercising for the sake of being in shape. Develop a physical skill that has a side effect of keeping you in great shape. Examples include martial arts such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, rock-climbing, surfing and many, many more!
  • Learn about relationships and how to develop and sustain healthy and loving ones, research and learn about all the different types of relationships that are possible, i.e. monogamy, polyamory, open relationships, being single, relationship anarchy, etc. Experiment with different types of relationships in an ethical, consensual way, to discover who you are and what works for you. Important note here, don't assume that you need to be in a relationship all the time! Learn to love yourself and your own company
  • Learn about the ways you affect the world, especially around climate change and waste (including carbon waste). Travel the world and explore different cultures and lifestyles, but be mindful of the impact you have. Travel in an environmentally friendly way, research the most and least carbon-heavy ways to travel and make choices accordingly
  • Research and learn about city planning. "Not just bikes" and "Adam Something" are great YouTube channels that cover this topic. This is very practical as it will affect where you choose to live, raise children, how you travel, what travelling devices you do or don't own, etc. This ties into being more conscious of how you affect the world around you
  • Develop a fulfilling and healthy social network. You can do this using apps such as Meetup, attending social events, seminars, classes, etc. Look at what you can bring to relationships, not just what you can get out of them
  • Consider meditation groups to aid in developing your practice
  • Whilst doing all this work, be aware of being present and mindful. Don't spend every waking minute on research & self-development. Schedule downtime, take time to do nothing or watch a movie. Do this regularly to avoid burnout

Advanced concepts / developing spirituality and love

Every single point in the “Post-Foundation” stage can, and probably should take a significant amount of time to cover. Don’t just read the list and move on, save the list somewhere and work through it. If you truly study and embody each topic in depth, it will take years before you get to this stage. The rest of these concepts are advanced and couldn’t possibly be covered in one lifetime, it is a list to work through indefinitely, embracing the joy of the journey. At this stage there should be a radical shift in focus from outcomes to the intrinsic love of the process. With that being said, let’s get into it.

  • Satisfaction meditation
  • Strong determination sitting
  • Shadow work
  • Introspect and make notes on powerful questions, (come up with your own questions) for example, what are emotions?
  • Self-enquiry
  • Consider a Vipassana retreat
  • Develop a "master document" like this one. What are the most important lessons, techniques, etc. that you wish to pass onto others?
  • Create something that you will pass on and guide others on achieving the fulfilled and satisfied life that you are creating, perhaps a book, website, blog, video series, workshops, seminars, etc.
  • Work on developing the yellow and turquoise values of spiral dynamics. Remove all judgement, demonizing, moralizing and "shoulds" from your life. You can still take action about things you believe in without these things! I.e. you might be a climate activist or animal rights activist, but without the judgement or moralizing of people that aren't, or even people who contribute to such things. Understand and embrace the reality that everyone is the way they are, because they couldn't be any other way
  • Although not essential, I recommend everyone learn at least one second language and how to play a musical instrument. The creativity and flow that these skills deliver is substantial
  • Free yourself of ideology and dogma, don't be deep-rooted or unmovable in any one belief or worldview. Remember radical open-mindedness
  • Learn about emotional vampirism
  • Learn about paradoxes and how pretty much everything is a paradox
  • Create or memorize simple sentences that summarize key lessons, two of my favourites are “Awareness alone is curative” and “Don’t judge things you haven’t experienced”
  • Re-listen to videos, re-read your notes and lessons from the post-foundation stage and seek out new material. Don't forget what you have learnt so far and never stop learning!


Key Resources

Bookmark or save this page, you will need to refer to this list for years to come!

These videos are considered to be essential viewing for anyone who wishes to live on Earth during the 21st century. Watch them fully and with intention, no distractions, make notes and re-watch them. They will totally, radically shift your mindset if you can truly consider the ideas they express.

Obviously these videos are just a start, an entry point. Do your own research and exploration after getting through these to find more ideas that resonate with you. A quick word of warning here though, be sure to actually implement the ideas in each one! If you just binge watch content, without making any notes, without reflecting on the content and without making any changes, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for (see the last video in the list for more on that).

The second list is what I consider essential reading, these books have had an indescribable impact on my way of thinking and overall psyche. I won’t include any links as it would be great if you can find them pre-owned, ideally buying new as a last resort.

  • Way of The Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
  • Nonviolent Communication - Marshall Rosenberg
  • Mating in Captivity - Esther Perel
  • Overcoming Anger & Irritability - William Davies
  • Proof of Heaven - Dr Eben Alexander


This guide contains no affiliate links, I make no money from this or from any of the links contained within it. This is my best attempt, based on my experiences so far, at writing something that would serve as a lifelong guide to anyone that is willing to put in the work required. If I had to leave a small child with one thing, one consolidated manual to life, well this would be my offering to them. Most people reading this will be much older than a child, but remember it’s never, ever too late – as Mr. Wordsworth so brilliantly put it – “To begin, begin”.