Psychology became linked to personal development thanks to researchers like Alfred Adler, who formulated the concepts of lifestyle (1929 — he defined “lifestyle” as an individual’s characteristic approach to life, in facing problems) and of self image, and Carl Jung, who made contributions to personal development with his concept of individuation, described as the drive of the individual to achieve the wholeness and balance of the Self.
Building upon Jung’s early concept of “life stages”, Daniel Levinson included a sociological perspective, proposing that personal development is under the influence — throughout life — of aspirations, which he called “the Dream”. He wrote: “Whatever the nature of his Dream, a young man has the developmental task of giving it greater definition and finding ways to live it out. It makes a great difference in his growth whether his initial life structure is consonant with and infused by the Dream, or opposed to it. If the Dream remains unconnected to his life it may simply die, and with it his sense of aliveness and purpose”.
Albert Bandura suggested that self-efficacy best explains why people with the same level of knowledge and skills get very different results, because:
1. it makes you expect to succeed
2. it allows you take risks and set challenging goals
3. it helps you keep trying if at first you don’t succeed
4. it helps you control emotions and fears when the going gets rough
Personal development moved to a more central position in psychology also thanks to the work of Martin Seligman, who won election to a one-year term as President of the American Psychological Association: “We have discovered that there is a set of human strengths that are the most likely buffers against mental illness: courage, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, hope, honesty and perseverance. Much of the task of prevention will be to create a science of human strength whose mission will be to foster these virtues in young people”.