Personal Development

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."

Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
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This Business English lesson plan on personal development has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

These days, we are told that we must continuously improve ourselves. This is not an easy task considering we are rarely given the opportunity to do this by our employers. Rarer still is the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, which is one of the most effective ways to improve ourselves. At the same time, if we always have to improve, does that mean we will never achieve full development? When could we be happy that we have finally improved to a satisfactory level if we are never allowed to stop improving? In this Business English lesson plan on personal development, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the importance of developing skills, how we can improve in our jobs, and what opportunities are available to grow.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

INC | 11 Billion Reasons The Self Help Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know The Truth About Happiness

The article, written by a psychologist and life coach, argues that happiness is not an object that can be purchased, but rather something that we have find a way to access in our everyday lives. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TEDx Talk by Eduardo Briceño called “How to get better at the things you care about” which talks about how people should divide their time between performing and learning in order to develop themselves.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the students’ opinions on the culture of continuous self-improvement, who at work could help them grow, and how they can find the time to learn new skills.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with personal development such as broaden your horizons, blow the cobwebs away and nothing ventured, nothing gained. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about personal development. In this speaking activity, students will answer some personal questions to help them identify how they can grow, such as what their passions are, the training opportunities available where they work, and the prospect of further study.


After the class, students will write a personal self-improvement plan. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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