Increase your vocabulary: Words to use when talking about personal development

  • Struggling with exams, readings or how to write your university mission statement?
  • Here’s a list of terms and concepts related to personal growth
Susan Ramsay |

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Sometimes in liberal studies papers, examinations, or other documents such as university mission statements, we need to talk about ourselves and personal development. Here is a list of common terms and concepts to help you do that.

Assumption (n.) - a thought or belief held without hard proof. 

Aptitude (n.) - a natural talent or ability. E.g. You may have an aptitude for logic.

Attitude (n.) - a person's way of thinking about something, usually described as negative or positive.

Burgeon (n.) - to grow in a positive manner

Charisma [ka riz ma] (n.) - a personality trait that inspires devotion in others. 

Cohort (n.) - the group of people from varied backgrounds who share a common characteristic.  

Dynamic (adj.) - positive, full of new ideas and energy

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Environment (n.) - the circumstances in which you find yourself. I grew up in an academic environment.

Ethics (n.) - moral law

Interpersonal (adj.) - the adjective which tells us that the noun is between people, e.g. interpersonal relationships would describe how someone gets along with others.

Locus of control (n.) - a sense of who has control over your life. If you believe in fate, you have an external locus of control. If you believe in self-determination, you have an internal locus of control.

Meditate (v.) - This can be confusing because really, to meditate is to clear your mind of conscious thought. You might mediate to deal with stress or gain more self control.

Paradigm [para dime] (n.) - assumptions held about something. (e.g: Today's teens are lazy). This is usually expressed as "We've always done things this way". Successful people challenge paradigms

Paradigm shift (n.) - a change in basic assumptions. (e.g. No, today’s youth are not lazy, they have different priorities).

Peers (n.) - other people with a similar age and lifestyle

Ponder (v.) - When you ponder something, you think about it actively.

Self-actualisation (n.) - the fulfillment of one's potential

Self-efficacy (n.) - Your belief in your ability to succeed at something.

Self-esteem (n.) - the value one attaches to oneself

Spontaneous (adj.) - the ability to do something without planning

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Stress (n.) - a level of anxiety

Tolerant (adj.) - able to get along with people, to accept different characteristics in others

Transform (v.), transformation (n.) - a big change in something, usually a person or their way of thinking.

Values (n.) - ideas about right and wrong and what is important in one's life.

Work-life balance (n.) - not being so devoted to your job that you spend your spare time at the office.

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5 cliches to avoid like the plague

Sometimes we are taught cliches at school which can leave your writing bogged down in shallow phrases. Here are the usual suspects, and how you can change them for the better:

  • Broaden  my horizons - learn more about the world, or learn more about other cultures, see the world

  • An eye opening experience - a fascinating experience, an informative experience, it allowed to to understand how other people live and think

  • Follow my dreams - plan to, wish to, set up a plan

  • Get out of my comfort zone - I am keen to face new challenges and  have new experiences

  • Money is not important - While money is important, I prefer to focus on ....