How to set personal development goals

Personal development goals

Prioritising your personal development

Personal development goalsWhen we think about setting goals, we tend to focus on our professional development. Furthering our studies to get a better-paying job or altering our career trajectory so we can focus more on the parts of our job we enjoy the most. But personal development is just as important.

We may think about other kinds of goals, like leading a healthier lifestyle or saving up towards a home, car or retirement. And as anyone who’s ever abandoned their New Year’s resolutions before February can attest, setting goals and sticking to them is an entirely different matter.

So how do you set realistic goals that will add genuine meaning to your life and actually see them through?

Finding your motivation

Without motivation, it’s tempting to give up at the first hurdle, or simply let our efforts slide in favour of more ‘urgent’ demands on our time. In order to stick to a goal, the end result you want needs to be aligned with your values. Take a moment to write down the five or ten most important things in your life. If a goal resonates with one or several of these core values, you’re a lot more likely to remain motivated once the going gets a little rougher.

Figuring out what you really want is not a quick process, and you shouldn’t try to rush it. Otherwise, you may end up aiming for the goals you think you should set – or society thinks you should set – but not the ones you actually want deep down.

Balancing personal development and career

It’s a tough economic climate out there, and most of us are happy just to have a job that pays the bills, even if we don’t exactly love what we do. We spend a huge amount of our time – and even more of our energy – on our jobs or businesses. So it can be tough when what you do doesn’t line up with your personal development goals.

When your true passion lies in art or photography, but you’ve got a job as an accountant, for example, marrying the two isn’t particularly realistic. Making sure that you carve out as much room for your ‘hobby’ as possible is still a great start – perhaps even exploring turning it into a side venture or your own small part-time business. You don’t have to make a dramatic career change overnight, but can rather focus on moving in the right direction by increments.

It may also be that you’re happy with your job, just not with the specific company you work for. Websites like LGBT Jobs, where companies that actively promote a diverse and supportive office culture post openings, may be a great place to start looking. Finding a working environment where you feel you belong and can be yourself can go a long way towards improving your job satisfaction.

Get into the habit of forming habits

One of the hardest things to change about ourselves is improving our ability to change! Forming new, better habits is difficult for virtually everyone – especially if there’s a much easier and more familiar path of least resistance to tempt us. The good news is that the more you practise setting and achieving goals – starting off small and working towards more large-scale changes – forming new habits becomes easier and easier.

Start with a ‘Goal of the Week’. Something small, attainable, and realistic. It could be cooking two healthy meals, going for a ten minute walk each day, limiting your social media exposure, or simply getting to bed half an hour earlier.

It’s important to focus on just ONE thing at a time at first. If you try to make sweeping changes all at once, you’re likely to become overwhelmed and abandon your efforts entirely. Keep this up for at least a month, giving it time to become a true habit, before you move onto the next goal. With each small victory, your confidence in your ability to change for good will grow, and you’ll find that self-discipline starts to come more naturally.

Put pen to paper

Thoughts are fleeting, no matter how powerful they may feel in the moment. Actually, taking the time and making the effort to sit down and write your goals out on paper has a surprising number of benefits. In fact, you’re actually 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you simply write it down. The more detailed and specific you can be, the better. How do you intend to achieve your goal? What obstacles might you face and how do you plan to deal with them? Are there any people or resources that could help you reach your goal?

Personal development goals are, well, highly personal. There’s no one size fits all, and there’s no right or wrong path to follow.

If you start small, make sure your goals align with what you truly desire, have realistic expectations and are willing to accept a few setbacks and challenges along the way, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.


Cat Robinson

About Cat Robinson

I'm a freelance writer lucky enough to be living on the beautiful KwaZulu Natal coast of South Africa. Instilled with a love of language from an early age, I enjoy bending my pen to different subjects, researching new topics and, hopefully, giving a touch of flair to every piece I write! I am passionate about educating my readers through entertaining content that makes complex issues easier to understand - and have written on topics as diverse as sustainability and engineering, to travel and nutrition.