:Mindset / Success and goal setting

Personal development goals for self-improvement

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It’s in our human nature to desire more. To want to enhance different aspects of your life, to deepen relationships, to experience fulfillment and joy, to create time and money freedom. These essential driving desires are what keep us motivated and moving forward. And they’re necessary to feel content and satisfied with life.

Setting personal development goals is the key to accelerating and ultimately achieving more, both in your professional and personal life. The inspiration of having a vision or dream can more efficiently and smoothly be brought to life with the structure of these goals.

Read on to find out exactly what personal development goals are, and how you can create them for your own personal and professional growth.

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What are personal development goals?

Personal development goals are specific and measurable outcomes that you’re working towards in order to achieve a better state of feeling and being. These types of goals are particularly powerful because they have the ability to drastically improve all areas of your life. As you grow and achieve them, they will enable you to show up more fully for your business, for yourself, and for your relationships. 

These types of goals are internally driven, which can make them more effective and sometimes a little more challenging. That’s because you’re not in competition with anyone or anything—it’s all about your own growth and expansion. Cultivating an empowered mindset and working through limiting beliefs as they arise is essential to this. When your main point of comparison is a past version of yourself, or what you’ve achieved in the past, that’s what you’ve got to compare to.

A crucial component of any good personal development goal is your why. Setting a goal to wake up early every morning or to hit the gym five times a week will just be a mindless task without a reason for why you’re doing it. Plus without a “why” your goals are easier to give up on and not achieve. Having a strong and meaningful purpose for what you’re doing will create better results and make it much more likely that you actually achieve your goal.

Let’s say you desire to feel more grounded and calm as you start your work day. That feeling is what you’re actually working towards. Waking up early, so that you have time to meditate or go for a walk, is simply the action required to cultivate the feeling you want to experience.

The sixteen goals listed in this article will help you improve your performance both in and out of work. And they’re structured in a way that can tie in deeply with your “why.” As opposed to just being another thing you need to check off on your habit tracker.

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Personal development goal examples for self-improvement

The following personal development goals are actions that you can take that will ultimately cultivate a deeper sense of success. They might also improve your emotional intelligence, and create momentum toward your personal evolution.

1. Become more self-aware

While this can seem like a lofty or abstract task, improving your self-awareness by simply checking in with your physical and mental state throughout the day can be great. It can provide a lot of helpful information about what areas of your mindset can offer room for improvement.

Observe what thoughts and beliefs come up when faced with different situations. For example, how you react when things don’t go according to plan, or what creates stress and/or joy for you. Noticing the physical body is essential in this as well. (See #3 for more details!) It’s important to stay observational instead of judgemental. Moving from “Ugh, I hate when I procrastinate” to “How interesting, I’m procrastinating again. I wonder why?” lays a more neutral foundation for your mindset to shift. 

2. Letting the ego go

It’s normal to want to feel “right,” to feel valued, to feel successful, and so on. But sometimes the desire to feel this way can be in direct conflict with our personal growth. When you allow the ego to dictate your inner world, the need to be right can overrule the logic of seeing a situation clearly. Lean into a mindset where it’s okay to make mistakes or even to be misperceived at times. When you can let go of placing so much importance on others’ perceptions of you and instead view your actions and mistakes from a place of growth and learning lessons, your mindset will propel forward a lot faster.

3. Regulate your nervous system

Your nervous system controls all the foundational and subconscious workings of your body, such as heart rate, breathing, sleep, and digestion. When you’re stressed out or worried, your nervous system activates, causing the body to operate in a hypervigilant state.

While this is a useful survival mode for actual emergencies, it’s certainly not ideal to be in this state on a regular basis. It’s incredibly taxing on the body and means there’s less of your logical, calm brain available. Because that energy is instead being expended on needing to survive what the body may be perceiving as a life or death threat. When in reality the “threat” could just be traffic or a looming deadline. Practicing breathing techniques, meditating, and incorporating mindful movement are all ways to help calm the nervous system and clear your mind.

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4. Stop taking things personally

For years now, psychologists have identified a phenomenon called “the spotlight effect.” This is our tendency to overestimate how often people are perceiving us or noticing us. Try and take a step back, and remember that the vast majority of decisions and things other people say and do have nothing to do with you. It’s highly likely they’re just focused on their own perspective. And you’re only able to see part of that picture from where you’re standing. Always assume the best intentions unless it’s explicitly stated otherwise.

5. Take action to improve your brain health

While these things can seem obvious, like getting enough sleep and fresh air, it’s imperative to look at how much you’re actually putting them into practice. Getting enough sleep is consistently cited by neuroscientists as one of the most important ways to nourish your brain and allow your body to replenish itself. Meditation, eating nourishing brain foods (such as blueberries, eggs, salmon, and broccoli), and experimenting with new activities to create new neural pathways are all ways to optimize how you show up for yourself, others, and your business. 

6. Examine limiting beliefs

Hustle and hard work will only get you so far. Doing work on your mindset is a crucial factor for your personal and professional success. A common limiting belief could be: “I need to sacrifice in my personal life to be successful in my professional life” or “I have to work very hard in order to be financially successful.” But these can end up being self-fulfilling prophecies if you don’t tend to them. And they can hinder your personal development goals. Shifting into an abundance mindset and releasing other limiting beliefs through the use of mantras, EFT tapping, and CBT, can be highly effective in creating more space for growth to happen with more ease and speed. 

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7. Learn emotional regulation

Feeling annoyance, frustration, and sadness are all part of the human experience. It’s also the case that being reactive or denying your emotions not only causes stress on the body but can cloud your judgment and cause friction in relationships. Learning to process your emotions in a healthy way can reduce this. Journaling, going for a run, or learning self-soothing techniques, can ensure that your mental system is clear and your needs are met. Plus it’ll save you unnecessary time you might have spent brooding over a situation or having a meltdown because of unprocessed emotions. Even something as simple as taking three deep breaths before responding to a challenging email can make a difference in how the situation unfolds. 

8. Stop apologizing for things you don’t need to be sorry for

“I’m sorry” has become a knee-jerk response for many of us in situations that don’t actually warrant an apology. Every time you unnecessarily say sorry, you’re implying that you did something wrong or need to atone for your actions. Which oftentimes is simply not the case. Others can sense when you’re operating with more confidence and assuredness and will respect you more. Of course, you should still take responsibility for the times when you have done something wrong. But only apologizing when the occasion warrants it can help you apologize more authentically and reduce the burden you feel for things that aren’t your fault. 

9. Start trusting yourself more

As much as it might sound cliche to say “All of the answers are within,” it’s true. Set a personal development goal to seek internal validation through a deep relationship with the self, instead of looking to others to make choices or validate your actions. Then you can be a lot more decisive and confident in your own ability to make the best choice for you or your business at any given time. Get in the habit of “following your gut,” even when it may not make logical sense. And trust that nothing outside of you could make a better decision for you than you could for yourself.  This will help too if you’re in the habit of overthinking.

10. Prioritize your desires

If you’re trying to implement a new healthy habit, such as doing yoga after work every day, but you’re finding it challenging to stay consistent, it’s likely that you might experience two conflicting desires that are happening simultaneously. For example, there is the obvious desire to mindfully move, and there might also be a desire to just sit on the couch and scroll through social media after a long day of work. Both of these are desires are valid, but which one you prioritize will be what actually happens. Identify any conflicting desires without judging yourself, and get intentional about which one you’ll take action on. This is a perfect time to revisit your “why” to help with motivation.

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Personal development goals for work

The beautiful thing about personal development goals for work is that what you achieve in one area of your life has the power to directly positively impact other areas of your life as well. These work-related goals have the possibility to be transformational not only in your work life but in your personal life too. 

11. Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Getting outside of your comfort zone is the place to be for personal growth. This can also be a very scary place to be. Instead of fearing this place, try to reframe that fear or anxiety as excitement. Remind yourself that when you experience the unease that comes with stepping outside your box, you’re expanding your personal capacity for what you can do and are stretching the limits of how you can show up at work. That gets to be a good thing. Normalize the idea for yourself that you’re comfortable being uncomfortable.

12. Pay attention to your work-life balance

It’s incredible to feel very lit up by the work that you’re doing, but there’s a fine line between giving something your all and overdoing it. Think of this balance as working in the same way the seasons do—there wouldn’t be the beautiful blossoming of spring without the restful darkness of winter. Honor when you feel tired by resting, and schedule in downtime. This is an important component of cultivating creativity and growth. 

13. Find the balance between speaking and listening

Especially in a work environment, it’s normal to want to verbally contribute or show someone how much we know. Oftentimes though, in the pursuit of wanting to be heard, we don’t really listen to what others are saying. You can improve the quality of what you are saying by enhancing your vocabulary with power words. Practice active listening by really being present with what someone is sharing, as opposed to planning how you’re going to respond. Demonstrate your listening through your body language by making eye contact, nodding when appropriate, fully facing the person, and asking relevant and meaningful questions. Then after you’ve listened you can take the time to respond and verbally reinforce that you heard them, and share your perspective if it’s relevant.

14. Seek mentorship

No matter how much of an expert you may already be, humbly leave space to learn more. There will always be someone who knows less than you, and someone who knows more than you. When you can approach situations as a curious student, it’s easier to expand your professional network and reach, deepen your own understanding, and contribute to your field in a more meaningful way.

15. Embrace social media for the tool that it is

Whether it’s TikTok or LinkedIn, it’s almost certain that people in your professional niche are on social media. Find out where they hang out and go there. Share, network, interact, and be open to making new connections. With this personal development goal, be careful here to not get stuck in the scroll. Especially on platforms that are designed to keep you engaging with content. Spending time in these places can foster collaborations and opportunities that otherwise may not have arisen. 

16. Deepen your time management skills

Time is the one singular resource that you can’t get back. When you’re in the habit of being intentional with your time, you’re setting yourself up for success in the long term. Using strategies like the Pomodoro method of time blocking, using a visual planner like Trello or Structured app, and appropriately delegating tasks are all efficient ways to cultivate a more productive work environment.

How to set SMART goals for personal development

Appropriate structure when setting personal development goals can be a determining factor in how successful you are. Using a framework when setting personal development goals means that you’re setting yourself up for success. And using the SMART method is a particularly effective way of doing this. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-oriented. Setting your goals in this way creates a solid plan for actually attaining what it is that you desire.

Start by asking yourself what it is you’d like to achieve. This usually looks like a feeling or experience you’d like to have more of. Maybe it’s learning to manage stress in a healthy way or to reframe limiting beliefs. Once you have identified this, you can start to craft the SMART goal.

The specific component is important as it lays the groundwork for the rest of the goal. If you’re looking to better manage stress, think about where most of your stress comes from and how you’d like to feel instead. For example, “I will meditate five mornings a week in order to feel calmer during the busy season and during meetings at work” is clear and to the point.

Finding a unit of measurement is a way to track your progress over time. With this example, you can do a self-check to observe how calm you’re feeling after a meeting, on a scale of 1-5. Or you can also use a habit tracker to check off each day that you meditate. This is a great way of rewarding the brain with some dopamine when it comes to time to place your check mark, as well as to gather data and visually track your progress.

Don’t overload yourself with goals, because then you’re more likely to stop doing them. Choose four to five that are the most relevant to the big picture shifts you’d like to experience. Make sure that these are goals you could easily envision becoming reality because if it feels like too big of a leap, you might get discouraged and stop doing them. 

Lastly, set a realistic time frame for these goals to unfold. You can break time into quarters or check in every six months. Both are effective ways to set yourself up for checkpoints throughout the year to monitor your progress. Remember to stay fluid with the time frame, as some goals might need a little more time to unfold. Plus, it’ll be worth it to see it to completion rather than just giving up if you weren’t successful in the originally planned time period.

You can achieve your goals

On the journey to achieving your personal development goals, remember to be patient and loving with yourself. Many of these goals require you to step outside of your perceived zone of safety. And they challenge you to become a new and elevated version of yourself.

Remember to honor where you are each step of the way, and keep in mind that it’s not possible to “fall behind” in personal growth. As it’s not a linear process. And each step of the journey will find you exactly where you’re meant to be at that time. We have a tendency to not realize how much growth is really happening until we can see it retrospectively. Trust the process and have unconditional self-love along the way.



Author: Nicole Quintana-Wolf, Nicole is a former public school teacher turned Teacher Wellness Coach and entrepreneur. Catch her on Instagram @wellnesswith_mswolf for live meditations, tips to master your mindset, and more.