In 2006, Carol Dweck, psychologist and author of Mindset: The New Psychology for Success, conducted a study that measured students’ brain activity while reviewing their test mistakes. The students who began the test with a focus on learning displayed neurological activity. Those who started the test with a focus only on performance, however, displayed none.
This is what Dweck calls having either a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.” Fixed mindsets experience no neurological activity when reviewing mistakes because they believe their abilities are “fixed” and incapable of change. Therefore, fixed mindsets also tend not to set goals. In fact, about 80% of people don’t set goals for themselves. And of the 20% that do set goals, only 30% achieve them, according to ReliablePlant. This insight suggests that having a fixed mindset is relatively common.
Contrary to what fixed mindsets believe, however, life-changing success isn’t born from performance and results. Plenty of people perform well and have incredible skill sets yet still find themselves stuck.
To get out of a limiting mindset, learn how to create a clear vision, write personal and professional development goals, and shift into a growth mindset.
Key Insights on Personal Development Goals
- The journey towards achieving personal development goals looks different for everyone.
- Those who write their goals down are 10 times more successful than those who don’t.
- Practicing a growth mindset improves symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Resilience can help overcome inevitable obstacles and unexpected challenges.
What Are Personal Development Goals?
Personal development goals aim to improve your skills, experience, or character through an actionable development plan. The first step is taking inventory of what you’d like to improve. Next, identify when the goal should be accomplished. From there, you can craft a realistic strategy to achieve these objectives and reach your full potential.
Common personal development goals include:
- Improving personal relationships
- Leveling up in your career
- Losing weight and becoming healthier
- Learning or practicing a new habit or skill
- Exploring a personal interest
- Continuing your education
Why Is It Important to Set Personal Development Goals?
- Refines your existing skills and interests: Setting new personal goals can help you gain clarity and explore new pathways. It may even lead you to venture out into a direction you’ve never considered before.
- Increases your confidence and self-awareness: Setting new goals forces you to examine yourself. When you hold a microscope up and face your shortcomings head-on, you take back control of your life. And when you have a sense of control and direction, you become more confident and self-aware.
- Improves your mental health: Studies show that having a growth mindset can directly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you set personal goals and use a wellness journal to measure your progress, your perspective will shift, and you’ll be able to work through things in a way you couldn’t before.
- Boosts your motivation: When you know what you need to do and have a plan to get there, you become more motivated for the journey. Personal goals aren’t accomplished overnight, but having a specific plan allows you to track progress as you go, seeing the changes occur in real-time. This can be incredibly motivating for all aspects of your life.
- Helps you overcome challenges: When you’re motivated, positive, and self-aware, you begin to also develop resilience. Learning from mistakes and pivoting away from them allows you to better deal with life’s curveballs and surprises. In fact, a Harvard Business Study found that those with written goals are ten times more successful than those without.
4 Steps for Establishing Personal Development Goals
“Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.”tony robbins
Whether personal development goals are for one’s life or career, the process of establishing and achieving them is the same. Here are the four steps for embarking on a journey of personal development.
1. Create a Vision
You can’t have clear goals without first having a clear vision. Start identifying your idea by asking yourself deep questions. Some examples might be:
- What does my ideal future look like professionally and personally?
- What problem exists locally or globally that upsets or ignites me?
- What is something the world needs that my skills could fulfill?
Once you have an idea of how you want your life to look or what kinds of issues you want to address, craft a vision statement. This will help you narrow down your vision so you can stay focused on achieving it.
2. Develop a Plan
Achieving personal goals requires a plan, which looks different for everyone. What action steps do you need to take to make your vision a reality? How can those larger steps be broken down into smaller steps and then prioritized?
For example, your plan could require you to spend 30 minutes each morning working on a task or just an hour on the weekends. To effectively plan achievable goals, you need to determine what the action item is and how much time you need to do it.
3. Track progress
Keep tabs on your personal development as you go. Doing so helps you pinpoint any methods to pivot or change, which will also help you reach your goals faster. Daily self-reflection, journaling, and referring to a vision board can all be great ways to track both your goals and your progress towards them.
You may set some goals, plan to achieve them, and then begin your journey. After some time, it’s a good idea to review your original goals and vision statement. Are you still on track? Is the objective still relevant? Does anything need to be changed? Reviewing your initial mindset can ensure your time is being spent efficiently.
20 Life-Changing Personal Goals and How to Achieve Them
“You become what you believe. You are where you are today in your life based on everything you have believed.”oprah winfrey
1. Finding a Sense of Purpose
Finding your sense of purpose, or your “ikigai,” can be daunting. Identifying your ikigai means waking up each day and doing the very thing your soul needs to do in order to feel alive. When you achieve this state of being, your life becomes full of meaning, purpose, and direction. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions. This will help you begin to draw out your true calling.
How to achieve this goal: Ask yourself—
- “What do I love?”
- “What am I good at?”
- “What does the world need?”
- “What can I be paid for?”
2. Becoming Healthier/Losing Weight
This goal can encompass a lot of different elements, from getting better sleep to drinking more water or eliminating certain foods. No two journeys on the way to improved health and weight look the same. The key is finding the right path that works for you.
How to achieve this goal: Get clear on what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to lose weight, it’s not enough to say, “My goal is to lose weight.” Identify exactly how many pounds you want to lose. Or, if your goal is to reduce anxiety, get clear on the things that trigger your anxiety. Then, make a plan to limit your exposure to those things. Wellness journals are often helpful for achieving health-related goals.
3. Improving Personal Relationships
Improving and maintaining relationships is one of the most important personal development goals one can have. As Brené Brown says in Daring Greatly, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
How to achieve this goal: Practicing empathy, becoming a better listener, and offering support are just a few ways you can begin to improve personal relationships. For example, when you’re with someone, practice listening fully before speaking. Taking an emotional intelligence test to gauge areas of EQ helps you improve upon your weaknesses and develop your strengths.
4. Boosting Self-Confidence
When your self-confidence is boosted, things fall into place. You begin to feel more motivated and capable, leading to new goals, ideas, and visions for your life. If you’re feeling low, this should be one of your primary personal goals.
How to achieve this goal: Practice self-kindness and recite daily personal affirmations or mantras. Be sure to also take care of your body and give it proper sleep and nourishment. Additionally, stop comparing yourself and your journey to others. Instead, surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and support you.
5. Exploring Challenges
If you’ve had a fixed mindset, you’ve likely tried to avoid any challenges. Challenges, however, are opportunities for growth and personal development because they force you to view situations from all angles in search of a solution.
How to achieve this goal: The next time a challenge presents itself, instead of avoiding it or taking an easy way out, lean into it. For example, if you’re in a leadership position and your teams have expressed frustration with a project, sit down with the teams and ask them for specific feedback on how to improve it.
6. Developing a Growth Mindset
This personal development goal will change your life. Having a fixed mindset stunts growth and hampers one’s ability to move forward. But having a growth mindset invites new opportunities, helps you embrace challenges, and results in success.
How to achieve this goal: Ditch perfectionism, read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, and set challenging personal development goals for yourself.
7. Creating a Vision For Your Life
This goes hand-in-hand with finding your sense of purpose and is critical for reaching any personal development goal. What do you want your life to look like? Where do you see yourself in five years? What about ten? If you’re unsure, take some time to reflect on these questions until you have a clear image of what you want.
How to achieve this goal: Often, we don’t achieve our visions of success simply because we forget what they are. Creating a vision board can be incredibly helpful in this regard. This is because it transforms ideas that are abstract and invisible into visible, daily reminders. When you can see your vision, you are more likely to take the small, daily steps required to achieve it.
8. Expanding Your Circle
In The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose, author Matthew Kelly says, “The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves.” This is the importance of examining your circle. Are those closest to you supporting you to become the best version of yourself? If not, consider making it a personal development goal to expand your circle.
How to achieve this goal: Consider where people with mindsets and interests like yours would go. What do they do? Where could you meet them? Once you identify this, visit those places and make it a personal goal to meet those people. Doing so will help you to expand your circle in a way that better supports your vision.
9. Practicing Patience
Having patience breeds many personal benefits. From clearer decision-making to exercising better judgment, having patience enables you to see situations beyond the veil of emotion. If you tend to react quickly, practicing patience can be an excellent personal development goal.
How to achieve this goal: Practicing mindfulness, accepting your situation, and making conscious efforts to slow down when you’re feeling rushed are a few of the things the Cleveland Health Clinic suggests for improving patience.
10. Distancing Yourself From Toxic People
There’s almost nothing more emotionally draining than a negative person or colleague. Toxic people create stress, bring up feelings of anger and resentment, and cause low self-esteem. For these reasons, consider setting a personal goal of distancing yourself from those with toxic traits.
How to achieve this goal: Experts at Delaware Psychological Services suggest several ways to eliminate toxic people from your life. Start by letting those people know how you feel, set some boundaries, and honor them. For example, if a toxic friend calls you and asks you to engage in their drama, don’t engage. Communicate you are no longer available to discuss issues like this. If they don’t stop, distance yourself from them.
11. Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries for yourself might be one of the highest forms of self-care. Boundaries define behaviors that are and aren’t acceptable to you. Examples can be anything that compromises your health, safety, confidence, and success. Setting them can also help protect your progress toward other personal development goals.
How to achieve this goal: Positive Psychology outlines four simple steps for setting boundaries: define, communicate, stay simple, and set consequences. You can use this worksheet to help guide you through setting boundaries.
12. Ditching Perfectionism
The term “perfectionism” is often worn like a badge of honor. Perfectionist tendencies, however, are one of the greatest hindrances to success. Brené Brown, the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, says, “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” For this reason, abandoning perfectionism should be a top professional development goal.
How to achieve this goal: Stop comparing yourself and your achievements to others and recognize that perfection is a concept, not a reality. Simply focusing on making progress, striving for excellence, and doing your best combats a perfectionist mindset.
13. Taking Time Off
Culturally, the practice of taking time off has become taboo. Even though most employers offer generous vacation packages or even unlimited PTO, the fear of looking like a slacker or being replaced by competition prevents many from ever disconnecting. Yet, not taking time off can lead to work burnout, which causes a host of potential health problems such as heart attacks, hypertension, and headaches.
How to achieve this goal: Taking time off can tremendously benefit your life and overall success. Start by communicating your intentions to do so with your employer. Provide a recap of any completed or pending work, set expectations while you’re away, and honor your commitment to disconnect. This helps you fully rest while you’re away.
14. Learning New Skills
Growth and development are impossible if you don’t learn new things. To do this, explore your interests so you can expand your knowledge and skill set. This opens new pathways of thought and opportunity, which are vital for success.
How to achieve this goal: Consider what you’re interested in, but never pursued. For example, do you own a guitar but never learned a chord? Have you dabbled in design but never taken a formal design course? Explore your likes and dislikes to reveal new skills you should pursue.
15. Increasing Emotional Intelligence
We’re constantly working and interacting with others in our jobs, our social groups, and our professional associations. Having the ability to recognize and manage our emotions as well as the emotions of others is paramount for maintaining these relationships. This professional development goal will also benefit your personal life.
How to achieve this goal: Experts at Harvard Professional Development outline three steps for determining your level of emotional intelligence and how to increase it:
- Recognizing and naming your emotions
- Asking for feedback
- Reading stories with complex characters that increase empathy
16. Practicing Authentic Leadership
If you want more influence and trust from your team, practicing authentic leadership will help get you there. This leadership style requires leading by example and with transparency. If you’re a leader and you make a mistake, take responsibility. If you have a long-term vision, communicate it with your employees—don’t keep them in the dark. Leading in this way fosters greater trust and emotional investment in achieving your vision.
How to achieve this goal: First, acknowledge that you can’t do it all. Instead, identify your leadership strengths and play to those. Then, observe the traits and behaviors of other great leaders. What have they done to foster success? What has made those leaders so different? Take time to reflect on those questions. They’ll help guide you on your personal goal of becoming an authentic leader.
17. Improving Time Management
According to Clockify, 82% of people don’t have a proper time management system. Having better time management skills means getting things done more productively and efficiently. And, the more efficient you are, the more time you have to do other important things.
How to achieve this goal: Begin integrating good time management skills into your daily routine, such as—
- Breaking down large goals into smaller tasks
- Tracking your progress to set the right pace
- Setting aside time each week for goal strategy and evaluation
- Prioritizing needle-moving tasks first
18. Cultivating Resilience
Difficult situations and challenges will always come up, but success depends on how well you can move on from them. If you tend to carry lingering defeat every time something goes wrong, consider cultivating resilience as a personal development goal.
How to achieve this goal: One way to cultivate resilience is to become more proactive instead of reactive. What’s an area in your life that you feel confident about? How can you proactively strengthen that area even more? By approaching a situation with a proactive mindset, you gain greater control over it. If something does veer off track, you can manage it more effectively without it becoming a huge problem.
19. Learning From Mentors
Learning from mentors can be a huge tool for professional development goals. With the right mentor, you can adopt greater awareness of ways to approach certain situations, both personally and professionally. They can also increase your confidence, help you build a network, and give you access to more opportunities.
How to achieve this goal: Consider those you work with. Is there anyone you look up to? Also, consider connections outside of your job. Is there anyone living in a way that matches the vision you have for your life? This could relate to health and lifestyle, finances, or entrepreneurship. Identify some people who could be potential mentors and talk with them.
20. Practicing Empathy
More empathy equals more innovation. At least, that’s what Catalyst researchers discovered when they studied the impact empathy had on employee outcomes. They found that 61% of employees with empathetic leadership reported feeling more innovative at work. Practicing empathy is about seeing the situation from another’s perspective and walking through it with them. As Brené Brown explains: “Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.”
How to achieve this goal: There are several ways you can become more empathetic as a personal development goal. Start by becoming a better listener. This means committing your attention fully (no devices) when you’re with someone and allowing them to express their thoughts completely. Then, understand that not everyone wants advice or feedback. Acknowledge what they’ve said, and then ask them if they’d like to hear your thoughts. This will help you to become both more empathetic and a better communicator.
Eliminating Obstacles to Personal Development
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”henry ford
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Obstacles and challenges are a part of life, often appearing unexpectedly and causing change we didn’t prepare for. Losing a job or suffering the loss of a loved one is enough to derail anyone.
The key to staying focused on your personal development goals, despite all odds, is to remember that your journey is your own and no one else’s. Whatever your goal is, the path by which you achieve it will inherently look different from another’s. Eliminate obstacles by accepting they will happen and that they are simply a part of the process.
Stay on track by:
- Setting realistic deadlines
- Building a schedule to follow, and honoring it
- Regularly reviewing your progress
- Establishing a reward system to stay motivated
Continue on your journey toward personal development by reading “Self-Limiting Beliefs: A Guide for Overcoming Limitations.“