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How to Set Goals for Personal Development

How to Set Goals for Personal Development

Have you ever sat back and wondered if you are living the life you are meant to live?

Whether you have a good job, are currently looking for another one, are focused on your family, or are building your own business, there is always room for growth. While you may be happy in your life, you may feel like something is missing. You could always wait until something monumental (or monumentally painful) happens to shake things up, or you can embark on a journey of personal development, leave your comfort zone, and become the person you've always wanted to be.

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How to Set Goals for Personal Development

Once you've decided that you want to change, how do you tackle this feat? "Be a better person" or "Reach for your dreams" is vague and impossible to achieve. If you don't know the exact ways that you'd like to improve yourself, you'll end up the same as you are now... only more frustrated.

The only way to create lasting change is to set personal development goals.

How Do You Write a Personal Development Goal?

In order to write and achieve a personal development goal, you'll want to adopt a practice of setting SMART goals. No, these aren't goals that achieve themselves. These are: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Related: Why Is Personal and Professional Development Important?


Specific goals are clear and concise so you aren't left with vague concepts as we discussed earlier. "Specific" will generally answer questions such as:

  • "Who is involved with this goal?"
  • "What do I want to accomplish?"
  • "Why is this important to me?"

Knowing the answers to these will help you phrase your goals in a way that you can understand and refer back to in order to see if you are still on track. An example of a Specific goal is "I will quit smoking so I can improve my health and be there for my children."


It’s important to set goals that are measurable so that you can track your progress on the way of achieving them. An example would be "I will go to the gym 5 days per week." This allows you to identify when you fall short, why, and what you’ll do to get back on track.


The idea behind Achievable goals is that if your goal is too lofty or too grand, you'll see it as impossible and not even attempt it. If your goal is reasonable, you can go full steam ahead, crush that goal, and then set the next one. An example of a realistic goal (for some) would be "I will put $200 into a savings account each month." Setting that number too high for what your budget is would be setting your goal up for failure.

By all means, reach for the stars. Ensuring that your goals are Achievable is not about limiting your possibilities but rather helping you to set reasonable expectations and break your big dream into smaller steps that you can accomplish and celebrate.


Sometimes, we want to do things that don't fit into our lives at the moment. Maybe there truly isn't time for them, or the financial investment would not fit within your budget. Take this into consideration as you create your goals and ask yourself, "Does this make sense right now?"

Just because you won't be tackling a goal now doesn't mean you can't ever. For example, you may have always wanted to write a book. If you've got newborn twins at home, now may not be the time to write it as you adjust to this new challenge.


Creating a time-bound goal means that you've got an official end date. This takes you out of the "someday" world by asking the all-important question, "By when?"

By what date will you be fit enough for a triathlon? By what date will you finish the first draft of your manuscript? By what date will you quit smoking? An example of a time-bound goal is, "I will have $10,000 in the bank by August 15th of 2020 so I can go on an African Safari."

SMART goals will help you clarify what you want to achieve, how you'll achieve it, and ensure that it actually happens in this lifetime.

Examples of Goals You Can Set for Yourself

Now that you know how to set a goal, what do you want to accomplish? Take some time to brainstorm ideas. Consider the different areas of your life (relationships, health, finances, hobbies, self-care, etc.) and determine where you are now and where you'd like to be.

In case you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, here are a few examples to get your goal setting in motion. These ideas are generic and can be tweaked to fit your lifestyle. Don't forget to apply your SMART skills to each idea!

  • Practice gratitude
  • Spend more time with family
  • Date nights with your spouse
  • Create a savings account for emergencies, travel, retirement, a new car, your kid's college, etc.
  • Read more books
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cut out sugar
  • Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • Take more vacations
  • Tackle the "Honey-Do" List
  • Speak to an old friend regularly
  • Learn a new skill
  • Start a new hobby
  • Get regular massages or spa days
  • Take the family dog for more walks
  • Volunteer in the community

How to Achieve a Goal Successfully

Now that you've set these amazing goals, how do you ensure that you'll stick with them and achieve your "best life ever" status?

Step 1: Review the Goal

Yes, you've invested some time into setting the goal, and before you invest more time in achieving it, take a step back and ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this?"

Sometimes, goals sound like a great idea, and when you actually consider what it will take to achieve them, they become a lot less exciting. Make sure that you want to do everything you've committed to.

Step 2: Set a Plan

Dissect each goal and consider what it will take to achieve it. You may need to break it down into smaller steps, and that's okay. Write out a clear and detailed plan for what you'll do.

Step 3: Put the Date on Your Calendar

Actually write it or type it in. While you're at it, schedule time to work on the goal each day or week as well.

Step 4: Tell Other People About It

Accountability is important. Share your goal with a few select people that will keep you focused (and not rain on your parade).

Step 5: Celebrate Victories

Did you hit a milestone? Party! Celebrate small steps along the way and reward yourself.

Step 6: Re-Evaluate Defeats

Did you hit a brick wall? That's okay. Reevaluate your goal, see what is and isn't working, and then head back to Step 2.

Step 7: Set a New Goal

Achieved your goal? Great! What's next? Keep goal setting and keep growing.

Setting personal development goals will make you a happier, healthier individual and will help you achieve the life of your dreams.