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How do I Set Personal Development Goals?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 17, 2024
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The process of setting of personal development goals is an extremely individual one and will be slightly different for each person. These goals can deal with many areas of life, including career, education, fitness, personal relationships, or creative pursuits. In general, the first step is to consider what you desire to accomplish and in what time frame; this step can require a great deal of thought. Once you've decided on a long-term goal or goals, it's best to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. These short term goals should be measurable and realistic; each one should build on the next, thereby leading to completion of the long-term plan.

Personal development goals are usually fairly long-term objectives that make enhancements to your life. These vary from person to person, making this an extremely individualized process. Personal development goals often deal with major life areas such as career or relationships. These goals can take months, years, or even a lifetime to accomplish. Some examples include acquiring a certain level of education, starting a family, saving a specific amount of money, writing a book, or starting business. Setting goals can require a great deal of thought and soul searching; a goal can also be something you've always desired.

Once you've chosen long-term personal development goals, you should take some time to find out everything you can about what's required to make them a reality. Decide if the goals can realistically be accomplished, and how long you think it will take. Use the information to consolidate the larger goals into a series of smaller, more manageable steps. These steps, or short-term benchmarks, should be carefully thought out with the desired result in mind. It's also a good idea to write down your personal development goals and the steps you plan to take to reach them.

The short-term goals that are reduced to manageable pieces should be clearly defined and measurable as well as realistic. It's vital to keep these subgoals relatively easy to accomplish; completing them will provide motivation and lead to further successes. If smaller goals are too difficult to attain, it becomes tempting to give up. Examples of measurable, practical goals include deciding to "take at least one class per semester," rather than just "go back to school," or to "write 1,000 words per day" instead of "start writing." Each short-term goal should build on what has already been accomplished, eventually leading to accomplishment of the long-term plan.

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Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Sep 03, 2011

It's so important to break your goal setting down into little steps. I often get overwhelmed if I think about all my goals and how far I have to go to achieve them.

But, I think to myself, every small step counts and just concentrate on what's happening right now, rather than what will happen in the future.

I like to think this is why I feel like my personal growth and development just keeps going, in spite of my fears.

Sometimes I have setbacks, but I keep my chin up and take another step.

By lluviaporos — On Sep 03, 2011

You might like to combine your personal development plan with your bucket list to make them more fun, and to make the list more achievable.

For example, on your bucket list you might have something like, run the New York marathon.

On your personal goals, you can break down what is needed before you can do that. Like first being able to run for a mile three times a week and slowing increasing from there.

Or if you have something like going to Italy on your list, you can use it as motivation to meet personal goals in your career, or language skills and so forth.

I think it's a good idea to keep the bucket list separate though, because it's nice to just be able to look at "Trip to Italy" sometimes, rather than "learn three new verbs".

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