25 Examples of Personal Development Goals for Work and Life
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If you’re like many other people, you probably make a resolution or two at the beginning of each year to try to improve yourself. And if you are like many other people, that resolution probably becomes history by January 15th.
However, this common focus on self-improvement comes from people’s desire to be successful in life. And it’s true that continuous personal development will earn you success in your personal and professional life, however, personal development goals will not do you any favors if you don’t follow through by acting on them.
Having clearly defined personal development goals can improve your performance in any area of your life, yet the benefit depends on the effort you put forth to achieve those goals.
I know that once I stopped making vague intentions (lose weight, save money, spend more time with the family) and started to make specific and actionable goals, not only did I start achieving my personal development goals, I also found it easier to track my progress and measure my success.
In this post, I am going to give you 25 examples of personal development goals for work and life that will help you cultivate success.
Let’s get started.
(Side note: One way to help you achieve your personal development goals is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley. This newsletter is a 5-minute read that's informative, witty and FREE!)
What You Will Learn
- Professional Goals
- 1. Build and Improve Professional Relationships
- 2. Improve Your Time Management Skills
- 3. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
- 4. Define Your Own Success
- 5. Find New Challenges
- 6. Don’t Be Passive
- 7. Develop a Growth Mindset
- 8. Grow Your Network
- 9. Tweak Your Work Life Balance
- 10. Improve Your Upon Weaknesses
- 11. Pursue Ongoing Professional Development
- 12. Learn How to Motivate Others
- Personal Goals
- 13. Enjoy Life More by Taking It Less Seriously
- 14. Engage in Self-Care
- 15. Be Proactive
- 16. Practice Patience
- 17. Say “Goodbye” to Toxic People
- 18. Accept Your Reality
- 19. Don’t Let Your Past Define Your Future
- 20. Let Go of Your Limiting Beliefs
- 21. Set Personal Boundaries
- 22. Become an Active Listener
- 23. Learn to Let Go
- 24. Build Resilience
- 25. Wake Up 30 Minutes Earlier
- Final Thoughts on Personal Development Goals
1. Build and Improve Professional Relationships
You spend a lot of time with your colleagues, so it is important to build good relationships with them. After all, team cohesion relies on mature working relationships, as people typically work better together if there’s a personal element to their relationship.
Having positive professional relationships can lay the foundation for your ultimate success. Because each person’s role in your organization either directly or indirectly affects your performance, it’s important for you to nourish these working relationships in order for you to work in harmony with others.
To improve your professional relationships, help other members of the team accept you by being helpful when you can and engaging in open and honest communication with the people at your organization. (And if you're not an effective communicator, then these 11 strategies can help improve your communication skills.)
Doing so will help you build trust and strengthen your relationship with the people at work. While it is also important to develop positive relationships with others in your field who work with different organizations (which we will address later), don’t neglect those who are on your own turf.
2. Improve Your Time Management Skills
Throughout your professional career, you’ll face deadlines and competing tasks that fight for your attention every day. As your workload increases, it may seem impossible to be able to get everything accomplished.
In these instances, your ability to manage your time will be tested. Having effective time management skills will help increase your productivity and efficiency, and decrease your stress, which will allow you to have more time to dedicate to other endeavors.
Make sure that you’re keeping track of how you spend your time if you feel like time management is an issue for you. Schedule a specific amount of time for every item on your schedule and don’t allow interruptions during the times that are assigned to focusing on a specific task. This will help you make better use of your time, and once you get the hang of working in this way, it will become second nature.
Now, if you'd like to discover additional resources related to time management and productivity, then I recommend checking out the other articles we've published on this site:
- The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Use 4 Quadrants to Make Important vs. Urgent Decisions in Your Life
- The 80/20 Rule: How to Apply This Principle to All Areas of Your Life
- The Pomodoro Technique: How to Manage Your Time in 25-Minute Blocks
- 27 Best Books on Productivity and Time Management
- The Rock, Pebbles, and Sand Story About Time Management
3. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
When emotional intelligence (EQ) first hit people’s radars, it was the answer to a puzzling question: How do people with mid-range IQs outperform those with the highest IQs almost three-quarters of the time?
People originally thought that one’s IQ was a direct indicator of their success. However, decades of research uncovered that a high EQ is an element that brings star performers to the top.
This means that your EQ has a huge impact on your professional success. When you have a high EQ, you are better equipped to understand your own feelings and the feelings of others, which helps you relate to people. Not only does this improve your communication, but it also gives you the social competence that’s needed to understand other people’s emotions, behaviors, and motives so you can respond appropriately and successfully manage your interactions.
One interesting thing about people with a high EQ is that they have a large emotional vocabulary. While everyone experiences emotions, very few can accurately identify them as they happen, which becomes a problem because unidentified emotions are easily misinterpreted, leading to irrational decisions and ineffective actions.
However, those who have high EQs can understand their emotions, and they have a large vocabulary of “feeling words” to do this. So, while others may say they feel bad, a person with a high EQ would be able to identify if they’re frustrated, hurt, overwhelmed, etc. The more clearly you can define your emotion, the more insight you have into what caused your feelings and how you can address them.
To learn more about this topic, Mark Manson write a comprehensive post on 5 ways to develop emotional intelligence.
4. Define Your Own Success
You don’t have to abide by everyone else’s definition of success. You can define what being successful and happy mean to you. Knowing what “success” means to you will help you clarify what you need to do to achieve it.
Once you dig deep to uncover your values and purpose, you will recognize that if you try to chase everyone else's idea of what success is, you won’t achieve it. In doing this, you have to make it a point to not compare yourself to other people. The things that you see other people have don’t define or impact your success. You’re the only one who can decide if you have achieved your goals thus far.
And if you want to be more successful, here are 12 rules to live by.
5. Find New Challenges
Finding new challenges in your current position will help keep your job interesting and fulfilling. This personal development goal shows your ambition and can be especially helpful for your organization if they’re always coming up with new ideas that are never acted on or no one supervises to ensure any type of follow-through.
Finding new challenges could be as easy as revising that employee handbook that hasn’t been touched since 2005, or as complex as proposing and creating a prototype for a new product. Finding new challenges for yourself will also help you show your leadership abilities and could lead to further progress within your organization.
If you need a jumpstart, here are 129 30-day challenges you can use to improve your personal and professional life.
6. Don’t Be Passive
Passive behavior occurs when you put other people’s preferences or needs ahead of your own. While sometimes this is necessary to build relationships, it can become a problem if you are consistently passive in a way that allows it to become a barrier to your success.
If you like to avoid conflict, you probably tend to be passive. In doing so, you may accept an offer that would be unacceptable by other people’s standards, which could ultimately impact your performance and even your organization. If you simply allow things to happen without standing up for yourself or offering a logical argument in return, others will see this and start taking advantage of your willingness to please.
While being passive in the short-term may make you feel good because you are getting other people’s approval, it is damaging in the long-run because it will require you to make larger sacrifices to maintain these relationships.
7. Develop a Growth Mindset
People who have a growth mindset believe that they can continue to develop their talents throughout life. These people are often able to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, who believe that they were born with their abilities already set into place and therefore don’t invest time or energy into learning new skills. As people with a growth mindset are continuously aiming to better themselves, they’re able to break away from complacency and achieve their goals.
In a professional environment, people who have a growth mindset often share information, collaborate well with others, look for feedback, strive for innovation, and are able to admit their mistakes. On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset are less likely to take risks for fear of failure or embarrassment. They don’t look forward to the potential learning opportunities from trying new things because they think they were born with the maximum amount of talent they will ever have.
Those with a fixed mindset can develop a growth mindset by embracing imperfection and altering their viewpoint on challenges. This is advantageous in the workplace because it offers a greater opportunity to become successful.
If you'd like to develop this quality, then here are 7 exercises that can help you create a growth mindset in life.
8. Grow Your Network
People do business with others whom they know and trust. And the truth is, “companies” don’t make business decisions, people do. Having a strong professional network can help you advance in your career in ways that you would not be able to do alone.
Not only can networking lead to connections with people who can help you enhance your expertise and knowledge, but it can also help you stay on top of potential opportunities for advancement in your career.
9. Tweak Your Work Life Balance
Having a healthy work-life balance is an important part of living a happy life. Not only will taking sufficient breaks from work have a positive effect on your wellbeing, but it will also influence your productivity by improving your performance while you’re working.
Create boundaries between your professional and your personal lives that are strong, yet realistic. To you, this may mean sticking to an 8-hour work-day, or it could mean leaving work at work and leaving home at home (i.e. not checking your work email while having dinner with your family). Having a healthy worklife balance will help you maintain your professional motivation and allow you to work smarter, not harder.
10. Improve Your Upon Weaknesses
Make your biggest weakness into your biggest strength. Being self-aware shows strength in your character.
Being able to recognize your weaknesses shows self-awareness and strength in your character. But what do you tell potential employers when they ask about your weaknesses? Do you tell them the solid steps you’re taking to improve upon them?
You won’t improve without accepting that your skillset isn’t perfect and then creating a strategic plan for improvement. If you can take concrete steps to turn your weaknesses around, not only will you be a role model for other professionals, you will also be engaging in self-improvement.
This is not to say that your biggest weakness has to turn into your biggest strength, but being aware of the areas in your work where you have room for improvement and trying to bridge that gap is a constructive personal development goal.
11. Pursue Ongoing Professional Development
This is another personal development goal that will keep you on top of your game at work. Employers are often reluctant to invest the money in sending their employees to seminars or conferences, but engaging in professional development will help you maintain your competence in your field and excel when faced with the competition.
Ensuring that your professional skills remain up-to-date in our rapidly changing world is critical to your long-term success. Your education certainly doesn’t stop with your diploma, and staying abreast of changing trends in your industry will help you be an in-demand candidate for prospective future employers.
12. Learn How to Motivate Others
If you want to be a leader in your industry, it is important to know how to motivate your team members. Otherwise, your organization will go through periods of struggle with productivity and overall morale.
If you aren’t in a leadership position, you can still look for opportunities to bring to your leaders’ attention to opportunities that address motivation if you feel that this is an obstacle in your workplace. If you are able to enhance the motivation of your team or have a positive impact on the work ethic of the employees, you will be helping to maximize the effectiveness of your organization.
13. Enjoy Life More by Taking It Less Seriously
A lot of people fail to keep the bigger picture in mind on an everyday basis. The majority of us are fortunate to have been born healthy and into families that could provide us with our basic needs. However, many still get caught up in the small things that happen and completely forget about how well-off they are.
Think about someone you know who earns a large salary, but still gets mad at small inconveniences. Taking life less seriously will help you be happier, reduce stress, and make you a more enjoyable person for other people to be around.
If you’re able to move past the small and insignificant things that happen, you will get more enjoyment out of life. Laugh at unexpected inconveniences, laugh at yourself when you make a mistake, and laugh because it will reduce the amount of stress that you’re putting on your body.
14. Engage in Self-Care
You can’t be an effective partner, mother, cousin, or friend to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Too often, people fail to take care of their own basic needs, either because they’re too busy or they’re not making it a primary concern.
Learning how to engage in proper self-care and making it a priority in your everyday life will greatly improve your life and the lives of the people with whom you interact. You can’t take care of anything else in your life to the best of your ability until you take care of yourself.
If you're stuck, then check out these 274 self-care ideas.
15. Be Proactive
Things will go wrong in life–it’s inevitable. These negative situations can either have a large impact on your life, or they could be a bit inconvenient. This all depends on whether you’re proactive or reactive. If you always wait to react to problems once they arise, it expands the associated challenges and adds additional stress to your life.
On the other hand, if you’re proactive, it will minimize the issue and give you more stability because you will be facing a challenge that you were prepared for. It’s easier to remain relatively undisturbed if you’re proactive because you’ll always feel like you’re in control of your circumstances.
16. Practice Patience
It can be tough to be patient, especially if you tend to be short-tempered. However, this is something that can be managed with practice. It’s beneficial to maintain your patience during times of despair because it will help you keep a calm state of mind, which will allow you to effectively problem-solve without being impacted by frustration.
Also, having continuous patience will help you make decisions that will be beneficial for you in the long term because you won’t rush yourself into making decisions that will suit your needs for instant gratification. One way to ensure that you are practicing patience is to stop to think critically before making any decisions. Taking the time to do this will help you avoid having to re-do work, make corrections, or do something that you later regret.
17. Say “Goodbye” to Toxic People
Do you have negative people in your life who drain you of your energy and confidence? Or, can you think of some people who are constantly complaining or judging others in some way? These people are known as being “toxic” and you should avoid having them in your life as much as you can.
Toxic people will hold you back from achieving your goals. Because putting an end to any relationship is difficult, and you may not want to completely cut ties with a friend from childhood (for example), you can make a concerted effort to spend a minimal amount of time with them rather than completely cutting them off if you feel that would be more appropriate.
Instead, surround yourself with uplifting people who will inspire you and support you in being the best version of yourself. Spending your time with like-minded people will make it easier for you to achieve your ultimate goals in life.
18. Accept Your Reality
You may feel like you know yourself, but have you accepted yourself and your life? Have you settled for “less than” what you hoped? Failing to connect with reality may keep you stuck in jobs, relationships, or even living situations that are just not right for you.
You will always be a work in progress and it is perfectly acceptable for you to make mistakes, but in order to make some sort of progression in your life, it is important to accept your reality if you’re not living your dream.
Accepting your reality is one of the best things you can do for your future. Even if your current situation is awful, the first step to making positive changes is acknowledging and accepting it in its current state and then identifying the specific things you can do to improve it. Otherwise, you will remain unhappily complacent.
19. Don’t Let Your Past Define Your Future
A lot of us have a terrible past, and you may believe that your goals are out of reach due to your undesirable history. Perhaps you’re discouraged, you feel unworthy, or you may even be embarrassed by your past.
But it doesn’t take too much research to find success story after success story of people who were able to overcome their past struggles and become very triumphant. Don’t let your past be an obstacle to achieving the future that you dream of. Rather, commit to your goals and realize that change can occur at any point, and you have endless opportunities for transformation.
20. Let Go of Your Limiting Beliefs
Holding onto limiting beliefs will delay your progression because you will be stuck inside of your comfort zone, unwilling to try new things or take any risks. While you may have a fear of failure or you are scared you’re going to get hurt in the process of working toward your goals, these thoughts cannot mark the end of the road to your success.
You could have limiting beliefs about a variety of things, ranging from finances to relationships to your own abilities. The key is to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, overcome them, and replace them with positive thoughts that support your path to success.
21. Set Personal Boundaries
If you’re like me, you have a hard time saying no to people. You want to please those who come to you for help or who need you to do them a favor. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not an endless resource to be used by other people.
You have to know your limits so you have enough time and energy for the things that you need to accomplish. Once you know where your limits stand, set strict boundaries for others and stick to your guns.
This could mean boundaries in romantic relationships, with your family members, friends, or even in the workplace. Setting clear personal boundaries is an important part of ensuring that your relationships are mutually supportive and respectful.
If you have weak or undefined boundaries, you will be left vulnerable and others may take you for granted. However, with strong boundaries, you’re setting the limits for what’s acceptable behavior from the people with whom you associate.
22. Become an Active Listener
Part of being a great communicator is being a great listener. You give off a good impression to others when you lend them a listening ear, and active listening will help you earn the trust of others. When you are actively listening, not only are you showing the speaker that you want to understand what they’re saying, you’re also offering empathy and support, which builds stronger relationships.
To improve your active listening skills, mimic the speaker’s body language and ask questions to make sure you’re understanding what they’re saying. You don’t want to interrupt the person who is speaking, but nodding along in agreement and repeating back to them what you heard are effective ways to show the speaker that you are engaged in the conversation.
23. Learn to Let Go
If you carry the negative things from your past around with you, it will only act as a burden and bring you down. Remember the lessons that you take away from your hardships, but let go of the emotional weight that you’re holding onto.
A large part of letting go involves learning to forgive. This doesn’t mean that you have to forget what someone else has done to hurt you, it simply means that you will not allow their action to influence your future. Offering forgiveness is therapeutic when you’re trying to move past something, and if you share this forgiveness with the offender, it may motivate that person to seek moral growth, and improve themselves as a result of your forgiveness.
24. Build Resilience
When you’re resilient, you are able to cope with adversity and adapt when a situation doesn’t go the way that you expected. Having resilience is the difference between feeling powerless and being able to stand up to your problems with confidence and bravery. When you can bounce back from a problem, you will come out on the other side a stronger person.
Having resilience is what helps you cope with whatever comes your way and just focus on what you can learn from the experience. This personal development goal can help you in any area of your life, as it will prevent you from becoming easily overwhelmed and allow you to use your strengths to recover from challenges.
25. Wake Up 30 Minutes Earlier
Set your alarm to get up early–or at least earlier than usual. There are many benefits to being an early riser, such as giving yourself time to eat a healthy breakfast, get some exercise, or complete some productive work before other people are awake and the chaos of your day begins. Waking up earlier than you need to gives you quiet time to focus on anything that is important to you.
Studies have shown that people who wake up early tend to procrastinate less and get ahead of the game as opposed to their later-sleeping counterparts.
Final Thoughts on Personal Development Goals
Your brain and thinking methods both have an impact on every aspect of your life. The personal development goals discussed in this article are all dependent on your ability to retrain your brain to think (and therefore act) in new ways.
Your brain is flexible and can quickly adapt to reaching your new goals when you use the right approach. Take a moment to think about your personal development goals, and which of the aforementioned are the most important to you.
If you have had some other goals on your mind, how can you incorporate some of these personal development goals into your own to leverage your success?
Reaching one goal can easily open a door to work on another of its kind or help you recognize another area of improvement you may be able to work on in your life.
Finally, one way to help you achieve your personal development goals is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley. This newsletter is a 5-minute read that's informative, witty and FREE.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.