Happiness How to Set and Measure Personal Development Goals By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 06, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Shanna Baker/Moment/Getty Images There are many paths to personal growth. Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted as saying, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," and this can absolutely be true. But challenges that nearly destroy us aren't the only path to greater personal development. Setting goals for your own personal development can be an effective (and less stressful) way to grow emotionally and intellectually. Goal-setting can help you to succeed as a person in the ways that are important to you and can help you to streamline your life, minimize stress, and really become the person you were meant to be in far less time. It can also help you to stay mentally sharp as any lifetime learner can tell you. Goals Worth Going After Personal growth means different things to different people, but the following goals can be widely helpful in creating a life filled with healthy habits, greater happiness, and meaning in life. Learn What Is Most Important to You We all have values that are a vital part of who we are. To some people, artistic expression is an indispensable part of who they are, and they fare much better if they are creating, at least some of the time, in their lives. To some, helping others is something they must do, and the meaning it brings to them and others is what makes life valuable. Others need to be solving problems to feel alive. The reason it matters to realize this is that many people fill their time with things that are important but aren't aligned with their values, with what they value most in life. If you analyze what is important to you, you can set goals to ensure that you make this a greater part of your life. Pinpoint Where You're Limiting Yourself Many people self-sabotage in one way or another without realizing it. Perhaps you don't believe that you're capable of achieving things that you really want to achieve, and you limit yourself by not trying. Perhaps you're not allowing yourself to devote enough time to your goals because you're getting bogged down by other things in your schedule that are less important but that you feel "must" be done. One way to identify this subtle self-sabotage is to focus on living each day as though it were pivotal to your success in life. Is everything you're doing important, and contributing to your success? If you view things through this lens, it's easier to identify energy drains and time wasters, as well as those things that hold you back. Take Care of Your Health When your health is compromised, it's more challenging to focus on your goals in life. This is obviously true when facing serious health conditions, but it's also true of less serious types of health compromises. For example, most of us feel far more stressed and are not at our best when we haven't had adequate sleep for a few nights in a row or have eaten unhealthy food for a few days. Focusing on taking care of your health can make a huge impact on the rest of your life. Press Play for Advice On How to Avoid Burnout While Doing What You Love Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring World Champion Surfer Kelly Slater, shares strategies for pursuing your passion without burning out. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Amazon Music Use Your Time Wisely Time management is an important goal in itself. When you manage your time wisely, you have more energy and a far greater ability to pursue other things in life that are important to you. Time management enables you to maximize time spent in activities that feed you, motivate you, and help you develop yourself as a person. Time Management Develop One Habit a Month You may not be able to transform yourself in a few weeks, but focusing heavily on creating new habits on a regular basis can be transformative over the course of several months or years. The trick is to get into the habit of forming habits. Focus the bulk of your energy on making something new a standard part of your life, and then move on once you've become comfortable with it. This is the time to create a new habit. Surround Yourself With Role Models Have just one friend who is farther along on the path you hope to travel. Life coaches refer to these people as "expert friends" and they can be life-changing as they'll have tips and inspiration you can pick up just by watching them be themselves. With these friends, watching becomes doing. This is also supported by social learning theory, which explains how it makes things easier when you have a friend to help you along the way. Develop a Supportive Group Using the momentum of a group can really help you to reach your goals. This is because peer pressure can be a strong influencer, so using it to your advantage is wise. Having people who can cheer you on when you win and help you to feel better when you lose can make all the difference with your success. Unfortunately, not all friends are able to support you in this way. Some people naturally feel envious when their friends succeed too much. So if you notice a friend being less than supportive when you reach a goal (and you have been supportive of them), you may want to simply avoid sharing your successes with this friend and move on to friends who are genuinely thrilled with your success and able to support you when you aren't as successful as you'd like to be. Remember to be this kind of friend as well. Another idea is to find a group already focused on the goals you're trying to attain. You'll have built-in support, enthusiasm, and practical tips. Learn Something New Each Month (or Year) Self-development takes real focus. Learning a new language, for example, or developing a new skill can take time, and focusing the bulk of your energy toward immersing yourself in the pursuit of a goal is a great way to reach it. This is ideal when you want to really go deep in your knowledge and ability. How to Learn More Effectively Follow Your Passion You don't have to pursue your hobbies as a career in order to fully explore them. It's wonderful if you can make money doing what you love, but it doesn't have to be a profession to be worth your time. Activities like this allow you to experience a sense of flow, which can increase your happiness level and decrease stress as well. This means that you'll experience benefits far beyond the mere acquisition of a new pastime. How to Maintain Goals Identifying goals to go after is an important first step. However, it's also important to know how to pursue your goals. There are a few tricks to maintaining goals or adopting healthy habits. Set the right goalsTake small, concrete stepsReward yourself along the wayConsider slip-ups to be part of the process Maintaining goals can be a little more involved than that, but this is the basic process. The vast majority of people who try to set personal growth goals tend to abandon them because they set their goals too high (or the wrong goals for their lifestyle), try to make too big of a change in too short of a time, don’t congratulate themselves for making progress on their goals, and give up if they have a slip. True success comes from breaking your goals down into smaller steps, rewarding your progress and, perhaps most importantly, trying again if you find yourself slipping up. Setting personal goals that can really improve your life and then sticking with them can help you to live the life you always hoped to have. Read about 20 of the best motivational podcasts. By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Happiness Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.