This post is Part 2 of the Goals to Set for Yourself Series. In Part 1, we looked at why personal improvement goals are so important, questions you should ask yourself before setting goals, and how to set smart goals.
We also covered fifty goals you can set for yourself in the areas of personal development, productivity, finances, mental health, physical health, and attitude. If you haven’t had a chance to read that post yet, you may want to check it out before coming back to this one.
In this post, we’ll dive into an additional fifty ideas for personal growth goals you might one to take on. Whereas Part 1 focused entirely on your personal life, Part 2 also includes specific goals for your interpersonal relationships and professional success.
Remember, even though I’m offering these huge lists of goals, change is a gradual process, and you shouldn’t try to tackle all fifty or even ten of these goals at once. Find a few that resonate the most with you right now and work on those before moving on to the others.
Personal Improvement Goals
1. Embrace Failure
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the things you put so much hard work into will fail. This may be due to external circumstances, or it may be because you, like everyone else, are still learning.
Failure is inevitable, though, and it’s worth celebrating. As Einstein said, “A person who never failed never tried anything new.” If you’re not failing sometimes, you’re not pushing yourself far enough out of your comfort zone.
When you fail, take it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Glean all that you can from it, and then move on with a clean conscience, knowing you’ll do better next time.
Sample goal: If I can’t find an agent to represent my book, I will take any feedback I’ve received, apply it, and keep trying, even if that means starting a new book.
2. Grow Beyond Your Comfort Zone
So, how do you push yourself outside of that comfort zone? If we’re following Einstein’s logic, we try new things. Make a new friend, tackle a new type of project, travel somewhere you’ve never been before. (Nothing will push you quite so far out of your comfort zone as being in a country where you don’t speak the language!)
Let yourself feel uncomfortable. Embrace it. Reflect on your discomfort–what is at its root? Is it like a muscle kink that can be massaged away, or is it something more painful? Consider what would help you cope in the new circumstance and make adjustments until you feel comfortable there.
Then push yourself a little further.
Sample goal: I will sign up for a course at my local university this summer.
3. Be Proactive
If you want things to happen, you have to make them happen. The changes you want to see in your life aren’t going to occur on their own.
Think about the Law of Inertia: a body at rest will remain at rest until it is acted on by a force. The same is true of circumstances, projects, tasks, and goals. If we don’t apply force to change their status, it isn’t going to change.
Pick one goal and stick with it. Break it down into its smallest measurable parts and then take one step every day towards completing those tasks. Don’t stop until you get it done. And when you do, move on to your next goal. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish this way.
Sample goal: I will choose one goal to work on this month, and I will spend at least twenty minutes every day making progress toward achieving that goal.
4. Be Open-Minded
Open-mindedness seems to be a rapidly dwindling virtue. In today’s instant-answer culture, we are all expected to pick sides and stick to them come hell or high water.
But open-minded, critical thinkers don’t work that way. They need time to process ideas from all angles and sides. They ask questions that help them understand more clearly before reaching their own conclusions.
While these thought processes are no longer our societal norm, they are well worth pursuing. Being able to hold civil conversations with those with whom you disagree and having a willingness to consider that you might be wrong makes for a richer, more interesting life.
Sample goal: This year I will read a book by someone who holds radically different views than I do.
5. Allow Yourself to Try New Things without Judgment or Pressure
It’s tempting to put off learning new skills out of fear of what our friends or family members might say. We’ve all experienced judgment and humiliation in our lives, and our natural response to this is to protect ourselves by hiding behind a wall, but that’s no way to live.
If there’s something you’ve been keen to learn, set aside your concerns about what others will say and go for it. Sign up for a class, find a tutor, or research the best online app for that skill. If you’re shy, you can keep your progress to yourself until you are comfortable sharing it with others, but know that true friends will support you when you pursue your personal goals.
Sample goal: I’m going to get over my fear of singing and sign up for online vocal coaching.
6. Use Mind Maps to Explore Your Ideas
Mind maps offer a visual representation of a complex idea or thought. They are a great way to think through problems, processes, and inspiration and make better decisions.
Sample goal: I will make a mind map to sketch out my thoughts about our home redesign.
7. Create a Vision Board
Vision boards are another visual tool used for goal setting. Instead of—or in addition to—writing out a big checklist of important goals, a vision board uses pictures, words, stickers, and other graphic elements to give you an attractive snapshot of your goals. Post it on your wall so you can look at it on a daily basis and glean new inspiration.
Sample goal: This weekend, I will create a vision board to represent my five most important goals for the year.
8. Try a Daily Writing Prompt
Writing is an effective way to cope with stressful situations, process negative emotions, and build your emotional intelligence. Whether you are writing fiction or journaling, developing a writing habit is one of the best ways to get in touch with your own thoughts and feelings and work through them.
Sample goal: I will spend ten minutes each morning responding to a journal prompt.
9. Try Out a New Art Technique
Whether or not you’re an artistic person by nature, trying a new art technique can help unlock other creative areas in your life. Making art can help you learn to express your emotions and become a better problem solver. It’s also a lot of fun!
Sample goal: I will buy painting supplies and do some online painting tutorials over spring break.
10. Take Up a New Hobby or Craft
Taking up a new craft can help in more ways than simply outfitting your kids with new crocheted hats. Crafting can improve your mood and self-confidence and lower your stress levels. It also increases mental agility, improves fine motor movements, and decreases cognitive decline.
Sample goal: In July, I will learn to crochet a blanket.
11. Print Some Photos from Your Phone and Make an Album or Scrapbook
Remember photo albums? They were such a ubiquitous sight in living rooms twenty years ago, but when was the last time you put one together? These days, we mostly keep our photos on our phones, computers, or social media accounts.
But there is great joy to be had both in putting a photo album or scrapbook together and in reflecting on it for years to come. It’s a fun way to look back on your life and relive memories while also seeing how far you’ve come. Plus, keeping your most precious photos in a physical book will be a relief if you ever suffer a digital disaster.
Sample goal: Over the summer, I’ll print out my favorite photos and organize them in an album.
12. Read More Books
Hopefully, this goal suggestion calls for little prodding—reading more books is always a good goal to have! Reading is an important part of life and brings much personal satisfaction. Books open new doors to the world, help us understand different cultures and perspectives, take us on journeys, and give us something healthy and wonderful to escape into.
If you’re not reading enough right now—and most of us aren’t—go ahead and add this one to your list of smaller goals immediately.
Not sure what to read? Check out my book recommendations.
Sample goal: I will read at least two books a month.
13. Discover Some New Favorite Music
Remember how much fun it was to discover new music before the Internet arrived? We had a few options for finding our latest favorites:
- Listen to the radio and record songs on mixtapes, which you could then trade with friends to further broaden your knowledge
- Watch Much Music or MTV for hours on end
- Go to HMV and ask to listen to samples of the albums with intriguing covers
Once Spotify, Pandora, and the like came on the scene, we suddenly had access to millions of songs, but the process of discovering them became more passive. You put twenty of your favorite songs on a list and your app suggests an endless list of other songs you may like. A lot of the time, that music just plays in the background without us ever taking the time to fully notice or appreciate it.
Why not set aside a few hours a month to actively explore new music and fully enjoy it? After all, the music we listen to is the soundtrack of our lives, and we should enjoy it as much as possible.
Sample goal: One evening a month, I will take time to listen to music without interruption and discover a few new favorite songs.
14. Live Your Life to Its Fullest (Say Yes More)
When we’re stressed and overly busy, No can become our standard answer. It requires less thinking and effort than Yes does, but it’s not particularly conducive to a growth mindset or, for that matter, having any fun at all. By making a commitment to keeping margin in your schedule—no small feat, I know—you give yourself the opportunity to live in the present moment and say Yes more often. (If this seems impossible to you, check out the productivity and time management section in Part 1).
Sample goal: I will actively try to say Yes when I would normally say No, at least once a day.
15. Take Life Less Seriously
In the same vein, those of us who do things like make a personal development plan or set long-term goals tend to be serious people. We love our lists, goals, plans, and schedules. Spontaneity and whim? Not so much.
But there’s such thing as taking life too seriously, and you probably know if you’ve hit this point. If you frequently find yourself sayings things like, “I didn’t use to be this way. I used to be fun,” it may be time to lighten up a little. Remember, life is short, and you deserve to enjoy it!
Sample goal: The next time I find myself in a stressful situation, I will choose the fun way of resolving it rather than the serious way. (When in doubt, ask your kids what they think you should do. They always choose the fun way!)
Traveling can have a greater impact on our lives in a smaller period of time than almost any other activity. Being away from your home, your possessions, your comforts, and your daily duties forces you to step outside yourself and learn a new way of living.
You will learn what you do and don’t need to get by (hint: it’s a lot less than you think). You will meet new people who make you want to be a better person. You will eat new food that makes you want to forgo your standard meal plan when you go home.
If you’re in a rut, travel will shake you out of it in a good way.
Sample goal: I will take at least one trip outside my home state or province this year.
17. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Spiritual disciplines are practices that draw us away from the exterior and into the interior. They are the perfect way to break a cycle of busyness and reconnect with ourselves as spiritual beings and with our Creator. There are many spiritual disciplines you could practice, and different ones may call to you at different times in your life. Among these are journaling, meditation, prayer, stillness, and solitude, some of which are also given their own places within this list.
Sample goal: I will cultivate a spiritual rhythm to my days and will dedicate at least fifteen minutes a day to practicing spiritual disciplines that keep me grounded.
Meditation is a calming activity that helps you quiet your mind and redirect your thoughts. This can be particularly helpful if you’re prone to negative thinking or excessive stress. Meditating regularly can enhance self-awareness, improve sleep, slow down age-related mental decline, and reduce anxiety. If you haven’t tried it already, meditation could be an easy first step to put you on the right path for your personal development journey.
Sample goal: I will research different types of meditation and will spend ten minutes before bed each day meditating.
19. Keep a Journal
Journaling is another highly beneficial practice that increases self-awareness and helps you process everything going on in the different areas of your life. Journals are a good place to write down your self-improvement goals and keep track of your progress, but they’re also just a safe place to let off steam when things aren’t going your way.
We have lots of journaling resources to help you get started:
- Journaling for Beginners: A Simple Guide for Easy Journaling
- Gratitude Journal Prompts
- 23 Creative Journaling Ideas
Sample goal: I’m going to write in my journal at least three times a week.
20. Practice Self-Reflection
Journaling is one form of self-reflection, but it’s by no means the only one. While keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to reflect on your daily life, there are times when you’ll want to take an even bigger step back and examine your life as a whole. What are your big goals? What are you doing to get closer to them? What could you be doing differently? How are your relationships going?
Introspection of this sort requires larger windows of quiet, solitary time, which isn’t easy to work into a busy schedule. You might make a practice of doing self-reflection while you walk your dog or fold laundry, but if you’re lucky enough to get away to a coffee shop for a couple of hours or to take a weekend away, even better!
Sample goal: Once a month, I’ll review my life goals and progress, and I’ll make plans to adjust course as needed.
21. Learn from Your Experiences
Learning from your experiences is an essential step in your self-improvement plan. Gaining wisdom from prior actions and outcomes and applying it to future situations is basically the definition of growth.
Self-reflection is once again helpful here, but you may choose to go beyond that when assessing your experiences. You may want to debrief with others who were involved or process events with the help of a professional therapist.
Sample goal: I’m going to get in the habit of taking ten minutes at the end of the day to reflect on my actions and note any areas where I could have done better.
22. Know Yourself
Poet Charles Bukowski once asked, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” This is an important question. From the youngest age, the world foists its opinions of who we should be on us, shaping us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. It’s often not until our twenties or thirties that we truly start to dig into the question of who am I really?
But any self-improvement journey should begin with an understanding of who you are right now. What do you value? What are your interests? What do you want to do with your life? How do you like to spend your days? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Learning these things about yourself and living in accordance with your true nature will help you resist pressure to conform, make better decisions, and lead a more meaningful life. To start getting to know yourself better, keep a log of observations you make about your personality, preferences, and reactions. Personality and trait indicator tests, such as the Enneagram, can also be useful in building a fuller understanding of yourself.
Sample goal: This month, I will take an Enneagram test.
23. Practice Stillness and Solitude
Technically, stillness and solitude fall under the spiritual discipline umbrella (#17), but they are important enough to warrant their own discussion.
In our fast-paced, attention-demanding world, stillness and solitude have become elusive. There is always something to keep us distracted: children, chores, smartphones, social media. To deliberately ignore the lure of all these calls for one or two hours is more challenging than we might care to admit, but it’s so rewarding.
To just sit in a chair in a quiet room by oneself and—as my dad used to call it—contemplate the situation, is an underrated activity that can have a huge impact. Increased mental clarity and peace, as well as reduced anxiety and stress, are direct benefits of slowing down to zero and letting your brain catch up to everything it’s been asked to manage.
Sample goal: I will build a habit of practicing stillness and solitude by taking an hour to myself once a week and sitting quietly, without agenda or expectation.
24. Reevaluate Your Career Path
Even if your professional life feels like it’s going according to plan, it’s a good idea to set aside time at least once a year and evaluate the track you’re on. It’s helpful to make a record of your accomplishments over the past year and take note of any goals you set but didn’t achieve. Examine what went wrong and ask yourself whether those goals are still relevant and worth pursuing.
Think about where you want to be in the next 1, 3, 5, and 10 years. Make a map or a spreadsheet of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. What steps do you need to take each month? Are there courses you should take or workshops you would benefit from attending? What leadership skills do you need to develop?
Taking stock of these things and monitoring your progress with brief monthly check-ins will help you reach your professional development goals sooner and more consistently.
Sample goal: I will write down my 1, 3, 5, and 10-year goals and create a list of milestones I need to achieve to get there.
25. Take Online Courses for Professional Development
Online courses are more prevalent than ever and you can find beneficial offerings on every topic you can imagine. Whatever your current career goals are, there is an online professional development course out there for you.
While some good courses are offered for free or for a nominal charge, some more in-depth offerings come with a hefty price tag of $1,000 or more. When evaluating the worth of a course, ask yourself how it will help you achieve your goals. Look at the testimonials and ask to speak to some of the past students. If applicable, figure out how long it will take for the course to pay for itself.
For example, last year, I took a $1,200 course. At the time, I worried about the cost but the program was highly recommended by others in my field so I decided to go for it. In the six months since completing the course, I have consistently earned at least $1,200 in profits each month from the skills learned in that course, so it is paying for itself over and over again.
Not every course you take will have such an immediate impact on your earnings, but they may open up new opportunities, help you network with other professionals, and give you the credentials you need to take your career to the next level.
Sample goal: After mapping out my career goals, I will make plans to take 1-2 professional development courses per year to help me achieve my professional goals.
26. Work on Public Speaking
Public speaking used to be a skill that only seemed relevant to a handful of careers. Now, it’s an essential skill we would all do well to master.
Even if you work independently, there will likely come times when you are asked to speak in front of others, whether in a Zoom meeting with clients or at a convention for industry professionals. Improving your presentation skills is a great investment in your professional growth.
If you’re extremely nervous about public speaking, you may benefit from joining a group that gives you ample opportunities for practice and feedback. Otherwise, simply pay attention to the presentation styles of others and try to emulate the styles that most resonate with you when it’s your turn to present. And say yes to any speaking opportunities that come up. Each one is a chance to grow and become a better communicator.
Sample goal: I will look for one opportunity per quarter to give a presentation in or outside of my workplace.
27. Start Networking
Progressing in your career often depends on who you know and who knows you. The more people you meet in your field, the more opportunities you have for learning, collaborating, and growing.
You can network in person by going to industry events and conferences, attending interesting workshops, or becoming active in a volunteer organization related to your field. However, you don’t actually have to leave home to get some serious networking done these days.
You can connect with many people by being active in your professional social media accounts and liking, commenting, and sharing other people’s content. Facebook groups provide another opportunity to meet others in your field. It may take a bit of trial and error, but supportive and helpful groups are definitely out there for most industries.
Sample goal: I will attend an industry event this quarter and make at least three new connections.
28. Give More than you Take
The key to success with networking—and, to a large degree, succeeding at work in general—is to give more than you take. When you meet new people, focus on hearing their story, not on sharing yours. Instead of wondering how can this person help me, ask yourself, who could I introduce this person to? How could I help them solve the problem they’re facing? What do I have to offer them?
To succeed in this, we need to be good listeners, actively seeking to hear not just what’s being said, but what’s not being said. Ask questions—respectfully, of course—to try to get at the root of what the person needs, and think diligently about the best way to support them.
Don’t be prescriptive in your suggestions, but if you have ideas that could be truly helpful, feel free to offer them up. Not everyone will take you up on your offer, but those times when you’re able to make a difference for someone will start to add up.
Sample goal: When I engage with people professionally, I will listen for opportunities to help them overcome challenges.
29. Balance Work with Life
We hear so much about healthy work-life balance these days that it’s pretty much become cliché. For those of us trying to juggle work, home, family, and maybe even personal lives, we know that balance is often elusive.
And yet, we must continue to strive toward it. Most of us probably won’t reach a point where the things on our plates are literally equal, that is, that we spend 25 percent of our time on each of those four areas. But we do need to get to a point where we can comfortably manage everything we’ve taken on within our means for doing so.
It is not sustainable to sleep five hours a night or work 40-plus hours a week while managing most or all of the family and household duties yourself. We are humans, not machines, and pretty soon that level of physical exhaustion will lead to burnout.
If you’re there—or almost there—it’s time to look at everything on your plate and see what can go. What can be put off until a slower time? Who could help you with the things you’re struggling to finish? How could you carve out some time for yourself?
These questions aren’t easy to answer, especially if you’ve been surviving life by doing everything yourself for a long time. If this is you, I encourage you to take one step at a time: let go of one commitment, sleep one extra hour, take a long walk by yourself. You won’t find balance overnight, but you’ll start to catch a glimmer of what it could look like, and this hope will propel you to keep striving toward a simplified and balanced life.
These 29 examples of personal development goals are a great starting point for your goal-setting action plan. Choose a few to start with or, if you need more inspiration for personal improvement goals, check out 50 Goals to Set for Yourself This Year.
Accountability is critical to success in meeting your goals. Just telling someone that you’re going to do something makes it more likely that you will. So go ahead and leave a comment below, letting me which goal you’re going to tackle first.
Sophie Agbonkhese is a writer, veteran homeschooling mother of four, and a recovering overachiever (who occasionally relapses). She is the founder of My Cup Runs Over, a site dedicated to helping busy women simplify and enrich their lives, homes, and homeschools. When she’s not writing or debugging websites, Sophie spends her time reading with her kids, gardening, listening to audiobooks, and striving fruitlessly to have a clean house for at least five minutes. She lives in southwestern British Columbia with her husband, Ben, and their children.