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Here are 40 personal development goals that will make you happier

personal development goal

Let me ask you these questions.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? What will you have achieved when you reach 40,50, or 60 years old?

Maybe you’ll say you want to own 5 houses when that time comes. Or you aim to travel the world when you’re 50.

But the truth is that it’s more than just ticking off the entries on your bucket list. What I am asking is how you – as an individual with a mind, body, and spirit – would like to develop.

What are personal development goals?

They are goals intended to increase one’s development – mentally, emotionally, and socially.

If you want to be successful later on in life, you need to evolve to be a better person. So having an idea of what you want to be is a must since personal development is a lifelong process.

Setting up a development goal is a way for you to assess your capabilities, consider your aims in life, and maximize your potential.

personal development goals

Here are 40 personal development goals to start with:

1. You have to develop a growth mindset

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. ― Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Having a growth mindset enables you to move forward and be better. Believe that you are capable of changing what needs to be changed and accept your potential so it will be realized.

2. You should be proactive

Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.

― Richie Norton, The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret

Waiting for change is one story but going out there and making it happen takes it up to another level.

Always remember that you have to power to create opportunities for yourself and take full advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

3. Know yourself first

Self-understanding is a lifetime endeavor. It is not a weekend seminar. It does not come in capsule form.

― Vironika Tugaleva, The Art of Talking to Yourself

It’s called personal development for a reason – there’s no one-size-fits-all. You have to know who you are – your traits, personality, and find the approach that best suits you.

4. Do not give up

A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.

― George Savile

With patience and perseverance, you can master anything.

Remember that change is not easy and those who became successful did not give up even when it got hard. As they say, winners never quit and quitters never win.

Practice a steely determination to not quit when the going gets tough.

5. Accept yourself

Accept who are you and your uniqueness. Define your choices and beliefs.

― Lailah Gifty Akita

It’s one thing to know yourself and it’s another thing to accept what you learned about yourself. That includes your strengths and your flaws.

Try to better yourself in any way, shape, or form you see fit. But you also have to accept that you are not perfect and never will be.

You will make mistakes and that’s okay because you are a work in progress.

personal development goals

6. Choose the right decisions

The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

From the minute you wake up to the moment you close your eyes, you need to decide. Which shirt to wear, what to eat for lunch, what to post on your Facebook feed and others.

However, it’s the big decisions that really matter like how to stay patient in traffic, what online course to take to gain more knowledge and how to manage your time. When you get those right, your life will definitely change for the better.

7. Practice gratefulness

Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.

― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

A lot of good karma happens when you practice thankfulness. Let us be grateful and enjoy all the little things that we probably overlook on a daily basis.

After all, it’s the little things that make life worthwhile.

8. Open your mind

When we avoid prejudging our sources of information, we become more receptive to what they have to offer. If we come to listening with a blank slate, our environment can write on it what we need to hear. Similarly, if our mental and sensory channels are open, there’s more room to import energy and information.

― Joseph Deitch, Elevate: An Essential Guide to Life

Avoid being close-minded. In case you don’t know, there are many opinions and many perspectives in this world.

Remember, just because you are right doesn’t mean they are wrong. Do not engage in a fight just to prove your opinion is the best.

You also have to remain open to the possibility that what you believe to be true isn’t necessarily the case. Treat it with humility and as a stepping stone for your personal growth.

9. Do not stop learning

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

― Mahatma Gandhi

Every day of our lives presents us with new things to learn. Life itself provides us with lessons.

On the other hand, you can also commit to a life of meaningful learning in order to grow and promote good mental health.

10. Be yourself

Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, stop caring about what others think. ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

There is the only one you in this world so enjoy your uniqueness. There is no point in living life as someone that you’re not.

Try to be genuine and honest in everything you do. Life is easier when you’re comfortable in your own skin.

(To learn how to unleash the real you, check out our guide to being yourself here)

personal development goals

11. Believe in yourself

Be courageous. Believe that you are capable of overcoming any hardships or challenges because you are stronger than you think.

Your self-belief will bring you a great deal of peace.

(To learn more about self-love, check out my ultimate guide to loving yourself here)

12. Avoid worrying

Anxiety can prevent your growth because of too much fear. But you can rise above your worries by practicing mindfulness.

Diffusing your anxious thoughts and feelings won’t happen overnight – it needs constant practice. But, it greatly reduces its impact on your life over a period of time.

13. Learn to cope with stress in a healthy way

Stress will always be there – deadlines, exams, and even the small challenges we encounter in our daily lives. It is inevitable.

The only thing we can do is to learn how to respond to stress in a healthy way. One technique is to approach any trial with calmness because it will make it easier to bear and quicker to resolve.

Then find a way to resolve it as soon as possible instead of procrastinating and doing things that are harmful to your health.

14. Strive to be a better friend

An old adage says that no man is an island. The friends we have are a great part of the seasons of our lives – we laugh with them, we cry with them, and maybe fight a little. But the thing is that they make your life worth living.

On the other hand, you also have a huge impact on their lives. By striving to be a better friend, you can be one of their sources of joy and pillars of support.

15. Get rid of drama

Drama does not just walk into your life. Either you create it, invite it, or associate with it.

– Anonymous

Drama demands attention and it is easy to hold on to it because we want to be heard and feel important. But seriously, it is just our egos holding us hostage which prevents us to act maturely and positively.

When you get rid of drama from your life, it becomes less stressful, more joyful, and better for your mental health.

(To learn how to deal with difficult people, click here)

16. Be optimistic

It turns out, how you see the glass (half empty or half full) can influence your life in countless ways. According to a study,  a happy disposition has positive effects on both your mental and physical well-being.

It says:

“Optimism is a mental attitude that heavily influences physical and mental health, as well as coping with everyday social and working life. Through adaptive management of personal goals and development and by using active coping tactics, optimists are significantly more successful than pessimists in aversive events and when important life-goals are impaired.”

The same research further suggests integrating an application form of optimism concept in treatments and prevention programs for mental and physical health to improve the overall well-being.

(To learn 5 science-backed ways to be more positive, check out this article here)

17. Find a healthy work-life balance

A huge chunk of our life’s timeline is spent working. However, most are stressed with their work.

You must find a healthy work-life balance. Remember that we work to live and not live to work.

18. Be mindful

Being mindful takes practice. But it’s more than just being alert.

It means you really, really pay attention to what you are doing, the people you are with and the places you go to. Practicing mindfulness will help bring you true peace of mind.

(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)

19. Get rid of bad habits

Bad habits ruin our lives. They bring nothing but destruction, not only to our bodies but also to our future. What good can smoking, drinking, and drugs bring? Nothing.

If you can get rid of your bad habits, your life will become better. You will become healthier and have a higher chance of success.

20. Form good habits

It helps that when you’re breaking your bad habits, you’re in the process of forming new, good habits.

Choose those that improve your physical and mental well-being, make your life more positive, and your relationships better.

personal development goals

21. Manage your expectations

Assuming too much can hurt you. It makes you disappointed when the outcome isn’t what you expected.

What you can do is to manage your expectations and accept that sometimes, life is really uncertain.

22. Embrace your failures

Nobody is perfect, you have to know that. In one lifetime, it may seem we fail a million times and that is okay.

Remember that failure is an important part of your life. Without it, you will not grow and become a mature individual.

Turn your failures into lessons and never give up trying so that you can achieve great things.

23. Grow beyond your comfort zone

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.

– Abraham Maslow

Being comfortable doesn’t always mean you’re safe. Sometimes, staying in our comfort zones prevent us from growth.

Remember that real learning comes outside of your comfort zone. It means you have to try new things and have the courage to do so.

It is not guaranteed that you’ll enjoy it but 20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. (Mark Twain)

24. Conquer your fears

Joseph LeDoux from the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety said:

“Fear is the response to the immediate stimuli. The empty feeling in your gut, the racing of your heart, palms sweating, the nervousness—that’s your brain responding in a preprogrammed way to a very specific threat.”

Indeed, facing your fears or just imagining the thing that you’re afraid of, is a scary feat. I know it’s hard but it’s not impossible.

One study even shows that it is better to relive your trauma than to suppress it. So if you want to overcome your fear, you have to expose yourself to it.

It is difficult but with the help of people you love, you can topple the fears that hold you back in life.

(To learn how to conquer your fears, check out our guide on how to be brave here)

25. Do what you love

If you have to choose between doing the things you love or the things you don’t like doing at all, what’s your answer? I am pretty sure your choice will be the former.

When you do what you love to do, it will bring enthusiasm and positivity to your life. So whatever your passion is, you have to pursue it. That’s the only way you will find meaning to your existence.

personal development goals

26. Let it go

If you carry your past around with you, it will only bring you down. Regret, guilt, sadness, and anger destroys your inner peace so it’s better to let it go.

Bring only the lessons that you’ve learned but release the emotional burden attached to negative past events.

27. Learn to forgive

When you say you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean you forget the bad things done to you. It means you are no longer allowing the past to influence your present and future.

Researchers Michael McCullough, Everett Worthington, and Kenneth Rachal said:

“We define interpersonal forgiving as the set of motivational changes whereby one becomes (a) decreasingly motivated to retaliate against an offending relationship partner, (b) decreasingly motivated to maintain estrangement from the offender, and (c) increasingly motivated by conciliation and goodwill for the offender, despite the offender’s hurtful actions.”

Simply put, forgiveness means extinguishing the flame that keeps any ill feelings burning.

28. Do not put too much emphasis on money and material possessions

When we are bombarded with materialism every day, it is hard not to succumb to this mentality.

It is okay to forge a relationship with money and material things but do not love it too much to the point that it already gives you anxiety, stress, and other neuroses. Loosen your grip on wealth and accept that more money does not equate to greater happiness.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, said this:

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

29. Practice an abundance mindset

Your mindset radically affects the course of your life. If you want to pursue a healthier relationship with money and possessions, then you have to practice an abundance mindset.

According to Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, abundance mindset is:

“…a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.”

It simply means you cultivate and share what you can because you consider the possibility of all parties winning in some way or another in a given situation.

30. Improve your communication skills

Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.

– Catherine Pulsifer

How we interact and communicate with people has an impact on our lives, whether you like it or not. That is why it is very important that we learn to communicate our thoughts and wishes more effectively.

Additionally, we should also be good listeners. We need to understand people to forge a bond, be a better friend, and minimize conflict.

personal development goals

31. Be a good influence

Strive to be a good influence on others. Believe it or not, you have the power to change the world in your own way.

Just shining a positive light into the world already makes a huge difference. Doing good to others makes their lives a bit brighter in the process.

32. Be productive

They say time is like a river – you cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.

Learn the value of time, which is an ever-dwindling resource in your mortal existence. Remember, each second that passes is one you will never get back.

So, maximize what you achieve with your time. Being productive and avoiding procrastination is a good start to making the most of it.

33. Learn to respond appropriately

Every time we are presented with a situation, we can always choose how to respond. Needless to say, choosing to respond appropriately is commendable. It can also make a good personal development goal.

Responding appropriately means avoiding anger when it is not needed and not making mountains out of molehills.

34. Practice positive self-talk

How you think and speak about yourself can greatly influence how you feel and act. So when you keep the language and tone positive, a positive mindset is also developed.

A positive inner monologue can encourage greater self-esteem, improve self-belief, and give motivation.

35. Define your own idea of success

If you want to be successful, do not look at others’ definition of success. Instead, define your own.

Living by everyone else’s ideals can only frustrate you. But if you know what success and happiness look like for you, you will know what needs to be done to achieve it.

personal development goals

36. Practice empathy

Empathy means being able to relate to another human being’s feelings. You are able to feel their pain and their joy – it helps you connect to other people.

According to the Greater Good Science Center:

“Empathy is a building block of morality—for people to follow the Golden Rule, it helps if they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. It is also a key ingredient of successful relationships because it helps us understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others.”

37. Practice self-reflection

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

― C.G. Jung

Introspection is one of the most powerful tools for self-growth. When you reflect on your thoughts and actions, it will help you avoid doing the same mistakes and improve your decision-making skills.

Looking inward to better understand who you are and why you do certain things is truly important if you want to develop yourself.

38. Take care of yourself

In today’s busy world, there are too many things left for granted. Sad to say, one of them is your self.

Maybe you don’t see it as a priority or you are too busy looking after others or simply because you don’t know how. But remember that you only have one life to live, at least in this lifetime.

So you have to learn proper self-care and make it a part of your routine. Your self will thank you one day.

39. Know your purpose

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your goals are nothing if you don’t know your purpose. I know finding your purpose is easier said than done.

But when you do find it, you’ll also find true contentment.

40) Get into an exercise routine

No matter how you look at it, exercise is an excellent habit to pick up.

Not only is it great for your health, but it’s also great for your mind, too.

According to the Harvard Health Blog, exercise has a unique ability to reduce stress and clear our minds:

“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”

personal development goals

Some words to ponder…

Now, take a moment to really think about your personal development goals.

Which among them are most important to you? When you find the answer, don’t waste time and start doing it.

With your personal development goals in mind, you can start living the life of your dreams now.

It may not happen overnight, but you’ll get there one step at a time.

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Jude Paler

Written by Jude Paler

I am a poet with a positive outlook in life and a writer with a purpose in mind. I write to express my thoughts so that others will be inspired.

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