Sep 16, 2022
25 min read

How to Set Personal Development Goals

Setting personal development goals and working towards them is one of the most rewarding habits to help employees grow. It enriches their experience at work and has a positive impact on their career. 

In fact, 58% of employees claim that professional development contributes to their job satisfaction. Moreover, employees who feel respected, empowered, and as if they are making a difference are much more likely to stay in a company. Those who don’t have less than 35% chance of staying. 

The question is — how can leadership and HRs help employees grow? Well, setting personal development goals is one of the most important steps in the process.

In this article, you'll read about the most common personal development goals and tips on how to set and execute these goals with success.

Table of contents

  1. What are personal development goals?
  2. Best practices for setting personal development goals
  3. Examples of most common personal development goals
  4. Personal development goals for work examples
  5. Common mistakes to watch out for
  6. How to evaluate the success of personal development goals
  7. Conclusion
  8. FAQ: How to set personal development goals

What are personal development goals?

Personal development goals, or self-improvement goals, are the objectives people set to improve themselves in many ways, including habits, mindset, skills or even work ethics. 

Although personal development goals are not necessarily connected to the job setting, they can help people improve their professional and personal lives.

Some of the most common areas for personal development goals include:

  • change of mindset
  • improving hard skills
  • working on social skills
  • character building

How can they help people?

Working on personal development goals has many benefits, but here are five areas where it can help employees the most:

Better focus

One of the biggest benefits of setting personal development goals is a better focus and a clear sense of direction. Clear goals inspire people to act and easily decide on their next steps. This pushes them to be proactive and get more things done in their personal and professional lives.

Without a clear sense of purpose, spending free time endlessly scrolling on the phone or spreading work throughout the day is easy. Specific goals will motivate people to become more proactive and efficient.

Increased productivity

Goal setting teaches individuals prioritization techniques. This way, it is much easier to decipher what matters the most and take care of it instantly.

Another major advantage is having concrete, measurable goals to work towards. This makes it possible to evaluate people’s success precisely and encourage them to keep improving. The more goals they tick off, the more satisfied they will be. Over time, this will also increase general productivity. 

Better professional relationships

Self-improvement goals can improve the quality of people’s relationships with their colleagues and business partners. By becoming a better version of themselves, they're inspiring everyone who gets in touch with them to do the same. Their growth mindset is reflected in others as well.

As a consequence, positive relationships in your team could dramatically improve. People in self-development tend to be better listeners and more compassionate towards others.

Improved work-life balance

Employees that don’t have a healthy work-life balance are prone to burnout more than others. That’s why this aspect shouldn’t be neglected. Employees should be encouraged to pursue their passions and learn new skills that don’t have to be work-related.

Personal development goals can help people find time for themselves and remember who they are outside of their job. Consequently, they will become more motivated and their productivity at work will improve.

Career advancement

Finally, working on personal development goals can positively affect professional life and bring professional success to everyone. Many skills are transferable, meaning one can use them in other areas.

Communication skills, soft skills, and creativity — are all crucial for success at work. New skills can help employees serve the customers better and even get a promotion. Sometimes working on personal development goals can bring insights and ideas that can revolutionize how you do things at work.

Best practices for setting personal development goals

Best practices for setting personal development goals


As an HR or business mentor, your job is to share some resources on goal-setting with your team. Of course, each person’s goal will be different, but here are some universal strategies that everyone can benefit from, regardless of their goal.

Here are some points you can ask your employees to do:

  • Identify what you really want

This is a fun exercise that you can do as a team. According to one statistic, employees engaged in meaningful activities are 87% less likely to leave the company.

We're often conditioned to pursue a personal development goal just because it's something many people do, which seems important. But that is not a good reason to set the goal. You should encourage your team to consider what matters to them, not what others want.

You can ask them the following questions:

  • What goal would make the biggest difference in your life? 
  • Is that goal in alignment with your vision for the future?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to learn but you never seemed to have enough time?

This exercise helps them connect with their personal development goals deeper, which will help them commit. When it becomes hard and when it feels like quitting, it's important to connect with your why and remember why you started.

  • Set milestones for your goal

Big goals are not only frightening but they can also be too vague. The next step is to break your personal goals into achievable milestones.

There are three good reasons to do so:

  1. The goals become more doable.
  2. You feel more motivated to work towards your goals.
  3. It's easier to measure your progress.

For example, someone's personal development goal could be to learn French. That's too vague. That person would be much more motivated if they created smaller goals for each month or even week. 

The first step could be to buy a French textbook, the second to learn how to read in French, etc. Don't forget to reward yourself for every milestone you complete! Remember to enjoy the whole process, not just the final result.

  • Set day and time to work on your goal

As Michael Hyatt once said: What doesn't get scheduled, doesn't get done. Set yourself up for success by turning your goals into plans. It means that you should allocate time and space where you will be dedicated to working on your goal.

It will be much easier if your goal becomes part of your routine. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, especially in the beginning. The most important thing is to make it a habit.

Some of the most successful companies dedicate a few hours each week to personal growth and learning. They may organize classes and workshops. In some companies, in addition to lunch break, people also get half an hour break that they can use to read self-improvement books.


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Examples of most common personal development goals

Common personal development goals


Here are the most common personal development goals related examples:

  • Improving your communication skills - This goal can improve professional relationships, the atmosphere of the whole team, as well as the results you get with clients.
    Communication has various components. Someone may want to learn more about communication or become an active listener. Other people who may be more introverted may want to work on their public speaking skills.
  • Mastering time management - Time management is one of the most important skills for your own success. Today it's even more challenging due to the number of distractions around us. One can learn different time management strategies from books, but it's important to try them and choose those that work in your life.
  • Mindfulness - Mindfulness is one of the most effective stress management techniques and everyone in the corporate world needs it. Your mindfulness practice could consist of meditation, visualization, breath work, or simply sitting silently for a few minutes every morning.
  • Developing a growth mindset - A growth mindset is essential for success. If you've been feeling stuck lately, maybe you just need to work on your mindset. Some of the ideas include journaling, affirmations or reading self-improvement books.
  • Networking - One of the common goals is to grow your network and meet more people. This can be done through organizing networking events or joining clubs and communities on the topics that interest you.
  • Learning a new skill - The best way to keep your brain sharp is to challenge yourself to learn a new skill! Choose something that interests you, whether it's crochet or graphic design and be patient with yourself because every new skill takes time.
  • Creative thinking - Many people don't know it, but creativity can be learned! You need to give yourself some space to let your mind wander and ideas will come. There are also different exercises to boost your creativity, from design thinking to creative writing.
  • Reading habit - One of the most common New Year's goals is: I'd love to read more books this year! Reading has many benefits and it can be a life-changing habit. It's important to set realistic goals for yourself. Your first goal shouldn't be to read one book a week. Instead, your goal should be to get into the habit of regularly reading.

Personal development goals for work examples

We'll now go into more detail and show you how to set personal development goals properly.

Improving leadership skills

Leadership is one of the most valuable assets that can benefit you employees in a lot of ways. According to Forbes, it helps employees boost productivity, engagement and independence. 

Here is how your organization could help employees improve this skill:

  • Organize internal workshops - You don’t need famous motivational speakers and leaders to organize a successful workshop. You can also organize internal workshops where managers and executives share their practical experiences with younger employees.
  • Organize leadership challenges - It’s important to understand that one doesn’t need a title to be a leader. It’s about behavior and the way you treat others and tackle problems. To make it more fun, you could organize leadership challenges where each employee has to do one small task that shows leadership capabilities.

Become a better networker

If one of your team member’s goals is to become a better networker and create stronger relationships, you should first ask them to define what it means for them and why it's important. Next, they should list actions that will get them there. The steps should be concise and easy to follow.

The list may look like this:

  • Read a book about communication
  • Talk to people that are great networkers
  • Practice being an active listener
  • Commit to going to networking events every month
  • Reach out to your new connections

They should also set some milestones, for example, I want to meet 10 new people by the end of this month. And then you can create a plan of how they will do it.

If you know that someone in your team lacks accountability, you can encourage them to share their goals with your other colleagues so you can support each other. 

As an HR, you could also introduce your team to the concept of an accountability buddy. It means that each person gets another person that keeps them accountable. They’re here to support each other and track their progress together.


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Common mistakes to watch out for

Common mistakes


Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when they set personal development goals:

The goal is not measurable

One of the first rules of goal setting is that personal goals should be clear and measurable. If people can't measure your progress, how can you know that they're going in the right direction?

Now, someone might say that certain goals are simply not measurable and that's true. However, in that case, you can help people track their activities. They can measure how much time they dedicate to the goal weekly to ensure they're on the right track.

The goal is not something that people really want

The worst thing is to choose a personal development goal just because it's something that's "good for people" and "should be done". Achieving personal development goals requires time and dedication. That's why it's essential to help your employees choose a goal that's meaningful to them.

People don't have the right mindset

A positive mindset is crucial for continuous self-development. Even if some goals are out of people’s comfort zones, they can still work on those. Many people have limiting beliefs that prevent them from achieving their highest potential.

The rule is - if you want to succeed, it's essential that you believe that you can do it. If you lack self-confidence, you won't be motivated enough, leading to procrastination.

How to evaluate the success of personal development goals

You've probably heard someone say that only the things that get measured are the things that can get improved. The same is true for personal development goals, just like for any other goal.

The first step is to help people know their starting point. It's important to be honest with themselves, even if it's uncomfortable.

The second step is for them to describe the end goal in detail and then break it into smaller steps. They should set a deadline for the big goal and every milestone along the way.

Ideally, employees should break it into monthly and weekly goals so that you both can track the progress every week.

You can follow two sets of indicators - lead and lag indicators.

The lag indicator measures the goal and what percentage people have achieved. For example, if the goal is to read 50 books this year, the main lag indicator is the number of books people have read so far.

But not all personal development goals can be measured this way. That's why we also have lead indicators that measure individuals' actions toward their goals. In this case, the lead indicator could be: How much time do they spend reading daily? How many days a week do they stick to a reading habit?

Some people find lead indicators less stressful and easier to manage. They're not as oriented to the end result, they rather focus on small daily actions that keep you on the right track.

Next steps

Now that people have set their personal development goals, it's time to do an honest assessment and see where they currently are. The best way to do it is during one on ones with employees.

Take some time to think about the following topics and encourage people to be honest with themselves. Here are some questions to ask employees should ask themselves:

  • Did I allocate enough time to my personal goals?
  • Did I have all the resources I needed for achieving this goal?
  • What were the biggest obstacles?
  • What can I do differently next time?
  • Where can I get the support when I need it?

Even if they haven't achieved their goal, they should be patient with themselves.They can start again, but this time with a better strategy and more support. 

On the other hand, what if people achieve all personal development goals with success?

First, take time to celebrate and congratulate your employees. Too many people take their success for granted and always look for a new challenge. Right now, they should be proud of how far they've come!

Here are some things you can ask your employees:

‘’If you enjoyed working on this skill, you may want to take it to the next level. You can challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone once again and become even better at it. At this point, you may even consider getting a certification or something similar.’’

‘’Or, you can choose a completely different area to work on. If you worked on your physical health, you could now switch to emotional intelligence or the other way round.’’


As you can see, self-growth is a never-ending process. There's always room for improvement. Adopting a growth mindset and entering the field of personal development could be one of the most positive things you've done for yourself.

If you're a manager or business owner, you should encourage your people to set personal development goals. They will not only make your employees happier and more productive, but they will influence everyone around them in a positive way.

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FAQ: How to Set Personal development goals

What are individual development goals examples?

Some of the most common personal development goals include learning a new skill, developing a positive attitude, breaking bad habits, effectively managing your time, etc.

What are the 5 areas of personal development?

These are the 5 main areas of personal growth:

  1. Mental (working on your mindset, learning new skills)
  2. Social (working on your communication and networking)
  3. Spiritual (inner peace, meditating)
  4. Emotional (emotional intelligence, personal boundaries)
  5. Physical (physical health, proper self-care, fitness)

What are 3 goals for your career development?

The following 3 goals can influence your ongoing professional development: becoming a better communicator, enhancing your networking skills and learning leadership skills.

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