Tips for Setting Personal Goals

Setting personal goals can often seem more difficult and evasive than setting professional goals. In a work context, you may be financially incentivized or receive oversight by a manager to ensure that you achieve the goals that you outline for yourself. In some cases, goals may even be created for you at work. In a personal context, however, goal setting (and attainment) can seem to be more difficult because often our own desires get deprioritized.

Whether it is studying a new subject, being healthier, playing a sport, kicking a bad habit, or meeting a new friend – goal setting is a wonderful skill that will serve you well as an adult. Goal setting is the process of identifying a future outcome for yourself and creating an action plan now to be able to achieve it. Goals are more intentional than a desire because there is usually a plan associated with it.

Here are a couple of tips to help you with goal setting:

  • Make sure that the goal is yours instead of someone else’s. For the goal to be meaningful for you, you’ll want to ensure that you resonate with it personally. For example, if you decide to pursue an advanced degree, it’s likely that you’ll pursue it differently than if someone else suggested it.
  • Know that goal setting will bring up emotions. When you focus on learning to accomplish something that you have not yet achieved, it can trigger feelings of overwhelm, confusion, doubt or hesitancy. This is completely normal. If you had already achieved the goal, then you wouldn’t be experiencing these emotions! Thinking about something that you cannot yet do will cause your mind to stretch as you envision yourself doing it.
  • Leave some room to adapt and evolve. Goal setting usually includes an action plan, and an action plan includes the specific steps that you will take to achieve your goal. Along the way of accomplishing your goal, however, you likely will learn more information. You may want to ensure that there is a little wiggle room to incorporate this learning and adaptation as you go.
  • Remember your previous successes. Think about times when you achieved something that you did not think was possible. Remind yourself of how you got through it. You can also think about those times when you might not have achieved a specific goal, and the lessons that you learned as a result. These experiences have helped you become the person that you are today.
  • Believe in yourself. Choose to think about yourself, your capabilities, and your efforts in ways that are productive, and positive. Your willingness to have your own back will help you feel secure as you step out into new territory.
  • Aim high. Goals that are within reach are not challenging and do not require you to grow. Goals that are big and stretch your capability will help you mature and develop in new ways. Don’t be afraid to think big.
  • Get support. Sometimes certain goals are not achievable completely on your own. It might require some money, experience, or resources that you don’t have readily available. Talking to a trusted advisor might save you time and help you get what you need.
  • Think about setbacks and challenges. Along your way to accomplishing your goal, you might encounter some setbacks and challenges. These can be things that you anticipated, or things that you encountered along the way and did not foresee. For challenges that you can anticipate, think through strategies for how you can work through them. If it is a challenge that presents itself real-time, stop to reflect on how you would like to respond.
  • Remember that goal setting is meaningful. The process of envisioning your future, working to accomplish something, and growing in the process, helps to pave the way for a life that feels meaningful and purposeful for you. Whether achieve the goal is not as important as your willingness to make goals, try to achieve them, to keep trying, and to grow as a person as you learn along the way.
  • Think about where you want to be in the future.

If you would like to make regular a practice of goal setting, or if you would like to formalize it with some additional structure, there are plenty of templates that you can use for goal setting and tracking. Many of them also include workbooks and journals. These resources serve as a guide to help you document your goal, why it is important to you, and the positive outcomes that accomplishing the goal will achieve. You can even anticipate obstacles and how you will respond to them, or track how you will measure success.

Making progress doesn’t have to be this formal, however. You can always outline these things on a piece of paper in a notebook for yourself if you would like. Adding meaningful quotes, paint, or magazine clippings can help to make goal setting more fun and personalized.


Transition Designs is dedicated to helping organizations and individuals create a strategy in the midst of uncertainty. We help you assess your current situation, create a plan that is congruent with your goals, and manage the “in between place” along the way. Clients typically work with us to design a custom plan tailored to their unique situation and goals. To learn more or subscribe to our articles, please fill out the information below.

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