Personal goals that work: 20 examples to get started

July 27, 2021 - 18 min read

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What are personal goals, and why should you set them?

How to start setting goals: learn the S.M.A.R.T. method

4 types of personal goals to set for yourself

20 examples of personal goals to get inspired

Start to set personal goals the S.M.A.R.T. way

Are you looking for a feeling of fulfillment and self-development?

Personal goals can help you get there. 

If you’re feeling uninspired with your own personal goals, let’s dive into why they matter so much, how to set them efficiently, and what real personal goals can look like.

What are personal goals, and why should you set them?

Personal development goals help you grow as a person. They exist to give you a long-term vision of how you want to improve yourself over time.

Using your personal goals, you can also create your own personal vision statement. This type of statement can make you more focused and help you make decisions according to your priorities.

Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews found that 70% of participants who wrote weekly goal updates to friends achieved their goals successfully. On the other hand, only 35% of people who didn’t write their goals achieved them successfully. 

So not only can you create a personal vision for your life, but you’re also more likely to achieve it by writing those goals down.

Setting personal goals can also help improve your well-being. That’s because you’ll be able to measure your progress and gain more self-confidence and pride in your ability to improve.

 

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How to start setting goals: learn the S.M.A.R.T. method

To know whether you achieved a goal, you need to set it in a way that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This is also known as setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Here’s what it means to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

  • Specific: Your goal is clear and well-defined
  • Measurable: You can measure the progress clearly
  • Achievable: Your goal is possible and attainable for you to achieve
  • Realistic: Not only should your goal be within reach, but it should also be relevant for your life purpose
  • Time-bound: Your goal has a clearly defined timeline and due date

If you set vague goals for yourself, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. That’s because you will have no way to measure your progress to see if you are moving in the right direction. 

You may not even know when you’ve achieved the goal.

For example, let’s say you set the goal of becoming a great leader. It’s a great thing to aim for, but it’s not specific enough.

How will you know if you are moving in the right direction? At what point do you know you’ve succeeded?

You can set smaller goals towards your bigger goal of becoming a leader instead. For example, you can aim to help at least one person on your team get a raise before the end of the year.

Here are some other tips to help you set your S.M.A.R.T. goals:

  • Get in the mindset of setting life goals by reading personal growth books
  • Ask yourself why you’re setting a goal before you set it do so
  • Set goals about things you can control
  • Phrase your goal in a positive tone — for example, “Do one hour of physical activity each evening” instead of “Watch less TV in the evening”
  • For each goal, create an action plan and a to-do list

man-helping-another-man-at-work-personal-goals

 

4 types of personal goals to set for yourself

There are several types of personal goals to set for yourself as you do your inner work. Here are four examples:

1. Financial goals

Financial goals are related to your personal finances. They can help you stay on top of your budget or work towards a specific investment strategy.

2. Personal goals for work

You can set big goals for your career, not just for your personal life. These goals should be centered on you, not your organization.

Some professional goals can be personal, but others can be related to the betterment of your organization. For example, developing an inclusive leadership and team isn’t as personal as completing a degree or certification.

three-woman-in-a-work-meeting-personal-goals

3. Growth goals

Growth goals can relate to self-improvement. But they don’t have to be directly related to your career. You can improve yourself for the sake of fulfillment and self-confidence.

4. Health goals

Health goals are personal goals that can help you improve your health. These can be fitness goals, or they can relate to mental health and mental fitness.

 

20 examples of personal goals to get inspired 

Here is a personal goals list you can use to inspire your own personal goal-setting journey in all areas of your life.

Financial goals

Let’s take a look at five financial goals:

  1. Pay off Clear all your debt within one year

Clearing your debt will allow you to put more money into your savings. It can also improve your credit.

Choose a timeline that makes sense for you. Some people can realistically clear their debt within a year. Others can do so within two or three years. Some may be able to do it within a few months.

You should also write down all your debts so that your goal is clear.

  1. Save $10,000 a year for retirement

Saving for retirement is a long-term goal. You can save a specific amount every year. Or you can aim for a specific number to have by your retirement.

Every year, you’ll be able to measure your progress. That’s as long as you set a specific number as your goal.

  1. Reduce your spending by 20%

If you’ve realized you’re spending too much, you can strive to cut down that spending. But just saying “spend less” isn’t specific enough.

There are several ways to set a spending goal. You can choose to reduce your spending by a certain percentage. Or you can create categories and aim to spend no more than a specific amount in each category.

Finally, you can set the goal of reducing your spending in certain categories only, like restaurants or online shopping.

  1. Build an emergency fund for three months of living expenses within one year

Short-term goals for savings are also important, too. Having an emergency fund is helpful in the case of unemployment or a medical emergency or illness. 

But this fund can also help if you have unexpected expenses like car or home repairs.

A fund that could cover your living expenses for three to six months is a good number to strive for. So, if the cost of living in your household is $2,500 per month, aim to save between $7,500–$15,000.

Once again, your timeline should be realistic and tailored to your own financial situation.

  1. Save for a down payment for a home within two years

If you want to purchase a home or upgrade your current home, you can set the goal of saving for a down payment. 

You should choose a specific number for your down payment. Take a look at the current market. If you think you need a house that will be worth $350,000, you’ll need to save at least $70,000 if you plan on to putting down 20%.

You may also want to save up for more if you anticipate needing renovations.

Career goals

Let’s take a look at five goals you can set for your career:

  1. Expand your network by introducing yourself to at least 10 people once a month

Building your network is vital to furthering your career. It can also improve your social well-being. 31% of job seekers find new job listings through professional people they know. 23% of people also submit their resumes through friends and former colleagues.

However, ‘build my network’ isn’t a S.M.A.R.T. goal. You can instead plan to attend one networking event every month. You can also push this goal further by aiming to introduce yourself to at least 10 people (or less or more) at each event.

  1. Get your master’s degree within five years

Sometimes getting a new or more advanced degree can help further your career. You can also aim for this type of goal if you want to change careers.

But if you set the personal goal of getting a new degree, you should specify which one and how long it will take to complete. 

You should also set a timeline for yourself. A timeline that’s appropriate for you will depend on how much free time you have.

  1. Learn a new programming language in six months to keep your skills more relevant

Even if your job doesn’t require you to learn a programming language, there may be some elements of job tasks that learning this skill could improve. And, given the prominence of code in our lives, making an effort to learn will give you a greater understanding of other issues, even if your work doesn't require programming.

This is just an example of a new skill to learn. Any skill that can make your work more efficient can be a good goal.

  1. Become manager within two years

It’s important to know where you’re headed in your career. When you know where you want to go, you can make the right decisions and develop the necessary skills to get there.

You can set a long-term goal, like becoming CEO before you retire. But you can also set mid-term goals, like becoming a manager within two years.

  1. Mentor a coworker until they get a promotion

Helping others achieve their own goals can be a gratifying experience. 

Wanting to mentor someone is a vague goal, but you can refine it. For instance, you can aim to support a specific coworker’s career until they get their next promotion.

You can also create a plan for how you want to mentor them.

woman-mentoring-another-woman-in-cafe-personal-goals

Growth goals

Let’s take a look at five goal examples for personal growth:

  1. Wake up at 5 a.m. every morning

Running out of time to work on improving yourself? Getting up earlier could be your solution.

Waking up at 5 a.m. isn’t for everyone. If you concentrate better in the evening, maybe you need to carve out an hour before bed instead.

  1. Become conversational in a foreign language before a trip

Many people aim to learn a new language. But it can take years to see true progress without S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Determine why you want to learn a new language. Let’s say you’re going on a trip to Japan. You’ll need to know enough of the language to have a basic conversation. You’ll also need to know how to read.

These can be your specific goals before your trip.

Afterward, you can set a new milestone for yourself. For example, you can learn how to write in a foreign language within the next year.

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  1. Learn how to grow leaf lettuce before the summer is over

Learning how to garden can help you grow your own food. Aim to succeed with specific produce every year.

You can start with easy ones like leaf lettuce. As you become better, you can set the goal of succeeding with more difficult produce like artichokes.

  1. Become good enough at public speaking skills to give your next project presentation to the entire company 

When you’re improving soft skills, like communication skills, it can be difficult to track your progress. With public speaking, for example, there’s no objective test to measure your progress.

However, you can find public speaking opportunities to practice your skills. You can then measure your comfort level.

When you’re ready for a specific event — like the next project presentation in front of your entire company — you can aim to practice until you feel confident enough to do it.

  1. Volunteer once a month at the local shelter

People who volunteer with the goal of helping others tend to live longer.

If you want to start volunteering, determine what you’ll do and how often. If you have several causes you want to support, you can have a list of volunteering goals.

Health goals

Finally, let’s take a look at five goals you could set to improve your health:

  1. Train three times a week for 45 minutes at the gym

Want to be more active? Be specific about it. Choose an activity that excites you.

Perhaps you want to power lift at the gym. Or maybe you prefer to run. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to specify how often and for how long you’ll do it.

  1. Perform a triathlon within a year

Instead of weekly training goals, you can also aim for an outcome.

A triathlon is a specific physical outcome that’s the same everywhere you go. Look up your local triathlons to see how long you have to train for the next one.

  1. Meditate every morning for five minutes (and work up to 10 minutes within a month)

Meditation can help you fine-tune your gratitude practice. But it can be difficult to start with 10-20 minutes at once.

Instead, aim to work up to your goal time on a specific date.

  1. Start journaling for 10 minutes every evening before bed

Journaling is another way to develop gratitude. You can measure journaling with time.

But, you can also measure it with the number of pages. For example, you can aim to write one page every evening.

  1. Eat at least five portions of vegetables every day

If you want to develop a diet that fuels you, make sure to set specific guidelines. You can start with one aspect of your diet. For example, you can aim to eat at least five portions of veggies each day.

When you get used to it, you can add another goal, like increasing your water intake.

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Start to set personal goals the S.M.A.R.T. way

Personal goals can provide structure and focus.

But make sure you make every goal a S.M.A.R.T. goal so that you can effectively work towards them.

With BetterUp coaching, you can get help to set fulfilling personal goals. 

Get a demo to start your goal-setting journey today.

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Published July 27, 2021

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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