Personal Goals: Definition, 30 Examples, & Tips for Goal Setting
What are personal goals and which goals are a good fit for you? Learn more about how to set goals related to work, relationships, finances, and other aspects of your life.
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What Are Personal Goals?
Goals are defined as the desired states that people seek to obtain, maintain, or avoid (Nair, 2003). Personal goals are goals related to your work, relationship, finances, and other aspects of life. Pretty much all goals are personal. The only exception might be goals that someone else sets for you—a parent setting a goal that you do your homework or a boss setting a goal that you complete a work task by a certain time.
In this article, we'll talk about some tips for setting personal goals and give you examples of personal goals in a variety of different life domains.
How to Set Personal Goals
Research has shown that the simple act of setting a goal improves our performance related to that goal (Latham, & Locke, 2007). In addition, there are some strategies that can be used to set better personal goals that are easier to accomplish. The acronym SMART can help guide you when setting personal goals (Lawlor, 2012).
SMART goals are:
S - Specific
M - Meaningful
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Trackable
More tips on setting personal goals
Here are some more tips on how to make sure the personal goals you set are easier to achieve.
Developing Your Personal Goals
Now that you have a sense of how to set personal goals, let's develop some of your own personal goals. Two important things to keep in mind when setting personal goals are your needs and your values.
Some have hypothesized that meeting our needs is exactly what drives us, motivates us, and leads us to set goals in the first place (Greene, & Burke, 2007). This suggests that if the personal goals we set are related to an unsatisfied need, we may be more likely to stick to them.
Although there are numerous theories related to human needs, we're going to focus here on Ryff's theory because it incorporates and synthesizes several other older theories (Ryff, 1989). The resulting six experiences are experiences we all strive for. They can therefore be useful in helping guide us in setting meaningful, high-impact goals.
Six experiences we strive for:
Anytime you set a personal goal, ask yourself if it helps satisfy one of these needs. I'll give you some examples of how personal goals can satisfy these needs in a bit.
How personal values affect goals:
It's also helpful when setting personal goals to keep in mind your values. If we are pursuing goals that are inconsistent with our values, we are likely to struggle, and we experience internal conflict. Make a note of which values below are most important to you.
Personal values list:
Authenticity Adventure Balance
Bravery Compassion Challenge
Citizenship Community Creativity
Curiosity Determination Fairness
Freedom Friendships Fun
Generosity Growth Honesty
Influence Justice Kindness
Knowledge Leadership Learning
Love Loyalty Openness
Optimism Recognition Respect
Responsibility Security Self-Respect
Social Connection Spirituality Stability
Status Wealth Wisdom
Anytime you set a personal goal, ask yourself if it goes against any of your key values. I'll give you some examples below of how goal-value conflicts can potentially get in the way of achieving common goals.
3 Common Examples of Personal Goals, the Needs They Fulfill, & Value Conflicts
There are a few common goals that many people have. Here, we'll use a few of these as examples of how goals can fulfill specific needs and conflict with specific values. Use this description as an example of how to evaluate all of your goals and get a better idea of how fulfilling they are likely to be and how your personal values might stop you from achieving them.
Career goal example: To start your own business
Many of us have the personal goal to start our own business doing something they care about. This can fulfill needs like autonomy, environmental mastery, life purpose, and personal growth. Pursuing this goal can help us take control of our own lives and make meaningful changes. However, this goal may conflict with values like work-life balance, security, and loyalty (towards our existing employer).
Financial goal example: To make a million dollars
Many people have the goal to make a million dollars, a seemingly magic number to achieve success and satisfaction. Indeed, reaching this goal might fulfill needs like autonomy and environmental mastery. If we can do this, we figure, then we can do anything. But we need to be careful about how we pursue this goal because it can conflict with values like kindness (depending on how we treat others to get this money) and fairness.
Relationship goal example: To get married by age 30
Some of us have a goal to get married by age 30 and perhaps have kids shortly after. This goal can help us satisfy needs related to positive relationships and life purpose because family relationships can be especially strong, and raising kids tends to give parents a great sense of meaning. If this is a goal of yours, keep an eye out for conflicts with values like freedom and possibly fun (if you prefer to be doing things without your spouse or kids).
Types of Personal Goals
Our lives include many aspects, so we may have many different types of personal goals. Here are some types of personal goals:
27 More Examples of Personal Goals
Need some more help thinking through what goals are right for you? Here are some examples of goals. Feel free to snag them if you want to.
How to Stick to Personal Goals
Once you know your goals, it can be helpful to implement some strategies to stay on track. Try these out if you need help sticking to your goals:
Video: Guide to Goal-Setting
Setting personal goals can be super helpful for getting to where we want to go in life. Hopefully, this guide helped you on that journey.