Updated: May 13
How often do we set personal growth goals, only to let them slip through the cracks? If we’re honest…it happens a lot! Personal growth is improving or changing behaviors or habits to become a better person. They’re challenging and scary. We’re used to being who we are, not who we want to become.
But if the voice inside your head is still urging you to make some changes in your life or get rid of things that are no longer serving you, it’s time to set some personal growth goals. Mindfulness and meditation practices can help.
Personal growth focuses on your whole being. With that said, there are five areas of your life that contribute to personal growth: mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical growth.
Mental growth focuses on the way you think and learn, and how your cognitive functions affect your behavior.
Social growth is improving the way you interact with people. It’s listening and communicating effectively.
Spiritual growth refers to finding your path to inner peace. Spirituality is not religion. It’s a holistic connection to yourself. Meditation, walks in nature, or expressing yourself artistically (among other things) are examples of encouraging your inner growth and connectedness.
Emotional growth is dedication to managing feelings and reactions to situations as they arise. Emotional growth helps you navigate challenges that would otherwise cause stress and anxiety.
Physical growth takes care of your body. Believe it or not, a dedicated practice to physical acuity can be amazingly powerful because of the requisite focus and dedication required.
Personal growth can be painful. Growing means changing your status quo; stepping out of your comfort zone. When things get uncomfortable, it’s easy to quit. So, here are some tips to stay focused to achieve your personal growth goals.
1) Self-reflection. Before setting personal growth goals, spend time in self-reflection. Here are a few questions to get you started:
What area of my life do I want to improve? (Think about your mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical self.)
What values are important to me and how do I want those to show up in the world? (Honesty, integrity, dedication – how will these show up based on the areas of your life do you want to improve?)
What do I want to start doing (or doing more of)?
What do I want to stop doing (or doing less of)?
What kind of person or character traits do I want for myself?
The *most* important part of goal setting is understanding your “why.” Why do you want to make this improvement in your life now? Write it down and post it where you see your why.
For example: ‘I want to attract relationships and opportunities that support my goals and encourage me to be the best version of myself. I’ll journal daily and see a psychotherapist to uncover behaviors that aren’t conducive to this, and I’ll commit to re-learning methods to improve how I communicate and shift up my mindset.’
2) Set SMART goals. The best way to get from A to B is to set goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. This is the ‘How’ that’s required to get actual results and make progress.
Specific goals are more challenging when it comes to personal growth. It’s not like you can say, I’ll improve communication by 25%. What does that mean? Instead focus on an area you want to improve, for example, social growth. Set a specific goal to reach out to 1 person in your network weekly and attend one happy hour with friends every two to three weeks.
Measurable goals allow you to track your progress. The example above is specific and measurable – did you go to happy hour? Yes! Yeah, you’re on your way!
Achievable means you can get there – meeting up for happy hour once every couple of weeks is doable. Sending one email a week to someone in your network is doable.
Being realistic (the “R”) is really important. For example, I teach people to begin meditation with just a few minutes each day. If you’re a newbie and your goal is to meditate one hour every day, you likely won’t get there because it’s not realistic. Start slow with whatever your goal is and add on.
Set a time frame to reach your goal. According to experts, a new habit can take between 18 and 254 days to form. The average is 66 days – not 21 days as was popularized in the 1960s and still believed today. That’s not to say that, depending on your goal, it will take just 21 days. But if your goal is to establish a long-term fitness plan, it’s likely going to take a longer time commitment to get there.
3) Make a plan.
You need a plan, or you won’t stick to your personal growth goals. Setting your SMART goals is your starting place. The next step can be as simple as writing dates in your calendar. It can also include scheduling appointments with a coach, personal trainer, meditation teacher, or counselor. Maybe even signing up for a class. It depends on the areas of your life where you’d like to grow.
Find a friend or partner to hold you accountable. You’ll need to ask someone you trust will keep you on schedule – someone who’ll call you out if you’re being lazy or working half-heartedly (more on that in a minute). This is where a professional coach can be beneficial.
5) Be honest.
You need to be honest with yourself. Remember – you need someone to call you out should you slack off? Well, sometimes when we slack off, it’s not because we’re lazy, it’s because the goal doesn’t fit with our values or what we’re looking to achieve currently. That’s OK. For example, most New Year’s resolutions have something to do with weight (41%) and/or exercise (48%). Most people quit or abandon their resolution in early February and a lot of people (68%) quit before that. If you’re not ready to exercise, you’re not going to devote the time needed whether it’s January 1st or today. That’s the importance of self-reflection. And if your long-term goals have shifted, that’s OK. Just don’t quit because it’s hard – replace it with something you want more.
Personal growth affects so many areas of your life. The benefits include deeper relationships with friends, family, and colleagues – even your pets. You’ll find time for yourself to connect to your environment in a way that you may not have before.
An unintentional consequence of personal growth is attracting others that are also dedicated to becoming better people. Like attracts like. Personal growth infiltrates into all that you do.
It's a process – progress, not perfection. If you stumble, get back up.
Always keep in mind your ‘why’ and break things down into bite-sized pieces, your ‘how’.
When you apply this method consistently, you will see results steadily accumulating over time.
Jessica Crow helps people harness the power of meditation and mindfulness to change their lives and the lives of others for the better through practical courses and personalized mentorship.
Check out her book 'The Power of Guided Meditation', published by Fair Winds Press and her New On Demand Course 'The Power of Guided Meditation', for anyone who wants to harness the power of meditation in their own lives.