3 Elements for Everyone to Have in Clear Personal Development Goals

“I got through it, I feel fine,
I went to school and did my time,
In a sense I’m out, in a sense I’m free
to be what I want to be.”

– MxPx, “Doing Time”

A child of the 90’s, I grew up on a heavy dose of punk rock and emo music. My favorite band, thanks to my older brother who guided 90 percent of my music interest until I was at least 16, was MxPx. A Christian pop-punk band from my native Washington, they were easy to latch onto.

I remember going to my first concert at 13 to see them, back when cigarettes were still allowed indoors. Luckily, I did not have to convince my mother that the overwhelming aroma of stale smoke and sweat that clung to my clothes after the concert was evidence of any of my own indiscretions. She was there in the back singing along at the top of her lungs herself.

MxPx claimed a major role in forming my teenage philosophies and giving me direction. The first song I ever learned on guitar was “Punk Rawk Show” from their sophomore album Teenage Politics. In short, they were a big part of my life (and I may just be listening to them as I write this today).

As I have grown, my philosophies and beliefs have matured and become more nuanced. However, there is some insight that I believe MxPx can still provide. In the quote above, that final line “to be what I want to be” is how it is written on every lyric website I could find. However, Mike Herrera, MxPx front man, has always sung it “to do what I want to be” (and I went back to the three different versions of this song released to check)!

It’s a small, and grammatically confusing, alteration. I once had a conversation with my brother in which we discussed the philosophical merits of the word swap. At the time I felt it was silly and just a subtle rebellion against grammar, however I have since found some merit in it. I appreciate that it takes an active stance on life. “Being” is passive; “doing” is active. Herrera states that he is free to actively become who he wants to be.

Establishing Personal Development Goals

I believe that we should live our lives with some intentionality. In order to grow in our personal development, setting goals helps us to move forward without passivity. Not just any goals, however. Personal development goals need to have three aspects covered which I will go into further below. In short, they need to be guided by purpose, they need to give you direction, and they need to be made well.

I’d like you to think of a motor boat. This boat has an engine and propeller, rudder and compass, and a rugged hull. The first pairing gives it power and the ability to move forward. This is your purpose. The second pair gives you the ability to set and see through to where you wish to go, and this is your direction. Finally, the rugged hull ensures that the boat stays together when moving through choppy seas. This is the concept that your goals need to be made well and able to sustain adversity. Let’s dive further into each of these.

Goals: Guided by Purpose

The first dimension of goals I would like to delve into is that of purpose. Goals should be guided by purpose. Further, goals should have a purpose and should be guided by your purpose.

The first idea is simpler: the purpose of goals is to know what you wish to accomplish. This can be in a number realms such as personal, spiritual, financial, romantic, etc. The purpose of goals is that we do not aimlessly wander toward a vague future, but rather a purposeful destination.

More difficult to ascertain, then, is what is your purpose? Why has God put you on this green Earth? We can look to some general principles for humanity, such as we exist for the glory and joy of God Himself and should live in a way that points back to Him. We also all have the purpose of helping others and giving up things for ourselves.

Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

It speaks of giving up our bodies, and I believe this to mean in that all we do we are called to sacrifice ourselves for the good of God and His mission. When looking at our personal development goals, then, we should keep in mind our general purpose is to one of sacrifice and working toward something greater than ourselves.

Beyond the general principles, though, personal development goals reflect your individual purpose. Maybe this is a hard thing for you to know right now, and that is okay! When working with teenagers and young adults, I often find that the question of “what do you want to do” when you grow up is often met with anxiety. However, when I re-frame it with “who do you want to be?” people tend to access a greater idea for themselves.

The concept of who you want to be lets you think beyond just your work — perhaps you want to work to be able to fund your passions? Or your passion can be your work? Maybe at the core, you know you want to be a family man or woman and work needs to necessitate that.

The answer to who you want to be can become your individual purpose. As long as your goals are in line with this, you will be headed in a good direction (or as MxPx put it: free to do what you want to be).

Finding Your Purpose

As you begin to explore this, know that prayer is a good place to start. Invite God in and ask Him to show you what He put you here to do. It might be scary, and it might be risky. It might not even make the “best” financial sense, but know that money doesn’t ever really give anyone fulfillment or complete satisfaction. Remember the verse above speaks to sacrifice, not abundance of riches.

Further, know that often this will be a process of trial and error. You may have to try out a few things to really figure out what your purpose is, and that is okay! Your timeline is not your sibling’s or friend’s — it is yours. If things take years to figure out, that is okay too! You will learn along the way what you need to.

Finally, once you find your purpose, know that it will probably (and probably should) affect all the realms of your life — your individual, social, personal, work, and spiritual life. Purpose is more than a hobby or side hustle, purpose is a driving force for your entire being. When pursuing your purpose, big changes are likely to occur!

Goals Give Direction

The second major concept around personal development goals is that they provide direction. If you have ever found yourself in a dead end job or wondering “what’s the point in all this?” then there is a good chance you weren’t following goals guided by direction.

I like to think of the direction of personal development along two major axes: where and when, and short- and long-term. First, start with the long-term — Where do you want to be? When do you want to be there?

Then take it closer — In the short term, what do you need to do to get you on that path?  Do you want to go into ministry? Then maybe start looking into what an MDiv program might look like. Do you want to get into the tech field? Then maybe start that coding bootcamp sooner rather than later.

With this concept, there exists some contradiction that is to be embraced. On the one hand, you should definitely start now. Right now. Reading this article is a good first step. But on the other hand, give it some time. Goals take a while to come to fruition.

Personal development goals require motivation, energy, and patience in order to pan out. This is okay, just know that the waiting can be frustrating when you are eager to start, and that if you don’t start now you run the risk of never really getting on the path to your goals.

One final note about the direction of goals: Start big. Imagine if there were no obstacles. Let yourself map out where you want to go without hindrances. It’s easier to accommodate obstacles when you know where you are going. They remain just that: obstacles. However, if you don’t have a long-term goal and direction, those obstacles can become full on road blocks. It might feel like too much to get around them if you aren’t focused on what lays beyond. So start big and figure out where you want to go, then take the obstacles as they come.

Goals are Manageable When Made Well

My final note about personal development goals is that they need to be made in a way that sets you up for success. Setting a goal to “get to Mars” might not be realistic. However, if you’re in the Air Force or NASA, and are an outstanding pilot, then it might work out!

There is a general principle that I will break down: make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound).

For the sake of continuity, I will use a scenario in which these all can be applied. Let’s say you are pursing your passion in biology because you feel your purpose is to work on a creation care team working with wildlife. Great! You’ve got a purpose and direction.

However, you are struggling in some key courses in which you have D’s at the moment. Specific goals would indicate you are raising your grade, not just “doing better.” This is already a measurable goal, so that’s great! Some goals are harder to measure, so you might need to create some scale or way of measuring.

You want your goal to be achievable. Maybe it’s not possible to get A’s in these classes with the amount of points left in the semester, so B’s are what you are shooting for. It would be incredibly demoralizing to make impossible goals!

The goal needs to stay relevant, so making a goal to cut out some TV might be good, but it’s not incredibly relevant to the more specific goal of raising your grades. Finally, it needs to be time bound, meaning you know when you want it to be done by.

Further, you can set checkpoints and maybe that looks like a certain amount of papers turned in by a certain date or a set number of hours to study every night. This can look very different depending on the goal, but always set an end date! If you don’t set the end date, you can always have tomorrow to work on it. But tomorrow might never come.

How Counseling Can Help

Maybe you are looking at all of this and feel that this is exactly what you need but are afraid of the work that is required or don’t have a clear idea where to start. That is okay!

Counseling can be a great  way to get you moving toward your personal development. Counseling can help you form goals, then help you understand your own obstacles in achieving those goals. Along the way, counseling can help you to stay on track and provide you with some accountability.

So often when we try to do things alone we get easily side tracked or allow other life elements to get in the way. Coming into a counseling session weekly or every other week can help you really stay on track, and potentially even save you money in the long run if your goal is around pursing a better financial career! So don’t waste any more time, start your personal development process today and seek out any help you might need!

Photos:
“Microphone,” courtesy of Tookapic, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Choose Your Path,” courtesy of James Wheeler, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Direction,” courtesy of Valentin Antonucci, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Planning Session,” courtesy of rawpixel.com, pexels.com, CC0 License