Inner Adventure Guide

How to set the best personal development goals

Liz Barile-Page is your Inner Adventure Guide
Goal setting is one of the most important factors in personal development planning and it is a 2-stage process.

Goal setting is one of the most important factors in personal development planning and it is a 2-stage process. The first step is creating a very clear mental image of what you want to achieve. It means you must know precisely what is that you want to achieve. Imagine a shopkeeper who decides to wind up his business and retire. If you ask him, how much money would you require to live the rest of your life comfortably? He may say, “I have not really thought about it.” Now let’s compare this with a shopkeeper who is eager to expand his existing business. Whom do you think will be more successful in achieving his goal? Obviously the first one. Because he did not have a clear image of his goal.
Then he should set an objective or a goal which is realistic and he believes that he can achieve it. Here is an example: a young man would like to be rich someday. He can set a goal to be able to earn an income (stated in dollars or rupees per year) which places him in the top 5% of people in his country. This would be a precise quantitative goal. The rate of inflation and his expectation of future average income will enable him to determine the amount of wealth he must accumulate during the rest of his lifetime to be in the top 5%. Now he can calculate the current value (today’s rupees or dollars) of that wealth and it will give him a target to achieve. This goal is specific and achievable.

Improving Time Management Skills

Start managing your time more efficiently by identifying the major time-robbers in your life. This includes ringing telephones, the television, other people and drop-in visitors, delays while you travel (especially if it’s frequent), lateness, indecision, lacking the ability to say ‘no’, disorganized work or living space, and stress and health problems. With any of these, your resolution to change must be based on a decision that’s strong enough to overcome the habit, since time-wasting is largely habit. Remove or reduce the time-robber and monitor the difference it makes – you may be surprised at just how much time you will save. For example, by setting definite times to make and return phone calls and keeping the conversations short and to the point, you’ve saved more time to do other work and avoided even more time being wasted by having a break between work.

Choosing the right tools will save time. Consider the thought of a builder using low-quality tools – he’ll need more time and effort to do the work unless he’s to compromise the quality of his work. The same applies to a student writing an assignment, a businessman preparing a presentation, or anyone doing a job. High-quality tools (physical or virtual) may be more costly, but they make it easier to do the job right and give better results; meaning that decision is also an investment. The correct use of technology is a prime example in the modern age. For many tasks, spending a little time to learn its more advanced features will save a lot of time later on. But don’t be over-technical – some older methods may still be the best.

Enhancing Communication Abilities

How do people know what you want and who you are if you don’t tell them? Some people think that they are mind readers. Personally, I’ve yet to meet one. So the burden of clear communication rests with you. It’s your job to make yourself clearly understood. It is more productive within any relationship for you to respectfully ask for clarification when you don’t understand something rather than to make assumptions. Assuming often results in varied misunderstandings and can lead to conflict. This is known as the “do you know what assuming does?” A basic but good communication pattern involves a sender and receiver. The sender is the person who is conveying the message, the receiver is expected to be listening and to interpret the message correctly. If it is in written form the receiver is responsible to read the entire message before drawing the conclusion. This is where communication breakdowns occur. Often, the receiver will formulate his or her own opinion prior to fully listening to the sender. This can cause confused arguments, as the receiver can be on a different wavelength, usually a lower one. A successful communication pattern occurs when the receiver can accurately repeat the sender’s intended message. At this point, a conversation has a clear understanding and there is less chance of error. This can be a hard pattern to implement and often takes an effort from both parties. However, it is a step in the right direction.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Goleman (1995) suggests that emotional intelligence (EI) is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them. At an individual level, it means the ability to express and understand own feelings and intrinsic emotional states. So emotional intelligence is not about being emotional but being smart with emotions. Emotional intelligence involves 5 major skills; the first is the ability to understand and express own emotions. People who are good at this remain unclouded and decisive in their minds, which leads them to better decision-making and problem-solving skills. The second skill is the ability to understand and predict others’ emotions from verbal and non-verbal behavior. This ability helps influential people to work in a catalyst role by approaching the situation at the right time aiming to influence a positive atmosphere. Thirdly, emotions can be effectively managed and altered to adapt to a situation or create a desired outcome. For example, people who are excellent at confrontation can choose to be assertive instead of angry, or people in leadership positions can learn how to lead by example and switch from authoritative to authoritative instead of distant. The fourth and fifth skills revolve around empathy and the ability to build and maintain relationships. Empathetic people are adept at understanding the diversity in other individuals and are less likely to stereotype, while the quality of relationships in our lives often determines our levels of happiness and well-being. So taking into account these 5 skills, emotional intelligence has a significant influence on our social behavior and intrapersonal growth.

This topic is important to personal development as it provides a clear indicator of how far an individual has developed on their personal and social competencies. It provides a strong philosophical basis that development is a lifelong continuous process and we are all skilled at different things, having different potential, and some of this potential can be learned and developed. This view contrasts the general nature versus nurture argument that intelligence is a fixed and genetic potential. But if the skills of emotional intelligence are learned through life experiences, then traditional cognitive intelligence should also be modifiable. Goleman confirms this, stating that EI can be changed and the best form of change is from guided personal development. This leads to the creation of a feedback cycle whereby personal development improves EI and increased EI furthers personal development. Finally, he suggests that maintaining one’s changes has a higher success rate when changes are done through learning and practicing a specific behavior rather than just changing one’s opinion about the behavior. This is because behavior, good or bad, is often a habit triggered by a certain stimulus, and creating a new habit involves the conscious replacement of the old behavior with the new behavior until it becomes second nature. So people can assess their behavior in relation to the 5 EI skills and develop a plan to improve these behaviors with the attempt of resolving to bring about lasting change for the better. This plan can be continually assessed through situational analysis and self-reflection on the effectiveness of new behaviors in different situations and will in turn become a specific application of the methods of personal development to cultivate emotional intelligence.

Building Resilience and Adaptability

Resilience and adaptability are the hallmarks of a solid mental constitution. To be able to bounce back in the face of adversity or change is a quality that is hard to create, but once achieved, can be most helpful. A resilient person gets up each time they are knocked down and can continue in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. To develop it in yourself, attempt some of these things: try to cultivate a positive view of yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep things in perspective, avoid blowing things out of proportion, keep a hopeful outlook, expect good things, and visualize what is possible. Take care of yourself, keeping a perspective of the mind, body, and spirit that it takes to be at your best. Keep taking those small steps toward your goals; they all add up. Learn for next time with each mistake and think of it as a learning experience, taking the positive from everything is an art but can be learned. Last but not least, maintain hope and look for the opportunity in every difficulty. Building resilience is definitely a case of working smarter, not harder. To continue through the dark tunnels in life, a person needing to draw upon a lot of resilience also requires the ability to adapt and be flexible. This is a constantly changing world, and a fixed approach often is met with limited success. The ability to grow, learn, and respond as things change is an attribute that is priceless in today’s society. So how to enhance this adaptability? New experiences are the building blocks of a flexible mind. By constantly being willing to try something different, even if at first it’s uncomfortable, one can develop the mindset of learning. Learning in itself is the other key factor. By taking the stance that every difficulty in life is a challenge to be overcome, a person retains a positive outlook and remains open to new solutions. Practice being open to different views and considering the bigger picture by looking at all the possibilities in a given situation. This stops people from getting locked into a corner and makes change an easier pill to swallow. A specific technique for considering the new possibilities is to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a situation with an open mind to the fact that things may have changed. Activity is the sum of these parts, and the more a person practices these habits, the more it will become a natural way of being. An adaptable mind is the key to an easier life when things do go wrong, and here we can see the two qualities overlapping each other.

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