By Seth Lusk
Personal development goals are an important part of a fulfilling life. This is not because when we have personal development goals, we become a better person. That is a very misleading story that many people have about personal development.
I wrote an article not too long ago about the hidden truth of personal development. I encourage you to go read that before returning to reading this article, if you have not already. It is not because you HAVE TO read that to understand personal development goals. It would be helpful for context in this article for how I am going to talk about personal development goals.
To briefly summarize the theme of the article on the hidden truth of personal development. Personal development goals are not about changing the kind of person you are, or changing you at all. It is about changing behaviors, based on your deepening understanding of who you are (and always have been the entire time).
As we push ourselves in growth, to learn more deeply about ourselves, and our values, and what we want to accomplish in this life, we get a clearer picture of who we are. We also get a clearer picture of who we are not, and how we may have been accepting false stories about ourselves in life. In personal development, we start to see those stories for what they are (simply a story, not a fact), and we slowly peel those away, to be able to show up more and more as our truest selves in this life.
Our truest selves are all 100% worthy, lovable, acceptable, powerful, and NECESSARY for this life. We are necessary for this life because we each individually bring something to this life that no one else can. So, personal development is about remembering what that is, and figuring out how to express it through action, and results in this physical life.
So, when we talk about personal development goals, how do these play into this process?
That is a very important question to answer, and clearly see. Personal development goals, plan an essential role in this process of personal development, that is often misunderstood. They are often misunderstood, because we are focused on results, and behaviors as being what identifies WHO, and WHAT we are as a person. But the truth is that behaviors and results are simply us learning to express who and what we are in this life.
We will never get that perfectly right. Because the being that we truly are, IS perfect. And in this physical life, chaos, and uncertainty exist. So being able to perfectly express a perfect being in this life, is… Well… Not possible. But, personal development is the process of learning how to get clearer, more effective, and more consistent at being able to express that being in this life in a truthful way.
Personal development goals are simply part of the life long process of this. And where most people get confused at the very beginning is believing that the personal development goals are about achieving them so we can feel better about ourselves, and “be” a better person “BECAUSE” we achieved the goal result.
But the truth is, we ARE already the best we are able to be. Remember that personal development is about learning to show up that way IN THIS LIFE. So, goals are not about “becoming” anything. And achieving them does not lead to some end result where we can say “oh, I made it to the goal… Now I am the best I will be. I will now, always feel good about myself, and everyone will know that I am good, because I did this goal, and life will not be great for me, because I did the goal”.
So many of us believe this about our personal development goals. That the point is to achieve it, and once we do, we will finally love ourselves, and more people will love us, and this means that we have finally become a better person, and life will then just be easier and better.
Personal development is a lifelong path, not a temporary path to a destination that makes life somehow objectively better. I will say that life FEELS more fulfilling on the path or personal development, and you can feel, and see purpose in your life on that path. This means that the decisions you make FEEL more intentional, and exciting, and like they matter. And you have a sense of moving toward something you WANT in life.
This is the point of personal development, and personal development goals. It is about a path in life. It is about the daily choice to see that path, and choose to stay on it, rather than sinking into complacency, and believing that life is just going to happen to you, and your best bet is to survive it, and seek as much escape through comfort as you can to deal with the crappy uncertain painful life that is happening to you.
Personal development is about choosing the path that sees your power and responsibility in this life to influence, and learn from outcomes in it. Personal development is about using that power and responsibility to influence and learn from outcomes in life, in a way that is about expressing more and more of who you truly are in this life, and what that being values in this life.
So, we have this understanding of what personal development is. Where do personal development goals fit into this?
Personal development goals are basically trail markers, mile markers, guideposts, however you want to word it. They serve as a way of letting us know, we are on the path we intend to be on.
They also serve as a source of self-accountability, and building an internal relationship of trust with ourselves. When we set goals, we set them based on the bigger vision and purpose we see for our life. And this is important. Setting goals without that bigger visions of purpose, leaves a person feeling unmotivated, directionless, and confused.
This vision of purpose and mission for life is different than the goals themselves. This confuses many people because they are not familiar with how this process works. We have been taught through societal pressure to not pay attention here. We are taught to leave the vision, and decision making for other people who are “more qualified” than us to make those decisions. Then we are supposed to just follow those visions. We are told that we “should” want to pursue certain purpose in life.
But vision of purpose for life is just as unique as every person, and their experience of life. So, it is important that you know that your vision of purpose for life is authentic for you. Following a vision of purpose that is not authentic for you leads to living an inauthentic life, which leads to progressively more numerous and intense symptoms of inauthenticity within a person’s life.
Symptoms such as…
-Depression and anxiety
-Comparison that leaves you feeling less than enough
-Conditional self-love/ self-worth
-A poorly constructed/inconsistent self-image
-A negative self-image
-Inconsistent action toward goals
-Not following through on commitments
These just name some of the symptoms, but the list continues to expand, as we live in a world where more and more people are allowing themselves to be convinced to live inauthentic lives, chasing inauthentic visions of purpose.
So, how does this relate back to personal development goals?
Once we do the inner work to remove the layers of the inauthentic life, and vision of purpose, we can begin to see our authentic purpose. Along with that we can see our authentic values in life. This creates a big picture of what we are here in this life to contribute in a fulfilling way.
With that big picture we can clearly see that we are going to be changing the way we are currently showing up in our life (with behaviors, beliefs, and plans for life). Starting at the bigger vision of purpose, and values, we can begin to see that we ARE the person who lives the life we see in that vision. We just have not taken the actions yet. And here is where goals come in to the picture.
We work back from the bigger vision of purpose and values to exactly where we are with out beliefs of life, and behaviors that express those beliefs. We look at the space in between that bigger vision, and where we are now, and we begin to envision a path of action steps to fill in the gap.
Along with those action steps we want to know if the actions we are taking are producing the results we want to be producing, to know that we are moving in the direction of the bigger vision of purpose, and authentic values.
THIS is what our personal development goals do for us. We set these goals to be markers along the path that we have envisioned that will keep us moving in the direction of that authentic purpose, and those authentic values that we can clearly see for our life.
It is not that when we achieve the goals we are better people, or feel more worthy, or feel better about our lives. These goals serve as a guide to remind us “this is what you are heading toward, and here is some evidence that you are on the path you wanted to be on”. These goals are for us to have a physical expression in this life of the intangible fulfilling purpose that we are excited to be living for, and contributing to this life in tangible ways.
These personal development goals also serve a very significant second purpose. That purpose is accountability to our commitments to ourselves. And this is crucial to see for our goals to be effective in our bigger picture.
Part of the personal development journey is about rebuilding trust in ourselves to know what we want in this life, that is authentic for us, and to execute it consistently. It is about being able to trust ourselves to say “I see what I want to do… here it is… Now I am going to do it”… And then we believe that we will.
That relationship of trust is so essential to our personal development. And personal development goals help us to establish that trust. They provide our human brain with evidence that it can use to build a temporary identity in this life of ourselves that allows the brain and body to trust us to establish plans, and follow through consistently.
The truth is, that there are MILLIONS of ways that we can express our purpose, and values in this life through action, and creation of tangible results. And the ways that we choose are both important, but also unimportant at the same time. Allow me to explain.
There is not a “right” way, or a “wrong” way for you to choose. There is the way that will be right for you, that only you will know. But that way grows and develops as you do. And this is important to know ahead of time. And personal development can feel confusing for people who do not fully understand this.
We choose goals based on what we know at the time of setting them. We choose them as sign posts to let us know that we are heading in the direction of our bigger purpose, and authentic values. But, as we head in the direction of those, we also grow in our understanding of them, and what they mean for us in this life.
What this means, is that as we move toward goals, our understanding of them, and their greater purpose will evolve. And this can lead to some tricky obstacles along the way. It can derail some people. This is why working with a life coach on your personal development journey is so crucial.
Remember that the goal is not there to get it, and then be done, and ride off into the sunset on a new life that will just be instantly better, and easier, because we are done with personal development once we reach the goal. The goal is simply a guidepost, and a mark of accountability and trust.
So, when we move toward these goals, there is a certain amount of flexibility, and agility involved. We need to keep our goals very clear, but at the same time, remember the ultimate purpose they are there to serve. We want to leave out excuses that derail us from building that relationship of trust in ourselves that we follow through on our commitments. We also want agility and flexibility in how those goals will express based in their bigger purpose, to accommodate for our growing understanding of those purpose.
So, what this looks like in real life application can vary just as greatly as the number of lives on this planet. I want to provide you with a real life example. Before I do, I want to clarify, that working with a life coach is essential here to help you see if you are pivoting on purpose, or retreating in fear when it comes to your goals.
When I began my journey of creating my own business as a life coach, my title was not “life coach”. I was labeled as a personal trainer and nutrition specialist. I performed all of the duties of a life coach in various ways, but the structure of my business was not life coaching. But, here I am working as a life coach in 2023. So, did I fail at my vision and goals? Did I not honor my commitments to myself? Or did I pivot on purpose, and expand the scope of my goals based on my expanding scope of vision toward my ultimate purpose?
I knew when I started my business that I wanted to help people. I was working as a personal trainer and nutrition specialist in gyms. I was feeling frustrated, just like my clients, because of the limitations to my title, as far as what I was there to help them with. I could see that I could provide more help, and guidance than what my titles insinuated that I was there to help them with.
I had committed to the goal of being the best personal trainer and nutrition specialist I could be. But, now I am a life coach. So… Did I give up on my goal? Did I fail?
My purpose in wanting to be the best personal trainer and nutrition specialist that I could be, was that I wanted to empower people. I wanted to show people that they could take their power back in their health, and life. I wanted to show people that when they wanted to, there was nothing that they could not accomplish in shifting their habits, and results in caring for their health, and therefore life.
The issue I kept running into, was that my title told people a boundary about what I was qualified to help them with. So, when the list of exercises I was qualified to give them, and my supervision of those exercises, and reassurance that they were doing them all correctly, did not help them with the limiting beliefs that we slowly undermining their growth in the background; they lost their faith in my ability to guide them in their journey. This led to many clients leaving.
I knew I could help them with so much more. I would try talking to them about the rest of their life, and the thoughts and ideas they had around it. But, when I did, I was met with barriers. The barriers having to do with my title, and therefore job qualifications. To them, the scope of my work ended at telling them what to eat, and what exercises to do, and making sure they were doing it “the right way”.
Their self-image, life beliefs, spirituality, personal relationships, childhood traumas & stories, and their mental health were off limits to me based on the boundaries of my job title. And this meant that I was not allowed (in their mind) to access the very aspects of their life that I knew could shift everything for them.
I had already left working for corporate gyms at the time of seeing this. I was practicing on my own. I knew I was not a failure. I knew there was a solution. I knew that solution meant that I would want to change the way I was seeing my business structure, and how I provided service to my clients. I knew I was excellent at personal training, and nutrition consulting. I also knew that these two services were not meeting my clients’ true needs.
So, I could have chosen the story at that point in time that I had failed. I was not a good personal trainer, or nutrition specialist, because I was not able to serve my clients as well as I wanted to. But, I knew this was not the truth. The truth was deeper. The truth was in the purpose.
My purpose was to serve my clients needs. Becoming the best personal trainer and nutrition specialist I could be, at the beginning of that part of my journey, felt like the best way to serve my clients needs. But the deeper I developed my understanding of contribution, compassion, and understanding, the more I realized that these two services were not the only ways my clients wanted their needs met. Even though most of my clients could not see this at the time. I was listening to them, having compassion, and understanding for them. In doing so, I saw a deeper layer of inauthenticity in their lives that was holding them back. My purpose to serve them called me to reach that layer.
Reaching that layer was not going to happen with being the best personal trainer and nutrition specialist I could be. I was the best at those titles. My purpose was calling me deeper. My service to my clients was being called to expand. Life coaching was the answer to that call.
I restructured my business to still offer personal training and nutrition consulting. I was still amazing at those services. But I was answering a call to develop another skill and service to my clients that would truly help them, as their life coach.
I share this story with you all, because a few times on my journey, I felt derailed. I felt the pull to just give up because of an internal dialogue that said that I had failed. Even when I started life coaching, and my skills at this were not developed to a level of service ability, the dialogue of failure continued.
It was my vision of purpose, and values, and the fact that those were authentic to me, that served to remind me that this story of failure was simply a story. It was a story based in a temporary identity that my brain had created and attached to on my journey to something soooo much bigger than that identity. The identity of personal trainer, or nutrition specialist were meant to be temporary. Hitting the goal of being excellent at those identities was just a sign post on the journey to something sooooo much bigger.
Having that clear vision allowed for me to continue creating personal development goals for myself, even as I passed the signposts, and even as my brain created stories of fear and failure, as the path in front of me shifted, and the scope of it grew. As my understanding of my purpose and values grew, so did the goals/ signposts that I placed along the path.
I share this with you, because I want you to understand something so important about your personal development goals. I want you to understand that you will be challenged to give up. You will be challenged internally and externally. You will be challenged to believe stories of failure.
If you do not set a clear vision of purpose that is authentic to you, based in authentic values, then these stories of fear and failure will easily convince you to believe them. They will convince you to take on an identity that undermines your power in your life, and your trust in yourself. The journey of personal development is SUPPOSED TO challenge you. Your authentic vision of purpose is what guides you to remember what those personal development goals are there for. This will allow you to continue stepping toward a goal, even when fear is asking you to give up on your commitment.
This vision will also allow you to pivot goals, not because you cannot achieve them, but because the scope of your purpose has shifted, and the goal needs to reflect that. This vision of authentic purpose allows you to do this pivoting while maintaining a relationship of trust in yourself, because you know the pivot is not you giving up. You know the pivot is about you committing even more deeply to your higher purpose, and seeing that you can express it in an even more powerful, and truthful way.
When it comes to personal development goals, I want this article to provide 2 main “take-home” insights.
1. Personal development goals are not about you becoming someone who is a “better person”. They are not about feeling better about your worth, or lovability. They are not the source of you riding off into the sunset on a life that is just suddenly better and easier because you achieved the goal.
2. Personal development goals are guideposts, and sources of you creating trust in your relationship with yourself. They are not about you proving things to other people about you. They are for YOU, in YOUR personal relationship with YOU.
Your personal development goals are for you, and no one else. Others will benefit from you creating and surpassing them. They may not see it, or see how. Your personal development goals do not need their ability to see their benefit, for them to have the benefit they will have on the world around you. These goals are about your authentic purpose, values, and contribution to the world.
The question you will want to ask yourself, is how clear and authentic is your visions of purpose, and values? The answer to this will determine the quality, and scope of the goals you will set for yourself. The answer will determine how consistent you are in showing up for those goals. The answer will also determine your ability to pivot, surpass your goals, and maintain a clear vision of the direction you are heading in, and what goals are ahead of your next.
Do you have the relationship of authenticity, and trust with yourself where you know that you honor your commitments to yourself?
I am here to guide you into that relationship. I can show you how to build it, and use that relationship to build a vision of purpose for your life that guides you on your journey through this life that is most authentic and fulfilling for you. Your journey begins with me with a free discovery call HERE . Let’s talk about you living the life you are DESIGNED to thrive in.
It’s YOUR TIME to rise & thrive… I’ll see you there!
Seth Lusk, Founder, and CEO of Authentic Life Connection: coaching services. He is also the podcast creator and host for the Authentic Life Connection podcast. He is a published author of the book What I really want is… But I’m Just too full of… . This book is available on Amazon for purchase. Seth is a Life coach as well. He works with clients one-to-one as well as in groups to help them create their most authentic and fulfilling life, from the inside out. Seth is also the founder and CEO of Lusk Holistic Health Services (the umbrella company for Authentic Life Connection: coaching services). Under this umbrella company Seth also provides guidance in fitness and nutrition for his clients. This comes from his background and education in exercise science and nutrition. Seth has worked with hundreds of clients to get clear on their authentic goals for their life, fitness, and health, and helped them create unstoppable authentic action to actualize these in their lives. For more about how to get in touch with Seth or hear more about his work, you can find him @ https://www.lifecoachseth.com . There you can access his podcast, book, social media, as well as speak with Seth directly about working with him one-to-one as coach/coachee. To access the “Authentic Life Connection” podcast, follow the link below