I don't know about you, but usually, when I hear someone talk about their short and long-term goals, it typically has something to do with professional or health-related ambitions. Those are important, no doubt about it. But I do think that there is another set of achievements that should get just as much of our time, effort and attention—personal development goals. Because, if you really stop to think about it, what's the point in being professionally successful or even being in the physical state that we desire if our personal lives, our mental state, and/or our emotional stability are in total shambles?
To a large degree, personal development goals are as unique as each person reading this. But there are some things that, I feel, we all could only benefit from if we made them a top priority. If you want to make this season of your life one where you thrive in a way that you never have before, here are 10 ways to accomplish that ambition.
1. “Tithe” to Yourself
If you've ever wondered why a lot of people pay tithes in church, it's because there is a Scripture in the Bible that gives that instruction; it's in Malachi 3. The reason why folks offer up 10 percent is because that is literally what tithe means. I'll admit that it's always been a bit of a controversial topic but, regardless of your religion affiliation or personal convictions, if there's one thing that I think you should be open to doing is "tithing to yourself".
The reality is, a part of the reason why a lot of us incur the amount of debt that we do is because we don't budget wisely. When we want those new pair of shoes or to get a much-needed massage, because we didn't prepare to spend what it costs ahead of time, we end up spending more than we should. By setting aside 10 percent from each paycheck that you get to do nothing but focus on self-care, not only does that remind you to make yourself a priority, it also offers up a guilt-free and financially responsible way to do it.
2. Use Discernment
A movie that I re-watched online recently is Video Girl starring Meagan Good. If you've never seen it before, the long short of it is Meagan's character is a former ballet dancer who gets into a car accident which shatters her dreams. A famous video director discovers her, she starts to book a lot of gigs and well, I bet you can guess that things start to get pretty rocky from there. As I watched the story play out (again), I thought about so many of the red flags that her character ignored. Blatant ones. Then I thought about all of the times when I've done basically the same thing in my own life.
In a society that has become so hyper-sensitive that it seems like no one can be advised or corrected on anything, try and avoid being that type of individual. Be humble enough to receive wisdom from those who care about you. Also, be self-aware enough to use good judgment in both personal and professional circumstances and situations.
If something doesn't feel right, listen to what your mind, body and spirit are telling you. If you aren't at total peace, don't ignore that fact. If you think you should pump the brakes on something in order to get a better understanding, do that. A wise person once said, "Discernment is the ability to see things for what they really are and not what you want them to be." Just imagine how much drama and foolishness could be avoided if we all applied this to our lives on a consistent basis.
3. Handle Stress Effectively
I know a personal development goal that always remains on the top of my list is reducing stress. That's why I make the conscious decision to not worry a lot. I also try and allow peace to be my guide at all times. One of the main reasons why I think this is so important is because, to me, good health is paramount. And with articles out in cyberspace like "10 Health Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix" to remind me heart disease, diabetes and headaches typically don't "just happen", stress triggers them—it's so important to make sure that I avoid people, places, things and ideas that are prone to stress me out rather than keep me calm. I'm not the only one who feels that way either. Check out "Forget The Bag, Kelly Rowland Wants You To Get Your Stress In Check". It serves as a great reminder that nothing and no one is worth you sacrificing your health or peace of mind. You'd betta believe it.
4. Understand Your Power of Influence
Someone once said that influence is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing. I thought about that as I was watching R&B artist Snoh Aalegra's latest music video "Whoa" featuring Michael B. Jordan. As I was thinking about how much she gave me modern-day Sade vibes in a lot of ways (fun fact: her debut LP featured a cover of Sade's song "Smooth Operator"), I also thought about how I dug her energy and vibe. It was cool to just hear some good music, see some nice visuals and feel like my young goddaughters could walk into the room and I wouldn't have to mute the lyrics or change the channel because of what was happening on the screen. That little story right there is a small example of what one's power of influence is like. I appreciated something that Snoh presented, wrote about it, and now you're reading it.
My point to that is this—someone is always watching you. It might be a co-worker, a friend, your children or a complete stranger. And whether you realize it or not, your words, actions and even energy can have a domino effect on others; usually in ways that you can't even begin to fathom.
That's why it's so important to be intentional about the choices that you make—in both the big and little things. Just by making it a goal to be a responsible influencer, you are choosing to impact this society in a very powerful, relevant and lasting type of way.
5. Define Success for Yourself
To this day, I'd have to say that one of my favorite songs by Drake as well as Trey Songz is "Successful". If you listen to it carefully, although they are talking about money, cars and clothes being the definition of success in the hook, the verses also explore the challenges that can come with having those things. Moral to the story—this is why it's so important to define success for yourself. For instance, for me, being able to make a living off of my writing gift is my definition of success. Believe you me, a sistah ain't rich; not even close. But I wake up being able to set my own schedule while enjoying what I do and not feeling like I am compromising my values or integrity in order to take care of myself.
While a lot of the world would have you to think that you're only a true success if it's based on "the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like", I personally believe that the happiest people in life are the ones who define success another way—"the accomplishment of one's goals". Knowing your purpose, setting short- and long-term goals, and remaining focused on accomplishing these things—if you're able to do this on the regular, I salute you. You, my dear, are a textbook definition of success.
6. Manage Your Expectations
There is someone in my life who lives by, what I personally think, is one of the most depressing mottos on the planet—"Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed." Geeze. Listen, there's nothing wrong with having expectations. Even the Good Book says, "Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3—AMPC) The key is to manage your expectations properly and realistically.
One way to do that is to base your expectations on someone's character and track record. For instance, one of my friends? Whenever he says, "I'll call you back in a minute", I have learned to translate that as, "I'll talk to you later." I don't expect him to ring my phone the same day because there's a 50/50 chance that he won't. But I have another friend who, if she says she'll hit me back in 10 minutes, she's always on time (even if she has to call to say that she'll call back). Another way to manage your expectations—and this is a big one—is to not try and turn people into another version of yourself. What I mean by that is, don't expect people to do (or not do) something, simply because you would. State your needs, allow them to decide if they wish to comply or not, and then set boundaries based on whether or not you can live with what they choose to do.
Life would be pretty grim if you never looked forward to anything which is what expectations are all about. Just make sure that your expectations are grounded in reality and you should be all good. Oh, and if you are constantly being disappointed by someone based on your expectations and them not meeting any of 'em, perhaps it's the relationship that needs adjusting, not what you're expecting overall.
7. Break Bad Habits
Not too long ago, I shared a list of some habits that were worth, at least considering breaking, before this new year began. But aside from things like eating fast food, breaking promises and settling, we've all got personal bad habits that we know we should let go of as well. It might be overthinking. Maybe it's holding grudges. Perhaps it's constantly breaking your budget or showing up to work late. Maybe it's always getting involved with guys who are absolutely no good for you. Or always allowing opportunists to take advantage of you. Perhaps it's still eating dairy when your body has been begging you to let it go or still allowing your mama to run your life when you are too grown for that now.
The thing that you always have to keep in mind about habits is, before long, they are so ingrained into your lifestyle that they literally become a part of you; they end up being like second nature. If there is anything that you are doing—or allowing—that is hindering you from becoming your best self and living out your best life, NOW would be the time to remove it and replace it with something better. Out of all of the personal development goals mentioned here, make sure that this one doesn't get overlooked.
8. Take a Day Off. WEEKLY.
Ever since I was born, I've been a traditional Sabbath observer. What that means is from sunset Friday through sunset Saturday, I don't work. Actually, it's more than that—I don't work and I make it a point to do things that bring me pure enjoyment, just for the heck of it. Because of this, I don't get overwhelmed very often. I also feel calmer and I'm able to be more productive during the week because I have gotten the rest that I needed over the weekend. The thing about "keeping the Sabbath" is it's more than a "religious practice". I know a lot of people who see Sunday as "their Sabbath" but they don't get a lick of rest on it. First, they're in church for hours on end, then they are rushing home to prepare for the upcoming week. That's not a day off, if you ask me.
Our bodies are not made to constantly be on the go; rest is supposed to be a part of our life's routine. That's why it's so important to not see taking at least one day off a week as being a luxury. The process of disconnecting, recharging and even pampering are all important if you want to remain physically healthy, mentally clear and emotionally balanced.
9. Respond Instead of React
If you want to know if you've truly mastered some The Karate Kid wax on, wax off ish, ask yourself if you truly know the difference between responding vs. reacting to things that are difficult or you don't like; this could be a person, place, thing or idea. Indeed, if there is one personal goal that I focused long, deep and hard on in 2019, it was this one.
So, how do you know if you are responding or reacting? First of all, reacting tends to be an immediate emotional action. If you do things, solely from an emotional space, it oftentimes isn't thought through; it's also not necessarily what you would do if you took a few moments to process what happened. Another point worth mentioning about reactions is they are oftentimes so aggressive and off-putting that they can set off a chain of other reactions that you probably don't want to put up with either.
I've got to give credit to where credit is due here. At least based on what we know thus far, Omarion is a great example of what can happen when you respond vs. react. When you remain calm and centered, you can plan, strategize and get the kind of results that you ultimately want. When you don't, well—VH1 has plenty of programming that serves as cautionary tales for that.
10. Define Self-Love for Yourself
A few months ago, I wrote an article on here entitled "What Loving Yourself Actually Looks Like". The more that I embark on my own journey in this area, the more I realize that there are some things about self-love that should automatically apply to all of us (like self-respect and self-esteem). At the same time, because we are each unique in our own ways, some things are customizable. When Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi decided to rock her killa fade over a wig in the pageant, that is how she decided to reflect her self-love. Big Sean's semi-recent commitment to take a year off in order to take care of his mental health was an act of self-love. Cassie releasing her past so that she could have an even greater future was an act of self-love. Lizzo has done all kinds of things to challenge the status quo when it comes to how she defines/displays self-love. I recently watched an episode of Righteous & Ratchet featuring KevOnStage, Mrs. KevOnStage and Doboy discussing all of the creative risks that they took (and won) this past year that was their acts of self-love. What all of these examples have in common is these people focused on what they needed to do to feel good about themselves—and that is a big part of what self-love is all about.
At the end of the day, a goal is "the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end". If you're currently dissatisfied with your personal life, it's probably time to set some new personal goals. It's a simple step that can lead to really big changes and lasting results. Set some.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Feature image by Giphy