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Day 7: Setting personal development goals

"Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself" Denis Waitley


In 2014, after I qualified as a CA(SA), ABASA held a celebration event for people who had passed their ITC and APT exams. I was amongst the people being honoured that day. At this event, I met a guy who, at face value, ticked all the boxes of my ideal guy. I was naturally smitten. I do remember, though, feeling like he was way out of my league. From how he dressed, spoke, and carried himself, I imagined the kind of woman he might be attracted to. I came to the realisation that I was far away from being that woman. For the first time in my life, I asked myself, "Am I the kind of woman that the man of my dreams would be attracted to?". I had pretty high standards for the man of my dreams. I interrogated myself about whether he would even notice me if he came across me for the first time. This memory stands out and serves as the example I want to use of my idea of personal development.

To set personal development goals, we have to look at who we presently are and compare that to who we want to be at a specific time in the future. Then we have to develop a plan of the actions we will take to transform into the people we want to be. Personal development goals help us answer the questions "how will we become who we need to be to reach our highest potential?".





When we have set all our different personal goals in the various dimensions of our lives, then we need to ask ourselves, "who I have to be to achieve these goals that I have set for myself? How do I become that person?". We have to ask ourselves whether the opportunities we seek will find people with our discipline, work ethic, and mental attitude ready. Are we adequately skilled, qualified, and prepared for those opportunities? To achieve this, we have to do a personal SWOT analysis. We do this by asking ourselves:


· Are my strengths sufficiently developed to help me reach my goals? How can I further grow to capitalise on my strengths?

For example, you might already be a fantastic speaker who just needs to further hone that strength to be the best in the industry.


One of the books that transformed my thinking around honing our strengths was Beyond Talent by leadership author John Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell argues that talent alone is not enough to sustain a successful life in the book. He mentions additional attributes that separate talented people who reach their potential from those who "self-destruct or remain trapped in mediocrity." This book drove home the point that even when you have strengths, you have to continue to develop, sharpen and support them with practice, preparation, and other such attributes to ensure that your strengths benefit you and your goals. I don't know how many times I've heard people talk nostalgically about former glories, when they "used to be so good at sports" and yet will not even lift a finger in the gym, or when they "used to be the top student in their class" and yet can't even keep a job. This happens when we don't put in the effort to get better at what we are already good at. Just because I was an excellent debater at school doesn't mean I'll make great arguments in court (if I was a lawyer) if I don't continually develop that skill.



· Do my weaknesses sabotage my growth, or have I managed them effectively? What can I do to ensure that my weaknesses do not threaten my goals?


Although it's not pleasant to admit, not a single one of us is perfect. We all have weaknesses that we have to accept and that people around us have to learn to live with. However, one of the most important lessons I learned from a former boss was that while we have to capitalise on our strengths, we also have to manage our weaknesses to an acceptably low level. This ensures that our shortcomings are not so high that they sabotage our goals. My former boss was of the view that often people spend too much energy trying to turn their weaknesses into strengths, which could be better spent on turning their strengths into better strengths, and that it was probably more effective to just ensure that one's weaknesses don't overwhelm one's life or become destructive. This means that we have to take careful stock of our shortcomings – especially those that seem detrimental to us and develop a plan of how we will manage them better.


· Are there external opportunities in my environment that can support my goals?

A friend who had always wanted to be a model saw a significant increase in opportunities when she moved from Bloemfontein to Cape Town. Sometimes, to achieve our goal, we have to position ourselves for better opportunities. This may even mean getting an additional qualification to qualify for your dream job.


· Are there any external threats that could inhibit you from reaching your goals? For example, suppose you are not in an environment that provides you the necessary support. In that case, you have to think about changing the environment to enable your growth.


Some of the tools that I have used to identify areas of self-development are popular self-assessment tools such as The Myers-Briggs Test. Using this tool has helped me set personal goals that align with who I am and identify personal development areas to inform my personal development goals.


Why Self-Awareness Matters


When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible - unknown.

I believe that having self-awareness is a crucial part of assessing our current state of personal development and being able to analyse the gap between where we are and where we are supposed to be. Self-awareness is defined as the "ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection" (positivepsychology.com). Self-aware people usually have a healthy sense of their strengths (and do not inflate their abilities) and have a realistic understanding of their weaknesses and do well to manage them. Where we lack self-awareness, we cannot adequately assess the journey we need to transform into our future selves.


If you feel unsure of your level of self-awareness or would like to make one of your goals improving your self-awareness, check out these resources on self-awareness.


Journal Reflections:


1. Take a personality test/self-assessment test and journal on your reflections of the results

2. Complete your SWOT Analysis in this worksheet

3. Download a personal development plan template here , write down initial self-development goals that you will review after completing all goals.



Additional Resources:







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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate leader, accomplished professional and a mentor. I believe that nation-building depends on how well we build people. Therefore, my mission is to contribute to the personal, professional and leadership development of people to empower them to reach their highest potential.

I do this through a mentorship program that I founded and through this blog where I share principles I've applied and insights I've gained in the past twelve years of my career and leadership journey.

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