Setting Personal Goals: integral goals



Setting personal goals are important to success. Personal goals should be approached from a comprehensive perspective to make the goals integral. Integral goals are approached from multiple perspectives (quadrivia) and acknowledge the levels of development of the individual(s) creating the goal.

Goal Quadrivia: a goal from four perspectives

An integral approach to personal goal setting would examine a goal from four fundamental perspectives that make up the self: Inner (I: ego, soul, upper-left), biological (IT: body, upper-right), cultural (WE: community, family, lower-left), structural (ITS: structure that maintains the community, family, lower-right).

Understanding Ken Wilber’s four quadrant model is the basis of the perspectives above:

Table 1: Four Quadrants


Quadrant (UL)


Quadrant (UR)

Ken breaks down these quadrants by Upper-Left, the Upper-Right, the Lower-Left and the Lower-Right. The Upper-Left (1st person subjective view) deals with emotions, individual and internal perspectives. The Upper-Right is the physical body that houses the inner self. The Lower-Left is the collective "we" that forms the culture and society/family of an individual. And the Lower-Right which is the social structure that hold the culture/family/society together (i.e. the home, the city, town, county, judicial system, laws etc.).

A goal seen from the Upper-Left would affect the “I” of the individual creating the goal. It might be as simple as having a “good feeling” upon accomplishing the goal. The action taken from the Upper-Left might include prayer, visualization, affirmations and other “inner tools”. The Upper-Right would consist of the same goal having an affect on the individual’s physical body. Actions might include a brisk walk, exercise, a good diet, supplements and medication. The Lower-Left has to do with the goals affect on the surrounding culture. Actions of the goal might consist of strengthening bonds with the individual’s family, friends, and community. The Lower-Right deals with the structures that contain the community. Actions toward achieving that goal would include supporting those structures with money, time and/or energy.

Table 2 offers a breakdown of the goal of “empowering kids to be successful”. The goal is broken down by motives that fuel the goal and actions that might be performed from a given quadrant toward allowing that goal to bloom.

Table 2. Integral Goal Example: “successful kids”

  Successful Kids
I (UPPER-LEFT)  Motive to be consciously responsible for kids' well-being
Action affirmations for giving the kids attention or being a great parent, visualize the kids doing well, pray for kids’ natural development, having faith in God/source/higher-self or trusting the universe/Kosmic/holy spirit
IT (UPPER-RIGHT) Motive limit stress on body from having misguided kids
Action stay physically stable to support kids well being
WE (LOWER-LEFT) Motive contribute productive & innovative people to society
Action integrate kids into public/private education - use "head start program", give daily hugs
ITS (LOWER-RIGHT) Motive improve school structure and learning environment
Action volunteer time to school system; vote for more money in school programs 

All of these factors are important to both maintaining and creating goals. Such that the individual has motives for their goal in each quadrant as well as an action to acquire the goal based in each of the four quadrants. By seeing the goal from each quadrant, the goal has a much better chance of coming to fruition.

Integral goals are not only seen from a horizontal, four quadrant interconnecting landscape, but also from a perspective that is constantly expanding and growing into vertical levels of development.


Goals Established on Every Available Level of Development


In order to know how to get to the end destination, it is important to know where the starting point is on the map. Levels of psychological, sociological, spiritual and moral development create an overall perspective. Each goal created by an individual will be colored by their corresponding level of perspective.


In his book, Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber describes these levels as “qualitatively distinct levels of organization, arranged in a nested hierarchy (or holarchy) of increasing holistic embrace” (pg 7). A general description of these levels of perspective development include: egocentric (preconventional), ethnocentric (conventional), worldcentric (postconventional) and pneumocentric (post-postconventional).


A person wanting to strengthen the force of a given integral goal could find motives for the goal on all levels: egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric and pneumocentric reasons to accomplish a given goal. So an integral goal created from any level should be given room for growth in to higher perspectives and further fortified by potentially ALL lower levels as well. This can be done with no conflict as each level fits in the successive level like a Russian matryosha doll (although lower levels, such as egocentric, may not fit if they become too big and overwhelmingly important as they sometimes do).


The goal is grounded in motives of the current perspective of the individual. So the creator of the goal should “think deep and wide” and expand the beneficiaries of the goal to former and future levels if at all possible. The more motivators one consciously uses to back their goals the more likely they are to take action in all four quadrants to accomplish their integral goals.

Table 3. Goals at Multiple Levels of Development

Levels of Perspective Goals at Levels of Development

Kids Success example

Preconventional Wants kids to success for the self: bragging rights, pride, live through kids
Conventional Wants kids to be success for purpose of helping the family and/or community: stability, health, wealth, wellness of ethnic/cultural/racial/national group
Postconventional Wants kids to be success to help the world: stability, health, wealth, wellness of humanity
Post-postconventional Wants kids to be success of all sentient life: stability, health, wealth, wellness of all sentient life



Integral goals are not at all new. Successful people have done it for centuries without knowing the details of the four quadrants or levels of development. But perhaps becoming more conscious of each of these perspectives will allow a method of pinpoint the weakness’ that can sometimes causes failure or even fine tune levels of success that have already been attained.