Setting Goals as a Healthcare Professional

Do you know how to set and achieve goals for yourself?

It’s past January 1st do you know where your goals are? Spoiler alert! New Year’s Resolutions are not goals!!! They are a type of wish and hope mental magic that we use in a desperate bid to make the coming year better than the last.

Since you work in a healthcare setting, goals are probably something you do often at work. Many of our positions require us to work with our patients to help them (or us for them) set goals and work towards achieving them. We’re usually very good at this for others, but when it comes to our own personal goals those same skills can seem very elusive. Ever wonder why that is?

Andrea Rosenhaft LCSW-R shared that people “tend to hang on to old behaviors simply because that is the way they always did them.” Humans are creatures of habit and it is hard to break the mold. That is just the honest to goodness truth. So recognizing that gives us an edge to actually set some goals and set ourselves up for success.

Setting goals is a skill and one that the more you practice the better you get. Making goal-setting a routine will help you improve. The more often you do it the more it will become your new normal (are you tired of hearing that term yet:). Most people don’t take the time to actually make goals, even though they think they do every January 1st.

New Year’s resolutions are often the result of a reflection of the shortcomings of the previous year. Now don’t get me wrong reflection is a great exercise to do and I encourage you to do it frequently. The real problem with most resolutions is that they are a vague statement, not an actual intentional goal.

What I mean is that most people look back at the previous year and notice something didn’t happen that they felt should have, like they gained weight over the year for example. So they think, wow for next year I’m going to do better, I’m going to lose weight. New Year, New Me they exclaim. Some may even go to the gym for the first 2 weeks in January. And then it happens. Life happens, they get busy, fall back to old habits and the gym just doesn’t seem important anymore. And then it's the following year and yet again they find they are buying an even bigger pair of pants.

Does any of this sound familiar? I know I’m hitting a nerve or two but that’s ok. Let’s figure out how we can use those workplace goal-setting skills successfully on ourselves. The biggest difference between an actual goal and a resolution is that a goal is clear, specific, and trackable. This usually means that you write down your goal in a concrete manner not just have a fleeting thought one day a year.

There are many different systems to use to set your goals. You can simply write it down on a Post-It Note, jot it in a beautiful journal or type it into an app. You could also try a specialized worksheet that is specific for goals so that you don’t miss anything.

Once you’ve decided on a system it’s time to get on to creating your goals. There are many different frameworks to try out but one of the easiest I’ve found is often called a Backward Goal. How you use this framework is you think about what big thing you want to accomplish first. Let’s stick with the losing weight example. Let’s say our big goal for the upcoming year is to release 25 pounds.

Next week we need to break down the big goal of losing 25 pounds in the next 12 months into some smaller chunks. A good number of chunks to break off are usually 3–5. For our weight loss goal, we can break the year up into 4–3 month quarters for ease. So if we divide our goal weight loss of 25 pounds by 4 we get just over 6 pounds. So our chunks would be to lose 6.25 pounds each quarter over the next year.

Next, we set specific metrics for each chunk. With our current example, the metrics may be quite similar for each quarter but this probably won’t be the case in most other types of goals. So brainstorm on what specific tasks that you will need to do to reach each chunk goal. These could be things like 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week, use my calorie tracker daily, weekly meal planning, etc. Once you have broken up those chunks into your metrics you will want to create an action item list. Keep each item simple and specific.

Creating an action item is really helpful because you now have the bite-size piece you need to work on to achieve your big goal. All of the action items fuel your specific metrics/targets which feedback into your big goal. But the power of your action list is that you know what your next step is!

Just to recap set yourself up for success by taking the time to set goals for what you want to achieve. Find a simple system that works for you to set, maintain and achieve your goals. Remember the more you practice the better you get, so go ahead and start today.

Rosa helps experienced healthcare professionals reconnect with their purpose without setting unattainable goals, burning out, or feeling demoralized.

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