The Importance of Setting Goals

Last Updated: 19 April 2022

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We all set goals, whether it’s to be in bed by 9:30pm tomorrow or to get a promotion by the end of the year. No matter the goal, we tend to look at it from an intensely binary perspective: either we achieve it or we don’t. This kind of thinking is reductive, as no task that you set your mind to – and that relies on so many different external factors – can be summarised as ‘did’ or ‘didn’t'.

In this article, we aim to explain different ways to set goals and how to shift your perspective from reductive to expansive. Especially in healthcare when time is of the essence, you don’t want to waste precious hours half-completing an array of different goals that don’t really apply to you or won’t really help you (or your patients) in the next step of your career.

This article will help you develop the skill – and habit – of executing and assessing relevant goals and goal-achieving campaigns. Namely, we aim to help you to understand why you either did or did not achieve a set goal during your CPD registration period: to understand this, you need to understand why you set goals, how to set them effectively and when to critically assess your approach so you can make changes if needed.

Why do we set goals?

In general, setting goals is not just about achieving something quickly: goals can be micro or macro, and can set you up for short-term gratification or align yourself with a long-term vision.

What’s first and most important is finding out why you set goals for yourself. Is it a universal habit that you use in both your personal and professional life? Or are goals something you only set for things you see as ‘serious’ or that involve other people at work? What is your process for setting goals and how much time do you spend on each one? Are there sub-goals and overarching goals?

These are all great questions to ask yourself in your own time, both for your own understanding and for your professional growth and development to be as targeted as possible. Additionally, these questions help you understand:

  • why you currently set goals

  • whether this is effective and efficient

  • how you can alter or exercise this skill to improve efficacy of goals

So now is a good time to think: what goals are you currently working towards? And are they effective?

How can you more effectively set goals?

There are clear steps you can take to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success when you set yourself goals. Consider the following:

  • Be conscious of the outside world: Make sure that the goals you’re setting are actually able to be completed in the current climate. For example, you wouldn’t want to set a goal to attend 3 in-person educational events before the end of 2022 because COVID-19 has shut down the events industry. The healthcare industry, as well as your goals, do not exist in a vacuum.

  • Use metrics: This is incredibly important! It is almost impossible to know if you’ve achieved your goal if you don’t know what ‘success’ in that context will look like. For example, a goal like ‘Be better at inserting IVs’ is vague and unmeasurable. It’d be better as ‘Complete one course and one mentor session on IV insertion’. Therefore, instead of over- or under-doing your goal, you’ll know exactly when you can tick it off.

  • Work backwards: This sounds weird, but hear us out. According to former Amazon executives Bill Carr and Colin Bryar, Amazon as a company is incredibly good at achieving goals on both a micro and macro scale because the collective mindset is to ‘work backwards’. In the context of goals, working backwards means you imagine that you’ve achieved the goal already and try to sell it back to yourself. Is the goal viable (ie. is it achievable)? Is there a clear plan that can lead you to achieve this goal? How is this goal going to affect your practice and, most importantly, your colleagues and patients? Visualise yourself with the outcome you’re looking to achieve – for example, a promotion or maybe a new skill – and then ask yourself: If it was all working, what would it look like?

  • Keep your goals where you can see them: This is an easy way to check in with yourself. How is your approach going? Do you need to change things up? Maybe you’ve already reached a certain goal and forgotten to tick it off? Ausmed’s Learning Needs function lets you set goals you can see every time you log in, and you can attach documented learning experiences to specific goals. Use it and see yourself flourish!

  • Be confident: If you’re not confident that you can achieve the goal, don’t set it for yourself. This is not to say that you can’t push yourself to be better! On the contrary: if you’re continuously setting yourself unreachable goals and failing, you’ll lose confidence and possibly lose momentum to improve your practice at all.

When should you reconsider your goals or approach?

This is probably the hardest part of setting and working towards goals. As frustrating as this can be, you’re really the only one who can know when things aren’t working the way they should. Additionally, you’re the only one who can make a change to your approach. This is called course correction and it’s not only an action but a skill.

If this is your first time completing a CPD registration period – the annual period during which you complete the required CPD hours – and you’re not sure if you’ve set goals this way before, don’t put pressure on yourself to be great at course correction right off the bat. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out which direction to head in when you’ve only just started, so our advice would be: try everything and see what sticks! After all, the CPD registration period isn’t just about consolidating technical healthcare knowledge – it’s also about readying yourself for a fulfilling and exciting career. It’s essential for your career progress to know how you learn most effectively, so trying things out – like different studying techniques and course corrections – during your CPD registration period is exactly the point!

What can you do now?

First, don’t get overwhelmed by all the steps required to set great goals: it’s a learning process and very intuitive!

While ideating and planning your goals, you can read books and articles related to goals and professional development (you can count these as CPD!). Two good titles to start with are How to Begin: Start Doing Something That Matters by Michael Bungay Stanier and The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life by Bernard Roth.

Additionally, to understand a better way of achieving professional goals as both an individual and a team, read Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by Bill Carr and Colin Bryar.

If you’re looking for a more healthcare-centric perspective on achieving goals and completing professional development, use Ausmed's Professional Growth Hub. There are over 250 resources there to help you make the next step in your career.

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