Goal setting for the Medical Student & Patient alike

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I began by visualising where I would like to be in 5 years time – It’s easier said than done. In 5 years time, I will be 27 and in my second postgraduate year. I would like to have chosen a postgraduate training course by then, be married, no longer living at home and just as happy and healthy as I am now; which means I have a busy 5 years ahead of me if I am going to achieve all this.

I started the goal setting process by compartmentalising my goals into three necessarily broad domains: Health, Education/Career, and Finances. Once you have decided on such domains, it is easier to brainstorm about what you would like to achieve within these aspects of life. The goals you set for yourself should be specific and have discrete endpoints. For example, one of my financial goals was to “Pay off my credit card by the end of 2008”.

The next step is to prioritise. From the things which you want to achieve in the next 5 years, what is the most important to you? Which things are not negotiable and which things can you survive without? I narrowed my list down to a top ten, including 3-4 goals in each of my 3 chosen domains. Within each domain, prioritise your goals according to what is most important and what needs to be achieved first, then list them in priority order. Now that you have a list of what you want to achieve in the next 5 years, it is simply a matter of putting strategies in place so you can achieve these things.

Generating and implementing practical strategies, in many ways is the hardest and most time consuming part of the goal setting process. It may require a significant amount of research into what exactly is involved in achieving your goal and the services available to help you. For example, I decided that one of my goals, within the domain Education/Career was to “Gain rural clinical experience.” One strategy which I implemented was to contact my MIRAGE representative to get information on the various opportunities available. A strategy may be as simple as this, and the simpler they are to implement, the more likely they are to be completed. List all possible strategies which may help you achieve your goal, but be prepared to compromise if you find they don’t work for you.

Finally, once strategies have been listed for each goal, within each domain, you should be left with a completed table, like the one below (See Table 1).

Table 1. Goal Setting Form

Domain

Goal

Strategies

1.                                                        2.
3.

1.
2.
3.

1.
2.
3.

The only thing left to do then is to implement your strategies:

?    Start straight away with the simpler, more immediate strategies. It may help to print out your goals and carry them with you or display them in a high traffic area, such as the fridge or toilet door. I carry mine in my diary, which goes everywhere with me.

?    Tick off strategies or goals once they are completed – it will give you a sense of achievement and don’t forget to reward yourself when you achieve a goal or even just one step on the road to achieving a goal.

?    Don’t be afraid to modify your strategies or even goals, where necessary, as you reconsider what is most important to you or what is realistically possible in the specified time frame.

?    Enjoy achieving everything you wanted to achieve!

Goal Setting for the Medical Student & Patient Alike was written by Miss Morgan Brennan (NSW) in October 2008 as part of her AFMW Leadership Scholarship.

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