1. Goodyear, Caryl PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CCRN-K, FAAN

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Q It has always been my understanding that I should set goals for my professional growth. I try to do this every year, but I don't always meet the goals. What are the tricks to setting the right goals and sticking to them?

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I've always been one to reject someone telling me I have to do something. Over the years, I haven't set goals; I've just ignored that advice. But, in all honesty, I set goals without even realizing it. This year I'm applying for a master's program. That was one goal that I set without the conscious thought of it actually being a goal.


The truth is that goals must mean something to you for them to work in your favor. Goals need to come from your heart-the place where your passion is-and reflect where you are in your life. If the goal isn't meaningful to you, chances are you won't achieve it.


And is it the achievement of the goal that's important? Not necessarily. Tony Robbins makes the point that the journey toward a goal is maybe more important than the achievement of that goal.1 Every path we take, whether it's about a goal, helps us learn and gain understanding about our best skills and abilities.


Here are seven suggestions about setting goals for professional growth:


1. Choose one to three goals per year that sing to your heart. You don't want too many and you want to pick the ones that spark your passion. Some of the goals may continue from one year to the next depending on the length of the journey toward the goal.


2. Make a special note of your progress toward goal achievement. Schedule time to reflect on the path you're taking and what you've learned along the way. For example, maybe your goal is to become more comfortable with giving and receiving feedback. One of the first actions you take is to buy a book and sign up for a workshop. After reading the book and attending the workshop, pause to reflect on what you've learned and plan your next steps.


3. Celebrate the small wins along your journey to help you stay focused and positive.


4. Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way which sparks your passion about developing, even if it takes you off the path toward your goals. You don't want to pass up something you can learn from, and opportunities to learn don't always come along. Be brave in choosing a new opportunity that's completely different than your current path. Of course, there are many aspects of a decision that may change your professional and personal life. Be very intentional about the choice by being reflective and thoughtful.


5. Don't fret if your life takes you down another pathway. All of us have lives that change with unexpected personal and professional events. Although you must maintain some flexibility to adjust to these challenges, give yourself the grace you need if circumstances throw you off.


6. Listen to your inner self when setting your goals. Be authentic to what you really want in your chosen career path. At the same time, be okay with yourself if you choose a different path. Some nurses get into management and realize it really isn't for them. It's okay to change your mind.


7. Focus on your strengths as a basis for success.2 Your goals don't necessarily have to fill a skills gap. If you spend your time focusing on your weaknesses to be better at everything, you'll never be great at anything. It's vitally important to know your leadership strengths. Just like your passion, knowing your strengths will help guide you to the right goals.



These suggestions are meant to help you find inner peace when setting goals. Remember, if goals are to be meaningful, they should come from your heart and passion. To quote Andrew Carnegie, "If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes."




1. Friedlander J. Tony Robbins' secrets for effective goal setting. Success. 2018. [Context Link]


2. Rath T, Conchie B. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow. Washington, DC: Gallup Press; 2008. [Context Link]