Career advice

How to set and achieve your goals

Setting clear goals can help give clarity to your long-term vision and motivate you to get there, writes Mandy Day-Calder. 

Setting clear goals can help give clarity to your long-term vision and motivate you to get there, writes Mandy Day-Calder


The SMART framework involves setting goals that are Specific,
Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Picture: iStock

Do you sometimes look at your colleagues and think everyone else is achieving more? Are you in awe of some nurses’ ability to stick to plans and remain unfazed? Well, rest assured, you are not alone. 

Although we can’t all be creative geniuses, most of us come up with great ideas from time to time. Yet all too often we set ourselves unrealistic goals that, once the initial enthusiasm wears off, mean our ideas never come to fruition. 

Don’t be disheartened though; by doing things differently you can succeed.

Clear goals  

Setting clear goals can give clarity to your long-term vision and help motivate you to get there. Take revalidation as an example. 

Your date to revalidate may be set in stone, but make a clear goal for what you want to achieve and by when. For example, ‘I will have all my paperwork and confirmation meeting completed a month in advance’. Then, break down tasks into do-able chunks, with small achievable goals for each step. For example, ‘I will complete one reflective account every month’. This way, you are more likely to feel in control and remain positive. 

Tips for success

  • Set goals that motivate and inspire you: these are your goals, so you don’t need to compare them with anyone else’s. Think about why your goal is valuable to you. What does nursing actually give you and why is staying on the register important to you? If you didn’t meet your goal, what would happen and how would you feel? Then visualise having completed your goal: try to get in touch with that sense of achievement. 
  • Make a plan: once you have clarified your goal you need to break down everything that is needed to get you there. Many people find the SMART framework helpful in setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Realistic goals in an agreed Timeframe.
  • Put your goals in writing: using positive language, such as ‘I will’, forces your brain to concentrate on success. Words such as ‘don’t, never or stop’ all help to reinforce negative beliefs. 
  • Reassess your progress: go easy on yourself if you slip up. Assess what your hurdles were and pick up where you left off. If you find that something isn’t working for you, go back to your plan and adjust.
  • Stick with it: remind yourself why your goal is important. If you are a visual person, put motivating post-it notes around your home or on your locker at work. You could set up an automatic reminder on your phone or use one of the many available apps. Share your goal with colleagues, friends and family for extra support. 
  • Celebrate: remember to congratulate yourself when you reach each step towards your goal. This helps with long-term motivation and habit formation.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach 

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