There must be a good reason behind the way we were taught in approaching a case in our clinical practice. The way it was organized all the way from history taking to management and follow-up plans, tells us a lot about how important it is to be systematic. I decided to try this concept on setting and achieving my goals this year and with the help from my newly found family, the members of the Malaysian Medical Gazette Young Columnist Programme (MMGazette YCP) – because medicine is also all about teamwork! – I embarked on this process hoping to look back at my goals at the end of this year and be happy that I did it.
I emailed my fellow young columnists to share with me their goals for this year. The first response I received stated, “I will clean my table on my own after eating at cafeterias and fast food restaurants to cultivate self-awareness of cleanliness and environmental health”. Few minutes later, I received another reply that says, “I want to set up a committee among some dedicated friends of mine and help donate free medical assistive equipment to those in need. I also aspired to offer company to lonely or estranged patients that I come across. Hospital is always synonymous with sombreness and sadness. My support costs nothing yet poses tremendous effect on healing and mental being of the patients.” It is amazing how other people’s goals helped inspire me to work on my goals.
Instead of analysing a chief complaint, I began my journey to set my 2014 goals by analysing what makes a good goal. I discovered that a goal should be – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound or SMART. I also found out it is better to keep your goals in a small number in order not to lose your focus and get too overwhelmed with your goals. Just like our body is divided into systems, I categorized my goals into spiritual, health, career, relationship and contribution to the community. Going through the list of dos and don’ts of goal setting, I realized that every goal has its own good and bad prognostic factor depending on the way you nurture it. For example, goals that make you happy are more likely to be achieved and sharing your strategies instead of your goals carries a higher success rate. Tell people what you plan to do and not just what you intend to achieve in order to avoid your brain being tricked into sabotaging your goals.
In place of physical examination and investigation, I assessed my current situation as a baseline for comparison in the future. Some of the feedbacks I received from our young columnists are that they make leading a healthy life style, weight loss and being physically fit as their health goals. If you share the same goals as we do, you might want to try doing a fitness test and see your progress throughout the year. Not only this will motivate you to keep going, but this will also help you to evaluate the success of your plan.
Instead of writing a prescription of medications, my management plan for my goals involves writing a prescription of happiness and success. I wrote down the things that I have to do on daily basis to achieve my goals and I went the extra mile by also writing the possible challenges and setbacks I will have to face and how I should handle them. When it comes to prescription, non-compliance is our main concern. No medications work if you do not comply by the prescription, the same way you will not achieve anything if you do not stick to your plan. For this reason, I plan to share my strategies with my friends and family and tell them to help me stay on the right track and help me get back onto the bandwagon in case I fall off track. You can also find a group that shares the same interest online and get the motivation and help you could use to achieve your goals. Remember that a good goal is not just about you, but to extend the progress of your goals to inspire others.
Goals should not be stagnant and rigid. It is okay to be able to change and modify our goals from time to time. In fact, a good goal should be dynamic and revised regularly. So often, I set my goals in January and only review them in December and see that I did not accomplish much. A good way to make sure goals are reviewed regularly is to make an event out of it. Set a date and time for your goal-review session and set a reminder on your phone and make sure to show up for your appointment with yourself, the way you want your patient to show up for their follow up. Revise your goal, evaluate your progress and see if you need to do any adjustment to your action plan.
While our younger members’ focuses on optimizing their time as student and excelling their respective year of study, the graduating members of MMGazette Young Columnist Programme are putting all their effort in preparing themselves for a new beginning of being junior doctors.
“I am aiming to be helpful in the ward and not be a burden to my other colleagues”. – Dr Faiz
I am deeply touched by my friends who mentioned their determination to prepare themselves to be able to help educate not only their patients but the community as well. As I went through the emails I received, I noticed that all of us share the common goal of wanting to be the best version of the doctor we could possibly be. Behind every goal lies a strong reason of doing it – for the sake of our future patients. We intend to establish a strong foundation of knowledge and instil the passion of giving back to the community.
My friends in the MMGazette YCP reminded me that instead of asking “What do I want?” or “How do I become a better person?” the question we should be asking is “What do others need from me?” and “How do I make the world a better place?” It could be as simple as listening attentively to our patients, or encouraging a family member to lose weight, or helping a friend to quit smoking. It could also be getting involved more in charity events or offering to check the blood pressure for the elderly in your neighbourhood. I learnt that if we look around us, we will definitely find the answer to that question.
For those who have not set any goals yet, worry not and take your time to do so and there is no need to rush into it. It is okay to take baby steps towards your goals. If having too many goals at one time does not work for you, just pick a bad habit that you want to change and replace it with a new good habit, one habit at a time. When things get tough, do not forget to breathe and just carry on doing the next right thing to do.
This article is written by Nurul Atiqah, a 6th year student in Jordan University of Science and Technology. Click the Young Columnists tab under The Team to know about her.