We're six short weeks into the new year. How are you doing? When anyone asks that question, the automatic response is usually "fine," "good" or "great" and then straight to, "And how are you?" In this article, I'm challenging you to take time to answer important questions by giving them serious thought. So, really, how are you doing?
The beginning of each new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect, assess and contemplate the future. If you are still in the process of creating a vision, setting goals and making an action plan for this new year, I invite you take the process to a deeper level by considering a series of questions and then following six steps that will support you in having a successful 2014.
Note that the first set of questions below are about last year. Reflecting on 2013 is a critical step in the process because by assessing the past, you can leverage and build on what worked well and avoid repeating any mistakes that were made. One of the best things about gaining experience is that you get to learn from it.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
- What was your most significant success in 2013?
- What was your most valuable lesson from 2013?
- What about last year was disappointing to you?
- What is your level of optimism going into 2014?
- What would you most like to accomplish this year?
- What change in attitude or behavior on your part would make 2014 a great year?
- If you were to do one thing differently in 2014, what would it be?
- In what ways would you like to "fine tune" your personal or professional life in 2014?
- Flash-forward to 12/31/14. What would have made this year gratifying?
I believe strongly in stating intentions, setting goals, and even in making resolutions. But these declarations are only as good as the self-evaluation and action steps associated with the process. Setting a goal because it sounds good in the moment or because it's the new year and you need to say something will not yield satisfying results. Stating goals that are too grandiose, pie-in-the-sky or could only be achieved with divine intervention will result in disappointment and frustration.
Goals worthy of your energy, time and attention should be based on your most important values and connected to a larger purpose. They should be noteworthy enough to be motivating, but also attainable. As you think about and plan for the rest of 2014, I encourage you to take the time to make sure that whatever you set out to achieve is infused with authenticity, meaning and significance.
6 Steps to Meaningful Goals
Ten years ago, practitioners could get by with short-term tactics such as making resolutions, repeating affirmations and attending seminars (if they did anything at all), and still end up with a waiting room full of patients every day. In today's competitive and highly regulated health care marketplace, having a successful practice over the long term requires careful thought, a clear vision, strategic planning, concrete goals, action, and accountability. If you, like many of your colleagues, have come to realize this is true, here are six steps to follow that will help you set and achieve meaningful goals in 2014.
1. Debrief 2013. Review what you intended to accomplish last year and write down what you achieved. Review your practice statistics and finances. Revisit challenges that came up in your practice over the course of the year and think about how you handled them.
Do an assessment of your personal life as well. How is your health? Are your relationships what you want them to be? How are you spending your time? In general, take a hard look at what worked for you in 2013 and what didn't. What would you have done differently if you could turn back the clock?
2. Hold a staff meeting. Go over your debrief (the practice-related part) with your team. See what they have to add to the 2013 retrospective, and ask for input about what they see as important to work on in 2014. The buck stops with you about what to do this year, but your staff may have more investment in your practice than you think. Give them a chance to demonstrate that investment.
Once you've set your goals for 2014 (see the next step), let your staff in on the plan so you're all on the same page and functioning as a true team.
3. Set goals, but not too many. With a vision for what you want your practice to look like at the end of 2014, write down clear goals, but don't go overboard. Optimism runs high at the beginning of each new year, which is why many people make the mistake of setting too many goals and making too many resolutions, only to see them all fall by the wayside by the end of January. Rather than make a long list of goals, boil it down to two or three that are critical to your success. For example:
- Increase practice revenue by 15 percent by year's end
- Overhaul practice website and develop a social media presence by 6/30/14
- Hire personal trainer by 2/28/14 and exercise five days a week from that day forward
Or how about:
- Move to a smaller office by 6/30/14
- Transition to a cash-only practice by 12/31/14
- Start dating again, beginning in March
4. Map out a plan. Take the few goals you've decided upon and written down, and break them into small bites. For example, if your goal is to move to a new office by 6/30/14, your map might look like this:
- Review lease terms on current space by March 5
- Determine exactly how much space is needed post-move (number of exam rooms, office space, waiting area, etc.) by March 10
- Determine the best area of town for new office March 10
- Have meeting with real-estate agent by March 15
- Determine how much to spend (on rent or to purchase) by March 31
- Look at potential new space during the month of April
- Sign new lease or close on new space by the end of May
- Get rid of what won't fit into new space during the month of June
- Buy new furniture and equipment as needed during the month of June
- Move into new space by June 30
When you take what feels like a daunting goal, such as moving to a new office, and map it out step by step, suddenly it becomes manageable.
5. Think about what will be different this time. Every day, practitioners challenge themselves to keep up with paperwork, market their practice, deal with a chronic staff problem, spend more time with their families – and then they don't follow through. They promise themselves, I'll do it tomorrow. If you tend to make the same goals year after year (or day after day) and then fail to follow through, consider what you'll do differently this time around.
An important element people often leave out of the equation when they are attempting to achieve new goals is the counter-pull of resistance. You want to make a change, but you hold back. You want to achieve a specific goal, but you're fearful of where your efforts might lead. You want to take those first steps toward success, but you procrastinate. This is where the final step – accountability – comes in.
6. Become accountable. Chiropractors who are serious about achieving goals recognize the value of being accountable to someone other than themselves. That's because no matter how excited you are when you write down what you plan to accomplish next year, inevitably life will intervene and forward movement will be challenged or thwarted by obstacles, lack of time or waning motivation. Coaching – the ongoing engagement with an objective third party who will hold you to what you say you want – is the most effective way to stay accountable. Consider it. Don't keep wishing and hoping for a more successful practice. Make it happen.
Click here for previous articles by Shelley Simon, RN, DC, MPH, EdD.