How I am setting goals for 2018 to advance my public health career

The beginning of a new year gives us a revived sense of motivation. I love the energy that fills the air the first week of January, especially hearing friends and families talk about setting new goals.

I started goal setting (the right away) not too long ago (in 2013). Every year, my goal setting session included a gathering of friends and families close to new year’s eve – we called it “Goal Setting Day”.

On this day, we meet up with our laptops, and go into a semi-quiet work mode. The session begins with a reflection of our year and we record our proudest moments for the year (minimum of 10). After this, we move to setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for the new year.

I realised two things over the past 5 years of doing this: goal setting is ESSENTIAL, and secondly, that I didn’t know how to set and achieve goals properly. Each year, however, I did get better at it.

I found that goal setting was definitely important when I was a student, but it became even more important once I graduated and entered the workforce. When we are in school, there are these pre-set goals that we all seem to follow: complete university, apply to an MPH program, graduate from the masters program, apply to jobs, and start working in the field. Simple and straightforward.

But what happens once you achieve all of these pre-set goals?

In 2013 when I graduated and landed my first job at the Public Health Agency of Canada, I felt lost about the future once the excitement of a new job calmed down. I felt like I wasn’t working towards anything anymore, outside of work. I felt lost for a direction. That’s when I picked up goal setting, to help me navigate my public health career.

Throughout the years, I have used a number of tools to help me set and achieve my goals, and even built a few of my own. This year, I reflected on the process I had been using these past few years and decided that I needed to change things a bit because I wasn’t seeing the outcome I would like to. This is when I came across this great system I will be using this year to guide my public health career – and I am excited to share it with you!

The 13-week roadmap

For the past 4 years, I have been setting annual goals. Goal setting involved a list of things I wanted to achieve divided into categories (i.e. career, personal). Each month I would review my goals to see if they were still relevant. On a weekly basis, I would write out a to do list based on my overall goals.

Every year when I sat down to review my progress, I wasn’t entirely satisfied. What I realized this year was that new year resolutions don’t quite work because it gives you way too much time to procrastinate. This year, I desperately searched for a new tool or system to help me…I was desperate because I was hitting my 5 year mark at my current job and wanted to set and achieve some big goals to advance my career in public health.

I started reading a lot of articles and did a lot of research into different systems throughout November and December. During my research, a friend introduced me to the Best Self Journal. The more I looked into the model that the Best Self Journal was based on, the more I was intrigued by it.

The BestSelf Journal is based on a 13 week roadmap. The proven system optimizes your performance by aligning your day-to-day output with your big goals. Its core elements (daily gratitudes, targets, and time-blocked schedules) help to keep you focused.

The BestSelf Journal’s 13-week roadmap is going to work for me for these top three reasons:

  1. FOCUS: It is going to make me focus on one to three big goals for the next 13 weeks (3 months)…and that’s it. I won’t be making a long list of things I want to achieve in the next 12 months like I did in the past. The 13-week roadmap will make sure I am not distracted. In addition, the 13 week (or 3 months) timeline is something that I can see much more easily than the 12 month timeline.
  2. MOVING THE NEEDLE EVERY DAY: The journal is divided into three distinct sections: Daily, Weekly and Monthly. Each one is tailored to keep me focused and on track for achieving my goals. It forces me to think about my goal every single day, and ensures I take consistent steps every single day towards my goals (aka the 20-mile march – a great concept, check out the video at that link). In addition, I track my progress, you’ve guessed it, every single day.
  3. A FORGIVING JOURNAL: Because of the way the journal is set up, I can begin my 13-week roadmap whenever I am ready (it doesn’t have to be on January 1), and I can pause if something comes up (like a vacation, or family emergency). I can get back to my 13-week roadmap and continue with my goal after the pause. Cause let’s be real, I will never have an uninterrupted 13 weeks!

An added bonus

The BestSelf Journal also has a journaling component! Journalling was something I started last year. I read a lot about how journaling has benefitted some of the top people around the world. I finally got into it last year. What jump started it was a present from my cousin: The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte.

Using this journal helped me understand my core desired feeling. Danielle Laporte talks about figuring out your inner core feelings you want to achieve, rather than focusing only on the external goals. Her journal allowed me to think about my inner feelings and reflect a lot about why I wanted certain things in my career. This year, in addition to doing the 30 seconds journalling in the BestSelf Journal, I will also be writing in my Desire Map as it allows me to dig deeper into my feelings.

Together, with the BestSelf Journal and Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map, this year is looking great for my public health career. With the BestSelf Journal, I am setting external goals to achieve and with the Desire Map working towards understanding my inner feelings and why I want to achieve these goals.

In the next post, I walk through an example of how to use the BestSelf Journal to set specific public health career goals: Getting your foot in the door with global health, using the BestSelf Journal. Sign up to the PH SPOT newsletter to be notified when new blogs are posted.

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About the author:

I enjoy seeing people around me grow and become the best version of themselves, and if I can be a part of helping them grow, that’s my small contribution to this world. After guiding a number of public health students and new grads over the past 7 years, I created PH SPOT to reach, inspire and support a larger number of public health professionals. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Biology and Health Studies, and went on to complete a Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Saskatchewan. I also currently work as an Epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and run the Tamil Health Association, a not-for-profit organization.