February 25, 2014

Sailing Towards a Port of Personal Goals

By Gloria Kang, Pharm.D., MBA, PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable” - Seneca
Source:  http://www.cepolina.com/photo/people/job/fisherman/b/fisherman-rowing-lost-boat.jpg
How many times have we lived without knowing what our purpose was? How easy is it to do something when we’re unaware of its importance? At these times we’re like a boat sailing around aimlessly to no end. So how do we get some direction? The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) model2 can help put things into perspective.

The CPD model is a process that can be used to teach learners to improve any area of their life. There are five stages to this model that are interconnected: Reflect, Plan, Act, and Evaluate with Record and Review at the center.

Source:  https://www.acpe-accredit.org/pdf/images/CPDCycle2011Color.jpg
To set personal goals using the CPD model:

1. Reflect on living your life for your personal purpose and no one else’s(Figure out which port(s) you want to sail to)

Goals derived intrinsically are more likely to be achieved when compared to extrinsic goals.3 When your goal is actually the goal set by someone else, intrapersonal conflict can arise, causing resentment and displeasure in attempting to achieve it.3 Do a self-appraisal of where you want to be, not where someone else thinks you should be.2

Think about “approach” and “avoidance” goals. (Do you know which ports you want to sail toward and the ones you don’t?) Approach are prevalent in individualistic cultures such as the United States (“the West”) and avoidance goals are more common in collectivist cultures such as Japan (“the East”).4 In the West, goals are focused on desired outcomes and how to move towards them (approach). In these cultures, each individual is expected to “stand out” and do their best.4  In contrast, in the East, individuals work to assimilate themselves and embrace unity.4 Thus, goals are based on what actions should be avoided so as to remain unnoticed.4  I am someone who was raised in the West with a heritage from the East. I believe any changes initially consider to be avoidance can be easily converted into approach goals. For example, instead of thinking I should avoid gossip, my goal could be to speak directly to individual with whom I have conflict.

2. Plan to make your goals S.M.A.R.T.2 (Goals often go unachieved because the boat sails without a map to a destination port3)

Goals should be:
a.    Specific – this brings forth action towards the dream2
b.    Measurable – without this, how will you know you have grown closer to or reached your goal?2
c.     Achievable – with the limited resources we have, can the dream goal be reached?2
d.    Relevant – is the dream goal pertinent to you and your desired area of life?2
e.    Timely – without this critical piece, a dream goal will continue to be one2

Make separate changes for each important domain you live in. Domains of life include activities of daily living, professional, financial, social life, close relationships, physical health, emotions, and spirituality/se­nse of community.1 For example, in activities of daily living, my lifestyle changes could be clean dishes after eating, vacuum every week, or throw away the trash before it piles above the top of the can. Whereas a SMART professional goal might be to read three articles in professional journals every week.

3. Put plan into action and avoid feeling happy simply because you accomplished a goal.1,5 (Use your map, get sailing, and don’t let reaching that port be the end of your sea adventure)

Typically, goals are based on a hierarchy: at the top of a pyramid are peak goals – the furthest one can imagin­­­­e oneself from the present state. In the middle are distant goals that bridge lofty peak goals to task goals – those things that are accomplished daily to reach the peak goal.6 While a feeling of accomplishment may be appropriate in certain situations (e.g. completing a project for a class), it may not create the best mentality.6

In a study by Hadley et al, the investigators discovered that clinically depressed patients have goals and thoughts about the future; however, they tend to be conditional.1 Conditional goals predicate individual happiness and self-worth on goal achievement.  Thus mental anguish can result from attempting to reach the goal through daily tasks.1

Instead, do away with focusing on a goal and instead focus on daily commitment to change. Eventually, you will surpass that goal without creating cognitive pressure and anxiety to achieve it.  Moreover, you will benefit from the change you’ve adopted.5  For example, I want to run at least one marathon in my lifetime. This requires training by scheduling runs and increasing slowly until day of the race. After the marathon, I may not feel as motivated to stay in shape. What if, instead, I set a goal to run five miles three times weekly and made it a healthy lifestyle habit? In one year, I will have run nearly 30 marathon-equivalents with no artificial goal “event” that might trigger me to stop.

4. After every stage, evaluate how well Reflection, Plan, and Action, was completed. (Constantly evaluate how effectively you are sailing towards your port)

Repeatedly reflect and decide if what you are doing is contributing toward your goals. If so, give yourself some praise. If not, re-assessment and re-planning is warranted.2

5. Lastly, Record and Review your progress constantly. (Remember the paths you sailed for future reference)

This serves as documentation to help plan future actions.  You may wish to include some of your accomplishments on your curriculum vitae. During each evaluation step, this can be useful as a guide to help you remember where you are in reaching your goals. This record must be easy to understand and up-to-date.2

If you use the CPD cycle wisely, any wind will be favorable because you know to which port you are sailing, have a plan on how to get there, and will continually evaluate your progress.

  1. Hadley SA, MacLeod AK. Conditional goal-setting, personal goals and hopelessness about the future. Cognition and emotion 2010;24:1191-8.
  2. Dopp AL, Moulton JR, Rouse MJ, et al. Continuing professional development (CPD). Written 2009. Accessed 11 Feb 2014.
  3. Downe M, Koestner R, Horberg E, et al. Exploring the relation of independent and interdependent self-construals to why and how people pursue personal goals. J Soc Psychol. 2006;146:517-31.
  4. Elliot AJ, Sedikides C, Murayama K, et al. Cross-cultural generality and specificity in self-regulation: avoidance personal goals and multiple aspects of well-being in the United States and Japan. Emotion. 2012;12:1031-40.
  5. Clear J. Forget setting goals. Focus on this instead. Written 17 Dec 2013. Accessed 8 Feb 2014. 
  6. Masuda AD, Kane TD, Shoptaugh CF, et al. The role of a vivid and challenging personal vision in goal hierarchies. J Psychol. 2010;144:221-42.

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