As a rheumatologist, you’re used to having goals. After all, you set your sights on becoming a physician, achieved the necessary educational degrees and passed required exams. After meeting your educational goals, you landed a job at an academic medical center or an established rheumatology practice, or you may have started your own practice.
So what now? Should you put yourself on cruise control and coast until retirement?
Hardly, says Stephen A. Paget, MD, FACP, FACR, MACR, physician-in-chief and chair of the Division of Rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York. “Without specific goals, you will flail about aimlessly at every phase of your career, waste time and money, and never attain the end that you desire. It would be like taking a long trip without a map,” says Dr. Paget. “You need to have a starting point, a goal for the future and then develop a map to achieve that goal.”
“Ideally, at each phase of your career, you should think ahead and decide where you want to be in one year, three years, five years, 10 years and afterward, and then set specific goals and approaches to attain your goals,” Dr. Paget continues. “It is important to set milestones along the path to achieve your goals.”
Christy Wright, speaker and certified business and life coach at the financial consulting firm Ramsey Solutions in Nashville, Tenn., cites additional reasons to set goals. “If you want to advance your career, make more money, have more opportunities and grow as a professional, goals will help you make those things happen,” she says. “Goals provide clarity, direction and accountability. They also help you measure your progress to make sure that you’re on the right track.”
Michael Fritsch, PMP, president and COO at the consulting and professional services company, Confoe, in Austin, Tex., adds that setting goals can help you prioritize. “[Setting goals] helps ensure that important items don’t get lost or neglected in the day-to-day scramble to get your job done,” he says. “For professional development, goal setting is even more important because it’s easy to delay increasing [your] professional skills or credentials if you don’t make it a priority.”
From a psychological standpoint, goals enable us to make progress, and as humans, we are naturally wired for progress, Ms. Wright continues. “When we feel stagnant and stuck in an area of our lives, we get frustrated,” she says. Having something to work toward gives us a sense of purpose, and provides challenges and learning and growth opportunities, which are vital to developing a healthy sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Goals are critical for many positive personal qualities, as well as a fulfilled life.
Setting Professional Goals
The start of a new year is a good time to set professional goals. When setting career goals, Dr. Paget says you need to have a sense of who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you most enjoy doing. “There are many paths to take to achieve your goals, and they differ greatly depending on whether you want to be a clinician, physician–scientist, medical educator, chair of a department or a dean of a medical center,” he says. “Speak to your mentors to get their sense of your strengths and weaknesses and [help determine] where you might best focus your efforts.”