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Bringing life into focus
Goals help us determine what is and isnt fulfilling in our lives.
Recently I gave a presentation to veterinarians about setting personal and professional goals. I asked attendees to write down what was and wasn't working in their personal and professional lives and what they would like to change. The intent was to point out areas they needed to work on to achieve their desired balance.
Attendees made up four lists during the exercise:
> What's not working for me in my personal life?
> What can I do to make things better?
> What's not working in my career life?
> What can I do to make things better?
The list of issues was particularly interesting in light of recent surveys of personal and professional satisfaction of veterinarians. Concerns were virtually interchangeable among participants, and the solutions were also similar.
In regard to their personal lives, virtually every respondent mentioned an imbalance between work and family and a lack of personal time with spouses or partners as frustrations. A lack of “me time” and focus on health were the next highest. Also common was feeling out of shape and not having time for personal interests and growth.
In the professional arena, attendees focused on issues involving inconsistency and lack of focus. They expressed a desire for clear expectations from employers and associates. Many were also dissatisfied with their compensation and staff support. Other comments included working too hard and inability or unwillingness to delegate. A few shared a lack of professional confidence and practice organization.
What to do next
To paraphrase my hero, Jimmy Buffett, the answers are the easy part-the questions make it hard. Interestingly, once we identified the issues, solutions seemed to fall into place and were actually fairly simple.
Focus on better communication with employers, partners and spouses. Make it a priority regardless of what other goals are. Let others know you're going to make some changes to benefit everyone.
Stop wasting time. Schedule blocks of time during the workday, but also schedule personal time. Take control of your time. Be more organized so less valuable time is wasted.
As management consultant and Harvard Business Review blogger Greg McKeown has said, “If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will.”
Develop confidence to express what you want and need. It was apparent for a number of folks that it wasn't that they didn't know what they wanted-they were afraid to ask for it because someone else might think less of them. Many workplace frustrations are staff-related and must be resolved or you can't move ahead to other issues. Set boundaries, learn to delegate and say no.
We are not all so different as we are the same. I don't want to imply that all members of the profession struggle with the same issues. People who attend CE courses or read about personal growth topics have likely been preselected on some level. But it is almost certain that we all have similar frustrations and most of us have failed to take steps to address and change the changeable.
My suggestion is that you sit down in a quiet place at a quiet time and make similar lists. At the same time create a list of what's really great about your professional and personal life and ask, “How can I have more of what I love in my life?”
The things that give you fulfillment and bliss are the same things that make you less than happy if they're missing or out of balance. These are things like relationships, personal time, personal growth, a sense of professional accomplishment and security.
There is no doubt that our work is important-vitally important-to all of us. But as I've stated in the past, no definition of success is complete without personal happiness and fulfillment.
Steps you can take
Take action to bring solutions to your life's problems, such as:
> Recognize and acknowledge where your life is out of balance.
> Make a pledge to yourself to strive for a shift. Decide what's most important in your life's plan and see to it that your priorities get rearranged so you put “first things first”-family, faith, self-development and professional growth-with a plan.
> Visualize and voice what you want and what you need from others. You may need to readjust your job description or time commitment.
> Don't keep your plan a secret. Share it with your partner, your family, your work associates and your friends.
> Plans are amendable and flexible, but remember to keep your priorities in view.
> Find a mentor, life coach or counselor who can help you keep on track.