Fit to Practice: 13 ways to make this your best year ever


Here's some tips for setting goals in the New Year.

I love January because it's the time I reflect and plan for the next year (or years). First off, I advise each of you to set aside time during the next couple of weeks to look back and look ahead. Take an hour or two in a quiet place with pen and paper. Begin by reviewing the things you accomplished both in your personal and professional life. Jot down a list of highlights and the things that made you really proud or happy. Next, list the projects, ideas, or actions you weren't able to complete, personal or professional. Once you've spent 15 or 20 minutes looking back, start creating your future. One quick note about planning your future: None of us has a clue what's going to happen. That's the true purpose and value of goal planning; to help keep us on track when life throws us curve balls.

Go back to your “needs some work” list. What is still relevant and important? Often, some of last year's “must do's” become this year's “what were you thinking?” Strike through whatever you're no longer passionate about. Then begin looking ahead to the New Year. Make a column for “Work” and another for “Personal.” This helps you see the relationship between the two. I typically have one, two, three, five, 10, and 20-year objectives. I have lots of one and two year targets, fewer three and five, and even less 10 and 20-year intentions. These goals are always at the forefront of my mind. I'm constantly asking myself, “How does this help with X?”

Once you settle on your New Year's list the real work begins. For each goal, formulate a written plan. How will you do it? Who and what will you need? How much time will you need? That's generally for another day and is the truly meaningful part of the journey that evolves and alters over the next year or years. If you're looking for some inspiration, here are 13 aspirations I think everyone can and should try achieve in 2013. Most are easy; others will require considerable effort. In the end, each one will enhance some aspect of your life both as a veterinary healthcare professional and human being. Good luck and Happy New Year!

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. I beg you to eat or drink your veggies. Make it your goal to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Also make sure you're getting one to three grams of DHA/EPA per day through a combination of food and nutritional supplements. They're good for your brain, eyes, skin, heart, and more.

  • Catch someone doing something good. Reward the positive in your life everyday. With so much news of tragedy and strife, try to notice the good things that surround you each day. Thank people for it.

  • Break bread with your loved ones at least three times a week. No television, no devices, just family conversation. Slow your eating, ask questions, and connect.

  • Review a journal article each week with colleagues. Find something that interests you to discuss with your veterinary co-workers or friends. This will force you to keep current and learn new treatments and theories. Keep a log on your calendar. By the end of the year you'll be a genius.

  • Challenge yourself physically. Critically assess your current health status. Are you as physically fit and healthy as you want to be? As you could be? Should be? Join a gym, complete a 5k, triathlon, marathon, or ultra. Whatever it is, make it something that makes you healthier, stronger, faster, and fitter. Plus, make it fun.

  • Go to your doctor. Schedule an appointment for an exam, blood and urine tests before Feb. 28, 2013. Just because you're not sick doesn't mean you're healthy.

  • Ban electronic devices from the bedroom. Lighted screens suppress melatonin secretion, resulting in difficulty sleeping. Your smart devices exert subtle pressure to constantly check your email, texts, and social media. You've got to unplug part of the day.

  • Read an award-winning book. Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker, National Book Award, PEN, National Book Critics, Hugo, LA Times, NY Times, and more. You get extra credit for reading a genre not normally found in your backpack.

  • Cook meals four nights a week. Assemble real, whole food ingredients. Bonus points for involving your children.

  • Talk to your parents once a week. Treasure them while you can. Put aside ancient grudges and barriers. You're an adult, so deal with it constructively. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and make concessions. Our families are ultimately what life is really about in the end.

  • Volunteer. Find a cause you believe in and that provides you with positive energy. This is even better when a new effort takes you away from the veterinary world. Most of us already do too much pet-related volunteer work. Involve your entire family whenever possible.

  • Save more. Meet with a financial planner. Lay out your long-term financial goals. When and how you live from age 60 to 120 will be largely dependent on what you do during ages 25 to 50. Make smart choices now so your and your children's futures aren't short-changed.

  • Give your spouse or significant a 30 second hug each day. Try it. You'll sleep better.
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