May 21, 2017

The Short Game | Short-Term Goals & Nursing


Short-term goals are the name of the game. I learned this in my infertility journey. I would let the concept of conceiving a child overwhelm me and subsequently have a panic attack. There were many nights when I would wake up my sleeping husband just to talk about how we would never have kids and that the process of "trying" was a complete waste of time.

My husband woke up one night and said in the gentlest, kindest voice, "We will take it one day at a time. Don't worry about next week. Focus on the now, the present, and we’ll take it from there. Believe in the future, but don't focus on it so much." After that night, I applied that concept to nursing school, and my stress level decreased significantly. You must understand that having long-term goals is nice, but productivity revolves around making short-term goals and sticking to your game plan. I know life gets in the way (I have a toddler, nothing goes as planned) and some things are out of your control. But many people just make excuses as to why they can't do something and never truly attempt the task. Trying new things is scary. Believing in yourself is scary. But you will never know your true potential unless you see what you're made of. I'm not going to get all Tony Robbins on you, but you have to set your "personal responsibility" bar higher. You have to be accountable for your actions (or lack thereof). 

Hard Limits

For short-term goals to work, you must complete the task within the given time frame. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Timeframes are crucial to your success. Timeframes keep you accountable and guarantee that tasks will be completed on time. This must be a hard limit. If you come up with excuses as to why you can't, it won't work. There have been many times when I wanted just to close my eyes and rest. But, I had a goal that I would read 10 chapters that night before heading to bed. Yeah, was tired, but I also had professional goals, and they required hard work. I've never guessed on exams and been successful. I have studied my ass off and failed exams though. My knowledge doesn't come naturally - it comes from hours and hours of studying, preparation, and repetition. I must study, so my need to be successful supersedes my laziness. If you allow yourself the ability to accept "partial" goals, that window will open more and more with each attempt. Soon, you will have an excuse locked and loaded before the objective even presents itself. Every morning when I wake up, I walk to my dry erase board and write at least three things I need to achieve that day.

Physical Reminders

I had an assignment due within a few days. I wanted to complete the assignment before 6:00 p.m., before getting my son from daycare. I put the goal on my dry erase board around 8:00 a.m. I would start writing and stop to do laundry or clean my son's room. Each time I stopped, I saw the big, bold, black writing on my crisp, stark white dry erase board. The words were taunting me. It was a reminder of my goal for the day. You should have a physical reminder that's in your eye view as a motivating factor. I've tried using my phone, and it didn't work. I would simply ignore the alarm or silence my phone. It was a barrier that I found an easy way around. What I can't avoid is big, bold writing on the dry erase board in my office (a.k.a. our dining room). It's unavoidable, and I put it there for that very reason. I would be vacuuming and look up, and there it was. I'd be watching television, get up to go to the bathroom, and see that damn dry erase board. It was beyond annoying, but I wouldn't remove the message until the task was completed. Again, you must set rules for this game to work in your favor. Because again, any compromise or settling on your end will allow you to not do what is needed.

Short-term goals will keep you on track and keep you vested in your future. Your long-term goals will remain on track if you have daily or weekly short-term goals in place. When I was a nursing student, I wasn't concerned about passing the NCLEX-RN exam during the first semester of my nursing program. I was worried about passing the upcoming quiz or clinical. You set the short-term goals, so you are in the running for the long-term aspirations. You can't be a registered nurse without passing the NCLEX-RN exam. But you aren't eligible for the NCLEX-RN exam if you don't pass the course. And you can’t pass the course without successfully passing the assignments and tests. It's a trickle-down game, and you must start with the tiny things. You become successful at the tiny things, and soon, you're at the large things - the life changing moments.