Dr Bethany Rushworth, an award-winning dentist with numerous scientific publications, has been focusing on the personal development of dentists for years. Her several years of coaching experience allow her to look at everyday dentistry from an exciting perspective. In this blog series, she talks about her experience and gives you an exclusive insight into her work to help you with your professional development.

In this blog, Dr Bethany Rushworth talks about the importance of goal setting.

Goal setting seems to be all the rage at the moment, but is there a way to do it consistently and effectively? I certainly think so! When it comes to setting goals, the most important thing is to do them in a way that works for you, as ultimately the whole point in setting a goal is to achieve it. Personally, I’ve found a few tips and tricks really help me to get to where I want to be and work my way through things I hope to achieve.

Firstly, it’s important to be realistic. Whilst it can be good to push ourselves, there is no point in creating unachievable goals that would be impossible to reach, as we will just end up being demoralised and deflated when we are inevitably unsuccessful. I’m always a fan of ‘aiming high’, but at the same time, making your goals overwhelming won’t help you at all if you find it difficult to stick to them.

I like to see goal setting a bit like training for a marathon. You don’t need to start with the full race, and equally it isn’t a sprint. Being methodical and systematic is really useful and breaking down a goal into smaller stages and chunks can be beneficial. For example, let’s say you want to write a book. If your goal is written down simply as ‘write a book’, you might keep putting off getting started as it is such a daunting thought! However, if you break this down into a longer time frame and include stages such as researching publishers, emailing publishers, enquiring about printing costs, etc., you can tackle one thing at a time. It helps to be even more specific by giving yourself targets such as ‘by the end of the month I will know exactly how much my book will cost to print’ or ‘by the end of this week I will have three quotes from different printing companies’… you get the idea! The more specific and focused each stage of the goal is, the more likely it is you will get to the end of the plan.

Another example could be completing some coursework. ‘Write a 2000-word essay’ would be an overwhelming thing to see on your to-do list. If it was broken down into smaller steps such as ‘bullet point introduction’, ‘list out references’, then you might find it easier to get started.

For myself, I find it really helps to identify WHY I want to achieve these things. Knowing what the result of me completing the goal would be keeps me focused, especially on tasks which I don’t really want to do. It can be very helpful to link your goals together. If you see them as stepping-stones to a bigger picture it can help you remain motivated. Coursework and admin are great examples of this. Getting through them is challenging, especially when the weather is good. However, frequently reminding yourself of why you need to do them will possibly give you the motivation you need! This could be just in your mind or you could write yourself a reminder. I also like having a vision board with inspiring pictures on it so when I feel like I’ve had enough, I can look at that and push myself to keep going.

I like to see life and goals as a dynamic process, so I periodically reassess what I’m doing and why. This is particularly important for longer-term goals, such as those where the outcome is one or more years away. As you grow and change, so will your priorities; therefore, I do think it is necessary to keep looking at what you want to achieve and know that it is okay to change your mind. I have removed goals from my list midway through a year as I just didn’t feel they were in line with my values and the direction I was going in anymore.

Overall, it’s great to have goals in place. However, it’s key to ensure that they are manageable and relevant to you and your path. Goals don’t always have to be academic or career-related, and you might even decide you want to do LESS work! Try not to compare yourself and your desires to other people and certainly don’t feel guilty for wanting something different to other people.