Setting goals is central to Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos’ role as the new dean of the School of Nursing. As the school embarks on a new strategic plan, Guilamo-Ramos wants to prepare the next generation of nurses who will enter a field deeply changed by COVID-19.
And he has his own professional aspirations for 2022, too: He wants to advance work to mitigate household transmission of COVID-19 through a new nurse-led, family-based intervention project in public housing in the Bronx, New York; and he wants to continue planning and creating four more episodes of NO FEARS, an animated story project he brought to Duke about a young adult man living with HIV and navigating stigma associated with his diagnosis.
“The goals I have for nurse education and leadership, and for my own research and practice, represent opportunities for meaningful impact, which is why I do what I do,” said Guilamo-Ramos, a nurse practictioner from the South Bronx, New York, whose research centers on family-based disease prevention and health promotion, particularly among Latinos and other people of color. “There are many aspects of my position as dean that help me to accomplish my aspirations around the things I care about the most, like health equity.”
According to a recent survey, only 10 percent of U.S. adults stick with their resolutions and nearly half of all resolutions are broken within the first month. The primary reasons for not achieving resolutions include loss of motivation, no plan or setting too many goals.
As many Duke colleagues consider how to pursue personal goals in 2022, Working@Duke spoke with some leaders about their approach to setting and achieving objectives.
Make goals aspirational
When deciding how to set goals, push yourself with ambitious objectives, said Guilamo-Ramos, dean of the School of Nursing
“Goals have to be aspirational,” he said. “They should help us to stretch, and be measurable. Given the right inputs, our goals should be attainable, and can at the same time be something that we’re reaching for and that will help us grow.”
In his own life, Guilamo-Ramos wants to finish a clinical trial about family-based COVID mitigation among 270 families in the South Bronx, New York.
“It’s groundbreaking work,” Guilamo-Ramos said. “We’re focusing on reduction of household transmission, which is often overlooked as a critical transmission risk in COVID-19 policy and guidance.”
Guilamo-Ramos grew up in the South Bronx and has conducted research there for 20 years. He also plans to expand the NO FEARS video series because both projects underscore his passion and motivation for becoming a nurse.
“These projects address health inequities and provide services to communities that are often underserved,” he said. “So that’s one of my an aspirational goals: to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t receive those services.”
Sometimes referred to as “stretch goals,” aspirational goals look beyond obvious areas of improvement to what is most meaningful to career growth. Stretch goals can help people take the next step in a career, improve productivity, foster enthusiasm, and help uncover innovative solutions.
When establishing goals, Duke University Chapel Dean Rev. Dr. Luke Powery asks: What is most important?
While defining ambitious goals is part of the process, narrowing a full list of potential objectives into a small list of priorities is important for effectively meeting goals. Powery’s advice is to identify a small, but well-defined list of goals that can make the most difference. If the goal doesn’t excite you, then it should not be a focus.
“It’s got to be something from the heart …” he said. “It has to be something you believe in, that’s also manageable, realistic, not biting off more than you can chew.”
While a personal priority is self care, one of Powery’s 2022 professional goals is to finish a book he started writing during the pandemic, “Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race.” The book, his sixth, is a reflection on race from a particular faith perspective that came out of three of his Currie lectures from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in February 2020.
His first draft is due to the publisher, Westminster John Knox Press, in February, so to meet the deadline, he has set aside hours of writing time at the bookends of days, in the early mornings and late evenings.
“I have to set realistic timelines and the publisher will for sure because they have deadlines,” Powery said. “I’ve got to work that timeline, and it may not always be enjoyable, but hopefully once it’s done, at least the draft, I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.”
For those looking for support around how to set priorities, the LinkedIn Learning course “How to Set Goals When Everything Feels Like a Priority” taught by Duke Fuqua School of Business instructor Dorie Clark can help. All LinkedIn Learning courses are free to access for Duke faculty, staff and students.
Chase your goals
Dr. Leslye Kornegay, senior director for University Environmental Services in the Duke Facilities Management Department, sets goals to keep her career on an upward trajectory and encourages others on her team to pursue continuous learning.
Kornegay started her career as a housekeeper at a hotel in Atlantic City. After moving to North Carolina, she earned a bachelor’s degree at age 38, then later a doctorate. Now the head of University Environmental Services, she sets goals each year to develop in her work and personal life.
Last year, Kornegay began learning Spanish in her own time to prepare for a trip to Mexico after the pandemic. Prioritizing her physical health, she also lost 40 pounds she had gained during COVID-19 riding a Peloton.
This year, she wants to further develop her communication skills through to prepare for a future goal: sharing her career journey through a book or other resource to help Black women reach their dreams in leadership.
“I want to give back in terms of just being a resource for women who look like me and aspire to be leaders,” she said.
The pandemic has taught her to be more intentional about pursuing goals.
“I think the pandemic has really stressed for me, don’t wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today,” Kornegay said. “Because tomorrow is not promised. Even though I was always someone that was continuously learning, I’ve ramped it up.”
Track your progress
Any goal can fail without an achievable plan.
To help evaluate the progress of goals, Dr. Barbara Griffith, president of Duke Raleigh Hospital, recommends sticking to a formal tracking system to periodically evaluate progress on goals. She writes a full list of goals using the Apple Notes app that is synched with her work computer, home desktop and smartphone.
“You have to have a functional tracking system in order to stay organized in such a way that you are aligned with your own goals,” Griffith said. “Otherwise, you veer off in all sorts of directions.”
Griffith, who started at Duke Raleigh Hospital in October 2021, has been focused on meeting and establishing relationships with colleagues at the hospital, at surrounding clinics and with others in the health system. With detailed structure to her schedule and purposeful goal setting in her notes, Griffith met her first steps of networking and introducing herself to Duke in a much shorter time than anticipated.
Periodically, Griffith steps back to review her notes to assess where she is and what she’s accomplished. She adjusts the order of goals to keep the most important objectives at the top of her list. Staying flexible when tracking your goals is key, she said.
“Not being anchored to one thing is really important because if your processes are fluid, and you’re willing to shift as time goes, it just positions you better to reach to what’s happening around you,” she said.
Carry over some goals
Whether setting goals for his team or himself, Richard Biever, chief information security officer for Duke University, takes an “iterative approach” to his goals.
He strives to accomplish 80 percent his goals and leaves 20 percent to work on in the near future.
Last year, Biever wanted to expand his knowledge of cloud-based IT services through personal development and trainings. But by the end of the year, he realized he didn’t have as much time as he wanted due to the pandemic and other pressing IT matters, so he’ll carry that learning over in 2022.
“This is a complex subject and I’m going to have to be patient,” said Biever. “It’s not a wasted effort, it just being a little more patient and understanding where I am now versus where I was at the beginning of the year.”
Stressing patience and understanding it takes time, Biever plans to make progress on prioritizing well-being in 2022. He has downloaded the meditation app Headspace.
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” he said. “Some of the goals we’re going to meet, some of them we are not. Things will come up within the year that may force us to adjust and reset expectations.”