As a practicing pharmacist in an outpatient setting, I always try to allow my real-life experience in healthcare inform my writing. My chair is no ivory tower. Most days my feet are planted firmly behind (or in front of) the counter. I work in what I like to think of as the "front lines" of pharmaceutical services: checking prescriptions and counseling patients on using their medications safely and effectively.

And I'm not perfect. Though I've been practicing in this profession for just over 20 years, I still feel as though I have so much more to learn. I wear a lot of hats as a manager, business developer, consultant, preceptor, writer, boss and dispensing pharmacist. In each of these areas, I have room to grow.

I believe in setting goals for yourself. As motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

In fact, studies have shown people are far more effective when they set their own goals versus when goals are handed down to them from above. Some businesses understand this and encourage their employees to chart their own course for success.

Other companies miss this opportunity and prefer a more controlled culture where goals are developed by management alone and then imposed on employees with a heavy hand. That's a shame.

I can't set your goals for you as a pharmacist. In fact, I don't want to. But I can encourage you to set your own goals and reach for great things in 2016. I can also share with you some of my own goals for this coming year as a way of holding myself accountable and encouraging others to do the same.

1. Personal development. Earn a specific, relevant certification or similar educational accomplishment. I don't believe that a certification makes you a de facto better pharmacist. However, I do think a focused curriculum, program or series of lectures on a topic is a great way to expand your knowledge, which can be used to serve others. I haven't decided yet which program I'm going to pursue. I have several in mind and hope to begin the steps toward pursuing it by February.

2. Service development. Expand services to transitioning patients. I work in a unique setting where we have the opportunity to meet the specific needs of patients transitioning out of a hospital to their homes. This is a critical juncture where extra care is needed to make this transfer successful. We want patients to go home and continue to recover, not return to the hospital due to a poorly managed discharge. I'm grateful to work in a setting where this is already done well, but we can always strive for greater success with more education, follow-ups, phone calls, financial services and other methods to promote patient wellness.

3. Staff development. I have the privilege of working with a remarkable team of talented pharmacists, technicians and interns. I learn from them all the time. But I also want to return the favor by sharing with them some of the unique things I have learned and offering them the opportunity to practice new skills and grow their careers. Since writing is my preferred medium, I'll do this through a series of emails and supplement with one-on-one training and encouragement.

4. Business development. I also want the best for my company and my clients. They have unique goals and plans that I need to help them accomplish. No company is perfect, and if there was, I sure wouldn't want to join it and ruin the record. But I think we all have the opportunity to look beyond our day-to-day tasks and contribute something to the greater good of the businesses we work within. On this front, I have developed some specific financial and service goals I believe are both achievable and valuable.

5. Pharmacist development. I love my patients, but I also have a passion and love for my fellow pharmacists. Many have written me with kind encouragements over the years, and I greatly appreciate that. Teaching soon-to-be pharmacists is something I've enjoyed for a long time. This year, I plan on developing some specific resources to help my fellow pharmacists manage their careers and finding the next step in their professional development.

There you have it. Those are some of my 2016 professional goals. I can't see around corners and don't know what this year will hold. But I plan to make the most of it, whatever may come, and hope you plan to do the same. Happy New Year!