Having goals with a chronic illness sometimes seems really daunting. We are often found wondering if we will even be able to meet the goals we set out. It’s a scary thing because we often assume if we set goals we need to achieve them and it should be fairly easy. I also know with a chronic illness we have a lot of ups and downs and we never know how long we will be down for. It makes setting goals frustrating because sometimes we feel like we can never achieve them.
I know the struggles of setting goals, I have a busy family plus invisible illnesses. I do consider myself a “lucky” one as the symptoms of my diseases are still well managed through diet and exercise. It wasn’t always like that though. At one point I started seeing my pain increase and my flare-ups came along more often. I that point I made goals for myself to reach. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a straight line, it still isn’t.
I don’t like to set my goals in January because that’s when everything has completely slowed down and it’s when many people start their New years resolution. I found that setting goals for me has been easier to start in September and I found it easier to stick too. That’s around the time the kids go back to school and a new routine is generally set into place.
I have written other words you can replace with the same acronym SMART. Some of these words will have the same meaning as others. I do find though that sometimes having words that resonate with you can help you stay motivated and stick to your goals.
So why is having goals so important?
It’s easy to sit on the couch and say you want to do better for yourself but without a focus/starting point you end just sitting there day dreaming. Setting a goal is the first step to take your daydream into reality. Goals help you in a multitude of ways.
It can keep you focused you now know what your end goal is and what you need to do to accomplish it. You can be more motivated because you can see the progress as you move towards your goals. It’s a place where you can see yourself being better, happier, healthier. Goals also keep us accountable to ourselves, the only people we let down when we don’t achieve what we want is ourselves.
Remember goal setting is for everyone.
Where to start when you’re setting goals?
This can look different for everyone. I like to write a few paragraph of what I want my life to look like in a few years down the road. I then read it to myself, look where my life is now and what do I need to get there.
To set goals you need to be SMART. I learned this acronym years ago when I was first learning how to set goals. The acronym will help you set precise goals for you. ( I will use weight loss as an example as it is generally the most common goals)
Specific: Just saying, I want to go back to school, get healthier, start a business. That’s a great start but it isn’t specific. Goal setting should be more then one phrase. In fact it should almost be a paragraph. To be specific you will need to answer these questions:
- What is it you want to accomplish?
- Why is this important?
- Where are you going to accomplish the goal?
- Who is involved? ( a goal normally will have more then one person involved)
- Which/What can limit your progress, what resources are available?
Example: I would like to lose weight because it will help alleviate some pain. I will exercise at home for 30 minutes a day with exercise bands and my favorite Beach Body videos. I will also make and adhere to a meal plan weekly. I will not eat out even if I don’t want to cook.
Other meanings for the S that might help you stay motivated:
Stimulating: Set a goal that will keep you interested. You won’t get bored of, this is a key point in staying focused. It has to challenge you in a good way.
Sensible: Don’t over shoot. Making a goal too hard will make you lose motivation and can cause failure to achieve it.
Measurable: Your goal needs to be measurable because that will give you an end results when it comes to time, what you want to lose/gain, it is what gives your goal the ultimate end time. Give your goal a time frame of when you want to accomplish it. It will also help you asses where you are on your journey and help you see if you need to tweak a few things to get you there or even maybe see that you might of overshot and that’s ok too.
Example: I would like to lose 15lbs in the next 6 months or I would like to weight 180 by July 20th or I would like to lose 1.5 lbs every week until I have a weight loss of 20lbs.
As you see there is many ways to word your end goal. Other words that might keep you motivated with the M:
Motivating: You need a goal that is going to keep your interest. One where the end goal is awesome for you. You can also add what you might reward yourself with at the end once you achieve your goal.
Meaningful: Pick a goal that is meaningful for you. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with what others might what you to achieve. If you pick a goal that isn’t meaningful to you won’t be as motivated to finish it.
Maintainable: You need to pick a goal that won’t burn out. Sometimes adding smaller goals that lead to your bigger goal is an easier way to go. Having smaller goals can also help keep you motivated as you hit might hit smaller milestones faster. Picking a big goal to reach might not always be easy to maintain because of possible set backs such as an illness or loss of funds.
This is also the part that many people with chronic illnesses have an issue. Know that if you do have a flare-up or your health takes a turn for the worst, financial issues arise. You can always move your time line a few weeks back.
Achievable: Your goals need to be attainable. They should be able to challenge you a bit without overstretching yourself. You should be able to complete it with the things you have on hand and need to consider any restraint that you may have such as : financial or physical limitations, do you have the education or need to acquire it?Have others been successful?
Other A words:
Attainable: This is just another for achievable. I find though in some cases just using a different word. One that resonates with you can help you set goals that are good for you.
Acceptable: Pick a goal that makes sense. This word can fall with maintainable. Something that can challenge you but won’t be so hard you can’t reach. It needs to be a goal that you are capable of reaching.
Action-Orientated: Have a goal and put it into action. When you write a goal you need to know what actions you need. Writing a goal and breaking down every action you need to make might help you stay motivated as you have a more complete track of where you are going. Having a schedule or a calendar where you can mark off what needs to be done can be very helpful.
Relevant: A relevant goal is one that will help you be better but that will also help elevate the people around you to move forward with you. For example: if you are losing weight to be healthier you might be able to motivate others around you, it will allow you to spend more quality time with your children ( have more energy, be able to play of the floor). Being relevant will help you be a better person for others all while focusing on yourself.
Other R words:
Realistic: Don’t pick a goal like I want to be a millionaire by winning the lotto and make that your true goal. Although, yes people have become millionaires winning the lotto the odds are very low. Picking goals that you can actually achieve in a reasonable amount of time with a good plan is your best bet. Setting goals too high ( although not a bad thing) can become a detriment in you reaching them.
Rewarding: Pick a goal that has an outcome that is rewarding for you. Goals should meet a need and have an ending that is rewarding for you. It can also mean that once you reach your goal you will give yourself some type of reward, like a new wardrobe or a movie date.
Revisable: Make goals that you can come back to and feel like you might be able to change without quitting it. Making goals is important, but it shouldn’t be made in such a rigid way that modifications can’t be done.
Time-Based: This is when the goal should be accomplished by. It is your final end date. It is important to have an end date, without an end date you might never achieve your goal because you don’t know by when you want it accomplished.
I could not think of other words for the letter T.
Here is an example of a full goal.
I want to lose 20 lbs by January 1 2020 this will give me 4 months to attain my weight loss at a rate of 1-1.5 lbs a week. I will be doing so by going to the gym 3x a week for a minimum of an hour. At least 15 minutes of that will be cardio. I will also spend an hour a week on meal planning and food preparation to ensure that I have a healthy supply of good food on hand to prevent eating junk food. If I cannot go to the gym I will use the weight bands and dumbbell set that I have with my favorite workout videos to get a workout in. In achieving the weight loss I am hoping to be stronger and more energetic for the things I love the most like my kids. I will reward myself with a new wardrobe once I attain my goal.
Now, within that big goal you can now break down your goal to mini goals.
So let’s say you wrote this goal down in September. You know that you have to lose 5lbs a month in order to reach your goal. You break it in to smaller goals either by doing a weigh-in weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to track your progress. Your goal now becomes to lose 5 lbs a month for the next for months. This might help as the 20lbs is now broken up into smaller amounts making it seem not as big as of a mountain to climb.
This will allow you to see if you are remaining on track. If you aren’t you can then take a look at what is going on. Are you losing inches but not seeing a change on the scale ( meaning you are losing fat but are building muscles), are you not sticking to your eating plan. Are you having a hard time hitting your gym goals? if so why?
Yes, we have a chronic illness but that doesn’t mean it has to completely take over our lives. We have a choice to let it take control of us or not ( yes to a certain point it will affect us). Our goals might look small compared to some. Like making it to the end of the drive-way without being exhausted. Taking the steps so we can take a shower without having to go take a nap after. Our goals all look different and it doesn’t make any one less of a person if they aren’t huge.
Until next time. Keep collecting your spoons.