How to set Achieveable Goals with a chronic condition

setting goals

What is a goal?

"A plan to achieve a particular activity or function"

Why do I need to set goals?

If you went through your life without setting yourself little goals, nothing would ever change each day would become the same, which wouldn't be very good for your mental health or physical. Life would become very boring,
There are a number of reasons why setting goals are important, these are as follows:

  • Have Something to Achieve
  • Gives you a Purpose
  • Makes you more Focused
  • Motivation
  • Increases Confidence
  • Having a Sense of Accomplishment when Achieved
  • Takes away excuses for not doing things

person trying to accomplish something

When it comes to setting goals it is important to choose ones that have value for you, there is no point trying to do something that is of no benefit to you and only doing it to please others, otherwise you wont have the motivation to achieve it and are more likely to give up.

Too many people set goals that are "not achievable" for them, they are too ambitious from the start, setting themselves up to fail. This can leave you feeling hopeless and not wanting to try again. If you set yourself small goals that you can achieve, you are going to feel much better about yourself and more motivated to keep it up.

You are probably setting yourself small goals daily without even realising e.g. like getting out of bed rather than staying there all day. This shows that goals don't have to be complex as long as they mean something to you!

My physiotherapist asked me recently what are your goals? I replied to get stronger and fitter, she wanted me to be more specific as this is the long term goal, how am I going to achieve this! We looked at it together and decided a short term goal could be, to sit unsupported for 1 min at my computer. If I manage this then we can increase the time, or move onto another small goal. This is realistic and achievable.

Goals are either short term or long term 

Short term - Ways of breaking down a long-term goal into smaller attainable and manageable chunks

Long term - Something you want to achieve in the future, whether it's a new skill, hobby or activity that you used to do before you became ill and can no longer do it. Some examples of these might be self care, dressing independently, starting a computer course or mindfulness. In order to Achieve one of these goals, you would need to break them down into smaller goals first that you could manage in a shorter time frame.

Using SMART is a useful way of setting Achievable Goals.

SMART Goal setting

The first time the word "Goals" were mentioned to me was when I was on a pain management programme where we were asked to set weekend goals. These were discussed with our OT or PT beforehand and made sure they were achievable in a short time frame, then we discussed as a group whether we managed to achieve them or not and any problems we encountered. For me these were watching my posture while sitting at the table and completing my physio exercises.

How do I set goals I can achieve?

First you need to think about your long-term goal, what is it you would really like to be able to do, lets say you would like to dress independently, something you have not been able to manage for a long time and it is of value to you.

Look at all the steps needed to achieve this goal. Draw up a plan of Action that will suit your needs and is challenging enough to give you motivation to achieve it.

LONG TERM GOAL - Dress Independently

short term: 
  • Decide how many days a week you want to aim for
  • Choose days where you have not much planned
  • Clothes that are easy to put on
  • Maybe just do one half first 
  • Are there any aids to help you 
  • Make sure someone is around in case you need them
  • pacing

SPECIFIC decide which days of the week, how many days you will aim for, make sure nothing else is planned for those days, what clothes you are going to wear, any equipment you may need.

MEASURABLE how will you know whether you have achieved it or not.

AGREED Ask if someone can be around on those days

REALISTIC  are you fit enough to manage.

TIMED decide on a date in which you will have achieved it.

Think about any other factors that might help or effect you achieving the goal.
Goal setting

Can you think of any others I may have missed?

What might stop you from achieving your goal?

With chronic conditions they are unpredictable, you never know when you will have a flare-up or become poorly etc and below are some of the problems that may affect you achieving your goal.
  • Pain
  • Illness 
  • Injury
  • Fatigue
  • Confidence
  • No Appropriate aids
  • Lack of support
  • Unrealistic time frame

Don't beat yourself up about it if you struggle with meeting your goal. You can always re look at it and make any changes necessary but don't abandon the whole thing altogether, break the short term goals down even further into smaller parts, so that you can manage to achieve them.

I hope now that you have a good understanding of How to set Goals you can Achieve despite living with a chronic condition and realise they are not as scary as they first seem and can be as simple as you want as long as they have meaning to you.

I would love you to share your goals and what difficulties you encountered, if any!

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1 comment:

  1. This is a great post! I learned goal setting in two different pain management clinics I attended several years ago. I find it almost a necessity now to live a goal oriented life. I set mid and long term goals, however I break them down into short term goals based on how I am doing health-wise at the time. I am not always successful meeting the goals; however, my success rate is a lot higher than when I don't make them.