Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Monday, July 18, 2011


My most recent Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support group meeting was on 'Goals.'  Here is an excerpt of the handout. What is a goal?
A goal is a specific outcome to aim for. Having goals can help with motivating yourself, planning how you spend your time, and with decision making.
Why goals are important for people with chronic pain and illness
Our lives have been disrupted, we may no longer be able to pursue the plans we had made for our lives.
We may be limited in the activities we can do, it is very easy to feel discouraged and useless.
Setting goals can help us redefine ourselves and what is important to us.
Having goals can help in deciding how to use our limited energy.
(I have seen several versions of this S.M.A.R.T. method of writing goals.  Here is one:)
Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals (From Mark Stibich, Ph.D., former About.com Guide)
S - Specific:
You must state your goal as specifically as possible.
Have your goal be like an instruction telling you what to do.
M - Measurable:
You need to have a way to measure progress.
A - Attainable:
Your goal should be meaningful to you. It should be set by you, not someone else.
The goal should be inspiring enough that it motivates you to success.
R - Realistic:
Goals should be ambitious, but not impossible. Do not set yourself up for failure.
Break large goals into smaller goals.
Create a plan to do all the steps you need.
T – Time Based :
When will you finish your goal? You need to choose a time, the sooner the better.
(We thought that the word 'Attainable' meant almost the same as the next word, 'Realistic'.  We decided to replace it with 'Aspiring', ie, something you would aspire to.)
Write your goal:
Finish the following sentence, write it down and put it somewhere you can see it:

I will [your goal here] by [how you will do the goal]. I will know I am making progress because [how you will measure the goal] [time goes here].
For example: I will lose 20 pounds by increasing my exercise to 4 times a week and cutting back on sugar and portion size. I will know I am making progress because I will lose 2 pounds a week for ten weeks.
Now really think about your goal.
I will [________________________________________________________________________] by [__________________________________________]. I will know I am making progress because [________________________________________________] [_______________________________].
(Not all goals fit this format, but it is a good place to start.)  Now evaluate your goal – is it Specific, Measurable, Aspiring, Realistic, and Time-Based? Good. Now go do it! 
Tips for achieving your goals
Don't try to work on more than three goals at a time.
Review your goals daily.
Put your goals in writing.
Use 'I will...' instead of 'I want to...'.
List benefits of reaching your goal.
List possible obstacles and how you will overcome them.
Break large goals into smaller more easily achieved goals.
Reward yourself for progress and accomplishment.
Make your goals public or have a goal buddy.
Make working on your goal a priority.
Visualize achieving your goal and what that would be like.

It can be hard to make and to pursue goals when you do not know how you will feel from day to day, or when and how bad your next flare will be.  Goals are still important.  Just recognize that disruptions are a part of life.  If you have a setback, cut yourself some slack, and pick up your goal where you left off.  You may even need to back up a bit, if you have lost strength, endurance, or whatever.  That is okay, its not your fault. As long as you don't give up, you are still on track.  

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