It’s ALMOST 2023! I can’t believe it because it feels like the last 3 years took a hundred years and yet also flew by. So weird. Anyway, everyone jumps on the goal setting band wagon in the new year and this post isn’t exactly that. I usually do a post of this sort in January for two reasons (1) many of you may be looking for help with goal setting, and (2) it gives me a chance to talk about values vs. goals (guess what I think is more important and beneficial in the long run?). I have nothing against goal setting. We need to do it to accomplish things in our lives. So let’s just jump into how to set a goal – for everyone really – but especially if you have chronic pain or illness.
What is it exactly that you want to accomplish this year (or day, week, month, etc.). Be as detailed as possible. I’ll use my hiking goal as an example (it’s really ambitious goal for a spoonie but I have incredible support team – my physiotherapist, other healthcare practitioners, and my very avid-hiking partner). Specifically I want to be able to do a hike that is 40+ km and/or 2000m in elevation. Currently I can do about 8km and 800m elevation. Being a specific as possible helps us know what we’re going after.
Why is this goal important to you? What values does it connect with? Values are qualities of action, or how we treat ourselves, others and the world. If the goal isn’t important to you and doesn’t align with your values it’s unlikely you’ll hit it (and if you do you are very good at finding motivation elsewhere because often our motivation comes from our values). Using my hiking goal, this is important to me because it aligns with my values of adventure, health and fitness, and connection (with my partner). I suggest writing down your values when you set your goal.
Your goal needs to improve your life in some way. Again, this is useful for motivation. Why do something if it doesn’t help you? Think about ways your goal will make your life better. Hiking will make my life better because I will feel physically healthier, and I’ll get to have new experiences. Write down how your goal will improve your life.
When goals aren’t realistic we don’t hit them. Often, especially in the new year, we make goals that are waaaay off what is actually possible for us. We want to cut out all sugar immediately or run that 5k tomorrow or double our income in 2 months. This causes us to get frustrated and give up. Is my goal realistic? Well, I planned it out with my physiotherapist, based on my current ability, how my body is currently doing, and by breaking it down into smaller chunks so that I gradually increase distance and elevation each month. This all said, as a Spoonie, I know that I may have to adapt or change the plan in the event that my health suddenly isn’t doing as well (and due to weather, like what happened in November and December in BC). Basically you want to be 7/10 minimum in confidence that you’ll hit your goal. Are you?
Knowing when we will hit our goal, the exact time frame, helps us to reach it. Is this a goal for the end of the week? Month? 6 months? Year? Can you break it down into smaller chunks if it’s one of the longer ones? Can you make it time-bound within the day or week (ex., yoga 3x week on days X, Y, Z for X minutes)? As I mentioned I have broken down my goal by month so that each month I have to hit X distance and X elevation, with a slight increase each month until I hit my goal by the end of the summer. What are your time-frames?
So, all written out your goal will look something like:
I will hike 40+ km and/or 2000m elevation by the end of August, 2023 by gradually increasing my distance and elevation each month, hiking weekly or biweekly depending on the weather. The goal is important to me because I will be engaging in adventure, healthy living, and connection with my partner. It will improve my life by increasing my overall fitness and letting me experience new things.
What does your goal look like? Feel free to share! And keep making the most of it!