Planning and goal setting with a chronic illness, can be frustrating and defeating.
It’s hard to plan for the day let alone set goals for the year when you don’t know how you’ll feel from hour to hour.
But with proper perspective and goal setting techniques, you‘ll be able to make progress towards your goals and dreams.
Benefits of Goal Setting
Anyone else love a good goal??
Goal setting is very beneficial. It can give a sense of purpose, a positive outlook for the future and motivate you to be your best self.
And once you’ve achieved those goals, that sense of achievement is radiating.
I’ve been type A my whole life. If you haven’t read my post about personality types and taking yourself too seriously, you can check it out here.
Not to brag but even as a young child, I’d set a goal, make a plan and I accomplished it. Simple as that.
Maybe’s it’s perfectionism or competition but goal setting was how I gauged my worth and value.
Cons of Goal Setting with a Chronic Illness
However, with the introduction of a chronic illness into my life, I was feeling stuck and honestly empty because I wasn’t able to execute the way I used to.
For all the greatness that goal setting gave me, it took it away just as fiercely.
Goal setting can distract you from being present because you’re so focused on this end result and also put a lot of pressure on you.
I felt like a failure because I couldn’t “achieve” and all the pressure I was putting on myself made my symptoms flare even more.
Intentions vs Goals
I went from setting all the goals and crushing them, to setting goals and missing them, to setting no goals at all because I didn’t want to fail.
No goals, no stress, no problem right?
I wasn’t happy with not progressing in my life so I needed to find that balance between having goals and plans for myself but removing the pressure from it.
This is why I began exploring the concept of intention setting and intentional living versus goal setting. My personality type couldn’t take the traditional goal structure.
But the introduction of intentions took some of that pressure off and allowed for me to live (and “fail”) while progressing.
A traditional goal : I will lose 20 lbs by March 31.
An intention: I will deepen my relationship with my body by moving it for 30 min 3 days a week.
Do you see the difference there?
No matter what method works well for you, you can plan and progress with a chronic illness.
Planning with a Chronic Illness
As crazy as it seems, plan to be ill.
Your illness is chronic, it’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
Similar to if I know that my cycle may come during vacation, I’m going to plan accordingly. Everything from what I’m going to wear, to how much activity I’m up for, to my packing necessities are impacted by myself.
I’ve learned to take that same care and consideration in planning daily with a chronic illness.
Plan for the chance of flareups. Make sure you have a contingency plan or a flare up kit full of what you need and what to do when a flare up occurs. It may take some time to work out the kinks and figure out what works best, but find a staple regimen of things that work and improve as you go.
Also if you know that there’s a slight chance of a symptoms occurring, its less of a blow to the ego (at least for me).
Plan for activities. You’re chronically ill not dead. Find things that bring you joy and immerse yourself in them from time to time even if its just once a month.
I try to space apart my activities so that I can adequately rest between events. That gives me the best chance of being able to enjoy the moment without a symptom raring it’s head.
Plan For Uncertainty. One thing I underestimated was the toll that the up and down would have on my self esteem. The ups and downs of chronic illness weighed on me.
I’d be doing so well for weeks at a time, followed by days of lows. For some reason, those lows impacted me way more than the highs. Waking up every day not knowing what type of day I’d have was emotionally taxing.
8 Tips for Planning + Goal Setting with Chronic Illness
- Planners. Use a planner to write down everything you have in your head. I call it a brain dump and I write down appointments, meetings, blog posts, ideas, chores, meal ideas etc. There are digital and physical planners. Find a system that works for you.
- To Do Lists. Things on to-do lists can be moved to another day. I try not to put more than 3 things on my to-do per day. But I leave room for flexibility.
- Regularly schedule rest days. Early on in my diagnosis, I rested 6 days and did things 1 day. Now that I’m more stable I have do more days than I rest. But if I ever put too much on my plate, my body tells me quickly and will shut down.
- Focus on things within your control. I struggled a lot with the notion of control to the point that it made planning with a chronic illness unbearable. I was focused on EVERYTHING that was going wrong.
- Let go of comparisons. Comparing yourself to other people or even to the pre-chronically ill you will stifle your motivation.
- Give yourself grace. There will be days when you can conquer mountains and then days when you an barely lift a finger. But guess what? YOUR FINGER DID THAT! Stop beating yourself up and just go with the flow. I had to realize that some days I can’t and that’s OK.
- Set micro-steps. When I have a huge task in mind, I’ll break it down so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming and that I can stay motivated. Then I’m able to celebrate the smaller wins and keep me motivated to reach my target.
- Tune in to your body. Planning with a chronic illness depends a lot of your health. If you’re not in tune with your body, you wont be able to make any progress.
Living with a chronic illness is unpredictable but if you’re a person who likes to feel accomplished, planning and goal setting with a chronic illness can be done.
Like most things, it requires tweaking and lots of trial and error to find a balance that works best for you.