A life with chronic pain is a life of constant struggles. A struggle to avoid pain. A struggle to remain positive. A struggle to make every day count.
If you’re like most high achievers, you have plenty of short- and long-term goals. These goals may involve managing pain, maximizing sleep, exercising, and eating healthy meals. However, resolving to “exercise more” or “eat better” does not turn into lasting results.
When you set goals for yourself, it’s very important that you set SMART goals. That is, your goals need to be:
Specific vs. General
The problem with the examples of goals like “exercise more” or “eat better” is that they are too general. The best way to think about setting goals is to think like a journalist. Ask yourself:
- Who is involved?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Where will it take place?
- When will it take place?
- Why am I doing this?
Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying you’ll “exercise more,” resolve to walk a mile a day, two days a week.
Measure Your Goals
Make sure whatever you’re trying to achieve is something you can measure. Ask yourself:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when my goal is accomplished?
Set Attainable Goals
Make sure that your goal is something you can realistically achieve in the amount of time you’ve given yourself. Like the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Setting unrealistic goals for yourself is simply setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Make Sure Your Goals Are Relevant
I’m sure you could teach yourself to balance a spoon on your nose for minutes on end, and if you did I would even be impressed, but the acquisition of trivial skills isn’t going to help you achieve your goals.
Keep focused on the “why” of your goal that we talked about above: if you can’t pinpoint exactly why you want to accomplish the goal in the first place, you likely won’t do so. It has to be compelling so you want to do it!
Set Deadlines for Yourself and Stick to Them
You can set all the most beautifully well-thought-out goals you want and it won’t mean anything if you don’t have a deadline. It’s easy to resolve to lose ten pounds if you don’t have any end date in sight. Resolving to lose ten pounds by August 31st, conversely, will give you focus and a finish line to race toward.
Finally, there is no easier way to make your SMART goals happen than to pull out a calendar and start taking action today. Don’t overwhelm yourself but get started now. Look at your goals and then section off a few 45-minute chunks of the upcoming week when you can (and I promise you can if you try, no matter how busy you are). Then, write down specifically what you are going to do during that scheduled time and make it happen. No excuses!
Remember that even if you’ve failed to achieve your goals in the past, the problem was never you. The problem was your approach. With SMART goals you can learn, grow, and create lasting change.